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Women in the Priesthood?!?

Pedro

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Just wanted to get you guys' (and gals'; we must be "equal opportunity" in all things apparantly...) opinions about this, if we should worry, how serious this looks for the Archdiocese, etc.

THE NEWNESS OF THE SPIRIT:
the ordination of men and women

By MARIA GWYN McDOWELL

THE QUESTION OF THE PARticipation of women in the liturgical and priestly ministry of the Orthodox Church is a relatively new question, one which has come to it from the “outside.” Yet, for the last 30 years, the question has been seriously considered by Orthodox theologians who have made it our own. This is true of theologians who both oppose and support a greater participation of women in liturgical service. These theologians include Fr. Thomas Hopko, Dean John Erickson, Dr. Elisabeth Behr-Sigel, Bp. Kallistos Ware, the late Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, Dr. Kyriaki FitzGerald, Dr. Valerie Karras, as well as others. The difficulty, as Erickson points out, is that the Church Fathers never explicitly examined the question of the ordination of women to the priesthood. Generally, the Fathers accepted the cultural assumptions regarding men and women existent in Greek and Roman society. Such assumptions are no longer shared, even by the outspoken critics of the ordination of women. Erickson concludes simply that our tradition has not given us a satisfactory answer to the issue of the ordination of women. The argument against the ordination of women often rests on the fact that women have never been ordained, and such a change is unacceptable. Tradition is the hallmark of Orthodoxy, it is the way we maintain our connection with the saints that have gone before us; in the words of Vladimir Lossky, Tradition is “the life of the Church in the Holy Spirit.”1

Tradition is the Church’s ongoing proclamation of the Gospel, led by the Spirit through time. It is the Church’s articulation of the continuous work of God in our midst. Tradition, however, has never been an unchanging expression of our faith. While Christians continually experience God in three persons, the doctrine of the Trinity as we have it today was not settled until four hundred
years after Pentecost. The dual nature of Christ — that He is fully God and fully human — was also not settled until well after Jesus walked in our midst. This does not mean that such “doctrines” were not true before they were agreed upon, but that it took time, discernment, discussion and often argument to be able to articulate our understanding. The practices of the Church have been far more malleable, even in the area of priestly ministry. As the Church has changed, the priesthood itself has changed. Bishops, once the head of a single congregation, are now the head of cities or even regions. Once married, they are now celibate. While there is no clear record of female priests, Orthodoxy has a history of ordaining women to the diaconate.

The 1988 Inter-Orthodox Theological Consultation on the Place of the Woman in the Orthodox Church and the Question of the Ordination of Women, held in Rhodes, Greece and sponsored by the Ecumenical Patriarch, has this to say about the order of deaconesses: “The apostolic order of deaconesses should be revived. It was never altogether abandoned in the Orthodox Church though it has tended to fall into disuse. There is ample evidence from apostolic times, from the patristic, canonical and liturgical tradition, well into the Byzantine period (and even in our own day) that this order was held in high honour.” It is important when speaking of tradition to distinguish between Tradition and traditions, between the realization of the Gospel through time, and the various local modes that have borne these realizations. Of course, the ongoing challenge for Orthodox is to determine which forms and expressions of the faith are to be maintained, and which are historically conditioned. Certain expressions of the Tradition are held in greater esteem. For example, the seven ecumenical councils hold more weight than the later local councils or individual Church Fathers. It is the dogmatic statements of the councils rather than their canonical disciplines which are considered doctrine.

Issues of practice fall under canons, and practices vary throughout the Orthodox world. Practice is always an attempt to concretely live out doctrine as that doctrine applies to a specific situation or context. The priesthood falls under the rubric of canonical practice, a "tradition,” not a doctrine. Just as context changes, so can the practice which most faithfully expresses doctrine. Orthodoxy prefers fewer rather than more dogmatic statements, not because we are afraid of delineating what is true, but because Orthodoxy
recognizes that life in the Spirit is rarely effective when limited by excessive laws. Metropolitan Anthony points out in Living Prayer that, to the Hebrews, “what they are given is what they can bear GǪ” (35). God gave the Law in increments, moving from the violent Lamech in Genesis, to the restraining Law of Sinai, to the forgiveness of Christ. God addresses us where we are, as individuals and as a community.

That we, as the Church, are being led by the Holy Spirit does not mean that the work of the Holy Spirit was complete in the Church at Pentecost. As Father Georges Florovsky noted four decades ago with reference to the ecumenical movement, but applicable to our discussion, “The true Church is not yet the perfect Church.”2 We are an ongoing work of God. Just as slavery took centuries to work out, so too does the implication of the statement that, as we are baptized into Christ, “there is no longer male and female” (Gal. 3.28).

This is all to say that the fact that women have never been priests in Orthodoxy does not necessarily mean they cannot become priests. Change is a part of the life of Orthodoxy; our practice has never been static. We are a community constantly responding to the work of the Spirit in a changing world, a world in which God is working. Such changes need to be thoughtfully discussed rather than rejected out of hand. Change in the Orthodox Church is not arbitrary reaction, but the faithful response to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our midst, who is calling us as a community to a more full recognition of what it means to live the reign of God on Earth.

One of the changes resulting from the concern of feminists in particular churches is a greater attentiveness to the language we use in our worship. At a basic level, the words we use in conversation or worship are very important, given the power of the tongue to build up or destroy those around us (James 3). However, the struggles over language in the Church have not been without serious problems. The “politically correct” Trinity of “Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier” blurs the reality that all three persons create, redeem and sanctify. Such language places God in a neatly defined box which we can understand.

The early Church Fathers argue that all language runs the danger
of this error. Everything we say about God must be unsaid, even the most positive statements about God, such as “God is love.” This is not because God is not love, but because God is not love merely in the way we, as finite human beings, understand love. This is what Orthodoxy refers to as “apophatic” theology. Apophaticism is describing something, God, by what we know God is not. This does not mean that our theology is irrational or unreasonable. It means that sometimes we cannot say what God fully is, so we must be content to say what we know God is not. The Fathers understand that all language is a reflection of our limitations, and thus limits God who cannot be limited. So, we must be careful in our use of language. This includes the language of fatherhood.

St. Gregory of Nazianzus states: It does not follow that because the Son is the Son in some higher relation (inasmuch as we could not in any other way than this point out that he is of God and consubstantial), it would also be necessary to think that all the names of this lower world and of our kindred should be transferred to the Godhead. Or maybe you would consider our God to be a male, according to the same argument, because he is called God and Father, and that deity is feminine, from the gender of the word, and Spirit neuter, because it has nothing to do with generation;GǪIt is very shameful, and not only shameful but very foolish, to take from things below a guess at things above, and from a fluctuating nature [a guess] at the things that are unchanging, and as Isaiah [8:19] says, to seek the living among the dead. —Fifth Theological Oration -º-º7 & 10, in LLC 3:198f.

Thus the argument, perhaps most eloquently asserted by C.S. Lewis, that we cannot speak of God as “like a good woman” in the same way we can speak of God as “like a good man,” falls prey to exactly the error that St. Gregory condemns. Just because we use male language for God does not mean that it is correct to understand that God is male, or that the only way to represent God is as a male. The scripture is full of female images for God, as well as non-gendered images. For example, God is a rock, a pillar of fire, a whispering
breeze, a mother hen, a grieving mother, a warrior king. None of these is literal! In the Gospel of Luke, the Parable of the Prodigal Son is the third of a series of three parables, all told by Jesus to make the same point, the joy of God in finding what is lost. God is imaged as a shepherd who rejoices in finding a lost sheep, a housewife who rejoices in finding a lost coin, and finally, a father who rejoices in finding a lost son. Let me be clear. I am NOT advocating that we change our Trinitarian language. The language of Father and Son is a constant reminder of two essential theological points. First, the Trinity is made up of persons in relationship, not just any relationship, but a family relationship.

Second, the first person of the Trinity is always considered the source of Godhead, the second is the only-begotten. Frankly, no other phrase would be any more or any less adequate to the theological task. All language is insufficient for the mystery of God. We must always remember that our language is only a limited expression of the fullness of God. Thus, argument that as a priest a woman cannot be an image of Christ is problematic for two other reasons. The first is quite straightforward. The priest as somehow naturally resembling the person of Jesus is not an understanding of priesthood present in the Fathers. The Fathers are “more concerned about the priest’s internal and ethical conformity to Christ than they are with his external and physical conformity.”3 Arguments that emphasize Jesus’ masculinity in light of His priesthood are found in modern Orthodox discussions, but it is most clearly exemplified, and possibly originates, from Catholic thought on the priesthood, which is not entirely in line with Orthodox theology of the priesthood. In our liturgy, the priest represents the people, not Christ. Every prayer in the liturgy, with the exception of the prayer for the cleansing of the priest before the Eucharist, is in the first person plural: “we” and “us,” pronouns intended to include all those presently worshipping.

The second problem, concerning the idea that a woman cannot image God, is much more serious and fundamental to our faith, and has implications far beyond discussions over the priesthood. As human beings, we are all created in the image of God. This is not simply a 2000-year-old truth of the Church, but a truth of our very creation. Every man and every woman is an image of God. No individual lacks the image of God. The image may be buried to the point of invisibility, but Orthodoxy is adamant: we are all created in the image of God, and we are all moving towards living the fullness of that image in our lives on a daily basis. This is the basis for the Orthodox theology of deification. St. Athanasius declares that God became human so that we might become God. Jesus assumed all of our humanity, not simply maleness, for, as St. Gregory of Nazianzus says, “what is not assumed cannot be saved.” Jesus is present in those who are poor, without reference to their sex. Every man and woman who exemplifies the gifts of the Spirit, faith, hope and love, is an image of
Christ, and an image of God.

Elisabeth Behr-Sigel summarizes the implication of both of these arguments: It is in the Church’s name — in persona Ecclesiae — that the ordained minister, facing East, meaning toward the coming Christ, begs the Father to send the Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here offered, that they may be for us communion in the Body and Blood of Christ “offered up once and for all,” as the Epistle to the Hebrews insists. And St. John Chrysostom proclaims that “it is Christ, made present by the Holy Spirit, who is the true minister of the mystery.”

Removing himself as individual, the priest — minister, meaning servant — turns his hands and his tongue over to Christ. Why could these hands and this tongue not be those of a Christian woman, baptized and chrismated, called by virtue of her personal gifts to a ministry of pastoral guidance, which implies presiding over the eucharist? As the Fathers — with the Gospel as their foundation — have always claimed, the hierarchy of spiritual gifts granted to persons has nothing to do with gender.4

There is no consensus on the ordination of women to the priesthood, though the restoration of the order of deaconesses is viewed as a possibility, regardless of the question of the priesthood. Orthodoxy does not merely ask what have we always done, but what is God doing in our midst today and how do we respond as faithful members of the Church? We are always learning about a God who is mysterious. We are always learning about the wonderful, fascinating, and sometimes frightening world God has created. This learning
never stops; our transformation never stops. While we must be careful not to respond to fads, we must also be open to the constant newness which is the life of the Spirit in the Church.

1 Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of
the Eastern Church (Crestwood, NY: St.
Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1976), 188.

2 G. Florovsky, “The Quest for Christian Unity
and the Orthodox Church,” in Ecumenism,
Collected Works, 13, 139-140.

3 John H. Erickson, The Challenge of Our
Past: Studies in Orthodox Canon Law and
Church History (Crestwood, NY: St.
Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991), 62.

4 Elisabeth Behr-Sigel, “The Ordination of
Women: A Point of Contention in
Ecumenical Dialogue,” 2003 Florovsky
Lecture, St. Vladimir’s Seminary, NY.

Maria Gwyn McDowell, M.Div., is a doctoral student in Theological Ethics at Boston College, and an active member of St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cambridge, MA.
 

Bogoliubtsy

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Not going to comment on the article, but I will comment on the group I presume the author belongs to. Having formerly lived in Boston I am aware of a small movement there, comprised of women mostly of the Antiochian persuasion who have formed themselves into a little "women't lib" club, Orthodox style. These women produce the Saint Nina Quarterly- http://www.stnina.org/1/1-womenews.htm

They also arranged for Elizabeth Behr-Sigel to speak at Holy Cross Seminary. See here for my impressions of that event : http://www.euphrosynoscafe.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=504

Their attitude is one tainted with a worldly understanding of the Church, influenced by humanistic notions of "equality". These are the women who see the current structure of the Church as a product of a formerly male dominated age which in our elightened times we have no need for. These are the women who with much pomp entered my former Church in t-shirts and slacks (fanny packs too!..ha) on the Sunday morning of Pascha moving their way to the front(everyone thinking, who *are* these people?) as they loudly sang the Paschal hymns. Kind of had a "we're here, we're queer, get used to it" ring to it somehow. Would make sense, since I've been told one of the leaders of this group lives with her "partner". Their whole vibe reminds me of a story Bishop Tikhon (OCA) has told on a number of occasions about a group of Roman Catholic "liberated women" who make their way up close to the altar at the time of the transmutation, loudly reciting the priests prayers along with the priest and pointing at the Host. Upon leaving they've been heard saying "now that is the Eucharist."

Needless to say, this is the extreme "left wing" of Orthodoxy(if what they do can even fall into that category). Unfortunately some are taking them seriously. For the most part though, they will remain a marginal and laughable bunch.



 

Aristocles

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Boston College - a bastion of Orthodoxy. These people are activists - so you can count on hearing more about this PC minority. Thanks for posting this though. Mcdowell may have written this but it surely looks like Elisabeth Behr-Sigel was the editor.

Demetri
 

peterfarrington

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How widespread is this movement in EOxy.

It would be a non-starter in Coptic Orthodoxy. We have a vibrant deaconess movement (non-liturgical of course) who are engaged in a tremendous amount of important service.

But it would be a problem if the EO were liable to head the way of the West. Is that likely? Would the Antiocheans go that way?

Peter
 

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peterfarrington said:
How widespread is this movement in EOxy.

It would be a non-starter in Coptic Orthodoxy. We have a vibrant deaconess movement (non-liturgical of course) who are engaged in a tremendous amount of important service.

But it would be a problem if the EO were liable to head the way of the West. Is that likely? Would the Antiocheans go that way?

Peter
It's pretty much a non-starter for the EO as well. The group that seems to be advocating womens ordination seems to number maybe in the dozens, and near as I can tell, has no support among the bishops or clergy of any of the American jurisdictions which I know of, including the Antiochians. I think any jurisdiction which unilaterally began ordaining women would find itself seperated from the other jurisdictions and ultimately, outside of Orthodoxy. I was under the impression that the few rumblings for womens ordination in EO were coming from a few Greek women, and was unaware of any Antiochian involvement. Regardless, I don't believe that this fringe group of dissident women has any support among the vast majority of believers or clergy in any Orthodox Church in the US (or anywhere).
 

peterfarrington

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Bishop Kallistos speaks about some aspects of women's liturgical ministry here:

"B.K.: In my view, yes. First of all, we should try to go ahead with the revival of the order of deaconess. That has been discussed for many years. Some people were already discussing it at the beginning of this century in the Orthodox world. Nothing has yet been done. The order of deaconess was never abolished, it merely fell into disuse. Should we not revive it? If we do, what are to be the functions of deaconesses? They should not necessarily, in the twentieth or twenty-first century, be doing exactly what they were doing in the third or fourth century. The order may be the same, yet shouldn’t we rethink the functions that the deaconess might have? On my understanding of the evidence, they were regarded as ordained persons on an equal footing as the male deacons. (There is some dispute in the Orthodox world about that, but my reading of the evidence is quite clear- that they have not just a blessing but an ordination). Let us go beyond that, however. The minor order of reader, cannot that be conferred on women? It wasn’t done in the early Church (as far as I know), but why shouldn’t women now be admitted as readers because, as you say, that is what they are doing. In the early Church that was not so except in the women’s monasteries. Those are two, as I understand it, fairly noncontroversial possibilities."

and

"T.R.: Women’s menstruation was/is thought of as being unclean. I wonder if that is one of those things that is more culturally than divinely inspired.

B.K.: I too wonder about that. The rule, as we know, is ancient. It goes back before the period of the conversion of Constantine. It is already found in third-century sources and in letters which have been put into our canonical collections and which have been ratified by ecumenical councils. Although by adopting these sources, the ecumenical councils didn’t say anything directly about women’s menstruation as being something that is unclean. However, we do not regard the canons, even of ecumenical councils, as unchanging. It is only their dogmatic decrees that have eternal validity. Is there a doctrinal basis for these rules about menstruation?"

I note here that he defines only the dogmatic decrees of councils as being strictly ecumenical.

and

"At a press conference yesterday 8 December, in Harare, a journalist asked Dr Raiser, a German Protestant theologian and leading ecumenist, to comment on Chaplin's comments. Dr Raiser pointed to recent research about women's ordination by two respected Orthodox theologians, Bishop Kallistos Ware and Elisabeth Behr-Siegel, which, he said, had reached the conclusion that "there are no essential or ecclesiological reasons preventing the ordination of women in the Orthodox tradition".

Speaking to ENI today, Dr Raiser said that the research by Bishop Kallistos and Behr-Siegel was developing "emerging perspectives" from an Orthodox perspective, showing that "if you take seriously the Christian affirmation that men and women are created equally in the image of God ... the systematic exclusion of women from the ministry cannot be defended on purely theological grounds." Although the exclusion of women from the ministry was still defended in Orthodox churches on the basis of "history, tradition, [and for] canonical reasons", these were not at the "theological centre", Dr Raiser said.

For the moment the question of the ordination of women to the priesthood in Orthodox churches was a "purely theological discussion", Dr Raiser told ENI, but the fact that the issue was being raised "gives us hope that the discussion can yet move beyond the present situation of stalemate".

Any comments on this


 

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Wow! People say the most crazy things!

This is a quote from an article in the Washington Post today about Gay marriages in Mass.

The Rev. Martha Giltinan, associate rector of Christ Church in South Hamilton, said she doubts that Heyward or anybody else can make a convincing theological case for same-sex church weddings. In her view, the Bible and 2,000 years of Christian tradition define marriage as a heterosexual union and the diocese is engaged in "hairsplitting" and "gymnastics" that "belie the average person's understanding of what's going on

Is this woman a HYPOCRITE or what!!!??

I mean "the Bible and 2,000 years of Christian tradition define " clergy as MALE ONLY!!! Does she not see how her statement is totally contradictory???

Do people not THINK anymore??



 

Brendan03

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There has been much discussion in the EO world about revival of the order of Deaconness. There is some disagreement about the role of a Deaconness (liturgucal or not, with many claiming that historically it was non-liturgucal and so a revival of the order should also be non-liturgical). AFAIK there is no serious discussion about ordination of women to the priesthood in EOxy. There is the St. Nina's Group, which is well known, but folks who advocate these types of things, for the most part, simply drop out of Eastern Orthodoxy because they realize after a time that the traditional nature of the EO world means that these kinds of changes would be virtually impossible. The Roman Catholic equivalent to these groups seems to remain Catholic because in Catholicism there is at least in theory a greater possibility of changes being made (with many of this ilk taking inspiration from the numerous changes that were made in Catholic practice following Vatican II) ... in Orthodoxy there is far less for folks with these ideas to take inspiration from and so, again with the St. Nina's group as the exception that proves the rule, my guess is that they melt away from the Church.
 

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I wonder why the proper Antiochian prelates don't excommunicate these heretical feminazis.

I pray that those movements are severely quashed (even as low as females altar servers).
 

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1 Cor 11:8-10
For man is not of woman, but woman of man. For also man was not created for the sake of the woman, but woman for the sake of the man. Therefore ought the woman to have authority on her head, on account of the angels.

I'm not particularly interested in what a group of women activists has to say about ordination of women. I'd rather hear the opinions of our monasteries' Gerontissa's. Much less likely to be tainted by ambition.

John.
 

byzrubush

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The question should really be, what is a priest exactly? The Pope has said that the Catholic Church cannot ordain women. Period. Perhaps, this is not binding on the next Pope, but it was a strong statement with a great amount of theology surrounding the priesthood since the priest acts in the person of Christ in celebrating the sacraments. Is this similar to the understanding of the Orthodoxy?

I agree that these Orthodox groups are mostly on the fringe, but then again, are Bp. Kallistos Ware and the EP the fringe of Orthodoxy? There are plenty of Catholics who want this nonsense because they tend not be as counter-cultural. There were even 7 women "ordained" on a boat on the Danube River. It's a bunch liberal feminist crap if you ask me. :)

Matt
 

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According to my limited understanding, I don't believe that Abp Kallistos Ware has ever advocated in favour of women's ordination. I think he merely stated that the Orthodox church did not have a definitive dogmatic statement on the subject so the topic should be brought up so that this dogmatical position can be canonically articulated.
 

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Well let’s see as a woman and a convert to Orthodoxy I do believe the role of women should be discussed. I am not saying nor believe that women should be ordained into the priesthood, but I do think we should discuss our roles. I think this is vital for women converts and cradle born a like. We live in a time where women’s roles are constantly questioned, and we as women needed to be prepared to answers such questions.

So yes I believe in forms, dialogues, research into who deaconesses were, their role in the church at that time.. Why they no longer exist.... etc. for us to be informed, so we don’t sheepishly say that it is just tradition.

I mean I know that some people don’t even want to do that.. I once joined a women’s orthodox forum, just to ask what people thought of women in the priesthood. And women freaked out! And I am against it. I mean that’s one of the problems with this issue. Either women are for it and totally radically or they don’t even want to hear it. We need to be balanced, just as we should be in every other aspect of our Christian life.

Also as stated above the St Nina's quarterly has an agenda and that’s the biggest problem I have with them. Last year they turned what was supposed to be a women’s conference at St Vlads into a fiasco; giving a women chaplain there a hard time for only accepting a blessing and not ordination!!Not to mention what happened on Pascha. I was there to witness that too.
 

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Not that I necessarily think that women should be tonsured readers, but practically speaking, there is almost nothing a reader can do that a woman can't.

Question for you ROCORites: Do women ever read the Epistle in your services? At my OCA parish (and I'm sure in most), we only have tonsured readers read the Epistle in Sunday Liturgy - mainly since we have many readers and they sign up on a schedule. But during weekly services when there may not be many people, women frequently read OT and Epistle readings (e.g. our choir director as well as other women who aren't to shy to chant/read).
 

Bogoliubtsy

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Elisha,

At my former OCA parish is was common practice to have women read the Epistle on Sundays. Instead of having the men come unto the altar though, my former priest would have all men and women come to the Royal Doors(not in them!) to receive a blessing to read.

At my current ROCOR parish, we don't have any tonsured readers. However, there is one man who reads the Epistle almost every week. On one occasion I've seen Matushka read the Epistle though. There is no prohibition against women reading the Epistle...and in my view, it should be encouraged!
 

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I once joined a women’s orthodox forum, just to ask what people thought of women in the priesthood. And women freaked out! And I am against it. I mean that’s one of the problems with this issue. Either women are for it and totally radically or they don’t even want to hear it. We need to be balanced, just as we should be in every other aspect of our Christian life.
Well said, JessieBirde.
 

Donna Rose

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Also as stated above the St Nina's quarterly has an agenda and that’s the biggest problem I have with them. Last year they turned what was supposed to be a women’s conference at St Vlads into a fiasco; giving a women chaplain there a hard time for only accepting a blessing and not ordination!!Not to mention what happened on Pascha. I was there to witness that too.
What happened on Pascha?

As for my thoughts, perhaps this is subjective, but if I saw a woman in priest's garb, it would be extremely jarring and would not add up in my mind, and ultimately it would greatly distract from my worship.

I know there are far deeper and greater implications to the question of ordaining women, but this is my two cents. :)
 

Ebor

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JessieBirde said:
Well let’s see as a woman and a convert to Orthodoxy I do believe the role of women should be discussed. I am not saying nor believe that women should be ordained into the priesthood, but I do think we should discuss our roles. I think this is vital for women converts and cradle born a like. We live in a time where women’s roles are constantly questioned, and we as women needed to be prepared to answers such questions.

So yes I believe in forms, dialogues, research into who deaconesses were, their role in the church at that time.. Why they no longer exist.... etc. for us to be informed, so we don’t sheepishly say that it is just tradition.

I mean I know that some people don’t even want to do that.. I once joined a women’s orthodox forum, just to ask what people thought of women in the priesthood. And women freaked out! And I am against it. I mean that’s one of the problems with this issue. Either women are for it and totally radically or they don’t even want to hear it. We need to be balanced, just as we should be in every other aspect of our Christian life.
Exactly, Jessiebirde. There should be a middle ground to look at a subject from all angles, figure out *why* something is supported/rejected instead of "Just Because". And not painting opponents/those who disagree as caricatures or sterotypes ("you're just "Old-fashioned"/"Power hungry"/"radical"/"reactionary" etc.)

Ebor
 

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[For the record, the following is the comments of His Eminence Metropolitan Philip's regarding the article:]

May 10, 2004

Dear Michele:

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen! I hope that you are having a most joyful Pascal season.

I am in receipt of your letter dated May 4,2004, concerning the article about women's ordination published in the May issue of THE WORD. If the woman who authored that article was insidiously trying to advocate such a practice in the Orthodox Church, I assure you that she will not succeed. I have made my position very clear on this issue on many occasions. The ordination of women will never happen in the Orthodox Church.

In the early church, there seemed to be an Order for Deaconesses. Whether the deaconesses had any liturgical function is still debatable. In my studies, I found that the main function of the deaconesses was to assist bishops baptizing adult women. In addition, they did perform certain social services, i.e., helping orphans, visiting the sick and feeding the hungry. Since we very seldom baptize adult Orthodox women today, I do not think that the Order of Deaconesses will serve any purpose. The Antiochian Women of the Archdiocese are teaching in our Sunday Schools, chanting in our choirs, raising funds for orphans, visiting the sick and feeding the poor, etc.

The two main sources of our theology are: (1) The Scripture and (2) Holy Tradition. Neither one of them mentions the ordination of women.

I understand your sensitivity to this issue, coming from an Episcopal background. What is happening in Protestant denominations is disgusting and scandalous. I wonder where this abomination will stop, if ever.

Michele, the Editor of THE WORD is the Very Reverend John Abdalah and I do not think that he an advocate of the ordination of women. Please know that I do not censor THE WORD Magazine. Nor do I agree with everything published in THE WORD. I suggest you write an article for THE WORD refuting what the author in the May issue said and I am sure THE WORD will be very happy to publish it.

Let me assure you, once again, that the Orthodox Church will never permit the ordination of women to the priesthood.

May the Eternal Light of the empty tomb always shine in your heart.

Yours in the Risen Lord,
Metropolitan PHILIP, Primate
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese
of North America
 

Elisha

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It's interesting, from a cultural perspective, how direct/blunt Met. Phillip is in that letter. I pointed out to my Antiochian Palestinian friend (who lives a mile away from me) how direct Met Phillip was in that recent Again issue and he didn't blink. It seems to me that Middle Eastern peoples are used to being much more direct with one another as opposed to Americans, who are much more tactful per se - even to the point of evading or sidestepping the issue. I just hope many Americans start to realize this.
 

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Elisha,

I too noticed that in a past interview he gave which was posted on this forum. I think I may have made mention of it back then. Actually....I think I said he sounded "proud" or something...and someone pointed out to me that this is just the way people of middle eastern descent present themselves. Hmm...
 

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<chuckles> Reminds me of my godfather's family in the Antiochian parish I was chrismated in.

Good to know, though, that this buck WILL stop.
 

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If I may throw in my 2 cents worth here, Eastern Orthodoxy have seen the role of deaconesses diminish through the centuries due to cultural and historic reasons that are very understandable, as Met. Philip Saliba explained.

However, as the distinguished subdeacon Peter Farrington mentioned, the role of deaconesses in the Coptic Orthodox Church is alive and well, and even more importantly, GROWING. As a matter of fact, the office of deaconesses in the Coptic Church, especially in Egypt, has had a great role in preserving the faith in the hard to minister areas.

Here is a great article written about the Coptic Orthodox deacon office in the Egyptian news paper Al-Ahram.

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2000/479/spec1.htm

I am very proud that H.H. Pope Shenouda III (who personally tonsured me as a deacon in the rank of Eugnostus) has strived to revive the ancient role of the deaconess in the church. Keep in mind that the deaconess in the Coptic Church does not serve a liturgical function, but her role is no less important.

Here is another good site about the role of deaconesses in Eastern Orthodoxy:

http://www.angelfire.com/pa/deaconess/

In Christ
 

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ania said:
Last deconess in Russia was in the middle 1800s, I don't remember the details though. Will have to ask some people/do some research.
Really?? I had no idea. I know the New Martyr Elizabeth was calling for the return of deaconesses at the beginning of the 20th century. Hmm.... let us know!
 

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To my humble knowledge there are female priests (office of priestess) in pagan rites only. The Judeo-Christian pattern, fashioned after the heavenly patterns of our God Yahwe Elohim, does not include the concept of priestesses.

If you want to read about the women's cycle and why, when and how it is considered clean or unclean, I recommend the following pages about Niddah :
http://www.milknhoney.co.il/holy/19.html
http://www.milknhoney.co.il/holy/7.html
http://www.yoatzot.org/category/19
http://www.jewfaq.org/sex.htm
http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=276&letter=N

Individuals as well as couples who respect and practise the laws of niddah will enjoy a very healthy and refreshing life (and love life :) ) Of course you can become legalistic with everything, but I'm talking about an application out of the desire of the heart into which the Creator has embedded His Law because of His great Love for mankind.

There were no female priests in the Tabernacle nor in the Temple. This was so because God had it planned and purposed that way in His divine Providence. Wherever there is thought or desire of having female priests in the church, this notion can be attributed to the whisperings of the one who deceived eve in the Garden and should be rebuked in the name of Jesus.

There is plenty of grounds for women in the offices mentioned in 1.Cor.12 . St.Thecla , for instance, was commissioned by Paul (Paul and Thecla chapter 10 verse 4) to "Go and teach the word of the Lord". And in the Sacred Tradition of the Church there are many more examples, also in the New Testament, of women having great influence on the life of the believers and in promoting the Gospel of Christ.

Any woman who has the desire of officiating the sacrifice like a man is "out of order" and needs to come to repentance and be delivered from those inordinate feelings. A woman who wants to be a priestess suffers from a lack of respect for Christ, and is in ill standing with the role of man and has a problem with respecting men for their God-given mandate and qualities.

The Theotokos is the best role-model for a woman. You can't get any higher, further, deeper, closer, holier than her, and to become the bride of Christ is certainly a different position than wanting to become high priestess with the eternal High Priest Who offered Himself as the Lamb of God for the "reconciliation of the sins of the people" (Hebr.2:17).

Any church authority who compromises their thinking for whatever (ecumenical) reasons becomes partaker of the sin of rebellion and should be held accountable. We are all human and sinners, and the mind is where satan attacks daily. Lord have mercy on us sinners and convict us with Your Holy Spirit where we allow sinful lies into our holy temple. In the name of Jesus, amen!

Shiloah, in love
 

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CDHealy said:
[For the record, the following is the comments of His Eminence Metropolitan Philip's regarding the article:]

May 10, 2004

Dear Michele:

Christ is Risen! Indeed, He is Risen! I hope that you are having a most joyful Pascal season.

I am in receipt of your letter dated May 4,2004, concerning the article about women's ordination published in the May issue of THE WORD. If the woman who authored that article was insidiously trying to advocate such a practice in the Orthodox Church, I assure you that she will not succeed. I have made my position very clear on this issue on many occasions. The ordination of women will never happen in the Orthodox Church.

In the early church, there seemed to be an Order for Deaconesses. Whether the deaconesses had any liturgical function is still debatable. In my studies, I found that the main function of the deaconesses was to assist bishops baptizing adult women. In addition, they did perform certain social services, i.e., helping orphans, visiting the sick and feeding the hungry. Since we very seldom baptize adult Orthodox women today, I do not think that the Order of Deaconesses will serve any purpose. The Antiochian Women of the Archdiocese are teaching in our Sunday Schools, chanting in our choirs, raising funds for orphans, visiting the sick and feeding the poor, etc.

The two main sources of our theology are: (1) The Scripture and (2) Holy Tradition. Neither one of them mentions the ordination of women.

I understand your sensitivity to this issue, coming from an Episcopal background. What is happening in Protestant denominations is disgusting and scandalous. I wonder where this abomination will stop, if ever.

Michele, the Editor of THE WORD is the Very Reverend John Abdalah and I do not think that he an advocate of the ordination of women. Please know that I do not censor THE WORD Magazine. Nor do I agree with everything published in THE WORD. I suggest you write an article for THE WORD refuting what the author in the May issue said and I am sure THE WORD will be very happy to publish it.

Let me assure you, once again, that the Orthodox Church will never permit the ordination of women to the priesthood.

May the Eternal Light of the empty tomb always shine in your heart.

Yours in the Risen Lord,
Metropolitan PHILIP, Primate
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese
of North America
Thanks for posting that, CD.

What I have read about deaconesses corresponds with what the Met. Philip wrote.

I'm not sure I understand what people mean when they say the Orthodox Church needs to discuss the role of women.

Why?

Is there something broken about the role of women in the Church that needs fixing?

We need to be on our guard against the spirit of worldliness. If it can't get in through the front door, it will try the back via things like "discussion of the role of women in the Church."



 

Donna Rose

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I'm not sure I understand what people mean when they say the Orthodox Church needs to discuss the role of women.

Why?

Is there something broken about the role of women in the Church that needs fixing?

We need to be on our guard against the spirit of worldliness. If it can't get in through the front door, it will try the back via things like "discussion of the role of women in the Church."
Hmmm I agree with you Linus, that such an endeavor as "discussing the role of women in the Church" could easily be used as a way for the spirit of worldiness to enter the Church, not to mention allow into the Church certain agendas that have no place whatsoever there.

However, I do think that if handled by the right people, such a discussion would be beneficial...I think. No, the role of women in the Church is not broken, but some women (and I hope I'm not making a false generalization here - if I am, I apologize), mostly of the convert/looking-to-convert persuasion :), don't actually know what that role is. We have an idea of course, from the Bible's teaching on Holy Matrimony as well as other teachings and traditions of the Church, but a clear identification of that role, which women of today (yes, our time does matter because whether we choose to or not our way of thinking and understanding is molded by our time) can understand (and then accept or reject at their will) would help. I hope I just made sense. :)

Perhaps "identification" rather than "discussion" of the role of women in the Church is a better way to put it. And I do stress that it would need to be done by the right people.

Just my two cents. :)
 

Ebor

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Why would Jewish laws of purity and niddah apply?

Ebor
 

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Concerning the role of women in the the Christian life, there is a GREAT book on this precise topic by Paul Evdokimov called "Women and Salvation" ... the theology in it is both contemprary and Orthodox, quite enlightening.
 

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Ebor, I am referring to a quote made by Peter Farrington which said:

peterfarrington said:
"T.R.: Women’s menstruation was/is thought of as being unclean. I wonder if that is one of those things that is more culturally than divinely inspired.

B.K.: I too wonder about that. The rule, as we know, is ancient. It goes back before the period of the conversion of Constantine. It is already found in third-century sources and in letters which have been put into our canonical collections and which have been ratified by ecumenical councils. Although by adopting these sources, the ecumenical councils didn’t say anything directly about women’s menstruation as being something that is unclean. However, we do not regard the canons, even of ecumenical councils, as unchanging. It is only their dogmatic decrees that have eternal validity. Is there a doctrinal basis for these rules about menstruation?"
According to the Jewish tradition which applied to all walks of life and, of course, especially to the Temple service, there was Biblical grounds for these niddah issues in Torah. And sometimes it helps to understand those ancient rules when it comes to recognizing why things have been handed down in the Holy Tradition of the Church as they are. Without those cultural insights we have a tendency to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

There is a lot of wisdom in God's laws, even if we are not familiar with it. And there is a lot more to the Book of Leviticus than meets the 21st century eye :)
Please take no offense in what I wrote. It was meant to help.

Shiloah
 
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Shiloah,

Maybe I missed something, but my understanding of the prohibition against menstruating women receiving Holy Communion had to do with the "flow of blood" itself - just as anyone under normal circumstances should not receive Holy Communion if they're bleeding (or properly despose any bandaging from a wound received shortly after communing.) Unlike the theory of "transubstatiation", Orthodox teaches that there occurs a mingling of the communicant and Christ's flesh and blood.

Seraphim
 

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Well, obviously we are talking about different things here, Seraphim, sorry about that.

What I was referring to is the office of women as priests, administering or officiating in the "Holy of Holies". I was not talking about women participating at Holy Communion.

Never mind. I don't want to elaborate any further.
 

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Here is Canon 19 from the First Ecumenical Council (Nicea, 325):

CANON XIX.
CONCERNING the Paulianists who have flown for refuge to the Catholic Church, it has been decreed that they must by all means be rebaptized; and if any of them who in past time have been numbered among their clergy should be found blameless and without reproach, let them be rebaptized and ordained by the Bishop of the Catholic Church; but if the examination should discover them to be unfit, they ought to be deposed. Likewise in the case of their deaconesses, and generally in the case of those who have been enrolled among their clergy, let the same form be observed. And we mean by deaconesses such as have assumed the habit, but who, since they have no imposition of hands, are to be numbered only among the laity.


Notice that deaconesses had "no imposition of hands" and were "to be numbered only among the laity."

So much for the idea that deaconess is just the female flip side of the office of Deacon.

I recall reading somewhere (and also maybe in one of the earlier posts in this thread) that deaconesses assisted with the baptism of women and with charitable service to widows and orphans.

They were not actually ordained and did not serve at the altar.

Notice also that deaconesses are referred to as having "assumed the habit." Perhaps - and I am only speculating - "deaconess" was simply an early word for nun.
 
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