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 2017. The 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…