- Sep 5, 2017
- Reaction score
- Orthodox Catholic Church
Source: https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.ca/2017/10/orthodox-liturgists-issued-statement-of.htmlIt has come to our attention that the venerable Patriarchate of Alexandria, after due consideration, has decided to reinstate the ancient order of deaconess in order better to serve the pastoral needs of the ever-increasing number of missionary parishes within the Patriarchate serving the whole continent of Africa. The validity of this decision, however, has been questioned by some.
We, the undersigned, active and emeriti professors of liturgics and liturgical theology at various theological schools and seminaries in Greece and the United States of America, wish to express respectfully our support of His Beatitude Patriarch Theodoros and Holy Synod of Alexandria Patriarchate in their the effort to restore in a timely manner the order of deaconess within the borders of the Patriarchate.
The historical, theological, canonical, and liturgical validity of the order of deaconess has been repeatedly and repeatedly asserted in recent years by Orthodox scholars and theologians. Although the order of deaconess gradually fell into decline by the end of the fifteenth century, it survived among the Oriental Orthodox Churches and in some monastic communities. The Russian Orthodox Church before the 1917 Revolution and again in more recent times has considered restoring it. Likewise St. Nectarios and other contemporary Greek bishops have ordained deaconesses. In fact, the Church of Greece established a School of Deaconesses, which in the end developed into a school for social workers.
The reinstitution of the female diaconate does not constitute an innovation, as some would have us believe, but revitalization of a once functional, vibrant, and effective ministry in order to provide the opportunity for qualified women to offer in our era their unique and specific gifts in the service of God's people as publicly commissioned and authorized educators, evangelists, preachers, counselors, social workers, et.al.
Initially, the liturgical role of the female diaconate appears to have been limited, according to sources. These same sources provide us with the ritual of ordination of a female diacon, which is strikingly similar to that of the male diacon. Significantly, the liturgical vestments are the same as those of the male deacon's. The decision as to whether or not women deacons will perform added liturgical functions in our time, as one theologian puts it, "remains exclusively the prerogative of bishops in the synod."
Indeed, the very process of restoring the female diaconate requires careful consideration of several other factors as well, including the proper preparation and education of the people who will be called upon to receive, honor and respect the deaconesses assigned to their parishes. Also crucial for the process of restoration is to carefully articulate the qualities and qualifications of the candidates for the office. St. Paul in his Pastoral Epistles provides guidance as to the qualities required of the candidate. The canons tell us of some qualifications, such as the minimum age of the candidate. However, nothing is said of other qualifications such as the education and marital status of the candidate. These and other matters, including the public attire, the remuneration and the method of assignment and removal of the deaconess, must also be addressed. Above all, the process requires that the role and functions of the deaconess be identified, properly defined, and clearly stated.
Talk of the restoration of the order of female deacons has been with us for several decades. In fact, one of the conclusions (VIII) of the Inter-Orthodox Symposium, "The Place of the Woman in the Orthodox Church" which was held on the island of Rhodes in 1988, addressed this very issue. It bears repeating parts of the conclusion:
Generally speaking, it is safe to say that only doctrinal impediments and commonly accepted authoritative precedents would prevent an autocephalous Church from enacting liturgical reforms within its borders. Liturgical and canonical issues that have implications beyond the local church are generally resolved through a consensus of the autocephalous churches. The restoration of the female diaconate is such that neither doctrinal issues nor authoritative precedents are at stake. It is refreshing to know that a local Church has taken up the challenge, has studied the matter carefully, and is proposing measures for the implementation of a significant reform, the restoration of the order of deaconess, through a prudently conceived program.
In light of this, we respectfully support the decision of the Patriarchate of Alexandria to restore the female diaconate, thus giving a flesh to an idea that has been discussed and studied by pastors and theologians for decades.
With deep respect and respect
Evangelos Theodorou, Theological School of the University of Athens
Alkiviadis Calivas, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
Paul Meyendorff, St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary
George Filias, Theological School of the University of Athens
Panagiotis Skaltsis, Theological School of the University of Thessaloniki
Stelyios S. Muksuris, Byzantine Catholic Seminary
Nicholas Denysenko, Valparaiso University
Phillip Zymaris, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology
John Klentos, Graduate Theological Union