Tag Archives: Deaconesses

Orthodoxy, African Deaconesses, and Missed Opportunities

by Kerry San Chirico

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The headline from the official news agency of the Romanian Patriarchate read, “Patriarch Theodoros II of Alexandria performs first consecration of deaconesses.” There were mostly heartened and hopeful responses on my Facebook feed. I “liked” the page in the formal if shallow Facebook sense. As such news inevitably takes time to digest, those with keen eyes began to weigh in. “This is not an ordination but a consecration,” one scholar reminded us, noting critical differences between the words cheiriothesia (blessing) and and cheirotonia (ordination). Another pointed out that, given the photographic evidence, this rite was more akin to ordination of a subdeacon, a minor order. Was this then a minor occurrence? Some might wish that. Continue Reading…

Shared Ministry and Divine Grace: Restoring the Diaconate in Orthodoxy

by Rev. Dr. Nicholas Denysenko

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The Orthodox world is buzzing with the recent news report on the ordination of deaconesses in the Patriarchate of Alexandria. To the best of our knowledge, the ordination occurred after the Divine Liturgy in the nave of the temple, and appears to resemble the rite used to ordain subdeacons. This rite includes the presentation of the orarion, handlaying, a prayer, and the washing of the bishop’s hands. The reports do not offer details on the prayer said by the Patriarch. It seems that the Patriarch did not use the Byzantine Rite for the ordination of a deaconess, which takes place at the end of the anaphora (before the deacon intones the litany before the Lord’s Prayer, “Having remembered all the saints”), in the altar, and includes the deaconesses receiving Communion with the other clergy in the altar, according to order. While Patriarch Theodoros II appeared to use the rite for the ordination of subdeacons, the Patriarchate of Alexandria is referring to these newly-ordained women as deaconesses, and has appointed them to perform crucial sacramental and catechetical ministries as part of the Patriarchate’s missionary work. Continue Reading…

Women Deacons in Africa; Not in America

by Carrie Frederick Frost

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History was made on February 17, 2017 when five women were consecrated deaconesses in the Orthodox Church. For many of us, this is a welcome but shocking development.

Speaking for myself, I expected the reintroduction of a female diaconate to occur in Greece, or elsewhere in Europe, or, even more likely, the United States; say, Pittsburgh. These are the places with multiple advocacy groups and a robust academic investigation into the history and pastoral function of the female diaconate.

Frankly, I anticipated—in a most unexamined way—the first Orthodox deaconess of our era would be white woman. (Let me pause and be clear, lest my readers be distracted: even though I am a white American woman advocating for the female diaconate, I have neither call nor desire to serve in this way.)

I now know that I suffered a serious failure of imagination. Continue Reading…

Challenges for Restoring the Byzantine Female Diaconate for Present Times

by Ashley Purpura

Pope Francis’s recent call for a commission to explore the possibility of reinstating the female diaconate in the Catholic Church resonates with over a century of similar calls among leaders and laity of the Orthodox Church. These calls for restoring the female diaconate within the Eastern Orthodox Church have been supported by prominent theologians and hierarchs. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I even stated in 1995 that, “There is no canonical difficulty in ordaining women as deacons in the Orthodox Church,” and in 1997, that the “order of ordained deaconesses is an undeniable part of tradition” and that “there are already a number of women who appear to be called to this ministry.” Continue Reading…