A Public Statement on Orthodox Deaconesses by Concerned Clergy and Laity

The Patriarch of Alexandria appoints six Orthodox “deaconesses”

The Patriarch of Alexandria appoints six Orthodox “deaconesses”

You can add your name to the statement on the AOIUSA website.

Press Release: Orthodox Clergy and Laity Take Stand against Deaconesses

January 15, 2018

WASHINGTON — Fifty-seven Orthodox Christian clergymen and lay leaders, including the heads of two leading Orthodox seminaries in the U.S., have issued a public statement calling on church leaders to defend Orthodox teaching on the creation and calling of man as male and female by opposing the appointment of deaconesses in the Orthodox Church.

The statement comes in response to a public statement issued in October by nine Orthodox liturgical scholars in the U.S. and Greece, expressing support for the Patriarchate of Alexandria’s November 2016 decision to “restore” the ancient order of deaconesses and its February 2017 appointment of deaconesses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Roman Catholic Church has also taken the first step toward the appointment of deaconesses with Pope Francis’s 2016 establishment of a commission to study the issue. That commission is headed by Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Half of the commission’s members are women. One of them, Phyllis Zagano, professor of religion at Hofstra University, is a well-known advocate of deaconesses.

Several Protestant churches, including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians, began appointing women as deaconesses in the nineteenth century. Most have since ordained women to all higher orders such as priest and bishop.

The statement by the Orthodox opponents of deaconesses takes issue with the liturgists’ representation of the place of deaconesses in Orthodox tradition and raises serious doctrinal issues relating to the appointment of deaconesses. It also questions whether Alexandria’s appointment of deaconess in the Congo revived an ancient order or instituted a new order with an old name.

The signers include 35 priests and seven deacons, as well as 15 laity (including four women) who are college professors or journal editors. They belong to seven Orthodox jurisdictions: the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America (AOCANA), the Ecumenical Patriarchate (in the United Kingdom), the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOAA), the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria (Africa), the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), and Mt. Athos in Greece.

For more information, contact Protodeacon Brian Patrick Mitchell at protodeaconpatrick@gmail.com.

A Public Statement on Orthodox Deaconesses by Concerned Clergy and Laity

The Patriarchate of Alexandria’s appointment of six “deaconesses” in the Congo in February 2017 has prompted calls in some corners for other local churches to follow suit. In particular, a group of Orthodox liturgical scholars has issued an open statement of support for Alexandria, declaring that the “restoration of the female diaconate is such that neither doctrinal issues nor authoritative precedents are at stake.”1

We, the undersigned clergy and laity, beg to differ and are writing now with three purposes: to question what was accomplished in the Congo, to clarify the historical record on the place of deaconesses in Orthodox tradition, and to point out the serious doctrinal issues raised by the appointment of deaconesses.

First, as to what was accomplished in the Congo, we note that the Patriarch of Alexandria did not use the Byzantine rite of ordination for deaconesses.2 He laid hands [cheirothetisa] on one woman making her “Deaconess of the Mission” and then prayed over five other women using a “prayer for one entering ecclesiastical ministry,” a generic blessing in the Greek-language archieratikon for a layman starting church work. He did not bestow an orarion upon any of the women yet had the five women assist in washing his hands, as subdeacons would. All this was done not during the Divine Liturgy, as with an ordination, but at its end. These facts, plus anecdotal reports from Africa that these new deaconesses have been assigned the duties of readers, call into question the claim that what happened in the Congo was truly a “restoration of the female diaconate,” for their manner of making and assigned duties bear only partial resemblance to those of ancient deaconesses.

Second, what can be said with certainty about the historical presence, role, and status of deaconesses in the Orthodox Church is that setting apart women as deaconesses was just one of several ways the early Church sought to protect the modesty of women by entrusting certain women with certain duties such as assisting in baptizing and anointing adult women and visiting women in their homes where and when men were not permitted, strictly within the limits specified for women by the Holy Apostles in Holy Scripture. The duties and status of deaconesses varied with time and place, as did the way deaconesses were appointed. The same duties were also assigned to widows, laywomen, male clergy, or nuns, so the need for deaconesses did not exist universally. Much of the ancient Church never had deaconesses. Outside Syria, Anatolia, Greece, and Palestine, deaconesses were rare to nonexistent.3

Deaconesses were also not without controversy. Several local councils prohibited their appointment (Nîmes in 396; Orange in 441; Epaone in 517; Orleans in 533), and many texts testify to the concern of Church Fathers to minimize their role, sometimes in favor of widows. The order appears to have peaked in the fifth or sixth century, surviving mainly in major eastern cities as an honorary office for pious noblewomen, the wives of men made bishops, and the heads of female monastic communities. The twelfth-century canonist Theodore Balsamon wrote that the “deaconesses” in Constantinople in his day were not true deaconesses. A century later, St. Athanasius, Patriarch of Constantinople, ordered that no new deaconesses were to be made. Scattered proposals and attempts to appoint deaconesses again in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries did not receive enough support to cause a lasting revival of the order. Even now, other autocephalous Orthodox Churches have not rushed to follow the example of Alexandria.

Third, some blame resistance to deaconesses on a worldly, purely cultural prejudice against women, but that accusation treats the Church herself unfairly, even contemptuously, by ignoring legitimate prudential objections to the making of deaconesses motivated by genuine concern for the preservation of truly Christian and plainly Apostolic respect for the distinction of male and female, to which our post-Christian world is increasingly hostile.

The liturgists’ statement itself gives cause for such concern. Its argument for “reviving” the order of deaconess is not based on the needs of the women to be served by deaconesses—needs that somehow require ordination, needs that nuns, laywomen, laymen, or male clergy are not already meeting. Rather, the statement’s argument is based on the supposed need of women to be deaconesses. Making them deaconesses would be a “positive response” to the “contemporary world,” an “opportunity for qualified women to offer in our era their unique and special gifts,” and a “special way” to emphasize the “dignity of women and give recognition to her [sic] contribution to the work of the Church.”4 Such justifications denigrate the vocation of Orthodox laity, implying that only clerics serve the Church in meaningful ways, contrary to Orthodox belief that all Orthodox Christians receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit and a personal calling to serve the Church at Holy Chrismation.

The liturgists’ statement also makes clear that they do not intend a true “restoration” of the ancient order of deaconesses; their aim is a new order of clergywomen authorized to do things never done by Orthodox deaconesses and in some cases explicitly forbidden by Apostolic ordinance and Church canons. They would have women preach, which the Apostles and Fathers never allowed in church. They leave open the question of other liturgical duties, admitting no limitation that bishops must respect. They question which “qualities and qualifications” truly matter, doubting whether deaconesses must be mature and unmarried, despite the ancient rule, most forcefully insisted upon in the sixth century by St. Justinian as emperor, that deaconesses be at least middle-aged and remain celibate as deaconesses.5

The liturgists’ most ominous assertion is their subtle note, in anticipation of popular opposition, that “adequate preparation and education” are needed not of the women to be appointed deaconesses but “of the people who will be called upon to receive, honor, and respect the deaconesses assigned to their parishes.” Clearly, they foresee the need to force clergy and laity to accept deaconesses, which is hardly trusting of the Holy Spirit or respectful of the Orthodox Church’s traditional regard for episcopal authority.

In sum, the statement’s emphasis on gratifying women, disregarding tradition, and resorting to force gives evidence of a feminist perspective and approach consistent with the faithless western world but not with the Orthodox Church. More evidence of the liturgists’ perspective is available elsewhere. For example, two of the liturgists have called for the removal of Ephesians 5 from the Rite of Crowning on the grounds that it is inconsistent with modern thinking and therefore likely to be misunderstood. They suggest a different epistle or perhaps a sanitized version of Ephesians 5 without verse 33 (“Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence [phobetai, fear] her husband.”).6

Given this state of faith, we believe the appointment of deaconesses in any form in the present era is likely to divide the Church and distress the faithful by challenging the Church’s basic understanding of human nature. God has made every one of us either male or female and ordained that we live accordingly as either a man or a woman. He has also provided us with many authoritative precepts distinguishing men and women, in the Law, in the Holy Apostles, in the canons of the Church, and in the literature of our Holy Fathers, in passages too numerous to cite. But if laws and canons and precepts are not enough to turn us to repentance, God has given us two distinct models of perfected humanity, one male and one female: Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, and His Most Pure Mother, the Theotokos, whose icons stand always before us in worship as reminders of what we are meant to be as men and women.

Yet there are advocates of deaconesses who wish to see women treated the same as men in the Church as in the world and who therefore use the rite of “ordination” (cheirotonia) of deaconesses in a handful of Byzantine service books to argue that deaconesses were once “major clergy.” These advocates covet the rank, honor, and authority of the clergy. Some would have deaconesses be just like deacons, only female. They would up-end the natural and economical order of male and female to raise women over men in the hierarchy of the Church. They would “ordain” women who are young, married, and with children, and they would give them a vocal role in worship and all the authority a deacon might exercise over men as well as women. The liturgists do not go that far, but their statement leaves open that possibility by either ignoring or questioning traditional limits on deaconesses, while stressing the exclusive prerogative of bishops to make of deaconesses what they will.

We cannot, therefore, take seriously the liturgists’ claim that “restoration of the female diaconate is such that neither doctrinal issues nor authoritative precedents are at stake.” Neither can we accept their assurances that deaconesses today will not lead to priestesses tomorrow, knowing where similar incremental innovations have led in heterodox communions. We also ought not to think only of what we ourselves might tolerate today. We must think generationally. Just as children who grow up in parishes with female readers are more likely to believe as adults that women should be deacons or deaconesses, so children who grow up in parishes with deaconesses will be more likely to believe as adults that women should be priests and bishops.

We therefore entreat all Orthodox hierarchs, other clergy, and theologians to uphold the dogmatic teaching of the Church concerning the creation and calling of man as male and female by resisting the divisive call to appoint deaconesses.

FOOTNOTES

1. Evangelos Theodorou, et al., “Orthodox Liturgists Issued a Statement of Support for the Revival of the Order of Deaconess by the Patriarchate of Alexandria,” Panorthodox Synod, https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.ca/2017/10/orthodox-liturgists-issued-statement-of.html?m=1, Oct. 24, 2017.

2. See “Το Πατριαρχείο Αλεξανδρείας για Διακόνισσες και Αγία Σύνοδο,” Romfea, http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/11485-to-patriarxeio-alejandreias-gia-diakonisses-kai-agia-sunodo, Nov. 16, 2016; and, “Στην Αφρική εόρτασε τα ονομαστήρια του ο Πατριάρχης Θεόδωρος,” Romfea, http://www.romfea.gr/patriarxeia-ts/patriarxeio-alexandreias/13147-stin-afriki-eortase-ta-onomastiria-tou-o-patriarxis-theodoros-foto, Feb. 18, 2017.

3. For the most in-depth study of the subject, see Aimé Georges Martimort, Deaconesses: An Historical Study, trans. K.D. Whitehead (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986). For a thorough study of Orthodox deaconesses before their disappearance, see Brian Patrick Mitchell, “The Disappearing Deaconess: How the Hierarchical Ordering of the Church Doomed the Female Diaconate,” http://www.brianpatrickmitchell.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Disappearing-Deaconess-2017-03-10.pdf.

4. The “positive response” and “special way” are from the report of the Inter-Orthodox Symposium in Rhodes in 1988 titled, “The Place of the Woman in the Orthodox Church and the Question of the Ordination of Women” (Istanbul: The Ecumenical Patriarchate, 1988), which the liturgists quote approvingly.

5. The minimum age for deaconesses changed several times over the years: The emperor St. Theodosius the Great set it at 60 in 390, the age the Apostle Paul set for enrolled widows in 1 Timothy 5:9, which St. Theodosius’s legislation mentioned. Canon 15 of Chalcedon lowered it to 40 in 451. St. Justinian’s Novella 6 raised it to 50 in 535, making an exception for women living in hermitages and having no contact with men. His Novella 123 lowered it to 40 again in 546, which Canon 14 of III Constantinople (in Trullo) confirmed in 692.

6. Alkiviadis Calivas and Philip Zymaris, “Ephesians 5:20-33 as the Epistle Reading for the Rite of Marriage: Appropriate or Problematic?” Public Orthodoxy, https://publicorthodoxy.org/2017/09/08/ephesians-rite-of-marriage/, accessed Nov. 4, 2017.

SIGNATORIES

Archimandrite Luke (Murianka), D.A. (Cand.)
Rector & Associate Professor of Patrology
Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary (ROCOR)

Archpriest Chad Hatfield, D.Min., D.D.
President, St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (OCA)

Archpriest Alexander F.C. Webster, Ph.D.
Dean & Professor of Moral Theology
Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary (ROCOR)

Protopresbyter George A. Alexson, Ph.D. (Cand.)
Holy Apostles Greek Orthodox Church (GOAA)
Sterling, VA

Mitred Archpriest Victor Potapov
St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral (ROCOR)
Washington, DC

Archimandrite Demetrios (Carellas)
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOAA)

Archpriest Lawrence Farley
St. Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church (OCA)
Langley, BC

Archpriest Patrick Henry Reardon
All Saints Orthodox Church (AOCANA)
Senior Editor, Touchstone
Chicago, IL

Archpriest Peter Heers, D.Th.
Assistant Professor of Old and New Testament
Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary (ROCOR)

Archpriest Miroljub Srb. Ruzic
St. Nicholas the Wonderworker Orthodox Church (OCA)
Center for Slavic and East European Studies
The Ohio State University
Columbus, OH

Archpriest John Whiteford
St. Jonah Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
Spring, TX

Hieromonk Alexis Trader, D.Th.
Karakallou Monastery, Mt. Athos (Greece)

Fr. Christopher Allen
SS. Joachim and Anna Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
San Antonio, TX

Fr. Ignatius Green
Holy Virgin Protection Russian Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
Nyack, NY
Editor, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press

Chaplain (Major) George Ruston Hill, U.S. Army
Ethics Instructor
The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School
Charlottesville, VA

Fr. Johannes Jacobse
St. Peter the Apostle Orthodox Church (AOCANA)
Bonita Springs, FL

Fr. Andrew Kishler
St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church (AOCANA)
Spring Valley, IL

Fr. Seraphim Majmudar
Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church (GOAA)
Tacoma, WA

Fr. John A. Peck
All Saints of North America Orthodox Church (GOAA)
Sun City, AZ

Fr. John Schmidt (OCA-ROEA)
St. Elias Orthodox Church
Ellwood City, PA

Fr. Gregory Telepneff, Th.D.
Senior Research Scholar
Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies

Protodeacon Brian Patrick Mitchell
St. John the Baptist Russian Orthodox Cathedral (ROCOR)
Washington, DC

Deacon Ananias Sorem, Ph.D.
Lecturer in Philosophy
California State U. at Fullerton
Falling Asleep of the Ever-Virgin Mary Church (OCA-ROEA)
Anaheim, CA

Deacon Alexander William Laymon
Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired
St. Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
Stafford, VA

Teena H. Blackburn
Lecturer in Philosophy and Religion
Eastern Kentucky University

David Bradshaw, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy
University of Kentucky

Mark J. Cherry, Ph.D.
Professor in Applied Ethics
Department of Philosophy
St. Edward’s University

Corinna Delkeskamp-Hayes
Editor, Christian Bioethics
Freigericht, Germany

Tristram Engelhardt, Jr., Ph.D., M.D.
Professor, Rice University
Professor Emeritus, Baylor College of Medicine

Bruce V. Foltz, Ph.D.
Emeritus Professor of Philosophy
Eckerd College

David Ford, Ph.D.
Professor of Church History
St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (OCA)

Nancy Forderhase, Ph.D.
Emerita Professor of History
Eastern Kentucky University

Ana S. Iltis, Ph.D.
Professor of Philosophy
Director, Center for Bioethics, Health and Society
Wake Forest University

Nathan A. Jacobs, Ph.D.
Visiting Scholar of Philosophy
University of Kentucky
President, 5Sees Production Company

Joel Kalvesmaki, Ph.D.
Editor in Byzantine Studies
Dumbarton Oaks

James Kushiner
Executive Editor, Touchstone
Chicago, IL

George Michalopulos
Editor and Publisher
Monomakhos.com

Sampson (Ryan) Nash, MD, MA
Director, The Ohio State University Center for Bioethics
Associate Professor of Medicine
The Ohio State University College of Medicine

Alfred Kentigern Siewers, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of English
Bucknell University

*Names of organizations are for identification only.

Point of contact for inquiries:
Protodeacon Brian Patrick Mitchell
protodeaconpatrick@gmail.com

You can add your name to the statement on the AOIUSA website.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Comments

  1. George Michalopulos says:

    I wanted to offer some thoughts on this document and –more importantly–the concept of deaconesses right off the bat (as I didn’t want to insert my comments into the document itself.)

    Mainly it’s this: I have no qualms with the ancient order of the Church. Or the ancient orders. Deaconesses included. So why did I sign this document? For two reasons: first, reality and church politics have taught me that there are almost always hidden agendas behind seemingly innocuous statements, reforms, gatherings and what-not. The Cretan Robber Council has taught us this –in spades.

    Second, the office of deaconess was created at a time in which there was a strict segregation of the sexes. They were necessary for baptisms and visiting home-bound widows. I don’t see our societies as presently constructed returning to such a regime. I of course could be wrong. If so, then I’ll rescind my signature; and only then. As it is right now, the elites of the West can’t even decide how many “genders” there are. And of course, transsexuals have ascended to the top of the LGBT heap. Restoring the office of deaconess in this present chaotic miasma will not help things one whit and as far as the Orthodox churches are concerned, will make things far worse.

    This is not about misogyny but about the created order and the proper place of people within it. It’s that simple, at least as far as I’m concerned.

    • Constaninos says:

      Dear George,
      So, in other words, you wouldn’t want our dear Orthodox Christian sister Gail Sheppard to be a deaconess?

      • Gail Sheppard says:

        No, George would not want me to be a deaconess! *I* wouldn’t want to be a deaconess! I don’t think women should be ordained AT ALL. It’s a terrible idea, but even if it were a great idea, it would never be something I would gravitate to. I’m happy being the “girl.” I’m actually pretty good at it.

        • Michael Bauman says:

          Amen to that Gail, you do seem to be pretty good at it just from what I have experienced on this blog.

          I love strong women too. It is only a strong woman who can submit to her husband as he submits to Christ and both allow and require that I be a Godly head.

    • The same people clamoring for the restoration of a female diaconate are the same folks that would cringe at the suggestion that parishes today should strictly adhere to woman standing on the north side of the temple and men standing on the right side of the temple.

      While Africa, with its Muslim population, may have a societal strictness in the separation of women from men, most of the Orthodox world does not. Those clamoring for the restoration of the female diaconate don’t do so on the basis of necessity to conform with societal norms of the strict separation of sexes in a public setting, or the indecency of a man entering the domicile of a woman, but on a premise of “feminism” recognizing and validating the role of women in the Church.

      Every parish I have ever served recognized the great contribution to the life of the Church by its women without any sort of formal order of deaconess. Most of the women did what they did asking that they NOT be publicly thanked or recognized; it wasn’t necessary, everyone knew who was doing what, and if they didn’t, it didn’t matter.

    • Christopher says:

      George,

      I am in a distance learning program in my jurisdiction, which is essentially a deacons preparatory program. At the end of every semester we do an on site practicum/final for a few days at our seminary. In December of 2016 (about 2.5 months before these ordinations) our Metropolitan sat down with us to have lunch. After a short pep talk about the benefits of a seminary education, he asked us if we had any questions of him. Since he had been one of the Metropolitans in Crete, I asked him to tell us about the debate between Met. Hierotheos & Met Zizioulas. He did not have any real comment on that (as he admits, he is not “a theologian”) but instead gave us a stump speech for the whole program and direction of the current Ecemenical Patriarchaite. This did not surprise me, but he did mention that the Patriarch of Alexandria had a “need” for deaconesses and said a few sentences in support, vaguely tied to the idea of the changing role of women in the Church as a whole.

      This means that either in session or in private, this action by Alexandria was already planned by this time, was discussed and obviously met with approval by some (e.g. my own Metropolitan). Will Crete be remembered as the real beginning of the women’s ordination in canonical Orthodoxy?

  2. I agree with you, George. I see this as nothing less than a trojan horse for the ordination of women.

  3. Bashful82 says:

    I am by no means an expert on the Patriarchate but from what I understand, it is – and has been for more than ten /15 years – growing and is very much a missionary church and in the areas/countries where it is operating, traditional beliefs about men and women and who can deal with whom are still present. I think that has played a big role in explaining the actions of the Holy Synod – rather than necessarily it being some dark scheme. I could be wrong but from what I know, I am more likely to lean towards the former view.

  4. Sean Richardson says:

    I am very much of two minds on this issue: On the one hand, there is no doubt that the ancient Orthodox Church used the office of deaconess to great effect. It is Traditional and it is historic. On the other hand, the final comment of this statement, that it will become “divisive” is without a doubt, true. It will become, especially in this country, quite divisive. Yet, the ancient Church was not immune, nor was it afraid, of divisive issues. When there was a Truth to be proclaimed, even when it was rejected by a goodly percentage of the Church, it was still proclaimed. Most of the Holy Ecumenical Councils were called to respond to major issues within the Church, and often they were VERY divisive.
    Personally, I have a major issue with the “slippery slope” argument. It appears to me that many people use this argument in order to justify not doing what is right, just in case, somewhere down the road, some fanatic takes it too far. From my experience, some fanatic always takes it too far.
    Okay, a couple little known points here: The office was deaconess was used in a positive framework and when it was no longer useful, it ceased to exist. It faded away. Secondly, and yes, I know there are many on here who doubt this, but on at least two occasions I heard the much revered Fr. Meyendorff mention ancient texts that indicated there were not only deconesses, but also female priests, although within a very narrow historical context within the early Roman Empire. I also read about this in one non-Orthodox text. These also faded away. Thirdly, there is at least one indication that there was a woman consecrated a bishop (I’ve seen icons of her, but not in episcopal apparel), but again, it was very isolated and faded away, never to occur again.
    The issue at hand is: Is there a spiritual benefit to having a deaconess today? Honestly, I’m not sure. What I have heard and seen from some of my non-Orthodox friends, is that the real issue in churches that allow female clergy is that the active participation of males within the church ceases when a woman is appointed pastor. There are practical issues involved, although I’m not sure there are theological impediments.
    Frankly, on this issue, I’m confused.

    • Will Harrington says:

      The female Bishop was probably St, Bridget. She was indeed ordained a Bishop, but it was an accident and she didn’t assume the office. Think about how many mistakes can be made in a mission church where everyone is learning how to do things. Now amplify that by, oh, a hundredfold in early Christian Ireland where getting in touch with a more established Church to ask a question would have taken months. The truth appears to be that Bridget was being (is ordained the right word) made an abbess. The wrong service was read and there was likely much embarrassment when this was discovered, but she is often seen holding a bishops crook in icons.

      • In the Middle Ages, abbesses would often carry a crozier that looked almost exactly like a bishop’s crozier. A beautiful example is in the Walters Museum in Baltimore.

        I respect George greatly, even when I disagree with him, and in this case I believe that he and the signers of this letter have taken a wrong approach. This is a complex issue and the signers do not know the Ancient Patriarchate of Alexandria like its Patriarch and Synod or the reasons why this was done.

        The objection seems to be that this is designed to be a precursor to ordination of women. I don’t see that. The Patriarch of Alexandria is a good man and his Church is one of the few in Orthodoxy today living up to the Gospel mandate to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. This is not a hotbed of ecclesiastical liberalism but a place where witnessing for Christ can and often does cost a person their life. We face none of that sitting here in America acting as armchair quarterbacks.

        While I am in many ways a traditionalist, it does bother me how many of our convert priests want to be on the front lines of the culture wars. I believe when they are preaching anything other than the Gospel, they should do so without using priestly titles or referencing the Church. Let Caesar worry about the affairs of state, and focus on the individual relationships between the members of your flock and the Living God.

        Forgive me if I have offended anyone, this is just how I feel.

        If given the culture in Africa having deaconesses perform certain functions that would not in the culture be permitted or comfortable or safe for a male priest, and it helps advance the Gospel of Christ where Christianity is in retreat and fundamentalist Islam ascending, I am all for it and will pray for the Patriarch and our brothers and sisters in Christ in Africa.

        Pray for me an unworthy sinner.

        • Michael,

          It is important to understand that this letter was not a response to what the Patriarch of Alexandria did. It was a response to the overreaching ‘hay’ that a few liturgists are making of what the Patriarch did. They are using what the Patriarch did to promote a modernist agenda that bears no resemblance to what he actually did.

          Again, it is not a response to the Patriarch. It is a response to this.

          • Gail Sheppard says:

            I agree with what Brian says. If it were about the Patriarch of Alexandria, this would have happened a year ago. I think Christopher offers an interesting perspective about Crete.

            Introducing/re-introducing deaconesses into the Church is a very bad idea.

            • George Michalopulos says:

              I see your point re this being discussed at Crete. I imagine that it was discussed at the recent conclave in Moscow where the Pope assured everybody that this was not going to be a stalking horse. I hope so anyway.

          • Anonymous says:

            So, simply because Meyendorf’s name is on a whitepaper expressing support for something; a bunch of other guys decide to follow up with a whitepaper in the opposing direction?

            This is nothing more than the clerics taking a polarizing position; following the style of the day. Let me guess, Meyendorf is a liberal..

            The FACT they go into a technical rebellion of sorts and suggest something was done wrong, so they really aren’t deaconesses was the first thing I found quirky about the letter. If a Patriarch says they are deaconesses, I’d say they are deaconesses; despite a clerical error; all puns to do with what you wish.

            What happens my friends when clerics follow the polar positions and split along the bell spectrum is the learned walk away from the church.

            How about a collective wake up?

        • “In the Middle Ages, abbesses would often carry a crozier that looked almost exactly like a bishop’s crozier. A beautiful example is in the Walters Museum in Baltimore.”

          Yes, and it is a travesty when visiting priests behave as if they need permission from abbesses, enthroned like bishops, in some convents. It is a “venerable old” custom that transgresses Holy Tradition.

          “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” Timothy 2:12

          And occasionally I warn those in Rocor that this can lead to the same type of loose cannon situation that we had with Sister Vassa recently.

          Feminism, even the soft feminism that passes in some conservative circles, is inherently evil because it overturns the natural God ordained hierarchy of the male over the female in creation, especially, but not limited to, after the Fall. Any assertion of “women’s equality” is open rebellion against God.

          In one particular area, intellect, men and women are of comparable capacity. Though even in this area, there is a discrepancy between the types of intelligence at which women excel (spatial, verbal) and that at which men excel (mathematical, logical).

          In every other way, men and women are unequal. Women are clearly more empathetic than men. Men are clearly more aggressive than women (even in cultures where men are “civilized” into gynephobia). Men have half again the upper body strength of women, are faster on their feet and have a greater capacity to endure hardship and deprivation.

          So in the physical sense, in an array of aspects, women are objectively inferior to men, simply because they are created by God to be that way.

          Worthy helpers, not leaders. They are empathetic nurturers designed for childbirth and child raising, not for authority in the home or society.

          The whole question of “women’s equality” however, revolves around the political authority of women as such. This was a grave, ominous and odious mistake from the very beginning – the political empowerment of women. It “usurps” them into positions for which neither God nor nature have equipped them, emotionally or physically.

          This is The Problem of the Western World, around which all other problems revolve and to which all other problems pale in comparison. Feminism is, in a word, What’s Wrong with Western society. It divides us from other political entities in the world like the Russian Federation, the Chinese and the Muslims when we go about imperially insisting on “human rights” when what we mean is feminism. And it causes untold misery here at home in the form of abortion, divorce, crime, poverty, gender confusion, etc.

          Feminism must be destroyed, root and branch.

          Feminismvm delendvm est

          • George Michalopulos says:

            Misha, I agree with your analyses regarding the physiological and psychological differences between men and women overall but disagree with your statement (in the seventh) paragraph that men and women are “unequal”.

            I fervently believe that men and women are equal. What they are not is equivalent or the same.

            I’ve never been in a woman’s monastery but should I go would give the proper obeisance to the Abbess and I think any visiting priest or bishop should as well.

            • George,

              Equality, under the law, in society and in the family is a modern concept. I too feel uneasy trading in the stock of equality because it presupposes that equal = good. That is the fallacy of which we need to disabuse ourselves.

              The Devil loves the notion of “equality”. If there is a question of authority and two people insist on being equal, that is a recipe for disagreement. “Devil” comes from the Greek “diabolos”, “he who walks two ways at once”.

              Bishops are above priests in the hierarchy. Priests are above deacons. Deacons above laity. That it is a matter of service and not arrogant exploitation is a given. In that same sense, men are above women in the divine hierarchy, just as Christ is the Head of the Church.

              There is no equality in terms of authority. That is a recipe for disorder and conflict, those things in which the Devil delights.

              I would rather banish the concept of equality from the discussion regarding male-female relations. However feminists insist that equality of authority is their goal. If we do not meet this head on, we lose. It is not enough to say we are equal but different. An officer and an enlisted man are not equal but different. The same with men and women. It is not a question of equality of quality, but equality of authority.

              As to quality, women excel men in beauty, empathy, subtlety and in many areas of aesthetics. I do not deny them their glory. They are made in the image of God and have many strengths. Leadership over men is not among them, however.

              • George Michalopulos says:

                Misha, you are right in that feminists “insist” on equality but their ravings are not taken seriously. Nor can they be. Just like the homosexual juggernaut which will come crashing down soon, so has feminism proven itself to be a false god.

              • M. Stankovich says:

                These arguments – that somehow always manage to include the devil, who is the father of lies in both directions – always seems to bumble along until you, of course, read St Gregory Nazianzus who reminds us:

                The serpent deceived them both; and one was not found to be the stronger and the other the weaker. But whom do you consider the better? Christ saves both by His Passion. Was He made flesh for the Man? So He was also for the Woman. Did He die for the Man? The Woman also is saved by His death. He is called of the seed of David; (Romans 1:3) and so perhaps you think the Man is honoured; but He is born of a Virgin, and this is on the Woman’s side. “They two,” He says, “shall be one Flesh;” so let the one flesh have equal honour.

                My thought: trust the Holy Fathers and leave the devil be. He has been vanquished by our Lord God and Savior, and he no longer rejoices over anything in this world. Stop using him as a foil for your foolish logic.

                You purposely manipulate the argument by selecting examples of “essential inequality,” such as enlisted from officers, and so on, and are insisting that “feminists” demand “equality of authority” without any clarification whatsoever. On the ground, however, how many of us have been taught, trained, supervized, and been colleagues with women of astonishing brilliance and talent, more so and surpassing their male counterparts? Some who have been rightfully in leadership capacities, and some who have been unjustly and unjustifiably passed over by the attitude that, while they might well “excel men in beauty, empathy, subtlety and in many areas of aesthetics,” they did not belong in leadership positions because of your compromised egos? This, most certainly, is not what is expressed in the Holy Scriptures and by the Holy Fathers, but is your twisted and self-serving meaning.

                Our Lord made no distinction, nor did he disqualify or hinder women when He said, “Let your light so shine before mankind [τῶν ἀνθρώπων] that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) Likewise, without exception, or without exclusion, in the Parable of the Talents, the Master, upon his return tells the faithful servants, “You have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things, enter into the joy of your Lord,” (Matt. 25:23) and importantly, “For to everyone [παντὶ] that has, shall be given…” (25:29) And finally, the Apostle Paul notes in the Epistle to the Ephesians that we are all called for various vocations and functions, “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Eph. 4:12) No where in this powerful call to the Church of the Ephesians – the same to whom he delineates the mystery concerning the nature of Christian marriage and the analogy of marriage as the relationship between Christ and the Church – does St. Paul put any “limitations,” restraints, or notions of “authority” in his words to them, other than to speak of Him Who is the One Authority:

                But speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ: From Whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplies, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, makes increase of the body to the edifying of itself in love. (Eph. 4:15-16)

                And St. Gregory closes this thought:

                And Paul legislates for chastity by His example. How, and in what way? “This Sacrament is great,” he says, “But I speak concerning Christ and the Church.” (Ephesians 5:32) “It is well for the wife to reverence Christ through her husband: and it is well for the husband not to dishonor the Church through his wife. Let the wife, he says, see that she reverence her husband, for so she does Christ; but also he bids the husband cherish his wife, for so Christ does the Church.” Let us, then, give further consideration to this saying.

                You cannot – and I repeat myself – cannot impress anyone with an Orthodox mind to engage you in a cogent discussion of these matters – and it is you who are in need of serious, thoughtful, listening and meditation to the words of the Scripture and Holy Fathers – when you continue reference the delight of the devil.

        • Anonymous says:

          May those who guide you be guided by your wisdom Bauman. Those converts who wish to be in culture wars ought to enjoin a new profession. Bringing the Word doesn’t mean bringing THIS word or THAT word.

          • Michael Bauman says:

            Anona Mouse. I always post as Michael Bauman. Sometime as Michael P Bauman to avoid confusion with the Evangelical writer and teacher, Michael E. Bauman of Hillsdale College. The Michael to whom I believe you are replying is not me.

      • Monk James says:

        Benedictine abbots and abbesses wear a pectoral cross and carry a pastoral staff shaped like a shepherd’s crook, exactly like that of a western-rite bishop. If an abbot is also a priest, he wears the two-pointed miter as part of his liturgical vesture, exactly like a western-rite bishop. Cardinal Avery Dulles SJ, with whom I was acquainted, also bore the ring, cross, miter and staff of a bishop, but he was never raised to the episcopate, merely made a cardinal of Rome.

        It’s important for us to know these things so that we not only don’t misinterpret the significance of such signs of office among living clergy and monastics, but also that we don’t misunderstand their representation in art from ages past.

    • I studied under Protopresbyter John Meyendorff when he was dean of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. Never did I hear him say there was ever a female priest in the Church. Did I miss it? I doubt it.

    • Pdn Brian Patrick Mitchell says:

      History is not tradition. History only becomes tradition when it is handed down.

      Deaconesses have not been handed down to us. We only read about them in ancient texts and history books.

      If they had been handed down to us, the present controversy would not exist.

      If they had been handed down to us, we would know what they are and not object to them.

      The Church decided not to hand down the order of deaconess for very good reasons: They weren’t really needed, they weren’t fully accepted, and it became increasingly difficult to explain how they fit within the hierarchy of the Church.

      That difficulty still exists. Arguments over the standing of deaconesses among the Byzantines bear witness to that difficulty. Some say they were “major clergy.” Some say they weren’t “clergy” at all. Both of those positions can be supported by Byzantine texts, which treat them sometimes this way, sometimes that way.

      But the Byzantines at least accepted what the Church has always taught about the man and the woman, so there was then less danger of deaconesses getting out of hand. Today, one can safely wager that if bishops start ordaining deaconesses, things will get out of hand. Some bishops and some deaconesses will push the envelope to maximize their role, disregarding the Church’s teaching on male and female.

      In doing so, they will abandon the only apostolic and patristic reason for women not being priests and bishops. They will have to invent some other reason to draw the line at the presbyterate, but no invented reason will stand for long because it will be even harder to defend from within Church tradition.

      That’s the principle at stake. Denying the principle greases the slope.

      • Christopher says:

        Well stated. As always, thank you for your work in this area. I am reminded of this line by Fr. Matthew Baker (+ in 2015 if memory serves) from his essay “Neopatristic Synthesis and Ecumenism: Towards the “Reintegration”:

        In a secularized academic context riveted by the political ideologies of “race, class, and gender”…The questions of “experience” and reason in theology – its sources, first principles and procedure – and the acceptable cultural “correlation” require a more rigorous and dogmatic-philosophical treatment. Orthodox theologians must deal not only with Western theology, but also with the sources of Western secularism with greater depth and care than has yet been shown…

        Those of us who see through this modern reform effort also see the western secular concern which has the character of an moral/ideological quest for Justice and Equality. In my opinion, we need to a greater “dogmatic-philosophical treatment” of the underlying secularism and anthropology of the ideas of those who support it.

        I asked my wife to read over your “Public Statement” yesterday and tell me what she thought. She is the Medical Director of one of our local hospitals (she’s “smart”, punched through not a few glass ceilings herself, etc.), but normally not interested in these things. She zeroed in on how Pat. Theodore II seemingly “botched” the rite(s). She said this was a crass political maneuver designed to “give him plausible deniability” and “test the waters”. She then said “What can you do, the man lied”. I realized I had up to that point been trying to give the man at least the possibility of being a bumbling, well intentioned, essentially innocent old patriarch who really is just trying to do the best thing for his people. This is of course what all such reformers want us to believe. It’s not conspiratorial, but it is indicative of just what they are willing to do to get what they want and how they are willing to manipulate to get it. Those of us with histories in the Mainline of course have seen this movie before and know how it ends.

        • Christopher,

          I agree with Pdn. Brian and with most of what you have written. Even so, I have yet to be convinced that what the Patriarch of Alexandria actually did has much of anything to do with what some are making of it. I see no reason at this point to be overly suspicious of what he actually did as long as the service of these women remains appropriate to the proper roles of women. Having ‘deaconesses’ or ‘female servants’ (which is, after all, what the word means) of the Church set apart for specific tasks appropriate to women isn’t necessarily the same thing as the distorted kind of equality that the ‘Orthodox’ (so-called) Progressive Left has in mind.

          Time will tell. If it goes beyond this I will be the first to scream bloody murder, as I too have seem this movie before. It always ends in outright heresy.

          I sometimes wonder if even term “deaconess” as used to report on what the Patriarch did isn’t merely a miss-translation – or a correct translation that (perhaps purposely) fails to account for the distinction we English speakers make between deacon and servant. Depending on the translator from Greek(?) to English, it is possible.

          Did he “botch the right” for plausible deniability? I’m not yet convinced. For the present it looks more like something along the lines of what we do when installing parish council members or Sunday school teachers – consecrate for a specific task, outside the altar, with no intention of bestowing clerical orders.

      • M. Stankovich says:

        While I could live without his familiar “slippery slope” fears, nevertheless Pdn. Mitchell perfectly distinguishes between what is a tradition and what is our Holy Tradition.

        A tradition is generally a pious custom or practice that has been incorporated into the life of the church, and I could easily argue that some of these practices and customs have certainly met the test of being “handed down” – liturgical practices, for example; Fr. Alexander Schmeman always pointed out practices that are “routine” in the celebration of the Sacraments of the Church, but do not appear in the Ordo (e.g. the procession that ends the Vespers of Holy Friday with the singing of, “The noble Joseph,” does not exist in the Ordo). But what is surprisingly missing from this discussion is the most significant determinant we have: revelation

        When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it to you. (Jn. 16:13-14)

        At the Vespers of Pentecost we sing, “All gifts have given,” meaning with the coming of Him Who is “Light from Light, Fire from Fire, acting, moving, inspiring,” the mission of the Savior is complete and everything He promised has been delivered

        In that day you shall ask me nothing. Truly, truly, I say to you, Whatever you shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. Till now have you asked nothing in my name: ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full. (Jn. 16:23-24)

        All of this is to say that, while “all gifts have been given,” they may not have all been revealed to us; that which has been revealed to us over time and by the Grace of the Holy Spirit is our Holy Tradition, which stands with the Scripture, the Patristic writings of the Holy Fathers, the Canons, and the Liturgical Ordo. What is yet to be revealed to us in time – and we must be careful to align ourselves with St. Gregory Palamas who wrote against anyone who dare attempt to limit the “movement, activity, and operation of the All Holy Spirit, Who goes wherever He wishes” – is our Living Tradition.

        It would would seem to me that in this context and understanding – and in agreement with Pdn. Mitchell – we can clearly see what is and was a passing, limited tradition without revelation.

    • Sean,

      Some thoughts to help clarify…

      For its proponents, the question of the female diaconate can ONLY be argued from history because there is simply no other argument for it. As the argument goes, it was the practice of some Churches at given times; therefore, there is no reason it cannot be done today.

      Fair enough.

      There were, in fact female deacons in some places during certain periods of history. They were consecrated for their role as servants of the Church (whether in the Alter or not – frankly, who cares?). They served close to, although outside, the Alter as Cantors and keepers of order. They assisted the bishop in the (naked) baptisms of women. They brought the Eucharist to home-bound women. They were consecrated, celibate women ‘of a certain age’ whose primary service was to lead and to care for women in the Church on behalf of the bishop…

      So what?

      What does any of this have to do with modern, distorted ideas of equality? What does any of this have to do with the dignity of women or with ‘feelings’ of not being ‘validated,’ of being ‘unrecognized,’ or other self-centered modern psychological nonsense?

      Is anyone saying that the role of women in the Church is unimportant? Is anyone preventing women from serving the Church? Is anyone preventing women from singing in – or even leading – a choir (which, unlike those times, in our modern parish settings typically includes leading the male singers as well), as they say these deaconesses did? Is anyone preventing women from leading and serving the women of the Church, as they say these deaconesses did? Is anyone preventing women from serving in leadership roles on parish councils – a leadership role which these deaconesses did NOT have. (Parish Council members, by the way, are also prayed for and consecrated for the task, as they say these deaconesses were for theirs.) Is anyone ‘keeping women down,’ not allowing them to pursue theological studies, etc.? Is any woman being denied her dignity by having to expose her nakedness to a member of the clergy? Is any shut-in woman denied Holy Communion from the clergy because it is improper for him to visit her at home?

      Moreover, is anyone preventing women from being consecrated to a life of celibacy (as these deaconesses were) or even from being leaders of orders (i.e., Abbesses)? Are these women who are arguing for an entirely new and previously unheard of female diaconate flocking to the monasteries in droves for the ‘validation’ they claim to be seeking from serving the Church?

      Although the need for the office of consecrated deaconess has passed for all the reasons above, I personally, would have no objection to reviving the office as long ALL the original, historical qualifications and rules of the office were maintained PRECISELY as they were, in which case the office would be as it was when the office was active – one of self-sacrifice, life-long commitment to celibacy, total obedience, and service to the Church on behalf of the bishop.

      And if this restoration/revival of the order of deaconess were to occur precisely in the manner that some of the more honest among their own scholars say it once existed in some places, could it not also easily be predicted with a high degree of accuracy that the vast majority of those women now arguing most strenuously for the revival of the office would be among the first to eschew it as being beneath their dignity, incompatible with their level of personal sexual commitment – and, above all, beneath their ambition?

      For the record, my wife (who can in no way be said to be shy about expressing herself or contradicting a man simply because she is a woman) read this prior to posting, and she heartily agrees.

    • Fr. Herman Schick says:

      The icon of a purported woman bishop may be that of “Episcopa Theodora” whose 9th century mosaic portrait (with square halo) is found in the Chapel of Bishop Zeno of Verona in the Church of St. Praxedis the Martyr in Rome. She was the mother of Pope Paschal I (Pope 817-8240), who built the Chapel for her. It has been widely cited by feminists of proof of female Bishops. “Episcopa” rather appears to have been an honorific title applied to her as the mother of the Pope.

      • Monk James says:

        This mosaic is pictured on the back cover of When Women Were Priests by Karen Jo Torjesen.

        While I was pursuing a doctoral degree in theology, Dr Torjesen visited one of the seminars in which I participated to discuss her book. Since the mosaic in question had been vandalized centuries ago, it was difficult to tell if the romanized title of the image had originally been episcopa or episcopissa.

        It’s of no little interest to note that it was a Roman Catholic priest who brought this image to he author’s attention, thereby enhancing its importance in her mind.

        So, in order to undermine some rather firm assertions on the part of Dr Torjesen and other feminists in the room who felt that the image and its title validated their theory that women had served as clergy — even as bishops — in the ancient Church — I asked if anyone knew what a deacon is called in Greek. A few people replied correctly with diakonos. The same with priest/elder: presbyteros and finally, with bishop — episkopos.

        But nobody knew that a deacon’s wife is called a diakonissa, a priest’s wife presbytera, and a bishop’s wife (there used to be such honored women) episkopissa.

        Whoever Theodora turned out to be, the feminists were not amused.

  5. This is the telling phrase:

    “The revival of women deacons in the Orthodox Church would emphasize in a special way the dignity of woman and give recognition to her contribution to the work of the Church as a whole.”

    What a ridiculous, anti-Christian manner of thought. Even my wife (a strong-willed woman if ever there was one) finds this offensive and contrary to the Faith. Her contributions are immense, but they never depend upon recognition of any kind, nor has she ever been in doubt about her own dignity.

    They would do better service to the Church by advocating for the revival of the “ancient order” of penitents.

  6. Linda Albert says:

    Dear George
    “Second, the office of deaconess was created at a time in which there was a strict segregation of the sexes. They were necessary for baptisms and visiting home-bound widows. I don’t see our societies as presently constructed returning to such a regime. ”
    Did the Patriarch see just this situation in Africa as cause for (re)establishing a female diaconate? Is there a strict societal segregation of the sexes in this area? Is this because of a greater influence of Islamic cultural restrictions ? Wondering.
    Linda

    • George Michalopulos says:

      I don’t know. I noticed that all the deaconesses were black, perhaps there is a strict sexual segregation there. On the other hand, perhaps there needs to be a strict sexual segregation and the Pope did this in order to elevate the role of women in the local men’s eyes. I’m guessing here.

      • Rdr. James Morgan says:

        I don’t see asking the Patriarch Pope of Alexandria why he did that and just what DID he do/! I see a lot of fuss and kerfuffle on the part of the cosseted west, but not anything from the Alexandria Patriarchate itself. I too would like to know what the Holy synod of Alexandria thinks about this

    • Linda,

      Having some knowledge, albeit second-hand from those who work in African missions, the answer is no. There is no strict cultural segregation of the sexes. I do not know exactly why the Patriarch felt the need, but I do trust his judgment on the matter.

      What I do not trust is what others are attempting to make of a relatively minor event that has absolutely nothing to do with distorted modern notions of equality or the sort of female diaconate envisioned by “the robbers and destroyers” (to quote Steve Allen’s apt description below).

      Africa has many problems, but a grasp of what it means to be human as male and female is not among them. They are, in fact, typically more attuned to their own humanity than we are.

  7. Isn’t the letter a collective of wind pissing?

    Seriously. What is the goal of the letter? Won’t is just make the Patriarch more entrenched?

    Wouldn’t a rebuke from another Patriarch have been better?

    • Anon,

      There is nothing inherently ‘wrong’ with what the Patriarch did, and the authors of this letter point that out rather clearly. The problem doesn’t lie with the Patriarch and what he did. It lies with the intentions of at least many of those who are blowing what the Patriarch did completely out of proportion and context, making into something he himself neither did nor intended. Thus. this letter of rebuke is not and should not, be directed at the Patriarch.

    • Constaninos says:

      Dear Anon,
      There is nothing wrong with your thoughts and sentiments. Is it really necessary to use the rather vulgar expression “wind p###ing?” I meant that’s the way they talk in the world. As Orthodox Christians, can’t we set a better example than that?I doubt you would use that expression during prayer so why use it here?”Let no unwholesome word proceed out of your mouth.” Just a friendly reminder.

  8. Steve Allen says:

    Knowing what little I know about some African cultures, I have no doubt that the Pope is doing exactly the right thing for his people, and we should all give him great benefit of the doubt, in love and respect.

    I think it’s tragic that some are using the missional and ecclesial necessity in that completely foreign context as a wedge to shoehorn in a completely foreign (to the Church! pun intended) practice in a soul-destroying worship of the zeitgeist, instead of Christ.

    I rejoice to see the Church flourishing. We all should, and we all should take a lesson from how the Spirit manifests differing gifts according to the needs of the people, through His ordained apostles and prophets.

    I concur with the letter insofar as its final call to reject any impulse towards “deaconesses,” as long as this term is understood not in the sense that the Pope of Alexandria is appointing in his church, but in the sense that the robbers and destroyers are using it to promote their wickedness.

  9. Joseph Lipper says:

    Feminism is by no means a threat in Africa. I doubt it even exists there. Given that the status of most women in Africa is probably on par with a laundry bag, I’m sure that the Patriarch of Alexandria has his good reasons for doing this. This is a much different culture he is dealing with.

    So I suppose the fear is that now a woman in America who wants to be a deaconess can go to Africa and possibly be ordained by the Patriarch to serve for the rest of her life in Africa. That’s great: Be a life-long committed missionary in Africa. There’s a real need for life-long committed missionaries there. Would she be allowed to serve anywhere else but Africa? Absolutely not. No bishop outside of Africa would accept that. What happens in Africa, stays in Africa.

  10. SgtPfeffer says:

    This is an ironic situation. Excuse me for a moment while I demonstrate just how infected our western minds are.

    Did you know that Churches were often separated, male and female? Did you know some still are? Hey, just take a minute and read this and come back.

    https://johnbelovedhabib.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/the-early-church-tradition-of-separate-seating-ancient-practice-not-a-cultural-anomaly/

    Isn’t it funny that this Orthodoxan thinks this practice is at all maintained in the West?

    Let me be very short and concise: female deaconesses are important, very important, for propriety reasons. In a culture that has thrown propriety in the garbage there is no need not female deaconesses.

    In other words, now that we have mashed women and men together, there is no distinct role for a women to be ordained to bring charity to, communicate with, to teach and serve. The only role of the female deaconess was plainly so that men were not hanging around a bunch of virgins and widows and married women , since they were ALWAYS SEPARATED. As Jewish women still are. Once the divide is torn down, there is no need for a female deaconess. The actual pastors can do that. And women are not allowed to teach men, which also means they have destroyed the opportunity to lead mixed company. It’s ironic. Feminism destroyed the only need for female deaconesses.

    • Joseph Lipper says:

      Sgt Pfeffer,

      You make excellent points, but don’t you think it’s possible to restore this sense of separation between the sexes in the West? If not in mainstream culture, then at least in our Orthodox Churches?

      Personally, I’m all in favor of men standing on the right side of the Church in front of the icon of Christ, and women standing with head coverings in Church on the left side in front of the icon of the Theotokos. It’s a beautiful thing when practiced.

      • SgtPfeffer says:

        Hello Joseph,

        No. Not a frosty chance. It’s basically “separate but equal” argument. People will not tolerate it. In fact, just asked a Priest about this the other day and he laughed.

        In addition, given what is happening in the culture most recently, you in fact never ever hear that perhaps men and women should not be so on top of each other all the time. That should be your answer. The idea is not even minimally discussed.

        I think with the number of school incidents between teachers and underage kids, the schools should be separated as well. But, wow, these ideas have a snowballs chance in hell.

        There is always prayer I suppose.

  11. Anonymous says:

    This story is really horrible. It simply shows the problems with not having a Patriarch in North America when Meyendorf and Hatfield both attach their names to different, call them opposing whitepapers on the same subject and one posts a reactionary response and the two do not agree and it becomes public.

    Sadly, GM is not deep enough a writer to post both the whitepapers for a more ordered discussion about the matter.

    All the letter following you signed George is point to dysfunction in the church; especially when one realizes they were responding; not to the Patriarch, but another letter.

  12. Loras Camzekes says:

    Twenty years ago, Fr Bob Stefanopolis gave a talk on women in the church and said women clergy were an inevitable historical (Hegelian) progression and went on to say his sisters and daughters wanted to be priests, too.

  13. Michael Bauman says:

    The Hegelian Dialectic is only inevitable to folks who reject the Incarnation and have become historical determinists. It is heretical.

  14. Greatly Saddened says:

    Yes, Father Robert Stephanopoulos’ one daughter Anastasia is a nun. She belongs to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia and goes by the name of Mother Agapia. I think she is with the new women’s monastic community of “She Who is Quick to Hear” located in Ridgefield Springs, NY.