Category Archives: Women in the Church

Two Views on the Female Diaconate

by Rev. Protodeacon Brian Patrick Mitchell and Valerie A. Karras  |  ελληνικά  |  ру́сский

Editors’ Note: In collaboration with the St. Phoebe Center for the Deaconess, we begin a short series of posts on the diaconate in the Orthodox Church derived from a Conference in Irvine, CA in October 2017The following is a double post offering two very different views of the historicity and validity of the female diaconate.

The Danger of Deaconesses

Rev. Protodeacon Brian Patrick Mitchell

For all of the research done on Orthodox deaconesses in recent decades, we still know very little about them. There are two main reasons for this: One is that their role was always very limited, so there’s just not much said about them in ancient texts, compared to what’s said about bishops, priests, or deacons.

Another reason is that their presence was also always very limited: There weren’t many of them anywhere except in some of the larger cities of the eastern empire like Constantinople. In many places, there weren’t any at all, and for a long time, there weren’t any anywhere in the Orthodox Church.

That’s something to keep in mind when we think about the place of deaconesses in Orthodox tradition: The whole Church has never had a tradition of having deaconesses, but the whole Church has had a tradition of not having them—even after having had them, in some places.

The question is, why? There are two main reasons. Continue Reading…

The Revival of the Order of Deaconess by the Patriarchate of Alexandria

Petros Vassiliadis

The Center of Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies “Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou” (CEMES) has recently published the Proceedings of its international conference on “Deaconesses, the Ordination of Women and Orthodox Theology”, both its English version and the Greek version.

The book is dedicated to the Patriarch of Alexandria, for his decision to revive the order of Deaconesses, and it was presented to him in the margin of this year’s conference of Orthodox spirituality in Bose Monastery, Italy. The Patriarch expressed his thanks and requested the Orthodox theologians to continue to support his mission.

In the meantime, a “Response to Monastic Objections by a Deacon of the Orthodox Church” was circulated, after its author read a letter from an Orthodox monastery that objects to the decision of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria to revive the order of deaconesses a year ago. The letter ended as follows: “In my humble opinion, as a deacon of over three decades, the setting and situation experienced in the missionary Church of Alexandria is arguably the most appropriate and providential context for instituting women readers and restoring women deacons. This would not necessarily create a new tradition or institution (θεσμός) in the Church, as critics maintain. It would actually serve as the application of hierarchal discernment and dispensation in specific missionary circumstances where the Church faces pressing challenges and unconventional needs. And that is surely the most justifiable and just response to the Christian Gospel”. There were also rumors that some missionary agencies, probably related to that monastic community, have even threated to stop supporting the African missions!

As a result, nine of the most prominent Orthodox liturgists (Emeritus Professor Evangelos Theodorou, of the Theological School of the University of Athens, Alkiviadis Calivas, Emeritus Professor of the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Paul Meyendorff, Emeritus Professor of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, George Filias, Professor of the Theological School of the University of Athens, Panagiotis Skaltsis, Professor of Theological School of the University of Thessaloniki, Stelyios S. Muksuris, Professor of the Byzantine Catholic Seminary, Nicholas Denysenko, Jochum Professor and Chair of Valparaiso University,  Phillip Zymaris, Professor of the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, and John Klentos, Professor of Graduate Theological Union), issued the following statement, Continue Reading…

Women and the Creed: “For Us Humans and for Our Salvation”

by John Fotopoulos and Aristotle Papanikolaou

First Council of Nicaea

For a little more than a decade, a new translation of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed recited in the Divine Liturgy has been implemented in the parishes of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA). The desire to use a uniform translation of the Creed is commendable and long overdue.

The new GOA translation of the Creed was issued in 2005 and it is very similar to the one in the widely used “red liturgy book” entitled, The Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom (Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1985). The “red liturgy book” was a collaborative effort by the faculties of Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and it is a little unclear why the GOA felt the need to alter what was an already excellent translation of the Creed.

Among the changes in the new translation of the Creed, the one that is most noticeable and has received the most attention is the GOA’s translation, “for us men and for our salvation” over and against the former Hellenic College-Holy Cross translation, “for us and for our salvation.”

This change to the word “men” is unjustifiable and, quite simply, a mistake. Continue Reading…

Submission, Sexism, and Head Coverings

by Mark Arey

headcoverings

The recent visit of the President and First Lady to the Vatican raised again the question of head coverings for women in the Christian context. Many Christians perpetuate a theology of women’s submission to men that is symbolized by head coverings, based on a Scriptural text (First Corinthians 11:3-16).

In 11:5, Paul stresses the Jewish custom that married women should cover their head. Every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered, dishonors her own head. Indeed, it is the same thing as having a shaved head!

As pointed out by M.D. Hooker, “According to Jewish custom, a bride went bareheaded until her marriage, as a symbol of her freedom; when married, she wore a veil as a sign that she was under the authority of her husband” (Authority on Her Head: An Examination of I Cor. XI. 10, New Testament Studies, 10, 1964, pg. 413). As Paul progresses in his argument in verses 8 and 9, he relies on the Genesis account of the creation of man and woman (Genesis 2:18-25) to create his logic. Thus, by the time we get to verse 10, we have a curious conclusion to his reasoning: That is why it is appropriate for a wife to have authority over her head, on account of the Angels. Continue Reading…