Ordination of Women in the Orthodox Church

Brigidsboy

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GreekisChristian has stated elsewhere that he approves of the ordination of women to the priesthood in the Orthodox Church.

How do you all feel about this issue? If some of you feel there are strong arguments, either for or against, please share them.

(I am interested in a serious discussion of this issue. I hope it will not descend into fighting and name-calling.)
 

TomS

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I support it. And I don't think that will surprise many people here. :D
 

drewmeister2

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Key word is "Ordination", not Ordination. Women can not have valid Orders, ever.
 

Brigidsboy

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TomS said:
I support it. And I don't think that will surprise many people here.  :D
Fine. But why? Please be as specific as possible.
 

greekischristian

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drewmeister2 said:
The canons say only men can be ordained.
I'm fairly well versed in the canons and yet am unfamiliary the one you're refering to...to which one are you refering?
 

drewmeister2

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CANON XLIV of the 60 CANONS:
That women must not enter the sacrificial Altar.
 

greekischristian

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drewmeister2 said:
CANON XLIV of the 60 CANONS:
That women must not enter the sacrificial Altar.
First of all, this says absolutely nothing about ordination.

Secondly, with the canons of Laodicea we unfortunately only have the headings of the ancient canons, the canons proper are lost to us; thus this is a heading of a complete canons, the text of which we lack. Accordingly, St Nikodemos in his commentary on this canon specifically states, 'The present Canon decrees that women shall not go into the holy Bema, if they are lay women.' This interpretation is given as to not create a contradiction between Laodicea 44, the text of which we lack, and Canon 15 of St. Nicephorus the Confessor which states, 'Nuns must enter the holy bema in order to light a taper or candle, and in order to sweep it.'

Of course, all this should be viewed in the light of VI 69 which states, 'Let it not be permitted to anyone among all the laity to enter within the sacred altar, with the exception that the Imperial power and authority is in no way or manner excluded therefrom whenever it wishes to offer gifts to the Creator, in accordance with a certain most ancient tradition.'

Incidentally, this canon would allow the Ruling Empresses (such as Theodora, Irene, Zoe, etc.) to enter the altar in the preformance of their Priestly Imperial Duties.
 

pensateomnia

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Brigidsboy said:
(I am interested in a serious discussion of this issue. I hope it will not descend into fighting and name-calling.)
Well, I wouldn't count on finding much of a serious discussion on such a volatile issue here. However, there have been a number of articles and monographs written on this topic, starting with the German and French Protestant and Catholic scholars of the beginning of the 20th century. I can't remember for the life of me -- or find! -- one such excellent monograph written by some dutiful Jesuit in the 60s (what was his name!?), which was quite exhaustive in its treatment (even going so far as to utilize solid epigraphical evidence from Rome and Phrygia), while still being conservative in orientation.

Anyway, the standard Orthodox authors are: Kyriaki Fitzgerald-Karidoyanes, Fr. Thomas Hopko and, more recently, Valerie Karras. For an even more liberal take, one can turn to the Frenchies, e.g. Elisabeth Behr-Siegel, who delivered the keynote address of the 2003 meeting of the Orthodox Theological Society in America on this very topic ( "Women and Authority in the Church").

Since I'm too busy at the end of the semester to actually pontificate (and because I luuuuuuuuv bibliographies), I'm posting what I find on my shelves and on my little computer here (ahhhhhhh, PDF files) that would serve one well if one were interested in reading the relevant literature. Enjoy!


Davis, J. "Deacons, Deaconesses and the Minor Orders in the Patristic Period," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 14:1 (1969), 1-12.

Fitzgerald-Karidoyanes, Kyriaki. Orthodox women speak: Discerning the "signs of the times". Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1999.

 ――  Women Deacons in the Orthodox Church: Called to Holiness and Ministry. Brookline, Mass.: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1998.

Hopko, Thomas, ed. Women and the Priesthood. Crestwood, New York: SVS Press, 1983.

Karras, Valerie A. "The Liturgical Functions of Consecrated Women in the Byzantine Church," Theological Studies 66:1 (2005).

 ――  "Female Deacons in the Byzantine Church," Church History 73:2 (2004).

Prokschi, Rudolf. "Die Rolle der Frau in der Kirche: ein intensiv diskutiertes Thema auf dem Landeskonzil der Russischen Orthodoxen Kirche von 1917/18," Ostkirchliche Studien 49:2 (2000), 105-144.

Stiefel, Jennifer H. "Women deacons in 1 Timothy: A linguistic and literary look at 'women likewise...' (1 Tim 3.11)," New Testament Studies 41:3 (1995), 442-457.

Synek, Eva Maria. "Der Frauendiakonat der Alten Kirche und seine Rezeption durch die orthodoxen Kirchen: Losungsansatze fur die katholische Ordinationsdiskussion?" Ostkirchliche Studien 48:1 (1999), 19-27

Winjngaards, J.N.M. No Women in Holy Orders?: The Women Deacons of the Early Church. Norwich: Canterbury, 2002.

And, of course, there are Behr-Siegel's major books (which I don't own, so I can't supply you a full reference for): Discerning the Signs of the Times, The Ministry of Women in the Church, and The Ordination of Women in the Church.
 

Brigidsboy

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Some thoughts of Father Alexander Schmemann on the subject...

"...the Orthodox Church has never faced this question; it is for us totally extrinsic, a casus irrealis for which we find no basis, no terms of reference in our Tradition, in the very experience of the Church, and for the discussion of which we are therefore simply not prepared.

Such then, is my difficulty. I cannot discuss the problem itself because to do so would necessitate the elucidation of our approach, not to women and to the priesthood only, but above all to God in His Triune Life, to Creation, Fall and Redemption, to the Church and the mystery of her life, to the deification of man and the consummation of all things in Christ. Short of all this, it would remain incomprehensible, I am sure, why the ordination of women is to us tantamount to a radical and irreparable mutilation of the entire faith, the rejection of the whole Scripture - and needless to say, the end of all "dialogues"... Short of all this, my answer will sound like another "conservative" and "traditional" defense of the status quo, of precisely that which many Christians today, having heard it too many times, reject as hypocrisy, lack of openness to God's will, blindness to the world, etc. Obviously enough, those who reject Tradition will not listen once more to an argument ex traditione..........."

The entire article can be found herehttp://jbburnett.com/resources/schmemann/schmemann-ord-women.pdf

 

Sarah

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I am against it for various reasons.

Our priest's son was ordained a priest at our parish recently. Bishop ANTOUN told us about another priest's son whose hand his father kissed after his ordination. When the son protested, the father told him that he was not kissing his hand but the hand of Christ. Since Christ was a male, priests should be male.

What if a young woman was ordained and then became pregnant? How could the baby who is not ordained do priestly things (e.g., go through the Royal Doors)? I know the baby has to go where the mother goes, but that is kind of my point! And those who argue that she could be too old or celebate, let me remind them of Sarah, Elizabeth, and the Theotokos!

What about the "monthly cycle and uncleanness" issue? That would certainly throw a monkey wrench into the service schedule!

What would we call her: Father, Mother, Fatheress?

I wouldn't want to confess to a woman!

What about the "women shouldn't pray with their heads uncovered" issue?

I would be scared of a female priest who could grow a beard!

Women play an important role in the Church. Being a priest isn't the only way to serve.
 

minasoliman

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This is quite an interesting discussion, one of which I must say is something that I'd like to lightly discuss and mostly just simply read.

For one thing, while I am all with my own Church, the Coptic Church, against female ordination, I am all for female deaconesses or female old mothers in the church who tend to the women of the Church.

Also, I find nothing wrong with a "spiritual mother" in the Church, especially for women. Sarah made a statement that's quite confusing:

I wouldn't want to confess to a woman!
May I ask why? I have parents, and sometimes I might confess a sin or two to either my mother or father or both just for support and advice. Priests' jobs are not only spiritual helpers, but the most important is to bear this sin and put it on the Eucharist, to absolve people, which is why I feel a priest must be male (as icons of Christ). However, spiritual guidance is not solely necessary from a priest, and I feel, personally, we need woman as spiritual guiders too. Many times, we ask the Theotokos to comfort us and to help us, so I find nothing wrong with spiritual mothers.

For another thing, I also wish that there are those that can elaborate their positions on why female priesthood is okay, and what Church father or fathers can you show to strengthen your position?

Also, I have an itch when I hear that there are canons that allow queens or kings or imperial officers in the altar. I disagree with it (are they pre-Chalcedonian?). I feel this comes from an Imperial Church, especially starting in Constantinople, not a Spiritual motherly Church that separates herself from politics.

God bless.

Mina
 

greekischristian

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Brigidsboy said:
Some thoughts of Father Alexander Schmemann on the subject...
Well, let me quote His Grace Bishop Kallistos again,

'Let us make the questions of the contemporary West our own questions; let us acknowledge that the question of women priests is a question posed also to us. As yet we are still at the very beginning of our exploration; let us not be too hasty or premature ion our judgements. As Prof. Erickson rightly observes, "We must admit quite simply: while the Fathers have blessed us with a multifaceted yet coherent teaching on the priesthood, they have not given us a complete and altogether satisfactory answer to the question of the ordination of women."'

(from the essay 'Man, Woman and the Priesthood in Christ' from The Ordination of Women in the Orthodox Church; first published in Hopko's Women and the Priesthood)
 

Brigidsboy

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But that doesn't answer the points Father Alexander, of blessed memory, makes:

1. A question extrinsic to the Church.

2. A radical and irreparable mutilation of the entire faith.

3. The rejection of the whole Scripture.

The post from Bishop Kallistos doesn't really say anything. It is quite vague.
 

Asteriktos

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I don't have a particular view on the subject, though I have read a thing or two on it, including some texts which are not generally cited in these debates. So, for the sake of discussion, I'll summarize some of the thoughts that are expounded in the book The Mystery of Gender and Human Sexuality, whose authors I generally disagree with on many subjects, but whose arguments seem somewhat more thoughtful and unique in this case.


1. The essay by Archbishop Lazar Puhalo is titled Gender as Prophecy and Revelation, and his main thesis is that men and women have different roles--but both important prophetic roles--to play in God's plan of salvation. He says: "the man is a revelation of Christ and the woman is a revelation about the Church... Human gender and the spousal relationship are prophetic, and were given to us by God in the very beginning as a form of revelation. This is the essence of the mystery of human gender and of the roles of men and women in life and in the Church." (p. 17)

He goes on to give different arguments in favor of what amounts to a literal interpretation of Eph. 5: "Christ was revealed through the male prophets in the Old Testament, the Church was revealed through the female prophets, beginning with Eve. It is not without reason that Christ says that the gender relation between men and women will not exist in the resurrection... If human gender is given for prophecy, then when all prophecy has been fulfilled, there is no longer a need for prophets nor for the means of prophecy." (pp. 18-19) From this perspective, neither the male prophetic role (revealing Christ) nor the female prophetic role (revealing the bride of Christ, the Church) is of greater or lesser importance.

Thus Archbp. Lazar is essentially going beyond the usual "well women have important stuff to do as well" argument, and saying explicitly that they are given a role of equal status and power as that which the male is given. About this he says: "To understand the reason why women are not enrolled in the priesthood, we must first of all put away one treacherous presupposition: that it has to do with relative value. It does have to do with roles, but here again, there is a destructive presupposition. Many people have, for centuries, equated roles with value, and they have extended the roles of men and women in the liturgical life of the Church (which deals with prophecy and revelation) to society, politics, and industry--which have nothing to do with the faith or the salvation of humanity. The roles we are speaking of have nothing to do with caste, personal value or human worthiness. Thus, throughout Scriptural history [which Archbp. Lazar provides a half dozen or so examples of], women have held the prophetic role of revealin ghte Church: the nature and mission of the Church on earth... The prophecy about Christ has been proclaimed through the male prophets, with one exception: Eve." (pp. 26-27)

He continues: "The role of priest in the Church belongs only to Christ. He is the priesthood of the Church. He is also the spouse and the husband of the Church. Christ's visible priesthood in the Church is fulfilled through the ordained priests, more precisely, through the bishops of the Church (who delegate this to parish presbyters since the bishop cannot be everywhere). Thus, the prophetic role of men is in revelation about Christ, and the prophetic role of women is in revelation about the Church. There is no relative value in these roles, since the mystery of redemption is the mystery of Christ and the Church. It should be clear, however, that while women fulfil a ministry in the Church (first of all, the prophetic ministry) they do not enter into the priesthood, which is a revelation about Christ, not about the Church. A woman in the priesthood would have to be representing a revelation about the husband of the Church, the spouse of the 'spotless, pure bridge of Christ.' Do you not see how perverted and corrupt such a 'revelation and prophecy' would be?" (p. 27)


2. The essay by Dr. Kharalambos Anstall is titled: "Male and Female He Created Them": An Examination of the Mystery of Human Gender, and attempts (through anthropological, typological, and other arguments) to briefly articulate the meaning of gender from an Orthodox perspective. Regarding the priesthood, his words about equality mirrors those of Archbp. Lazar: "Various roles in the Church are often thought to be associated with personal value and special graces and are rarely understood in terms of the right types, according to revealtion... It is important to stress that the Church is not a structure of power and the priesthood is not an echelon in such a structure. The question about the ordination of women is not a matter of equal rights and has nothing to do with the relative value of genders." (p. 59)

And as with Archbp. Lazar, Dr. Anstall also argues that this equality does not mean that there are not distinctive, defined, and immutable roles for each gender: "There is only one priesthood, the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Christ is 'priest unto the ages, according to the order of Melchisedek' Priesthood does not 'belong' to the one who receives ordination. It is Christ Who is present and acts, it is His sacrifice that is offered. The ordained priest is just 'a type in the place of Christ.' He is an icon of the one and only Priest. He has to be a man, not a woman, because Christ is a man..." (pp. 59-60)

"In the same way that marriage is a type of salvation, the mystery of the relationship between God and the creation is reciprocally revealed as a marital relationship. The Church, representing all Creation, is revealed as a bride, as a woman dressed the sun, with her feet on the moon. Our representative in the mystery of the incarnation, our most honorable offering and participation is again a woman, a bride, the Theotokos. The bridegroom of the Church is Christ. The fruit of this unity is salvation and life everlasting. It is impossible to change the tradition of the Church to ordain only men to the priesthood, without damaging this icon of Christ as the bridegroom, and the icon of salvation as a marital relationship between Christ and the Church. Since this icon is language for revelation deeply rooted in the tradition of the Church, it has profound dogmatic significance." (p. 60)
 

pensateomnia

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Sarah said:
Women play an important role in the Church.  Being a priest isn't the only way to serve.
Yes. This, however, presents the question: Are there legitimate ways in which women can serve in some kind of consecrated or, perhaps, "ordained" role in the liturgy? Certainly, most women do not currently have any such legitimate way (although nuns act as altar servers with the blessing of Bishop and Abbess). However, what does Church history tell us, and what does that history mean for the present? This is the real question and also the real reason why we often see so many people summarily dismiss the idea of an official liturgical (not necessarily sacramental, but liturgical) role for women in the modern Church, viz. people don't really know Church history.

Consider as just one small example this bit from one of the articles I referenced above. It comes from Valerie Karras's “The Liturgical Functions of Consecrated Women in the Byzantine Church,” Theological Studies 66:1 (2005). As the article's abstract says:

Although the ordained order of deaconesses vanished in the Byzantine Church, some women continued to fulfill, either informally or formally, various liturgical functions in public church life. The author examines the art-historical and textual evidence of three groups of women: noblewomen who participated as incense-bearers in a weekly procession in Constantinople; matrons who helped organize and keep order in a monastic church open to the public in Constantinople; and the possibly ordained order of myrrhbearers in the Church of Jerusalem.
All three examples are very instructive, in so far as they give us specific examples (outside of the well known offices of widow, virgin and deaconess) of ways in which the Church has included women in liturgical services. In the modern age, we may kick and scream and hate those who report such things, but the facts remain. What we do with those facts, of course -- ignore, spin, use them as a political platform -- is another matter.

Anyway, here is a section of the article on the "myrhhbearers." In the interest of time, I've had to leave out the footnotes, but the basic text will give everyone a good idea of the main descriptive part of this section of the essay (I had to leave out the analysis, unfortunately).



Quoted from section of article:
----------------------

It is not known when exactly the order of myrophoroi developed in the Jerusalem Church; when they disappeared is equally unknown. They are not mentioned in early church documents relating to the paschal celebration in Jerusalem, including the detailed description given by Egeria in the late fourth century. However, there are numerous references to these women in a typikon (liturgical rule) of the Church of Jerusalem, contained in a twelfth-century manuscript that apparently is a copy of an earlier work from the late ninth or early tenth century.'' Egeria's diary and the dating of the original typikon on which the twelfth-century manuscript is based thus provide us with a terminus post quem of the fifth century and a terminus ante quem of the ninth century, since the myrophoroi were clearly an established order by the time the typikon was written. It is likely that they still existed in the 13th century when the extant manuscript was copied from the lost original, although it is also possible that they had become defunct by that time but still existed within institutional memory. Their disappearance thus may coincide with, or postdate by a century or so, the disappearance of the female diaconate in the Byzantine Church.

Unlike the confusion over the use of the term myrophoroi by certain Russian travelers describing the Great Church in Constantinople, these women definitely cannot be identified with deaconesses, since that order is separately mentioned in the typikon's description of the paschal services. Thus, the myrophoroi were a distinctive order unique to the Church of Jerusalem. Their liturgical functions are quite clearly spelled out in the Jerusalem typikon, and largely mirror, in a stylized and liturgical fashion, the activities of the biblical myrrhbearing women.

The Jerusalem myrophoroi began their liturgical service early on Holy Saturday morning, when they accompanied the patriarch and his clerical assistants, such as the archdeacon and chanters, to the Holy Sepulcher. The myrrhbearers were to clean and prepare the oil lamps in the Holy Sepulcher, chanting the canon and the liturgy of the hours while they worked. When they had finished cleaning and preparing the lamps, they chanted the "Glory to the Father . . ." and a hymn in plagal second tone. A deacon then would chant the litany, and the patriarch would lock the Holy Sepulcher after extinguishing the lamps.

It cannot be stated for certain whether the myrophoroi were included as part of the clergy in the vesper service and for the Divine Liturgy of St. James, since they are not individually mentioned in the rubrics. However, it is likely that their inclusion should be inferred since, at the end of the liturgy, the typikon mentions that the myrrhbearers remained behind and reentered the Holy Sepulcher in order to cense and anoint it. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was then locked until the return of the patriarch and clergy early the following morning.

For Easter matins, the clergy, which apparently included the myrophoroi, gathered early in the morning at the patriarchate, in the secreton, where they changed into white vestments before presumably returning to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Although the text does not give a full list of clerical orders included, the rubrics for the paschal matins service make it impossible not to understand the term "clergy" to include the myrrhbearers. Outside the church, the clergy chanted the Easter apolytikion, "Christ is risen," several times as a refrain to psalm verses intoned by the patriarch, who then called out: "Open to me the gates of righteousness; I shall confess the Lord as I enter in," to which the archdeacon responded with another "Christ is risen." Then,

The doors of the church are immediately opened and the patriarch together with the clergy enter the church, chanting the 'Christ is risen'. And the patriarch and the archdeacon immediately enter into the Holy Sepulcher, those two alone, with the myrophorot standing before the Holy Sepulcher. Then the patriarch shall come out to them and say to them [the myrophoroi]: "Rejoice! [ or "Greetings!"] Christ is risen." The myrophoroi then fall down at his feet, and, after rising up, they cense the patriarch and sing the polychronion to him. They [then] withdraw to the place where they customarily stand.
The matins service then proceeded normally with the chanting of the canon for Easter, the exaposteilarion, the praises (lauds), and the Easter aposticha. Near the end of the service comes the final reference to the myrophoroi. Following the deacon's chanting of the epakousta, there was a procession to the bema with two of each clerical order: deacons, subdeacons, deaconesses, and myrophoroi. The deacons held censers, the subdeacons and deaconesses held manoualia, and the myrophoroi each carried a triskelion. The two myrophoroi took up position one on each side of the Holy Sepulcher, censing throughout the second deacon's reading of the Gospel. At the end of the reading, the myrrhbearers entered the Holy Sepulcher and censed and anointed it.
--------------------
 

Asteriktos

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Brigidsboy

The post from Bishop Kallistos doesn't really say anything. It is quite vague.
Though it's been a while since I read that essay, if I am remembering correctly, I think that the quote given by GIC is a pretty good summation of what Bp. Kallistos said. His main point was that, yes, we have this long standing tradition, but on the other hand we should force ourselves to deal with the issue again. Fwiw, here are a couple threads on the topic...

Bishop Kallistos On Female Priests
Women in the Priesthood?!?
 
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