More Misbehavior Threatening the Unity of the Orthodox Churches in America?

Recently, Monomakhos has learned that several young girls are going to be tonsured as Readers in the GOA later today in Scottsdale, Arizona. Needless to say, this has caused consternation among some of the more traditional members of that jurisdiction.

These kind of occurrences invariably raise the hackles in the more traditionalist jurisdictions (e.g. ROCOR, MP, the Serbs, even the OCA). In truth, such shenanigans make it next-to-impossible to ever envision a united, pan-Orthodox, autocephalous jurisdiction in North America. If nothing else, the fears of the inevitable –female priesthood–can never be mollified no matter what sophistry the GOA brings forth to justify such make-it-up-as-we-go-along practices.

What follows is a link to the tonsuring service, a letter from a concerned parishioner who wishes to remain anonymous, and a letter from the Scottsdale priest to parents.

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Service of the Tonsuring of a Reader.

The Terminal Illness of Orthodoxy

Enough is enough. This week I received a letter that in my Church this weekend, Archbishop Demetrios will be tonsuring several teenage girls as readers.

This is in clear defiance of the canons and the Orthodox Tradition. Anyone who has observed Christian changes in the 20th century knows that this is nothing more than an open door, a slippery slope, to the ordination of priestesses. It starts with this sort of thing, moves to the office of the deaconess (which is never called a deaconess, only ‘deacon’) and sooner or later priestesses swarm into the altar and drive out the good men and women.

Sound far fetched? It did to Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians a mere 40 years ago too. Each now suffers from catastrophic decline and moral and cultural irrelevance. They only speak to themselves. No one else pays attention because they have nothing important to say.

It’s coming to the Orthodox Church too. We’ve already got homosexual activists dragging the culture wars into Orthodoxy and trying to beat the door down from the inside. Next will be women priests. They will point to Abp. Demetrios in Scottsdale as Exhibit A that women should not be ‘discriminated’ against.

Dr. Eve Tibbs being tonsured as a Reader by Metropolitan Anthony, June 8, 2003

This isn’t the first time. Back in 2003, Dr. Eve Tibbs, dean of St. Katherine College was tonsured a reader by Metropolitan Anthony, ruling hierarch of the GOA Metropolis of San Francisco at the time. St. Paul’s Orthodox Church Greek Orthodox Church in Irvine, CA (Tibbs’ home parish) is so proud that they included a picture of the event on their parish website.

These leaders don’t understand that they have thousands of their ‘flock’ who are not Greek and whose attachment to the Orthodox Church is more than sentimental — parishioners who are intentionally Orthodox.

We have fought this fight before and we lost. We lost because we tried to dialogue with folks who had no real intention of dialoguing. Experience is a good teacher however, and our tools are razor sharp and granite hard. Having finally arrived at the Church which to us is the Pearl of Great Price, we aren’t going to watch it die the death of a thousand politically correct cuts with a sword wielded by the theologically and morally confused.

America is yearning for authentic Orthodox Christianity, not modern and parochial expressions of Orthodoxy-lite led by weak men who try so hard to win the approval of the cultural-gatekeepers who secretly despise them for their compromises.

What we need is not more altar girls, but more real men.

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Letter send to parents from Fr. Andrew Barakos of Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, Scottsdale, AZ concerning the tonsuring of female readers.

Dear Parents,

On Sunday, the Myrrh-bearers and Altar Boys will participate in the procession around the church 3 times When the procession begins, the myrrh-bearers will be invited to line-up behind the Altar Boys. When we re-enter the Church the myrrh-bearers will re-join their families in the pews.

The Myrrh-bearers should be in church early on Sunday morning in order to get a seat. The Myrrh-bearers will not participate in the service on Saturday evening unless they are also readers.

If your daughter is a reading and has never been tonsured, she needs to arrive no later than 3:30 PM on Saturday. They will be invited to come up at the end of the service for their tonsuring by the Archbishop.

Boys of any age who have never been tonsured will also come forward at the end. Boys under 12 with receive a blessing and 12 and older will be tonsured. The altar boy list of servers and special instructions for the services will be coming in a separate email just to the parents.

Thank you!

+Fr. Andrew

Rev. Andrew J. Barakos

Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, Scottsdale, AZ 85260. (480) 991-3009


  1. “O ye subverters of all decency, who use men as if they were women, and lead out women to war as if they were men! This is the work of the devil, to subvert and confound all things, to overlap the boundaries that have been appointed from the beginning, and remove those which God has set to nature.”

    St. John Chrysostom
    Homily 5 on Titus

    • Fr. Andrew Barakos says

      Dear all,

      Your commments represent a very narrow understanding of Church life. First of all you all assume that the prayer which is read over the girls is identicile with the OCA version which sites this as the first degree of priesthood. Secondly, so what? Have you all forgotten of the female deaconate? Thirdly, what about the very practical need to have readers in the church who are both male and female who read the Sunday epistle. No one should read, chant carry a candle without the bishops’ blessing. Aha! The Bishop is simply giving both boys and girls a blessing to read the word of God in Church. The intent of any prayer is understood by the words of that prayer- no intent of ordaining girls to the priesthood just simply fulfilling a need for readers in the church.

      Fourth, what a bunch of cowards are those who write anonymously about their convictions and errors of others – nothing is anonymous in the Church we are persons with identities.

      Fifth – a church was conecrated today for the glory of God – not one comment about such a magnificent occurrance?

      Sixth, “traditionalis: Orthodox – this term does not exist in our patristic hsitory. Either you are or you are not Orthodox. Branding yourselves one way or another ….it is actually quite protestant of all of you.

      Glory to God – this is the day the Lord has made – let us rejoice and be glad in it. I think you all could spend your sundays doing something a bit more productive.

      • Monk James says

        First, allow me to assert that there is no historical evidence that any deaconess served or was tonsured as a reader or hypodeaconess as a prerequisite for her ministry, as is the case for deacons. Adducing deaconesses as some sort of (suggested) ‘proof’ in this discussion is unhelpful and irrelevant.

        I was wondering if anyone had even thought to consult Fr Andrew Barakos, the priest of the parish in which this event occurred, to make certain of just exactly what happened. Now, I’m gratified to see that FrAB writes here: ‘The Bishop is simply giving both boys and girls a blessing to read the word of God in Church.’

        It would help greatly to clarify concerns in this thread if FrAB would write back once again just to tell us whether or not the bishop cut the hair of the girls and the boys identically and equally, or just the boys, or no one at all. Was each boy and girl then given a stikharion and orarium?

        If the bishop merely blessed all the children to read in church and laid one hand on their heads while he read a prayer, that would indeed be ‘simply…a blessing’. Identifying the mechanics of the event should cure all our apoplexy, unless, of course, each child’s hair was cut.

        I trust that Father Andrew — in spite of his other legitimate concerns — understands how important it is to clarify this point, and that he will let us know.

      • Dn. Brian Patrick Mitchell says

        Fr. Andrew writes:

        Thirdly, what about the very practical need to have readers in the church who are both male and female who read the Sunday epistle.

        What possible “practical need” is there to have readers “who are both male and female” except to show that we are feminists now and no longer keep the traditions of the Apostles?

      • Father Andrew,

        Thank you for your note here but honestly some things that you write do confuse things further. For full disclosure, I grew up Orthodox in the USA (growing up in the GOAA), though now I worship in the OCA for a variety of reasons, among them that I grew tired of the GOAA’s stress on Hellenism rather than on Orthodoxy.

        But regardless, a few questions for you please:

        (1) As Deacon Brian Patrick clearly states, what “need” is there at all to have both men and women readers? Is it a need specific to Orange County or to California? I’m not being silly here. You write as if it’s clear as day that there’s a need to have both women and men readers in church, but it’s not as clear as day to most of us. Do women feel left out and crushed if there are no women readers? In my parishes in Washington state, in the northeast and in the South, we never had women readers at all, and the women there loved church nevertheless and the women really made the church run. Why is there a “need” to have women readers? Again, not being silly, just don’t understand why this need seems clear to you when it doesn’t seem clear to a lot of other Orthodox Christians.

        Along the same lines, if we don’t have women readers in our church, are we not doing things right?

        (2) As a GOAA priest, what are the means that you propose to overcome the differences that exist in the prayers that are read in these instances, among the differing GOAA, OCA, Antiochian, etc., versions? As the Episcopal Assembly states as its goal to administratively unite the Orthodox jurisdictions in America, how are differences like this being dealt with? How often are clergy from the OCA and the GOAA and the others meeting actively to discuss differences in how we do things and how to overcome these differences?

        As you know, it’s differences like these that are a big stumbling block to administrative unity in America. If the OCA considers these prayers to be the first degree of the priesthood, but the GOAA does not, that’s a huge problem. What is being done about it? How are we addressing it?

        Thank you

      • John Christopher says

        Fr Andrew’s first point is important. As II Nicaea 14 makes clear, there is an obvious distinction between the “laying on of hands” required to become a Reader and the “tonsure of the clergy.” That’s equally so in both canon law and the Byzantine liturgical books I have seen, medieval and modern. I have yet to find a single such manuscript or book that calls for “tonsuring” a Reader. Sounds like a liturgical innovation, really. In patristic and canonical sources, a Reader is “ordained,” “sealed,” and sometimes “instated,” depending on the source; and in the earliest extant Byzantine manuscripts, the rite is a simple prayer read by the Bishop (or a Chorepiscopus or Abbot so appointed by the Bishop) while he lays his hands on the future Reader. That is all.

        Also, according to Balsamon, the various “tonsures” (monastic, clerical, and episcopal) are not one-time ceremonies for the cutting of hair invested with sacramental significance, but rather a style of dressing one’s hair to designate one’s clerical order. In short, modern understandings of “tonsure” and what signifies “clerical status” are rather different from what one finds in the earlier sources.

        • Schema-monk Theodore says

          We must not forget the first and most important tonsure, bestowed upon all Christians of either sex: at Holy Baptism.

          I don’t mean that to argue for or against women as readers. Just to add to your list.


    • Dn. Michael says

      Dn. Patrick:

      Have you ever done anything contrary to the Gospel? I have. I have failed to love as Jesus would love. I have failed to do what Jesus would do on many occasions, but I would not use the excuse that I have only a human nature and not a divine nature. Have you removed the log from your own eye before removing the splinter from another’s? I have often admonished others when I know I have not been living right. But, Jesus understands this and loves us and gently urges us to follow him, in love.

      Deacon Michael

      • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

        It always amuses me when people judge others for judging others. Thanks for the laugh.

  2. Patrick Henry Reardon says

    Father Barakos announces:

    “The Myrrh-bearers should be in church early on Sunday morning in order to get a seat. The Myrrh-bearers will not participate in the service on Saturday evening unless they are also readers. If your daughter is a reading and has never been tonsured, she needs to arrive no later than 3:30 PM on Saturday. They will be invited to come up at the end of the service for their tonsuring by the Archbishop.”

    This is either insanity, or it is a spoof.

    • It is a good thing to bring this insanity into the open. Let no one imagine that the “girls” are spiritually helped by this untoward action. But I must ask, if so many Bishops and Priests were (are)Masons, if our Hierarchs behave in secret ways, if they are more administrators and less fathers, how shall they see with their single blinded eye. One commentator said there was no “traditional Orthodoxy.” He is incorrect. What he was referring to is the myth of perfect Byzantine state, but traditional Orthodoxy is one of the three witnesses of Truth for our BELOVED faith. If the tonsuring proposed represents 1)The Teaching of Holy Scripture 2) The Concurrence of the Holy Fathers and Mothers of our Faith and 3)The teaching and witness of God the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church, then it is of value and allowable, however if one of the three witnesses does not agree, then it is not valid. As for my comments on Masonry, I remember well my conversation with the late Archbishop Iakavos, may God have mercy on his soul(as on all of us) when he answered my question.
      “Eminence are you a Freemason?”
      He answered, “Gerasimos, I was for eleven years.>” I then asked, “Have you demitted from Masonry?” His answer, ” No but I longer practice it. ” Let us be unified in one Holy Chalice with the One True Christ and the way to do that is to obey two thousand years of church history and TRULY TRULY love one another. Those who sin and those who sin less. Those who are “out there, and those who are not, for we are all sick. During my years in the seminary, Father Philotheos Faros commented on the book, “I’m OK, you’re Ok.” No he said, “I’m Not Ok and Neither are you.”
      ‘May Christ our True God Bless this assembly with heartfelt prayers and love.

  3. Oh please please please someone tell me there will be video of this.

    I wonder how 79th Street will spin this one………..It will probably be something along the lines of “Although it was a tonsuring, it was not really a sacramental tonsuring but more of a recognition ceremony to encourage these young folks and their hard work in supporting the Omogenia… the words really don’t mean what they say”

    • George Michalopulos says

      By sending out some flunky to speak out of both sides of his mouth. That’s how.

    • George Michalopulos says

      Andrew, more importantly how will the Metropolitan of Bursa –(Lambrianides) spin this? He who called the GOA the “crown jewel” of the Patriarchate of Constantinople? Clearly he was disappointed then if you read between the lines but as long as the money keeps rolling in (and the OCA continues to step on its own feet) I guess it’s just too much to ask.

  4. George Michalopulos says

    This is egregious on so many levels. One of them is that there are going to be at least 40 clergy in attendance tonite and all who who participate will be forever compromised. This will happen when one of them will toe the line on Tradition on some issue or the other and the petitioner will invariably bring up the fact that the priest in question “tonsured” a girl as Reader. And even that the Primate of the GOA authorized this. He won’t be able to say anything at that point but probably just look at his shoes.

    Would it be too much to ask some of these priests to confront His Eminence before this “ordination” happens tonite and make a resolute stand, asking him at least to reconsider?

    Please understand, I have no problem with the Office of Myrrh-bearer, and there is no canonical impediment (that I know of) of aged nuns being ordained and serving behind the Altar, but will the GOA at least get it right once and for all on what constitutes the various Offices fo the sub-diaconate? I’m tired of hearing bishops and priests speak out of both sides of their mouths when they say “it’s a blessing” on the one hand and “it’s an ordination” on the other. Is it too much to ask the men who make up the hierarchy to act like men and speak like men? Which is it?

    • George, I hear you. I am interested in seeing how this unfolds in real time. I hope your reader as well as others who may be present and read this blog will offer their comments and observations on this thread.

      And if you have some video….again please share it.

  5. Just another insane liturgical innovation, sponsored in part by jurisdictional disunity.

  6. If this is true it is just dumb. Do the girls feel less important because the boys are tonsured? How do you get around the tonsure prayer that says “the first degree of the priesthood is that of reader” unless you drop that for girls and then you are just making it up?

    What is the point?

    • Amos, that’s just it: there isn’t a point. At least not for the go-along-to-get-along set within the GOA. It’s all a big “so what’s the big deal?” It’s not serious like so much of what else goes on in the GOA. (OCAMPR anyone? Riverboat Cruise? etc.) Unfortunately, for the other jurisdictions this is a big deal, not just for the Traditionalists but for the Modernists —especially the modernists. It is they who will dust off this footnote in American Orthodoxy and use it as a precendent for whatever it is they want to do.

  7. Rdr. Benjamin says

    Ok. This does strike me as rather strange and innovative, but let me play devil’s advocate.

    Perhaps it has something to do with the re-establishing of the female Deaconate as it was in Constantinople (for instance St. John Chrysostom oversaw nearly 2,500 female deacons).

    Since we know that the female deaconess ordination is identical to that of the male (with the exception of several differences in the list of saints mentioned), and though they did not serve in the altar (with the exception of some nuns in small monasteries where they are needed, and even then not in the role that a deacon would take, but in the role of an altar server because “women should not be heard in the temple.”) they certainly were understood to be ordained.

    Maybe it’s the GOARCH’s way of possibly reconciling the ordination of deaconesses in light of the canonical “ladder” that one must climb to be a deaconess (I, for one, am convinced that there will NEVER be women priestesses in Orthodoxy, as it is completlely outside of the teachings of Holy Tradition, Holy Scripture, and the writings of the Holy Fathers as well as the canons of the Holy and Ecumenical Councils. No matter what Metropolitan Kallistos may say on the matter.)

    Those are my thoughts, but then again, don’t jump on me, because it does still seem rather odd.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Rdr Benjamin, you would be on to something except that there is no long-term strategic thought going on here at all. Most Greek ethnic parishes have done things on the their own for so long because of little or no episcopal oversight that they think (with some justification I might add) that as long as they’re still standing and still liturgizing in Greek, then things are hunky-dory.

    • Patrick Henry Reardon says

      Benjamin, please. These are little girls, and little boys. They are being tonsured into the clerical state.

      You can expect to hear from St. John Chrysostom for this rash invocation of his name.

      You’re studying too much, friend. Some fresh air might help.

      As for me, I am going to have a stiff drink.

      • Rdr. Benjamin says

        Fr. Patrick,

        I apologize for anything that I may have said to offend you. I certainly did not mean it. I also did not read clearly enough that these were only boys and girls, I was under the (mistaken of course) impression that these were Women. I apologize and please pray for me that St. John will not keep me out of the kingdom for bearing false witness about him.

        In Christ,
        Reader Benjamin

  8. George Michalopulos says

    BREAKING: Monomakhos has learned from our sources in Arizona that the planned tonsuring of several girls to the Office of Reader was cancelled. Instead only three adult men were ordained to this Office. In addition, several boys were “blessed” to serve in the Altar. More information to follow as it becomes available.

    • Will they tell the girls that it was cancelled due to the mean old traditionalists who hate women?

      • George Michalopulos says

        Helga, I’d hope the first thing they say is “We’re sorry to let you down like this but we played fast and loose with our Traditions, we should have checked with the Archbishop first” or “it was wrong of us to get your hopes up like this. Please forgive us.”

        Then a good sermon on the goodness Christian anthropology and the co-equal and God-ordained Offices of Male and Female and how one is not inferior to the other.

    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

      Does Arizona belong to Gerasimos or Isaiah?

      • Gerasimos

      • Metropolitan Gerasimos. Nothing in the church bulletin about the female tonsuring event. The archbishop was going to serve on Nov 2. to the 150 clergymen attending the national retreat in Scottsdale. Seems that the tonsuring of the girls was cancelled. Must have been some complains and rightly so.

        • Fr. Andrew Barakos (Vicar Southwestern Region) says

          The reason it did not happen was because I, as the priest forgot to call the 14 year old women to come forward. Nothing to do with complaints – although I would have preferred that “my parishioner” would have had the decency to contact me and not air his dissatisfaction with his own jurisdiction on a blog. His posting has hurt a family deeply.

          Let me just say a word about “tonsuring” we should all know that a tonsure represents the sacrifice or an offering of the life of the individual and obedience to God. A priest tonsures a child at baptism, a person can be tonsured a monastic and yes, readers can be tonsured to read. The Archbishop simply said, this is an expression of their offering their service to God as a reader and/or acolyte. “Readers” are clearly part of the “lower orders” i.e. acolytes, readers. The GOA, has clearly reserved the office of sub-deacon as the first step towards priesthood and does not allow it presently to be done independently of an ordination to the deaconate. To proclaim and read the gospel by someone, to say petitions (as a sub-deacon) without having gone to seminary and trained theologically raises many concerns such as them being members of the priesthood without having the same standards being applied. As well as, the impediments would be the same, divorced persons would not be allowed even as readers. How many sub-deacons and readers are divorced?

          What need is there for “women” to read – there is no reason for them not to participate in the liturgical services. They also have a gift to declare the word of God with clarity and should not be denied because of their gender the privilege to do so. Participation in services is vital for every person in the parish, whether from the congregation, choir, chanter, or readers.

          Further, the “theologians” posting things here need to go back to school. The altar is restricted to “clergy” not women. “Clergy” meaning lower orders, acolytes, readers, chanters and of course higher orders of deacons, priests and bishops. Clearly women were ordained before the altar table at one time in our history. Nuns of course enter the altar to perform liturgical assistance. The churching of female babies in the altar is not a question of gender but it is a question of whether any child should be brought into the holy of holies, male or female.

          One more thing, to quote a single church father to “prove” a point without consulting the “mind of the church” is also rather protestant when it comes to issues that need to be placed within our own context of church life. Last time I checked, we are part of a living faith that allows us under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to be people of the spirit of the law and not the letter of the law.

          • In our church (GOA), men and women read the Epistles. We also have ushers and both men and women participate in this. Ushers keep order and for example, block the entrance to the nave during the reading of the Gospel or during the Small and Great Entrance to maintain decorum. Ushers also dismiss people row by row to go to communion. There are also ushers who hold the communion cloth during communion. Ushers are also in charge of keeping order in the narthex including keeping the icons clean (Here I must say I wish women would refrain from wearing lipstick to liturgies.) and taking care of the burning candles.

            In Greece I have seen female monastics assist at the altar during liturgy– even young nuns who are clearly still in their 20’s. I have also heard female nuns read the epistle and seen them cense the people during certain services. They chant and participate in processions as well.

            • Dn. Brian Patrick Mitchell says

              So the GOA is functionally feminist outside the altar. That is not the Apostolic way. Actually, from the way I’ve heard some Greek priests talk about the “mutual obedience” of husband and wife, it would appear the GOA is more than merely functionally feminist; it is doctrinally feminist with the one exception of a male priesthood.

              • Deacon Patrick, there is nothing wrong with women reading the epistle. I am sorry to break this to you, but I have read the epistle a number of times in Orthodox churches, and not Greek ones. The problem here is the attempt to tonsure women to a minor order of clergy, not the physical act of reading which any literate layperson may be chosen to perform.

                • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                  Just because it’s done here and there in the Church, in America, in these benighted times, doesn’t mean there’s nothing wrong with it.

                  What’s wrong with it is that it is a very recent departure from apostolic tradition that has the effect of denying the Church’s apostolic teaching on the nature of manhood and womanhood and very visibly abandoning the principle behind all limits on the role of women. It also introduces the obvious absurdity of allowing women to be readers but not tonsuring them as readers, which puts pastors in the position of having to invent new reasons for arbitrarily drawing the line on what women can do. Their difficulty in drawing a line not anchored to apostolic principles inevitably causes confusion and increases doubt that the Church is really right to limit the role of women. In short, by sacrificing the principle, it opens the door to much worse abuses.

                  • Interestingly, while it seems that there are many who are quite concerned over women reading in church, the tonsuring of women as readers, bringing female babies into the altar during the churching of the baby, etc., one recent innovation that few seem to speak out against is that of including women in church choirs. I understand this innovation was introduced in Russian practice a considerable time earlier than was the case in Greek practice, but this violates the 70th canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council according to the interpretation of St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain in the Rudder.

                    St. Nikodemos comments:

                    “”For it is a shame for women to talk in church” (1 Cor. 14:35). This means that women should keep silent in church, and out of church wherever there is a congregation of people. The fact that the word talk is used here, and not the word speak, controverts and overthrows the allegation put forward by some persons that only teaching is forbidden to women but not chanting; for talk includes any sort of vocal utterance, and not merely articulate speech. In fact, women are not allowed to let their voice be heard at all within the sacred temple of the church. They may, of course, sing and chant in their hearts praises and blessings to God, but not with their lips.

                    The distinction St. Nikodemos makes between “speak” and “talk” is perhaps not very well conveyed in English translation, but otherwise his comments on the voice of women being heard in church is quite clear.

                    If you are concerned about women reading in church, are you also concerned about them singing in church also?

                    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                      There are plenty of early texts that attest that in the first several centuries men and women both sang the common hymns and “necessary responses” of the liturgy. Only gradually, as the Church grew larger and began to rely more on professional singers, and as its worship grew more penitential under monastic influence, were all women and most men expected not to sing. If you are sincerely interested in the truth of the matter, read Johannes Quasten’s Music & Worship in Pagan & Christian Antiquity (National Association of Pastoral Musicians, 1983).

                      The introduction of polyphonic choral music by the Russians has begun a reverse trend back toward singing by the people, both male and female. The switch from people singing, to people silent, to people singing again might pose a problem for a naive and extreme traditionalist who foolishly insists that tradition never changes. It might also pose a stumbling block for a naive and extreme progressive who foolishly believes that if anything changes everything may be changed.

                      The smart thing to do is to look for the principle behind the practice. The principle behind reserving the office of reader and the duty of liturgical reading to men was the need to maintain both the natural archy and the economical hierarchy based on sexual distinction, with public leadership reserved for men. The principle behind allowing women to read and making them de facto readers is the denial of the importance of sexual distinction and of the ecclesial and societal order built on it. In short, we now allow both men and women to read because we no longer believe that the sexes are much different or that one is subject to the other.

                    • Carl Kraeff says

                      Dear Father Deacon–You say that the principle is important and I could not agree more. Isn’t this the essence of “rightly dividing the word of truth,” that is, part of the kerygma especialy bestowed upon our bishops?

                      I just do not see a smooth flow in your logic here. On the one hand, you correctly point out the progression from congregational singing to choirs and back again towards the entire congregation (men, women and children) doing their part during the work of the laos. On the other hand, you switch to another rationale when it comes to subsets of the work of the laos (epistle, prayers after communion, etc..); women can participate in the first instance but not in the second because to do so would violate the principle of natural archy. It seems to me that women should be able to participate in both or neither of these circumstances. Let me put it more simply: if women can sing the Our Father, they should be able to chant the hours, read the Epistle and anything else that is not sacerdotal.

                    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                      Carl, there’s a difference between singing the Our Father along with everybody else and standing in the midst of the congregation and delivering the “lesson” (from the Latin lectio, meaning “reading”). The latter is a priestly or sacerdotal act, an act of presiding and teaching. The reader “has the floor,” and the people are obliged to pay attention to him. That’s why readers were set apart and elevated to clerical rank.

                      Until recently, the reading of the Epistle was universally understood among the Orthodox as a clerical duty reserved for men. St. Jerome makes this understanding explicit when he criticizes the Pelagians for allowing women to read the Epistle “as though they were lawfully constituted teachers.” Women regularly functioning as readers in Orthodox parishes do not appear until the 20th century. Until the 20th century, “lectresses” appear only among the heterodox.

                      The Fathers often speak of the greater modesty required of women. St. Basil writes that “in women’s life, more and greater modesty is required, as regards the virtues of poverty and quiet and obedience and sisterly love.” St. Gregory the Theologian praises his sister and his mother for their silence in church. Of his sister, St. Gorgonia, he says, after praising her wisdom, “But who was less ready to speak, confining herself within the due limits of women?” Of his mother, he says, “So also in the holy assemblies, or places, her voice was never to be heard except in the necessary responses of the service.” None of them approved of women readers. They never questioned the apostolic rule on silence for women in church. They gave different answers at different times on the extent of silence required, but they always understood the appropriate extent as keeping women from acting as readers.

                      They were also quite plain as to the reason for the required silence. Hear St. John Chrysostom:

                      “Great modesty and great propriety does the blessed Paul require of women, and that not only with respect to their dress and appearance: he proceeds even to regulate their speech. And what says he? ‘Let the woman learn in silence’ [1 Tim. 2:11]; that is, let her not speak at all in the church; which rule he has also given in his epistle to the Corinthians, where he says, ‘It is a shame for women to speak in the church’ [1 Cor. 14:35]; and the reason is that the law has made them subject to men.”

                      So, no, we don’t have to choose between no singing at all for women and no reading of the Epistle by women. That is a false choice meant only to coerce an abandonment of principle.

                    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                      Correcting my last paragraph in the above: We don’t have to choose between no singing at all for women and allowing women to read the Epistle. That’s the false choice.

                    • Carl Kraeff says

                      Dear Father Deacon–Yes, there is a difference between praying the Lord’s Prayer and reading the Epistle. However, I just do not see how the mere reading of the Epistle constitutes “teaching” that is supposed to be done in the homily. Indeed, when the rubrics call for the Gospel reading to be done by the deacon, we would not presume to attribute a sacerdotal function to him; again, the priest expounds on the reading and “teaches” during the homily for I do not see the reading of the Holy Scriptures (any part of them) as sacerdotal actions, except when a priest or bishop does it. To make my point clearer, let us look at the antiphons of the Liturgy of the Catechumens: two psalms and the Beautitudes that everyone sings. Are they not just as a “lesson” or a “teaching” as the Epistle or the Gospel reading?

                      It is true that the work of the laos is orchestrated and that it is not done by everyone at the same time, with sacerdotal portions clearly delineated. Nonetheless, even the sacerdotals are by and large in the name of and for the laos. My contention is that the archy is appropriately preserved by the filling the offices of priest and bishop exclusively by men. Carrying this principle over to any other office is going too far (not from a praxis point of view (POV) of course but from all other POVs).

                      My final objection to your approach is that it does not comport with the presumption of equality before the chalice, that is, before the Lord, in Whom there is no male or female. The Creed is preceded by the exclamation “The doors! The doors! (meaning, make sure the catechumens are out–not, kick out the women also), and the Lord’s Prayer is preceded by the priest’s prayer “And vouchsafe, O Master, that, with boldness and without condemnation, we may dare (all baptized Orthodox Christians may dare) to call upon Thee, the heavenly God, as Father, and to say:”. Obviously, in neither occasion are women are excluded but treated as equal with the men.

                      If I may be frank as a 26 year military veteran and a PK, you are not giving sufficient weight to those elements of Holy Tradition that would refute your narrow approach to the role of women in the Body. In other words, it may be the case that you are not seeing the forest for the trees–surely the handicap of any specialist. If/when you are called to the priesthood, are ordained and have a few years under your belt, I have the suspicion that you will change your approach.

                    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                      Ironically, Carl, I agree with you that we ought not make too much of the distinction between clergy and people. Some people do that in defense of the male priesthood, usually resorted to pagan notions of priesthood. I understand Christian priesthood as filling the archic role within the Church, not as mediator between God and people but as the head of the Body, who speaks for the whole. As such, it is only appropriate that when men and women worship together the leading (i.e., priestly) roles should be taken by men.

                      But as long as we’re getting personal, let me say that I expect a lot of your incomprehension of the priestly and masculine nature of the reader’s office is the result of what you’ve become accustomed to. You’ve grown up with little or no respect being shown for the reader’s office or the difference of male and female, so it doesn’t bother you, and you don’t see how or why it should bother anybody else.

                      But look at things from my perspective: I didn’t grow up with women taking leading or starring roles in public worship, and when I became Orthodox I found that my sensibilities on the matter were only confirmed by the Fathers of the Church and the Church’s tradition down to the present day in many places. Now what am I supposed to do when faced with present practice in other places at variance with tradition? Am I to cast aside everything the Church has taught on the matter and just accept present practice in the 21st century OCA as authoritative? Why would I do that, except to make my life easier by going along with the wandering herd?

                      I’m not making this stuff up. On the silence and subjection of women, I’m merely quoting the Apostles and the Fathers. On the reservation of the office of reader for men, I’m merely bearing witness to what has been the tradition from the beginning, never questioned until very recently. Only on the greater mystery of manhood and womanhood have I offered a somewhat original explanation, which, I have argued, is consistent with holy scripture, apostolic tradition, and patristic principles.

                      In response, you have argued from the feminist principle of equality to deny distinction and subjection, narrowly defining “sacerdotal” to comprise only the offices of bishop and priest, so that women may also become deacons. You did say:

                      “My contention is that the archy is appropriately preserved by the filling the offices of priest and bishop exclusively by men. Carrying this principle over to any other office is going too far . . . “

                      So you make my point to Helga and others: Sacrifice the principle on male readers and you get female deacons. Then later female priests, because the vagueness of your definition of “sacerdotal” dooms it to continual shrinkage.

                    • Carl Kraeff says

                      Dear Father Deacon– You said “In response, you have argued from the feminist principle of equality to deny distinction and subjection, narrowly defining “sacerdotal” to comprise only the offices of bishop and priest, so that women may also become deacons. You did say: “My contention is that the archy is appropriately preserved by the filling the offices of priest and bishop exclusively by men. Carrying this principle over to any other office is going too far . . . “ So you make my point to Helga and others: Sacrifice the principle on male readers and you get female deacons. Then later female priests, because the vagueness of your definition of “sacerdotal” dooms it to continual shrinkage.”

                      I think that we all agree, Helga and almost everybody else posting on Monomakhos included, that a line must be drawn to preclude the establishment of female priests and bishops. I am afraid that I do not follow you when you claim that I am vague in my definition and usage of sacerdotal. I amusing the term in its dictionary sense to make a distinction between priestly (or sacerdotal) functions and all others. Beginning with the earliest Church practice in the Book of Acts, there has been a distinction between the priesthood (filled only by male priests and bishops) and every other office. Indeed, your role as deacon initially was not liturgical but one of ministry (Acts 6). The New Testament has many examples of female deacons that should argue against the application of the arche principle to this office, llet alone to lesser offices. Instead of my use of the term being vague, it may be that you assign more meanings to the word “sacerdotal” than is warranted.

                      I must confess that I have not looked into the feminist argument and thus I must take your word that my approach may be the same as that of feminists. My only answer is that a stopped clock is right twice a day; I am not worried that feminists and I agree on this point. I just don’t see that feminists have a monopoly on the principle of equality in the Orthodox Christian sense. In short, this is not Vietnam and the domino theory need not apply.

                      On a personal note, I grew up in the Orthodox Church in Istanbul, Turkey where all of the bishops, priests, deacons, sub-deacons, chanters, readers, and choir members were male. I myself helped my father who was then the head chanter with humming the baseline note, was eventually sent to the choir and just before we left, at the age of 15, I was tonsured as a reader. In the United States, where my father by then was a priest, I was in the Choir (directed by a woman and having more women than men), read/chanted, and read the Epistle on many occasions. So, until I entered the military and was away from my home church/jurisdiction, women readers were a stranger to me. I eventually got exposed to them and, although strange at first, I got used to them. The first instance was hearing women read the Hours before DL and it did shock me at first until I realized that it was infinitely more important to serve the Hours than to preserve a lesser tradition. In our current OCA parish, women are not tonsured as readers but they do get to participate in the choir, and read the post-communion prayers, the lessons from the Old Testament during the vesperal Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great on Holy Saturday, as well as the Psalms and the Book of Acts during the Vigil at the Tomb, and reading of the Paschal Gospel in various languages. Finally, little girls get to serve post-communion wine and bread to the communicants. Incidentally, we do have a large number of men who are readers and altar servers. I guess we must be doing something right as our small parish has produced 13 deacons and priests over the past 10 years.

                    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                      Carl, I have yet to discern any principles in your arguments except sexual equality and your own comfort with the status quo, and so I cannot take you seriously when you say we must draw the line against equality for women at the priesthood. That’s sounds to me like a strictly tactical profession: You’re just drawing the line there now because you don’t want to reveal how very radical and un-Orthodox you are.

                      To prove me wrong, you will have to tell me (a) how you define priestliness (the sacerdotal) and (b) why you believe women can’t be priestly.

                  • Deacon Patrick, all I can do is ask you to consult your bishop on the matter when he returns from Seattle.

                    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                      Do you really think he’ll tell me I’m wrong? Women never read the Epistle at his cathedral. If he thought they should, he would have insisted on it. (He has changed many other things there.) Instead, he’s made sure the cathedral has men tonsured to read. He takes the office of reader seriously.

                      Elsewhere he tries not to upset people with things they don’t understand or won’t accept. He’s had quite a few other battles to fight, as you know. This one is not a priority with him. So he tolerates things that are less than perfect because everything in this world is less than perfect, and you can’t go around pointing it all out all the time without making everybody miserable.

                      But when the question is, what is the tradition, what is the better way, and what are the reasons for it, we are all obliged as Christians to speak the truth, even if it means admitting that we don’t quite measure up to our boast about being “Orthodox,” “Apostolic,” and “Christian.”

                    • Deacon Patrick, please do consult him about this. When women came to help him celebrate services in Point Reyes while he was bereft of brother monks, the then-hieromonk did not reject their company… and I’d assume these women were not just standing around while the hieromonk did all the work.

                      During his lecture to the Acton Institute, Metropolitan Jonah did call marriage a matter of mutual obedience, an idea you have objected to and labeled a two-headed monster. As he is the ranking expert on Orthodox theology between the two of you, and is your head, perhaps he can clarify his thoughts on the subject in a way you will find edifying.

                    • Dn. Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                      I’ve check half a dozen websites with his Acton Institute remarks. In what’s available online, I found no mention of husbands, wives, marriage, or “mutual obedience.” I googled his name plus “mutual obedience” and found only references to the Synod’s demand for mutual obedience of primate to synod and synod to primate.

                      Of course, when there are no men available to read, as at Point Reyes you say, no one objects to women reading. It’s when men are available to read that they should read and women should defer to them out of obedience to the Apostles and respect for the order that God has ordained.

                      Please ask yourself : How important is it for women to read the Epistle? I was a tonsured reader for several years at the cathedral but did not read the Epistle because there were already several men with beautiful voices regularly reading it. I would have enjoyed reading, but I wasn’t needed. I didn’t step forward to read until these men left and there was then a need. In your own case, is there a real need, or is there just your desire? If there’s just your desire, why should that desire trump apostolic tradition and the order God has ordained?

                    • It starts about eleven minutes into the lecture: “We can say that some of us have abbots, and some of us have abbesses. Especially those of us who are married. [Laughter] And it’s always a matter of mutual obedience. It’s always a matter of that communion in love. And that’s what we have to foster. And that’s why it’s so important. So important to truly and authentically understand what St. Paul has to teach us.”

                      Deacon Patrick, I wish you would not assume that this is a choice between an absence of males or my own desire. I don’t read because I want to, I read when I’m asked to by the priest. Sometimes there are men around and sometimes there aren’t. I do what the priest asks me to.

                      I don’t tell you this to gloat, but to simply underscore my point that this has nothing to do with feminism or ignoring the distinction between sexes. I enjoy being a woman. I have no desire whatsoever to be ordained or to take more than what God has given me. I have no interest in overturning divine order or Holy Tradition.

                    • Thank you for the link, Helga. I think his off-the-cuff comment about mutual obedience is imprecise and misleading. “Mutual obedience” only makes sense if it means mutual obedience to God as head and body. If it means abbots obeying monks and monks obeying abbots, it is an oxymoron. And, of course, he doesn’t really operate that way. He tells us what to do; we do not tell him what to do.

                      I asked you about your desire to read for two reasons — because you “got personal” with me by directing me to my bishop, and because you seem surprisingly resistant to accepting what the obvious tradition that reading the Epistle is the duty of male readers. Maybe it’s not your personal desire to read that’s behind your objection to that tradition; maybe it’s something else. My point was this: If women are not allowed to read the Epistle, what’s so wrong about that? What makes it imperative that women read the Epistle? The only possible imperatives I can see are (a) they want to, and (b) we must show ourselves to be good feminists by demonstrating that sex makes no difference in the matter. Of course, neither of these imperatives would get a hearing from the Fathers.

                    • Deacon Patrick, that’s exactly why I thought you should put the question to him, so that he could tell you himself what he means by mutual obedience.

                      I did not mean to “get personal” in a way that demeans you. It’s just that you happen to have a bishop who is very smart, very traditional, and very caring and respectful towards women. I am not sure he would agree with 100% of what you are saying here. Frankly, you also need to work on your delivery.

                      Your point about who reads in the cathedral doesn’t hold water since there are a variety of reasons why that might be the case. I could just as easily bring up the fact that he’s also the bishop of New Skete, where they have altar girls EVEN WHEN THERE ARE CAPABLE MALES AVAILABLE. Of course, that’s because it’s New Skete, and you rightly pointed out that there are some parishes and institutions that require a lighter touch to guide them out of their reckless novelty and back to the tradition.

                      I do not object to any “tradition”; I am totally against tonsuring women to the office of reader. However, women have historically been allowed to read in church without tonsure to a minor clerical order. In my experience, the function of reading has more to do with who happens to be literate (and on time for church) than anything.

                      There is no imperative to having women read, but there is an imperative to not object to a woman reading if a you’re in a parish where the priest and bishop allow it. It is not your charism to determine who may read, but theirs.

                      I do not have any particular “need” to read, but I do have the relevant skill sets, and read when I am asked.

                    • Geo Michalopulos says

                      Personally, I’m just glad that this website derailed the further feminization of the GOA, if only in one particular church. (BTW, I think that directives from NYC will start going out quietly to GOA parishes to not put the Archbishop in such a position again.)

                      Why is feminization so dangerous? Because a feminized church yields to neo-paganism.

                      Please note: I don’t believe that “masculinzation” is the antidote as this would lead to neo-paganism as well. Feminism leads to Gaia-worship, masculinism leads to militaristic fascism. What I believe in true equality, the divine order which was ordained from the beginning.

                      So how did the GOA get feminized? Because enough of its hierarchy and clergy were closeted homosexuals and if it’s one thing we know about such men is that they can’t stand up to strong women. (More than likely, it was strong mothers/absent fathers that made them into mama’s boys in the first place.)

                    • Helga, your argument in sum (aside from the ad hominem “Who are you to say?”) is merely an appeal to particular authority and particular practice. That is to say, you justify opposition to longstanding, apostolic tradition by saying, “See, this bishop allows women to read,” and, “See, in this present time and place, women read.” Well, if this were all we had to go on, if we didn’t know anything else about Orthodox tradition, your argument would make sense.

                      But it’s not all we have to go on. We have two thousand years of Orthodox teaching and practice, and only in the last 50 or 100 have women been allowed to read the Epistle. And this change has not come about because faith is stronger now, but because faith is weaker — so weak that men don’t want to read, women resent being told they shouldn’t, and pastors shrink from teaching the tradition for fear of offending them.

                      I see no difference between you and Carl on this. Neither of you accepts what the Church has always taught on the subject — that women should not take leading or starring roles in public worship because God has subordinated them to men and expects more modesty from them. (Read the Fathers I quoted above.) Both of you put the principles of sexual equality and comfort with the status quo before the principle of sexual distinction and social hierarchy on which our sanity rest.

                      As Carl shows, such thinking leads naturally beyond female readers to female deacons — and ultimately to female priests and bishops, and even worse things. After all, if literacy is the main consideration in reading, why can’t women be deacons? All deacons do is run around reading things.

                • Our Matushka read the Epistle regularly after her husband…our Priest..passed …! I thought nothing of this, but, the ‘tonsuring’ of women…is a serious ‘innovation’ and against Church tradition.

              • Maybe they are referring to Ephesians 5:21 “Being subject one to another, in the fear of Christ.” ?

                Women maintaining order in church has been documented as something women (specifically deaconesses) have done in earlier times. No usher is tonsured. They do have a blessing to maintain order however.

                • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                  Women kept order among women, guarding the women’s doors, in the Church’s history. They did not exercise authority over men in the Church. They didn’t do so much in Christian society either, though there were exceptions on account of the world’s fallenness.

                  As for Eph. 5, you’ll notice that in elaborating on 5:21, the Holy Apostle Paul does not say, “Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, and husbands submit yourselves to your wives.” He says, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, . . . [and] husbands love your wives.” [5:22, 25] Then he says, “Children, obey your parents . . . [and] ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath.” So after telling the Ephesians to submit themselves “one to another,” he then tells them what he means, and he doesn’t mean “husbands obey your wives.” None of the Fathers teach that.

                  Now, one could define submission in such a way that husbands are indeed to “submit” to their wives. I myself did that last year in St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly (“The Problem with Hierarchy: Ordered Relations in God and Man,” SVTQ 54 2, 2010). But I did it by distinguishing obedience from condescension. Obedience is when the body does as the head wishes; condescension is when the head goes along with what the body wishes. Our Lord condesended to His Mother when He changed water into wine; He was nevertheless her head, she was obliged to obey Him, and He was not obliged to obey her.

                  Distinguishing between obedience and condescension is the only way we can speak of mutual submission in Eph. 5:21 and still maintain the Holy Apostle Paul’s analogy of husbands and wives to Christ and His Church in Eph. 5:22-33. Without the distinction of obedience and condescension, “mutual submission” means “mutual obedience,” and Christ and His Church are not mutually obedient. Christ loves the Church; the Church obeys Christ.

                  But faith is so weak nowadays that the teaching of the husband’s love and the wife’s submission has given way first to their “mutual submission” and then — quite literally at a Greek church in Northern Virginia — to their “mutual obedience.” Husband and wife are no longer head and body; they are now a two-headed monster.

                  • In that passage, it does not explicitly say that wives should love their husbands, only that husbands should love their wives. It only explicitly says that women should fear their husbands. Do you think that women are not called by Christ to *love* their husbands?

                  • Michael Bauman says

                    Man is head of the woman as Christ is head of the Church.

                    Man’s authority over women is ordained by God in the Scripture, but it is only compleletly activated when men are willing, in accord with our nature, to sacrifice ourselves for them and our families. This innate calling to sacrifice in a manner that is ontologically different that women is also one of the keys to understaning the male priesthood.

                    What are your thoughts Dn. Brian?

                    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                      My thoughts are that the traditional way of reading Ephesians is the more honest way. The feminist way is manifestly dishonest. With its absurdity of “mutual obedience,” it destroys the analogies of husband and wife to head and body and to Christ and the Church, and thereby relieves wives of any real obligation to obey their husbands, yet it still obligates husbands to give their lives for their wives.

          • Peter A. Papoutsis says

            Father, Thank you for your comments. I do not know the theology of the Church in this matter yet I know that in the GOA, my jurisdiction which I am a faithful member of, many, MANY things are done fast and loose, especially in the inclusion of women in our “lower orders.” Although I may agree with you given the current state of our society and the militant form of Feminisim that we have in this country and around the world, to open the door to such things ultimately leads or can very well lead to a sense of “Entitlement” to such things as the priesthood. This is why we must be very careful in such things with very clear guidlines losted and promulgated so there is no confusion.

            If such guidlines have been issued and distributed that both Archbishop Demetrios and the Holy Synod have approved for the entire GOA such events should and must be postposed until clarity can be had.

            However, my experience in our Archdiocese tells me that such clarity if Not already issued will never be issued and problems will eventually arise down the road. May I just point out that the Episcopal Assemby on its own website endorses a Pro-Feminist Organization that does activily seek the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood. This is just food for tought as the GOA sometimes does not seem to be aware of the current Zietgiest. Also, people are not as ignorant or as foolish as you would make them out to be just because they can see the potential problems that WILL arise in the future because of such events. Again, food for thought.

            Peter A. Papoutsis

      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        Vladika Tikhon inquires:

        “Does Arizona belong to Gerasimos or Isaiah?”

        Yes, Gerasimos—as in “Just call me Jerry” of his first news interview, during which interview he avowed that his favorite TV show was “Desperate Housewives,” or something like that.

        I wonder how many catechumens that news interview cost my congregation.

        Bishops like Gerasimos make it real tough to get Americans interested in the Orthodox Church.

        • Fr Patrick, that is one of the things that has always raised my ire. In the last 15-20 years when we saw sincere inquirers looking into the Orthodox Faith, it always amazed me how easy it was to put them off by some stupid or childish event/statement/occurrence done in-house that cast us in a negative light.

          That is not to say that we should have soft-pedaled our embarrassments or pretended that all was sweetness and light and thus risk their disillusionment years hence because that would have been bearing false witness on our part. But the middle way of at least and attempt at a rigorous Orthopraxy and a sober speaking style among our bishops would have sent the clear message to inquirers that Orthodox are not perfect, that there are problems within the Church, but that despite our fallen nature we are serious about our faith.

          Talking about cheesy TV shows with lots of T&A, selling videos of MBFGW or grovelling before the President calling him “another Alexander the Great” does the exact opposite.

    • Jane Rachel says

      Your Grace, why is it that females are not tonsured or ordained in the Orthodox Church? Why is it important? Thank you!

      • Jane Rachel says

        P.S. I really would like to know in the sense of having it put into words I can take around with me. In other words, to know, understand, and be able to explain and talk about the subject with others. It seems that because we, male and female, are created in the image of God, we can point straight to the Holy Trinity when we talk about men, women, bishops, priests, deacons, the altar, the iconostasis, marriage, and all the wisdom and knowledge and understanding within the Orthodox Church. This is what I mean when I ask the question. Like this: it is perfect that men are ordained deacons, priests and bishops and women are, well, not.

        • Dn. Brian Patrick Mitchell says

          His Grace seems to have retired for the night. Please pardon me for offering my own answer. This is at least something I have written quite a bit about:

          The Church does in fact tonsure women to be nuns and to be readers in female monasteries, and it has in the past ordained them as deaconesses when there was a sacramental need for such. But it has not regularly tonsured or ordained women to major or minor clerical ranks because this would place women over men in the Church’s sacramental hierarchy, violating both the natural relation of the sexes and the economical subjection of the woman to the man on account of the fall.

          Like it or not, there is both a natural order between the man and woman, resembling the order within the Trinity, and an economical order between the man and woman on account of the fall. The economical order is one of many hierarchies established by God, subjecting some people to other people for the sake of survival and salvation (men over women, parents over children, masters over servants, rulers over people). The natural order of the man and the woman is not a hierarchy but an “archy,” based on the man being the arche of the woman just as the Father is the arche (beginning, principle) of the Son and the Holy Spirit. The promotion of women over men in the sacramental hierarchy of the Church violates both of these orders, placing the woman in the “archic” position over the man as the one to speak, to lead, to teach, to direct, to initiate.

          These natural and economical orders are not overthrown by our “new creation” in Christ. Instead, out of respect for them, the Apostle directed that women were not to speak in church or exercise authority over men. The Fathers all took their lead from the Apostle. Whenever the subject of women as priests came up, they merely cited the woman’s subjection to the man as the reason women can’t be priests. They didn’t make women readers for several reasons: (1) the singing of women was greatly restricted out of respect for the Apostle’s requirement for silence, (2) having women sing solo in the middle of the church was inconsistent with the modesty expected of women, who were also obliged to cover their heads in church, and (3) the office of reader was considered a priestly office, a first step toward higher offices.

          That’s the tradition. That’s the scandal that most plainly sets the faithful of this generation apart from the faithless.

          • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

            Well, I’m on Pacific time and have not retired, except from the active episcopate. I do go away from my PC at times, sometimes for hours. Nevertheless, however, if Jane Rachel and Reverend Deacon Brian feel that Jane Rachel’s request for words that she can take around with her and which she hadn’t read before here has been met, then I won’t add anything at all. It is, after all, Reverend Deacon Brian’s specialty.

            • Jane Rachel says

              I can’t find the answer on, am still looking elsewhere. “Carry around with me” means being able to know I have a real answer that is acceptable because it rings true, and is simple enough to carry around in my head. So when a person asks, I can give a ready answer that makes sense to her, too. I know it’s a perfect, or perfectly good reason, but my knowledge as to why is limited, and I can’t seem to find answers online so thought I would ask Bishop Tikhon because he’s a bishop in the Orthodox Church. (It’s not easy knowing how to properly address a bishop, and getting sweaty palms about that doesn’t help.) I’m not so much looking for opinions or interpretations, but for the Church’s answer as to why men and not women are ordained. Do females need to be tonsured in order to be readers? Isn’t a blessing enough? I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking.

              • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                What, you don’t believe me? 🙁

                Would you believe St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain?

                “Teaching and chanting are inconsistent with the nature and destiny of a Christian woman, just as are the priesthood and the bishopric. … The ancient idolaters had priestesses to officiate at the altars and in the temples of idols, in which demons were worshiped; and hence it is that deluded heretics derived this impious custom of theirs of letting women teach and sing and govern in their churches. Shall we Orthodox Christians imitate them? By no means!”

                • Patrick Henry Reardon says

                  St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain is quoted as saying, “Teaching and chanting are inconsistent with the nature and destiny of a Christian woman.”

                  St. Nicodemus had his bad days too.

              • Jane Rachel says

                I found it! Here is a very good article from, written by Fr. Alister Anderson. Link:
                It is simple, clear, and contains specific, “carry-around” answers. These two paragraphs especially are exactly what I was looking for, but the whole article should be read:

                We have a sacerdotal priesthood. Bishops and priests are not only presbyters as I said earlier, they are also individually a sacerdos. Sacerdos is a Latin word which means “an offerer of God’s gifts.” An Orthodox priest therefore is one who offers God’s gifts to His people as well as being set aside as being the people’s gift to God. We believe that God comes to us in a very special way through the sacraments. We believe that only a priest who has been given the authority by the Church through Christ can administer those sacraments. Only a priest and a bishop have the function and the authority to consecrate the elements of bread and wine to become the Body and Blood of Christ. Only the priest and the bishop have the function and the authority to bless water and oil in Holy Baptism and Holy Unction and to sanctify material objects for devotional and spiritual purposes. Only a priest and a bishop have the function and the authority to absolve people from their sins. Only a priest or bishop who is a man can exercise this function and authority because Christ ordained only men to have this kind of function.

                No protestant minister, male or female, claims or even wants to be a sacerdos and a part of a sacerdotal ministry.
                Now there is a third compelling reason for the male priesthood. Orthodox Christians believe that their bishops, priests and deacons are Ikons of Christ and therefore must be male because Jesus Christ is male. To understand this we must think about what an Ikon is. An Ikon is a religious symbol, but yet much more than a symbol. It is an instrument of Divine reality. It is a picture and a vision for the eyes which conveys a spiritual reality to the worshipper. We can say that an Ikon is an image of the Divine, but we must say at the same time that an Ikon has no divine power of its own. That would make an Ikon an idol and idols belong to pagan worship. An Ikon has the spiritual function to help us receive into our souls the spiritual awareness of what it depicts. For example; when we look at an Ikon depicting the crucifixion, the Ikon helps us to participate more spiritually in the wonder of Christ’s love for us and the efficacious power of His sacrifice on the cross. Looking at an Ikon in our worship is the most direct way we can visually represent Christ’s atoning death for the forgiveness of our sins. Looking at an Ikon strengthens the spiritual reality of our worship.

                The same thing should happen when we look at our clergy. When we are at worship our priest or bishop becomes an Ikon of Christ. Christ is God but He is also a fully perfect human man. That means that a priest, as His Ikon or most true symbol, must also be a man. A priest must be male because Jesus is a man. In the Incarnation God became man not woman. The male priesthood is a supernatural concept. In that sense it is a mystery just as the Incarnation or Resurrection is a mystery. Reason and logic cannot fully explain it, or define it, or detract from the truth of it, any more than you and I can explain it as being the way of God.

                We can say that God has no particular sex, male or female. But in the Revelation of God through Christ, God chose to become a man because He wanted to take to Himself a bride which is the Church, the Family of God. In like manner, God also chose men to represent Him as the head of the human Church family. God decided that the function of consecrating, blessing and absolving is the role of man to do in our human existence on earth. Men have not made this their role. God made it men’s role. As individuals we believe God’s Word about this or we choose not to. But as members of the family of Orthodox Christian Churches we have no choice. The Church belongs to God and God has made His choice. God will do what He wants to do and what He wants is always right and best for us. God has chosen and blessed us with a male priesthood. Let us rejoice and be glad and thankful for it.

                • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                  Fr. Alistair Anderson is a dear friend of mine, a man of strong and sincere faith who is very conservative in his theology and anthropology and who would not disagree with what I have written above, but in this article from many years back he makes a very weak case for male priesthood that the Fathers of the Church never made and that effectively abandons everything outside the altar to radical feminism, without actually securing its purely symbolic masculinity of the priesthood, for once we have reduced manhood to mere image it is but another small step to saying we don’t need the image anymore because God is neither male or female. It’s a trap. Don’t go there.

                  • Jane Rachel says

                    The statement, “Don’t go there” is why I am reluctant to use google to find answers to questions about Orthodox teaching and Tradition, and exactly why I asked Bishop Tikhon, who has been Orthodox for fifty years, contributes to this blog, and, I have found, replies to questions and comments in ways I can (usually) wrap my mind around. The biggest problem for me is in finding the right words to use in asking questions or making comments.

                    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                      The simple answer is that readers are part of the Church hierarchy, which is reserved for men because of the preexisting and divinely ordained hierarchy of the man and the woman. Any other answer is a dodge to avoid that presently unpopular truth.

          • Deacon, if I may add, it’s not just Paul who confirmed this archic principle. Our Lord Himself did so at the Last Supper when only His male disciples were allowed to help Him originate the Eucharist. Even His own Most Blessed mother was not present at this meal nor the many women disciples who helped sustain His ministry.

            I bring this up in order to protect St Paul from the various calumnies that have been heaped upon his head the past century or so. You know, the idiotic ones that state that he was the “real” founder of Christianity or the reactionary who took Jesus’ simple precepts and made them “tougher,” etc.

            • ” it’s not just Paul who confirmed this archic principle. Our Lord Himself did so at the Last Supper when only His male disciples were allowed to help Him originate the Eucharist. Even His own Most Blessed mother was not present at this meal nor the many women disciples who helped sustain His ministry.”

              A very important observation!

            • Patrick Henry Reardon says

              This language is part of the problem, George.

              Our deacon is fond the expression “archic,” but there is a reason my spell-check tags it: English recognizes no such adjective.

              As for the expression “archic principle,” just look at it long enough and you’ll see the problem.

              There is no such thing as an “archic principle,” pretty much for the same reason there is no such thing as an “anarchic confusion” or a “round circle” or a “female woman.”

              • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                The problem is the language as inherited, which has not given us a word for the kind of order characteristic of the Trinity or of the man and woman as created. Neither can be called a hierarchy by most definitions of that word. A new word is needed, and when new words are needed we do often invent them.

              • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                And “archic principle” is nothing I said.

          • Monk James says

            I, at least, would be very grateful to Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell for some attestation of his statement here: ‘The Church does in fact tonsure women… to be readers in female monasteries.’

            • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

              I may be wrong about this. I may have confused simply having women function as readers in female monasteries with having them tonsured as readers. Off hand, I can’t recall anything to support my statement that they have regularly been tonsured for that purpose.

              • I’ve never heard of that myself, Deacon Patrick. As far as I know, women can be deaconesses and can be blessed to serve as altar servers when needed. I have never heard of women being tonsured as a reader, only at her baptism or as a monastic.

                It has been my pleasure to sing in the choir, chant services, or read OT or Epistle readings in church, but nobody gave me a haircut or a cassock in order for me to do so.

                • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                  I do still believe that some women have been tonsured as readers in recent years, but I can’t attest that that’s been a regular practice even in monasteries of women.

      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        Jane Rachel inquires: “Your Grace, why is it that females are not tonsured or ordained in the Orthodox Church?”

        The first answer, I suppose, involves the distinction between the tonsuring of clergy and other forms of tonsure (chiefly baptism and monasticism, in which there is no discrimination of sex).

        The second answer involves the priority of practice over theory in Orthodox discipline. in the case of ordination, many centuries of the ordination of males-only came before critical thinking on the matter.

        That is the reason Jane Rachel’s question “why?” poses a hermeneutic problem. For most of her history, Holy Church simply trusted an instinct that appeared to be native the Christian faith.

        In like manner, Christians were painting images of Jesus, His Mother, and the saints before criticism of the practice forced them to defend it. The critical “why ?” came later.

        At present, Holy Church is still in the process of figuring out “why” we do not ordain women.

        So far, I confess, the reasons advanced for this discipline do not seem to be very persuasive to some folks. With my own astonished ears, I heard Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) assert that we Orthodox must maintain an “open mind” on the question.

        As it happened, Metropolitan Kallistos made this irresponsible assertion in a large ecumenical group that included numerous Protestants on pilgrimage to membership in the Orthodox Church. I am aware of evidence that some of those pilgrims immediately canceled the pilgrimage and headed off in the general direction of the Tiber. (I recall Father Meyendorff, of saintly memory, remarking that the wrong church got the pope.)

        In the recent nonsense in Arizona (to cite only the present example) we have evidence that even our hierarchs are not truly convinced about the incompatibility of the female sex and the clerical state.

        Yes, it is historically imperative that we ask “why?” with respect to that incompatibility.

        It is not always the case, however, that the historically imperative is quickly followed by historically possible. Right now, it is not possible to answer “why?” with clarity because right now the Orthodox Church is not thinking clearly about the structure of Creation.

        The history of iconoclasm provides an analogue. While we waited impatiently for Nicaea II, thousands of icons were destroyed.

        The present question is raised by the phenomenon of Feminism, nor can I imagine that the answer will be clear until Feminism is widely regard as the demon I believe it to be.

        That is to say, Jane Rachel’s “why?” will be a lot easier to answer when human beings once again acquire a healthier respect for a principle rooted in the structure of anthropology: “Male and female He created them.”

        • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

          Father, could you be a little more evasive? I’m having trouble not seeing the obvious. 😉

        • Jane Rachel says

          Why? Because God made Eve out of Adam’s rib.

        • Carl Kraeff says

          Dear Father Patrick–As you may know, the Church of Greece is reinstituting deaconesses. It seems to me that at least that local Church is making a distinction between priests and deacons, one forever reserved to males and the other open to both sexes, even though they are both orders of the clergy. Thus, would it not have been more accurate to have said “In the recent nonsense in Arizona (to cite only the present example) we have evidence that even our hierarchs are not truly convinced about the incompatibility of the female sex and the Priesthood” instead of “the clerical state”?

        • M. Stankovich says

          On a number of occasions, I have witnessed elderly women, busily at work cleaning the altar. They piously entered and exited through the Deacon’s Doors. The Russian priest told me, “they have received a special blessing to enter the altar because they are ‘post-menopausal,’ widows, and women of piety. It is a very old tradition in the ROC.”

          On a number of occasions, I have witnessed women monastics serving in the altar for Vespers – and Vespers is the extent of my experience – handing the priest the censor, opening and closing doors as the Priest entered & exited the altar, but not making the Entrance of Vespers with candles and the offering of incense While I admit I can be a poor judge of age, they did not appear “post-menopausal” to me.

          The Festal Menaion details that the Theotokos was brought to the temple by her parents to be “raised with the other virgins” (suggesting this was not an unusual occurrence), and that she was specifically taken by the High Priest into the “Holy of Holies,” Yet, the Scriptural readings for Vespers, Matins, and the Liturgy contain no narrative of this event – the Liturgy Gospel reading does not even mention Mary by name; and obviously, because the narrative does not exist.

          Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) wrote that “God created woman from the rib of Adam,” as opposed to, say his hand, “because it is the closest thing to his heart.” And In quoting St. Methodius of Patara, he continues “Adam, upon seeing her said, ‘She is the other myself.'” Does this not sound like “natural order?”

          The iconography of the Church is hardly a good analogy of the “male character of the Christian Priesthood,” if only because Christ was purposely depicted as a child; “God before the ages,” dependent and in the protective arms of his mother. The Pantocrator came much later. Think “Arius, audacious, our God a child?”

          But it is somehow obvious why a female infant, described as “washed,” “justified,” and “sealed” – “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as theses (Mk. 10:14) – and “pre-menopauseal” should not be carried into the altar because “God created them male and female?” That’s it?

          Jane Rachel asks a specific, significant question of the clergy, and ends up on Google. Very encouraging.

          • Dn. Brian Patrick Mitchell says

            Michael’s fault-finding points up the need for pastors to be braver and plainer in teaching apostolic tradition, even if many people don’t want to hear it, as well as the need for new thinking (even new words) to explain apostolic tradition without explaining it away.

  9. Rdr. Christopher says

    George –

    Were we sure this was going to happen, and is Father Andrew using “tonsure” losely? Was the Bishop in town, or can a Priest tonsure anyone?

    Tonsuring someone isn’t something that just gets ‘cancelled” whilly-nilly unless it is actually just a symbolic willy-nilly event that doesn’t even mention the “readership being the first step into the priesthood.”

    While I will admit that even the thought of such an event upsets me greatly, we also want to go into these things with soberness, yes, but also by giving our brothers the benefit of the doubt until there is no more room for it.

  10. Matt Gates says

    Reading by women (although not ordination to the readership) has become a fairly standard practice in a lot of parishes in many jurisdictions over the past few decades, as has bringing baby girls into the sanctuary when they are churched. Headscarves have become something of a rarity in most jurisdictions. Traditions prohibiting women from communing or even entering churches while they are menstruating are seldom, if ever, discussed or advocated. Personally, I have no problem with any of these changes, but some people do. That’s just to say that a lot things have changed pretty fast with regard to gender in the Church. I think there are very few people who would see all of those changes as unequivocally bad. How this ties in with issue in question, I really don’t know, but things do change.

    • Matt, I have NEVER heard of baby girls being churched in the sanctuary, even in the GOA (which is notoriously inconsistent with its Orthopraxy). In fact, I hear complaints of 40-day-old unbaptized baby boys being churched in the sanctuary. If I’m wrong about baby girls, someone please inform me.

      • Dn. Brian Patrick Mitchell says

        The churching of boys and girls should be a teaching opportunity — a time for pastors to explain to people the divinely ordained difference between male and female. Passing on the opportunity only breeds ignorance and error.

      • Word has it Metropolitan Philip has done churchings of baby girls in the sanctuary. All the Antiochian priests I know church both sexes in front of the Royal Doors.

        • Dn. Brian Patrick Mitchell says

          It’s odd when you think about: The difference of male and female is so obvious in the flesh and so fundamental to human life, yet Orthodox pastors these days seem determined not to have anything to say about it.

          • I don’t really see how the difference between males and females is reflected in either practice. I’m fine with churching both in front of the Royal Doors. Unbaptized/non-Orthodox shouldn’t be brought into the altar area under any circumstances, unless there is a fire or other emergency that requires them to go back there.

            • Dn. Brian Patrick Mitchell says

              There’s nothing mystical in the different ways of churching boys vs. girls, which is why the tradition is so easily cast aside, but making a difference in the way we church them does make the point that boys and girls themselves are different and are ordained by God for different roles in life generally and in the Church specifically. This is the Christian truth that people today are so keen to deny, which is why they object to the different ways of churching infants as well as head-coverings for women and every other symbol or rule that offends them.

              I would warn that you can’t throw away every outward sign of sex difference and still expect men and women to relate to each other the way God intended. Heterosexuality is dependent upon distinction of the sexes; do away with that distinction and you do away with healthy heterosexual psychology and abandon boys and girls to homosexuality and unhealthy heterosexuality.

              • Deacon, I’m glad you brought up the point about “unhealthy heterosexuality.” That is just as destructive to our souls as anything else. Just go to any triple-x porn site and see what is now available just two clicks away. There is no way that any sexual/gay liberationist can tell me that these lifestyles are “unhealthy” while “monogamous” sodomy is. (Among males at least, there is no such thing as “monogamous” homosexuality. In practice, a complete oxymoron.)

        • Helga, to my mind that makes more sense. After all, neither girl nor boy is usually baptized before the Churching so why should an unbaptized baby (male or female for that matter) be brought into the Sanctuary?

          I think for Orthodoxy to mature in America, we should go back to the Chrysostomic principle that “the priesthood is denied to all women and most men.” This would mean that service behind the Icon Screen should be limited to ordained subdeacons –that means grown men who are married. Or in monasteries, single men who have received the order of subdeacon.

          What I’ve seen in monasteries is that the lanterns are usually stationed on the solea and rassophore and/or novice monks (and nuns) pick them up and lead the procession as the ordained clergy (priest, deacon, sub-deacon) comes out of the North Deacon’s Door. In the parish churches, I would even be in favor of young people wearing special robes (but no belts) and stationed always near the Sanctuary doing this. Girls as well as boys.

      • G. Sheppard says

        Unfortunately, you are mistaken. It is a practice in at least some of the Antiochian parishes and though I love my parish and my priests, it bothers me. We also have women readers. I’m not sure if they were tonsure or not. Frankly, I don’t want to know. – It’s hard for me to understand why a woman would want to be a member of the clergy. One of the things I like about the Church is being in a place where I feel protected, which is not the case at the office, at home or anywhere else. What these men don’t realize is that by tweaking tradition they are not helping women, they are hurting them. Sometimes Church is the ONLY place a woman can be a woman, which helps temper the negative effects of the secular world.

      • Peter A. Papoutsis says

        In Orthodoxy male Children are churched inside the sanctuary. Female children at the front of the doors. Females are ritualistically unclean because of their menstration and can never go inside the sanctuary unless a special blessing and dispensation is given by the Bishop.

        I know that infant girls do not menstrate but because they can and will when puberty hits this makes them ritualistically unclean. Many believe that Baptism cleanses us, but this is a misunderstanding of what is going on.
        The Altar is the holy of holies. The Holy Spirit has consecrated this area and the body and blood of Christ are transformed into as such in this area.

        The area is the most holy area in the whole world. Females are never ritualistically clean to enter, and males are never ritualistically clean to walk in front of the altar while inside, unless you are clergy or have a special blessing and dispensation to do so.

        I do not know fully all of the theology behind it, but I know the practice.


        • I don’t have any objection in principle to the Orthodox Tradition requiring differing liturgical treatment of the sexes. How do we help those coming in from the surrounding culture who have been educated to believe that equal treatment expresses equal value/dignity and different treatment expresses *not* distinct roles that teach about the relationship of God with His people, but different (lesser) value/dignity for women? Not having a voice (in the congregation) for such a mindset is like not having a voice in the world at all. Is there a place for economy in liturgical practice in view of the deeply entrenched propaganda in our culture that equal dignity requires same treatment? (I’m talking here about anything outside of ordinations that lead to the Priesthood.) There are some rites in Church that are the same for both boys and girls, are there not? I’m thinking Baptism and Chrismation in particular, along with accompanying rites. We all approach Confession and Eucharist in the same way as well (apart from the menstruation issue, which is mostly dropped here in the U.S.). In my parish, women sometimes read the Epistle and the hours before the DL, although more often it is men. Men Epistle Readers enter the Sanctuary to receive the book, women only approach the Deacon’s door. I assume all have been at least formally blessed to read (or are receiving the blessing in this action of approaching and receiving the Book of Epistles). I have never seen a man, let alone a woman, tonsured a Reader anywhere (but I’ve not been Orthodox that long). Hardly any women in my parish, except a few from the old country, wear head coverings. (I gave mine up even before I came to my present parish because it kept sliding off and distracting me during worship!) Though I have been a member of the Church a few years now, I’m still very much a catechumen when it comes to understanding the Liturgical expression of the Tradition.

          I think it would be most prudent for our Bishops and Priests to clearly understand and teach what all these biblical rules regarding ritual cleanliness really mean/meant and how they are applied in Orthodox Liturgy and what the real spiritual meaning of this is. For the modern mindset, “unclean” has the connotation of simply “disgusting and to be rejected” which I doubt is the biblical meaning at all.

      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        George confesses, “I have NEVER heard of baby girls being churched in the sanctuary.”

        The instructions we received from the Patriarchate of Antioch prescribed that there is to be no distinction made in the reception of male and female babies into the Church. There is also a rubric in the Antiochian service book which FORBIDS taking an unbaptized child into the sanctuary. This is not supposed to be done at the churching, but at the baptism.

        Here is how we do it at All Saints: The babies (and others) are baptized between Matins and the Divine Liturgy. During the latter, the babies are carried behind the priest in the Great Entrance. After the Great Entrance, the babies are elevated over the four sides of the altar—both boys and girls.

        This practice adheres strictly to the rubric of the Antiochian prayer book and the directive we received from the Patriarchate.

        • Peter A. Papoutsis says

          Very interesting. Like I said I am not that familiar with the teaching on this issue, but the little bit I do know comes from priests in Greece, specifically from my dad’s village priest, that takes the baby boy in the altar but not the baby girl.

          Also, I distinctly remember seeing this being perfomed in a village church in Greece in a National Geographic documentary on the different treatment of the sexes in various world cultures. Greek culture, I must admit, was the most clear-cut about treating men and women differently.

          Thank you for your insight in this matter father. It is greatly appriciated.


          PS in very traditional Greek Orthodox churches, usually back in Greek Villages, a very clear segregation exists. Men on the right side of the room and women on the left side of the room. The older Greek women even leave the church building altogether when the Holy Spirit descends to change the elements into the body and blood of Christ.

          My dad still has very clear memories of this occuring, and loves telling me about them when we go to our local church. He also likes to hear more fire and brimstone in the sermons. How did he grow up? Wow. Stubborn Old Greek. Gotta love him.


        • This has been my experience when I attended an Antiochian Church as well. No distinction between male and female babies in the matter of the Churching of the child, both were taken back behind the alter.

        • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

          I wonder: when the Antiochene Patriarchate introduced that novelty, did they provide a rationale or attempt to find precedent in the Tradition, for example, the Holy Fathers.
          Please try to be more careful with terminology. There is no such thing as “churching’ infants. Women are “churched’ forty days after childbirth and if their children have not been baptized there is no carrying of them into or up to the Altar. Every male child is potentially a Presbyter and this is signified by adding a circuit around the Altar with such. There is no point at all to carrying a girl child into the Altar then or at any other time except to avoid hurt pride.

    • Dn. Brian Patrick Mitchell says

      People have no problem with these innovations because they don’t know any better. No one has taught them what the Church has always taught about male and female. The relevant scriptures are rarely read in church. The Fathers are never consulted because they contradict the feminist anthropology of the unbelieving world. It’s easier for pastors and teachers to just to go with the flow and keep quiet about the gradual abandonment of apostolic belief and practice.

  11. cynthia curran says

    Well, George you can be critical of St Paul’s over the female readers. But St Paul in Irvine is involved with Focus North America in Orange County and helps a lot of those folks that live in the motels. So, these are liberal folks that practice what they preach about charity.

    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

      Isn’t that the rather Iconoclastic parish where they BRAG about not having an iconostasis at all, but “only those little icons you see down in front?”
      Iconostases were a rather automatic reaction by the Church to the sudden revolutionary changes caused by St. Constantine, changing the Church from a place where only “vetted” and dedicated initiates were allowed to behold the Unbloody Sacrifice into a public hall where any “self-respecting” Byzantine citizen should find himself if he wants to get ahead.
      One would foresee that when the Church through seminary-trained clergy was returned to Her earliest piety and polity, then the iconostasis might be abolished (unless one had become addicted to the “dark, obscurantist” idea of being linked directly to heaven through it, a belief foreign to the Holy Fathers of Irvine)..

      • Your Grace, Fr Hans, what I am picking up from this history of iron-willed parish councils and how they misruled in the past is the stark similarity to today’s Metropolitan Council and how they needlessly and ceaselessly browbeat His Beatitude. It’s just that with the Metropolitan Council it’s done on a national level.

        • George, I think you meant this for the other thread, but I feel the same way. When traditional church polity gets out of whack, all kinds of terrible things can happen.

    • God bless them. I’m a big fan of FOCUS. (Unfortunately the GOA is not.) BTW, I am in favor of special tonsures for women it’s just that it needs to be standardized. Why doesn’t the EA get together and come up with a standard rite? And a blessing for Altar Boys (as opposed to sub-deacons), and standardize the dress (belts only for subdeacons, etc.)?

      • Peter A. Papoutsis says

        Such things must be closely monitored as they can easily become back door entries to the clerical ranks.
        Good night.


    • Greetings!
      St. Paul’s Greek Orthodox Church in Irvine is the church I attend. Therefore, I would like to address what is being said in these posts here and correct some inaccuracies. (1) St. Paul’s has both politically liberal and politically conservative parishioners. This is the heart of Orange County, a bastion of conservative politics so there are far more conservatives than liberals at our parish. (Although of course what really matters is Orthodoxy and not politics). Reader & Dean Paraskeve Tibbs is herself politically a staunch conservative and a generous, upright and thoroughly Orthodox member of our congregation. (2) St. Paul’s has a low iconstasis for better or for worse (personally, I wish we had a higher iconostasis), due to the vision of the politically conservative founder of our parish Father George Stephanides of Blessed Memory. In this he emulated St. John of Kronstadt who installed a low screen iconostasis in his church in Kronstadt so that the altar and celebrant might be visible throughout the service and thus engage the laity more deeply in the service. Low iconstases were (historically) typical during the earliest periods of the (legal) Eastern Orthodox church so they are by no means an innovation. St. Paul’s has a very high number of converts by the way, most from Protestantism. It should also not be neglected to say that St. Paul’s also has a very prominent and large icon of the Theotokos– of the type called Platytera and a beautiful mosaic icon of the Pantokrator in its dome. The narthex is full of icons as well. I don’t know anyone who brags about the fact that we have a low iconostasis. It simply is that way. There is much about St. Paul’s architecturally that will never be repeated in another Orthodox Church because it is due to the unique vision of Father George Stephanides and elements he saw as attracting and illuminating Orthodoxy to Protestants. Even the name is unusual: “St. Paul” and not “St. Peter and Paul.” Nonetheless, as spiritual offspring of the Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul, our parish has also managed to build a church in Tanzania, buy well digging equipment and send it there so women and children no longer need to walk for hours a day to get clean water. In addition, we have sent two medical missions to the villages in the area of St. Pauls (which is the name of the Orthodox Church we helped build, including with our physical labor, in Tanzania). In exchange, the Tanzanians showed us Christ and the true meaning of Christ’s teaching: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
      IC XC
      NI KA

      • Photeini, all of this made me curious to find out what all the fuss was about, so I looked up pictures of the parish. That’s not a low iconostasis, that’s an absent iconostasis. I hardly know what to call those things in the place of the iconostasis, but whatever it is, it’s a modern art exhibit that does not belong in a church.

        Eve Tibbs’ personal piety has no bearing on the fact that it was wrong to tonsure her. It goes against the universal consensus of Orthodox tradition to use this office on women. The better path for her would have been to refuse to participate in this.

        • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

          Yes, indeed, Helga. Photeini and the other Orange County parishioners at St. Paul’s Church are right to brag about their good deeds and achievements in order to justify the lack of an iconostasis.
          If anyone has ever seen a picture of St. John of Kronstadt’s church, he or she will see how totally opposite it is to what St. Paul’s in Irvine does not have. The Altar is raised high from the floor of the nave, and even if one were to ascend the stairs and stand on tiptoe, one could never see over the massive, one-tier Iconostasis into the Altar except when the Holy Doors or Deacon’s doors happened to be opened solely when there was a need to pass through them. St; John was an untra-conservative and dedicated monarchist. Many misguided and badly informed clergy in our Church in our time have instituted an expanded form of the “General Confession” which begins the German Lutheran Morning Service and then have attempted to justify that by claiming that St. John of Kronstadt instituted something like that. “General Confession” according to St. John of Kronstadt’s usage was nothing like what we see, for example, in America, where NOBODY confesses anything to anybody except the Priest who confesses to all possible sins except x-rated ones, which, apparently, do not count. In St. John’s Church however, the order of Confession already in the Service Book was folllowed carefully. The ONLY variation was that after the prayer “Behold my, child,,,,” everybody would say Out Loud, loud enough so anyone could hear, his or her sins, all of them. In American Renovated Orthodox General Confession, as I’ve said, no one confesses anything to anyone. Here, strangely enough, considering the prevailing liturgical innovation is to have “the people” pronounce everything the Priest does or the Reader reads, the people maintain a discreet and reverent silence while the Priest reads a list of sins aloud. I knew Father George Stephanides of blessed memory rather, but not quite, well. I’m amazed to learn that such an ecclesiastical liberal was considered to be politically conservative. I remember him and Father George Massouras, also an Orange County priest, quite well. Again, thanks to Photini for listing all the good deeds she and the Faithful of St. Paul Church have accomplished.

          • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

            You could easily flip the critique around though: The good parishioners of so-and-so church don’t have much to show in the way of good deeds and achievements, but they have a high iconostasis. But what does that prove?

            Frankly, if you talked to the people St. Paul’s has helped, they would look at your complaint with incredulity. If you turn the critique around however, who would there be to ask?

          • I appreciate this opportunity to meet you (electronically), Your Grace. Thank you for sharing your opinion with me. I do want to be absolutely clear that I am not trying to justify our iconostasis (I already said I wish we had a high iconostasis). Indeed, I have never heard anyone brag about the fact that we have a low iconostasis. As for bragging about our good works, whatever good has happened at St. Paul’s is not due to us, but due to the Lord. I am not ashamed to brag about the goodness of Lord.

          • I thought I could add, relevant to the general topic here, that at St. Paul’s, under our current priest,

            *neither boys nor girls are churched in the altar since our priest says unbaptized people should not be in the altar.
            *Also, we have no general confession.
            –One must confess one’s sin directly to the priest during the sacrament of confession.

            (Also, I had forgotten to add above that Father George Stephanides of Blessed Memory was a strong supporter of the Republican Party in Orange County and was criticized by some for that as they did not like to see clerics mixing in politics. )

          • Carl Kraeff says

            Did not the Holy Synod of the OCA institute a confession service to take place on Saturday evenings after Vespers? Back in early 1970s? If so, the “many misguided and badly informed clergy” included ther members of the Holy Synod, except of course His Grace.

            • Monk James says

              Carl Kraeff wrote:
              ‘Did not the Holy Synod of the OCA institute a confession service to take place on Saturday evenings after Vespers? Back in early 1970s? If so, the “many misguided and badly informed clergy” included ther members of the Holy Synod, except of course His Grace.’

              I don’t know about his grace, but my grace is here to tell you that the Holy Synod of the OCA instituted no such thing.

              Based on a paper (available at by Fr Alexander Schmemann titled ‘Confession and Communion’, some (rather few, I think) OCA parishes began to have a general or ‘common confession’ service after services on Saturday evenings. This was not directed by the bishops but merely tolerated.

              Personally, I think that this service is helpful only insofar as it helps people prepare themselves to make a proper confession rather than just approach the priest for absolution after the general service.

              Even so, this is an improvement over a folkloric practice which — with no confession whatsoever — had the priest place his epitrakhelion over the heads of people who came up to him (usually) during the Third Hour, make the sign of the cross over their heads AS IF he were absolving them after confession, and so ‘qualify’ them to participate in Holy Communion during the Divine Liturgy which followed.

              Because of problems usually caused by politics, a great many of the Orthodox in Europe (Greece for four centuries, Russia for just one century) were uncertain about offering sincere confessions witnessed by their parish priests, and the practice of liturgical confession and absolution was severely limited.

              Now the heat’s off, and there’s no reason for people not to ask their parish priests everywhere to witness their confessions and grant them the great consolation of absolution.

              It’s just that it might take a while for this blessed new reality to sink in.

              • Carl Kraeff says

                How do you read this:

                Confession and Communion

                Report to the Holy Synod of Bishops

                of the Orthodox Church in America

                by Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann

                Accepted and Approved

                by the Holy Synod of Bishops

                of the Orthodox Church in America

                February 17, 1972

                Statement of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church in America

                Excerpt of the Minutes of the Meeting of the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America — February 16-17th, 1972

                The Dean of St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary and professor of liturgical theology, Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann presented a report on Confession and Communion. The report is attached.

                Resolved: 1) That the report of Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann is received with gratitude and approbation. 2) That the idea of a renewal in the Eucharistic life in the Church is not only desirable but indispensable. Therefore, practice of more frequent Communion is encouraged in all parishes of our Church. In this connection, and for the purpose of deepening the spirit of repentance among the laity, in addition to individual Confession, practice of General Confessions is also blessed based on the following principles:

                As a rule, General Confession takes place in the evening following the evening service. The person wishing to receive Holy Communion must be in Church at least on the eve of Communion. The common practice of Confession just prior to Liturgy is harmful and should be permitted only in very special cases.

                General Confession begins with the reading of the “Prayers Before Confession” which in current practice are generally omitted but which, nevertheless, form an organic part of the Sacrament of Confession.

                Following the prayers, the priest invites the penitents to pray for a spirit of repentance in order that they might see their own sins without which the formal Confession cannot produce spiritual benefit.

                Then follows Confession proper in which the priest enumerates those sins by which in thought and desire we offend God, our neighbor, and ourselves. Since the priest, as all men standing before God, knows sin, and sees his own sinfulness, his enumeration of sins, therefore, is not formal but sincere coming from a humble and contrite spirit. Rather than being a confession of “you” his enumeration of sins comes from “us,” everyone realizing the sin as his own and all are able to repent. The more the priest is able to examine his own conscience the more full will be the confession and the spirit of repentance for all participants.

                The priest invites the penitents to direct their spiritual gaze toward the Lord’s banquet which awaits us and which is given to us in spite of our unworthiness.

                The priest then invites those who find need for further expression of their sins to stand aside while the remainder approach for the Prayer of Absolution and adoration of the Crucifix.

                Finally, after the Prayer of Absolution has been read over each penitent, the prayers in preparation for Holy Communion are read while those wishing to add to their confession approach the Confessional.

                Practice reveals that those who participate in this type of General Confession learn to make better private confession. The General Confession is not a replacement of private confession, but is rather for those who commune frequently and who regularly make their private confessions, who realize the need in our times for a regular examination and cleansing of conscience and repentance. This decision of the Holy Synod is intended as a norm and regulation for the performance of General Confession and not simply as a suggestion, recommendation, or advice. Those clergy who ignore this norm and regulation are subject to Canonical Sanctions.

                • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                  That piece on “General Confession” is full of holes and, from a purely pastoral point of view, a FLOP. The great Father Alexander stumbled here. It happens to the very best. His purpose was pure and his thinking was clear, but it didn’t go on long enough.
                  General confession did not lead to “better” individual confession. But wait, Father Alexander said it would result in making better (sic) “private” confession. What an idea! None of the Bishops at that time, apparently realized that “General” confession is much, much, much more “private” than individual confession. After all, in individual confession (more on this later) a sinner tells somebody something: his or her sins. In General Confession, telling someone anything at all became an Option which was chosen less and less if at all in OCA parishes that strove to adopt the practice. The alternately lauded and vilified Metropolitan Peter Mogila (Mohyla-Ukr.) complained when asked about the practice of confessing more than the “one” spoken of in the Service of Confession (the Priest leads the (one) penitent before the Icon of our Lord Not-Made-with-Hands)ast the same time, says, “I’ve heard that in some far off UNIATE places, they confess a plurality of individuals at once, but that is not what is prescribed in OUR church’s trebnik.” Metropolitan Peter Mohyla rightly identified this “General” confession with Roman Catholicism and the Unia. Let’s remember that for all his tactics, he was the main and almost ONLY educated opponent of the Unia at the time.
                  Father Sergius Bulgakov, one of Father Alexander’s mentors, complained, “Especially among the Serbs, Confession has disappeared from usage completely while amongst the Greeks they commune entirely without confession. This certainly the result of spiritual running wild.” Well, his followers have done a good job of restoring Communion to a better place in the life of Orthodox Christians than before; however, they completely dropped the ball on Confession, especially with the ill-advised adoption of Non- or General Confession.
                  The best discussion of the egregiousness of “General Confession” was given in the late 1920s in lectures in St. Petersburg by the Holy New Martyr, St. Valentin (Sventsitsky) at the behest of Metropolitan Peter, St. Tikhon’s chosen locum tenens. St. Valentin’s lectures were re-published in Germany in 1979 in the periodical “Nadezhda: Christian Reading” in several installments. I believe his lectures may be found somewhere on line in English, translated, as I recall, by the indomitable Isaac Lambertson. (His name is mentioned in the OCA in the same manner as”divorce” or “cancer” used to be whispered when I was a boy in the 30s and 40s, because he left the OCA for ROCOR, even though a graduate of St. Tikhon’s.) There’s really almost nothing of value in the practice of General Confession in the OCA, where nobody confesses anything save the priest, who confesses every possible sin. Admittedly, it’s a LOT easier on the Priest, too. Gone are the days when Priests had to stand for sometimes hours, listening to, or rather, witnessing people confessing their sins. Now it’s just a matter of a few minutes periodically. One Ohio priest (in Archbishop Job’s diocese) was (is?) wont to just read out the General Confession before Liturgy and then, standing on the Amvon, he lifts up his Epitrakhelion into the air and reads the announcement of God’s absolution over the whole congregation at once.
                  Does Carl Kraeff have a brother named “Psya” perhaps?

                  • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                    Incidentally, Father Alexander’s pastoral, i.e., parochial experience was minuscule. He often smilingly referred to his only venture into the parish priesthood: it was in Paris and the parish was mostly his own relatives! This was charmingly modest, but true.

                  • Carl Kraeff says

                    I only wanted to make this point: It was wrong for Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) to have said “Many misguided and badly informed clergy in our Church in our time have instituted an expanded form of the “General Confession.” Monk James was also factually incorrect to maintain that the Holy Synod was not involved in this. May I point out that the Holy Synod in 1972 had the following people: Metropolitan Ireney and bishops Stephen (Albanian Diocese), Valerian (Romanian Diocese), Theodosius of Pittsburgh, John (Shahovsky) of San Francisco, Dmitri (Hartford and New England, later Dallas), John (Garklavs) of Chicago, Kiprian of Philadelphia, Sylvester of Montreal and Nikon of Brooklyn. I cannot even start to think that as a body these bishops, most of whom are dead and cannot defend themselves, were “misguided and badly informed.”

                    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                      No, I didn’t mean anything in French, a language I don’t speak, read, or write. German is my first and main “foreign” language: it was my college major. I had Latin in high school of course, and both Ancient and Modern Greek at Wayne State, Detroit. I know a little Japanese, a lot of Russian, and I’m now learning Persian, which is very enjoyable, especially here, in Teherangeles. I was thinking that “Kraeff” might be a German way of phonetically spelling a Polish word, Kref’ (Russian, Krov’). What was all that French, anyhow: it LOOKS like Gallic psychobabble, which can’t be that much different from English psychobabble, and there is no attribution cited.
                      By the way, not ALLthe members of the Synod in 1972 were misguided and badly informed on the topic of General Confession. What an idea! I don’t think they ever were ALL misguided and badly informed. In my time on the Synod, I know of only one hierarch who confessed (back home) to being misguided…I think he intimated that he had been misguided and even blinded by bribes of panagias from the Chancellor.!

                  • Carl Kraeff says

                    Your Grace, since your linguistic ability is quite good, by “Psya” did you mean “Créé en 1997, le Cabinet Psya possède une expertise reconnue dans le domaine de la Prévention et de la Gestion des risques psychosociaux : mal-être lié aux contraintes du travail, aux changements organisationnels, aux situations de harcèlement, au stress, aux relations difficiles, aux agressions, à la violence”?

                • M. Stankovich says

                  I would be happy to relate to you what Fr. Alexander (and Fr. John Meyendorff) did in practice. While I never, personally, heard Fr. Alexander say, “This is not ‘confession’ in place of the Sacrament,” and as it bore little resemblance to the Sacrament, this was understood. I do not recall it being conducted apart from the eve of a Great Feast (several hours following the Vigil), or prior to a weekday liturgy.

                  The actual “service” was a bit contrived in that it was not the “Rite of Confession” found in the service books – except for the opening Trisagion, Verses of Repentance, and Psalm 50. Following a period of silence, Fr. Alexander began a series of “examinations of conscience” that began and concluded with the statement, “Let us confess to God.”

                  Having since read his journals, it is now clear to me that he examined his own conscience in front of us, as well as keenly addressing “community issues” (e.g. “gossiping” and “impurity”). Upon completing this “examination,” which always varied (as opposed to the Russian tradition of utilizing, for example, a fixed series of questions by St. Dimitri of Rostov), he knelt on the amvon and asked us to silently each recall our own sins. He then came to each individual with the Hand Cross – sometimes softly speaking your first name. I would note that when Fr. Alexander heard your confession (according to the Rite), as you took his blessing, he always kissed your head – from Vladyka Dimitri down, he always kissed your head. He did not do this at “general confession.”

                  Whatever Fr. Alexander’s intention in proposing “general confession,” he was very clear that he did not did not intend to provide a “work-around,” concession, or alternative to the Sacrament. Further, I never heard him once “appeal” to the example of St. John of Khronstadt as authority. I heartily recommend his journal(s) as insight into his process of thought: people do not understand sin, “confession” or how to confess. It seems clear to me that Liturgical “revival” necessitated an instruction in confession.

                  • Stankovich, why do you have that gay icon on your site?

                    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                      Ian James, that’s not really an icon; it’s the kind of mockery of an icon of the sort that the League of Militant Godless in the young USSR used to propagate. The drawing of the equine animal has it sniffing a posy, while the heretic Samaritan somehow has a kind of halo with squiggles in it—-definitely mocking.

                    • Thank you Bp. Tikhon.

                      So Stankovich, why do you have a gay icon on your site?

                  • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                    I think M. Stankovich made a mistake in the way he described the “blessing” by Father Alexander of “Vladyka Dmitri.” I don’t believe he ever pronounced an absolution or a blessing on the head or any other part of “Vladyka” Dmitri. He may very well have done so on the head of Archpriest Dmitri Royster or some other Priest; however, that would have been a gross, gross violation of Orthodox practice and Church Discipline. A Priest’s confession is heard within the Altar, before the Holy Table. The Confessor does NOT bless or make the sign of the cross over the head of another Priest or Bishop with his bare hand, but only with the Holy Cross, to emphasize that the blessing does not come through himself, as it does with a not-ordained person. Priests, M. Stankovich, including Father Alexander Schmeman et al, do not kiss other Priests atop the head. Such a kissing atop the head is not prescribed anywhere: Priests kiss each other on the sides of the face or, better, shoulders and kiss each others hands—–always mutually. If a Priest, no matter how majestic he, would deign to kiss another Priest on top of the head this would be extraordinarily condescending. In MY experience of Father Alexander, he was always extremely careful NOT to be condescending with his brother clergy.

              • Carl Kraeff says

                Just to clarify, I brought this up because of the ugliness that Retired Bishop Tikhon introduced into the discussion. I would agree that general confession should only be a transitional tactic. At this time, my parish does not practice it.

                • Carl,

                  Are you a member of the OCA?

                  • Carl Kraeff says

                    Amos–What are you implying? Do you not believe me when I say that indeed I am a member of the OCA. Or, are you implying that I could not be possibly be a member of the OCA because of my views?

                    • Are you a member of the OCA? What OCA diocese do you belong to? What parish?

                    • Carl Kraeff says

                      I will be delighted to answer your questions. Just give me your particulars and contact information (phone and/or email would be good).

                    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                      Is Mr. Kraeff on the current membership rolls of any OCA parish? Yes or No would be good answers. We understand that he might not want his parish or priest to know the sort of thing he writes here, so there’s no need for exact parish i.d.. Just a yes or no to the question whether or not he is now on the membership rolls of any OCA parish,

                    • Carl Kraeff says

                      How many times do I have to say yes? Yes!

                    • Carl Kraeff says

                      BTW, I have informed my priest of my Internet blogging, to include on this site. He has advised me to try to spend less time on blogging and more on praying. So far, I have not been able to comply as I seem to be addicted to blogging. It is like an urge that comes on, like I used to experience the urge to smoke (I have quit and am smoke free now for 10 years, thank God).

                    • It is reported that smoking is the hardest addiction to give up although David Wilkerson (Protestant preacher) once stated that music is even harder (I guess it gets into the soulish area). So, if a person can give up smoking, they should be able to give up the internet and blogging.

                    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                      I quit smoking in 1978, 33 years ago, and I’d love to light one up right now to enjoy with my coffee. I started steady smoking at age 13. I always had a smoke before high school every day, several at lunch period outside as well. In the Army in the 50s I got up to two packs a day; in the Air Force in the Pentagon I got up to three packs a day. I kept it up until I was ordained a Priest, when I realized I could not expect anyone coming to Confession to be helped by tobacco breath or yellow stains on blessing fingers. Oh, has that been hard. What a strong addiction. But I always enjoyed smoking and would still like to start up. I do keep a few cigars ready in case any unlikely but splendid events should occur: these all would involve “personnel actions” in the OCA. I admit to having used one of them a while back…. If you guess, you’re probably right.

                    • Jacksson–It took a massive heart attack and four days being laid up on happy juice to get me to quit smoking. I used to be so bad that on the way to the hospital, I was asking to have one last cigarette.

                      Amos–I am still waiting to get your email or phone number so that I can answer your question.

                      Incidentally, if anyone wants to know to which OCA parish I belong, please tell me your real name and give me contact information (phone or email). Thanks.

      • Geo Michalopulos says

        Photeini, thank you for your kind response. I hope I have not given offense. Please note, that it matters not a whit to me whether Orthodox Christians are politically conservative or liberal. I know some conservatives who are opposed to His Beatitude because they believe he has overstepped the bounds of “conciliarity” as it has been understood by the best and the brightest in the OCA and I know some liberals who are walking saints. I believe the Faith is for all since we are all sinners in dire need of repentance. I hope someday to visit your church and meet with Dr Tibbs, she appears to me to be an impressive Christian lady.

        • I am not offended. Also, I now understand your point about political views not predicting one’s behavior or views as an Orthodox. I wish you could come and be our guest at our church and also get a chance to meet Dr. Tibbs. She is an interesting administrator and scholar and a devout Christian.

        • I wanted to add a few points that I had forgotten to mention earlier, but see are important. Not only does the GOA prayer for the tonsure of a reader NOT say it is a step toward the priesthood, but Reader and Dean Tibbs herself is opposed to there being female priests.

          • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

            But does “Reader Tibbs” oppose female deacons? It has been shown on this thread that those who don’t object to female readers also tend not to object to female deacons, since the offices of reader and deacon are very similar when contrasted with the offices of presbyter and bishop.

            This is how the game is played: First, people are made to accept female readers on the grounds that there’s nothing really priestly about reading scriptures in the middle of the church. Then, once people have become fully accustomed to female readers, they will be told that women should also be deacons, since a deacon’s duties don’t entail anything much more priestly. Then, once we have female deacons, they will be told that, well, women are already serving like priests at the altar, so why can’t they be presbyters.

            That’s how the game was play on women in the military. First, feminists argued that women could fill more support jobs because the jobs were technically “noncombat.” Then, once women were in those jobs, feminists began arguing that women were already in “combat” jobs, so they should be allowed into other (and ultimately all) “combat” jobs.

            • Forgive me, but what you are saying about “the game” is not historically accurate. Women deacons have already served for centuries, but (a) it was always a terminal office (women did not sometimes go on to the priesthood or aspire to that); and (b) the office of reader and deacon seem quite different. A reader for example would never hold the chalice and offer communion, even to someone who was ill. A reader never approaches the altar. A reader is ordained by chirothesia, a deacon by chirotonia. There are many stark differences.

              As for Reader Tibbs’ opinion of the diaconate for women, I would need to ask her to be sure. I could say my opinion with confidence however. I would support it if it is clearly delineated as a terminal office as it *always* had been for women. My understanding is the diaconate for men as terminal office already exists although of course for men, being a deacon is not necessarily a terminal office and is not often a terminal office. I don’t really know much about the history or current state of that, so if any one here knows anything about that with respect to the diaconate as terminal office, I’d love to learn more. Also, the diaconate for women has been restored in Greece for monastic women (in 2004). It is clearly delineated as a terminal office.

              • Deaconesses were not female deacons, as every informed believer now knows. Your confusion of the two is a feminist ploy. Your use of the ploy confirms my observation that those who favor female readers are also after female deacons.

                • Monk James says

                  No! Female deacons are just as much deacons as male deacons — it’s just that they have different responsibilities in the community and in the liturgy.

                  Please, let’s not be so excessive in our (admittedly defensive) response to Feminism as to shoot ourselves in our liturgical/theological foot!

                  • Absolutely. Women deacons and men deacons had/have different roles and responsibilities. I absolutely agree with your statement.

                    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                      If you really do “absolutely agree,” then why do you insist at great length below that it is improper for English speakers to speak of “deaconesses”? Really, Photeini, I have to doubt your sincerity on this issue. You don’t seem to be playing straight with us. You do seem to be advancing a feminist agenda. If you are not, you should reconsider your argument for “women deacons.”

                    • Carl Kraeff says

                      Father Deacon–There you go again! As soon as you are irritated with someone who dares to disagree, you proceed to tar and feather them with accusation of advancing a feminist agenda or not playing straight. As I advised you before (which you took as a criticism), chill out.

                    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                      Carl, you just don’t like the fact that I’ve got you’re number. I know what you’re up to. I suspect Photeini is up to the same, but maybe she’s just misinstructed, misinformed, or confused. She at least has earnestly tried to argue the issue and not just made fun of it.

                  • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                    Father, you beg the question, what is a deacon? Is it a distinct category of being, or is it a human being ordained for specific sacramental duties within the Church? I say the latter. The ranks of the clergy are defined by what they do sacramentally. When someone asks, “What is a deacon?” we answer, “A deacon does x and does not do y.” Ergo, deaconesses are not deacons because they don’t do what deacons do. Never have.

                    • Carl Kraeff says

                      In that sense, you are right. But, there is no denying that the work that deaconesses did have sacramental aspects. Aside from the sacramental duties, deacons and deaconesses share a common ministry of service to the Church, don’t they?

                      ADDED: By the sacramental duties of the deaconesses, I do not of any other then assisting in the baptism of women.

                    • M. Stankovich says

                      Who loved the Deacons more than Ignatius of Antioch? No one:

                      It is fitting also that the deacons, as being [the ministers] of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all. For they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would do fire. In like manner, let all reverence the deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ,

                      To the Magnesians, II.

                      it will become you, as a Church of God, to elect a deacon to act as the ambassador of God [for you] to [the brethren there], that he may rejoice along with them when they are met together, and glorify the name [of God]. Blessed is he in Jesus Christ, who shall be deemed worthy of such a ministry; and you too shall be glorified.

                      To the Philadelphians , X

                      Study, therefore, to be established in the doctrines of the Lord and the apostles, that so all things, whatsoever you do, may prosper both in the flesh and spirit; in faith and love; in the Son, and in the Father, and in the Spirit; in the beginning and in the end; with your most admirable bishop, and the well-compacted spiritual crown of your presbytery, and the deacons who are according to God.

                      To the Magnesians , XIII

                      Give heed to the bishop, that God also may give heed to you. My soul be for theirs that are submissive to the bishop, to the presbyters, and to the deacons, and may my portion be along with them in God!

                      To Polycarp, VI

                    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                      Carl, in the Orthodox Church, we do not believe that the clergy alone act sacramentally. We believe that we all participate in the sacraments, so there are sacramental “aspects” for everyone’s part. The question is, what are the specific sacramental duties that define the offices of deacon and deaconess? When we compare those duties, it’s obvious that we’re talking about two distinct offices of very different standing, worthy of being called by their two different names: deacon and deaconess.

                    • Carl Kraeff says

                      Deacon Brian–I have been careful to use the correct word and, if you would ever read what I say without your filters, you would see that we indeed agree on the terms and the differing sacramental functions of deacons and deaconesses. Perhaps you are not happy with my statement that both male and female deacons (female ones properly called deaconesses) do not have sacerdotal functions and, in addition to their sacramental roles, have ministries that are meant to complement those of the pastor (priest) and arch-pastor (Bishop). Would it be more helpful if one approaches the office as NOT a stepping stone to the priesthood?

                    • John Christopher says

                      Dn. Brian: What do you make of the Byzantine ordination rite for deaconesses, as contained in Barberini codex 336 and the Grottaferrata euchologion? As you know, the rite calls for the ordination to take place in the sanctuary during the Liturgy at the same point as the deacon’s, includes a vesting with an orarion in the style of a subdeacon, and has the deaconess take the chalice from the Bishop after communing and place it on the altar. There are some notable differences in the rite compared to the ordination of a deacon, but it is far more substantial than the ordination rite of a subdeacon contained in these same manuscripts.

                    • Now that someone else has brought us back to the topic, I owe John Christopher an answer. My answer is this:

                      Feminists lean heavily on the Barberini euchologion because it’s practically the only old text that does not explicitly restrict the role of deaconesses to women’s work (assisting in the baptism of women, minding the women’s doors, visiting women in their homes, overseeing women’s monasteries). In fact, it doesn’t explicitly say anything about what deaconesses are supposed to do. It directs the deacon to fan the Holy Gifts and later to take the Chalice and commune the people, but the only thing it directs the deaconess to do during her ordination is replace the Chalice on the Holy Table (put away the dishes?).

                      Such details are possibly purely symbolic and are therefore unreliable guides to the actual duties of the newly ordained. Deacons don’t often now carry the fans or commune people, and nowhere else in ancient texts do we find deaconesses being assigned to serve in the altar except explicitly in women’s monasteries. The stole placed upon the deaconess at her ordination is certainly symbolic of her office, but it doesn’t mean that deaconesses used stoles as deacons do to lead the people in prayer, or even that they regularly wore stoles. After all, when a reader is tonsured, he has a short phelon placed over his shoulders, but readers don’t wear phelons when reading — never have.

                      Then there are the unanswered questions about where the Barberini euchologion came from and how much it represented standard practice. We know from many other sources that deaconesses did not exist in the still-Orthodox West at the time the euchologion was written. They may not have existed everywhere in the East at any time, and within 200 years of the euchologion’s production they had disappeared in the East as well.

                      So what can we say about deaconesses that has not been said here already? The Church, for many centuries in some places, had deaconesses to assist in maintaining the modesty of women and the segregation of the sexes, but for the past half of its life the Church has not had them anywhere. Why does it need them now?

                • First of all, I didn’t use the word “deaconess” with any ideological connotations. And in this particular thread, I have only used the word “deacon”. English lacks the grammatical devices of Greek. The Greek word is literally deacon (that is, it is in the declension class of words that are termed “masculine” because it declines in a certain way — typical of nouns that are introduced by the definite article “o”). It can be introduced with the article “i” but it still declines like the masculine class. The word for doctor in Greek works exactly the same way. This in contradistinction to the majority of words that can refer to professions of men or women in Greek. They can fall into one of two classes: so-called masculine and so-called feminine. They decline differently. An example that is a pretty good analogy in English would be: actor/actress. The root of the word is “act” and a male who acts takes a different suffix than a female who acts. Another similar word would be “lion/lioness”. Lion has no suffix, the feminine is expressed with a suffix. In English, the word “deacon” can be put into two classes: deacon (like: lion) and deaconess (like: lioness). However, if I am borrowing the word from Greek and thereby also borrowing its Greek sense and reference, I am intentionally giving it the grammar of Greek where it works like a word such as: “doctor”– there are female and male doctors, not: doctor and doctress. In fact, the word doctor works the same in both English and Greek. The word deacon does not. If I am referring to the ministry of Phoebe, to be most accurate, I need to say: woman “deacon” as she was literally called a deacon– *not* a deaconess. So in order to render the term and the name of the office most accurately, I need to say: female deacon. It has nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with grammar.

                  • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                    We are not speaking Greek; we are speaking English, and it happens that English is more capable of expressing the reality of the difference between male “deacons” and female “deacons.” It is very unreasonable for English speakers to resort to Greek in this case. Resorting to Greek only makes us less able to understand the truth of the matter.

                    The truth of the matter is that deacons and deaconesses were very different offices, with very little overlap. Deacons led the people in prayer; deaconesses did not. Deacons read the Scriptures to the people; deaconesses did not. Deacons served in the altar; deaconesses did not. Any exceptions to these rules were just that — exceptions, and also usually violations of other rules and the principles undergirding them.

                    The English-speaking faithful would therefore all be well advised to speak of “deacons” and “deaconesses,” so that others understand that we do not intend for women to do all that deacons do.

                    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                      The real problem in this entire debate is that we are having this debate. Dn. Brian Patrick Mitchell makes very good, if not great theological points. In fact, the good deacon has changed by thinking and beliefs on the female attributes of God as Dn Mitchell’s arguments are THE SAME arguments that I discovered were advanced and supported by Fr. Stanley Harakis. So I stood corrected and Dn Mitchell was the one that exposed the errors of my previous thinking and beliefs. So Thank him for that.

                      As for the entire debate on Female Deacons/Deaconesses D. Mitchell’s comments are theologically correct and practically sound. Yes, deaconesses were a part of the early church, but these were almost usually women married to Deacons or Widows that assisted the priest and other deacons when it came to female baptism and other issues exclusively to women and children.

                      As far as liturgical duties I have look and looked thoughout the Orthodoxy historical record and can find no references were Female Deacons served in the altar, except in monastic settings or were these has been a sortage of Priests in offering communion to clositered nuns or to the faithful, OUTSIDE the Altar due to a shortage of priests and deacons. However, a special dispensation was given and allowed and was clearly out of the norm, but dictated by the facts and circumstances on the gound at a very specific time and setting.

                      Also, even though I am not necessarily opposed to female readers the effect that it could have in opening the door to a female priesthood is just too great of a danger. If we look at the Episcopal Assembly’s website we see that the EA endorses SAINT CATHERINE’S VISION. This is a Feminist Orthodox Group that is dedicated to bringing about the Ordination of Women in the Orthodox Church.

                      In fact, Dr. Kyriaki Karidoyanes FitzGerald is on record is supporting the Ordination of women to the Deaconate. Dr. FitGerald has stated and I quote:

                      According to Byzantine liturgical texts, the ordination of the woman deacon occurred as any other ordination to major orders. It took place during the celebration of the Eucharist and at the same point in the service that the male deacon was ordained. She was ordained at the altar by the bishop, and later in the service received Holy Communion at the altar with the other clergy… (p. 110) Orthodox Perspectives on Pastoral Praxis, Article by Dr. Kyriaki Karidoyanes FitzGerald.

                      Dr. FitzGerals goes on to state in her book Women Deacons in the Orthodox Church:

                      After she has finished communing, the bishop hands to her the holy chalice which she accepts and replaces upon the altar by herself. (p. 79)

                      Thus, as it can be seen, the active threat to allowing women to serve in the Altar as Ordained Priests is a REAL THREAT not a perceived threat. First, it starts with being a reader, then a female deacon, then…well you know where it goes from there.

                      So, there is no clear direction from Orthodox Bishops, buta CLEAR endorsement of St. Catherine’s Vision’s website and its feminist theology by the EA. This is why we are worried, and this is why we SHOULD be worried.

                      Also, it should be noted that in October of 2004, the OCA issued a very clear statement on why females, in this context Altar Girls, should not serve in the Holy Altar. This statement was as follows:

                      October, 2004

                      An Altar Girl
                      To the Reverend Clergy, Monastics, and Faithful of the Orthodox Church in America,

                      Recently, questions have arisen on numerous internet forums concerning the position of the Orthodox Church in America [OCA] with regard to those who serve in the Holy Altar in parishes. The questions and ensuing controversy arose as a result of photographs appearing in two parish web sites depicting robed girls performing duties traditionally delegated to males. This has led to a great deal of confusion and discussion as to the policy of the Orthodox Church in America [OCA] in this regard.

                      In their concern for maintaining the integrity of the Church and its traditions, the Holy Synod of the Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America [OCA], meeting at Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, October 18-21, 2004, reaffirms the ancient practice of the Orthodox Church that only males are to be admitted to service within the holy altar. Any practice to the contrary in this regard is strictly forbidden.

                      While reaffirming the Orthodox Church’s practice concerning sacred ministers and others called to serve within and care for the holy altar, the Holy Synod of Bishops also wishes to encourage all Orthodox Christians to offer their services to Christ’s Holy Church, in keeping with their baptismal vocation.

                      Thanking you for your generous and devoted service to the Church,

                      I remain
                      In Christ,

                      Protopresbyter Robert S. Kondratick, Chancellor
                      Orthodox Church in America [OCA]

                      PS – Check out who issued this statement. RSK! I’ll let you think about this as well, and maybe start connecting the dots. Maybe.

                      Peter A. Papoutsis

                    • There is not a direct link back to your comment I am responding to, so I am posting my response at this level.

                      I have to say I see zero difference btw using the word: female deacon or deaconess. I explained my understanding of why the term “female deacon” is used– because when we look at historical evidence of what the female diaconate consisted of, we must look at scripture– which was in Greek— where this word was declined like masculine nouns even when it was clearly referring to a woman, namely, Phoebe. (Incidentally, the declension class a noun is placed in does not say much about its natural real world gender. For example, children, girls and boys all actually do have gender, but are treated as neuter by the grammar of Greek). My previous post was not an insistence on one way being correct. Rather it was an explanation of why we might use the term: female deacon, rather than deaconess: because it is Biblical to do so.

                      I think you are imposing your own interpretation on the words “deaconess” and “deacon” that are not part of general, socially shared conventions with the public at large (even the Orthodox public). It seems you believe that if one uses the word deacon versus deaconess there is a denotation that these are two different job descriptions, so to speak, but if one uses a separate word as a descriptor instead of a suffix (as in deacon versus female/woman deacon), then they are not. (correct me if I misunderstand your point here)

                      If I say: actor or actress, does the person have a different job? If I say: poet or poetress do we mean a different job? murderer or murderess? waiter or waitress? emperor or empress? Prince or princess? In none of these cases does adding –ess mean anything other than: “female.”

                      There are only two cases I can think of in English where the suffix -ess gets added and the description of the job is different : mister/mistress and governor/governess.
                      Obviously these pairs were related at some point in the history of our language but the term referring to a female changed its denotation over time. Mister and mistress no longer have anything in common meaning-wise. Governor and governess are similar.

                      There are words that use completely different forms which simply indicate a different gender of the referent (in denotation at least): king and queen. Despite the radically different form of the words, the job is the same. The form of the words are doing nothing other than indicating gender. In sum, I truly don’t understand your point about the form of what I see as synonymous words.

                      I would like to say two final things. One is I have no intention or interest to be sneaky or insincere. The second thing I want to say is I am saddened, and somewhat scandalized, by how mean spirited the discussion can be here sometimes. I can see what we have in common from the beautiful videos that are posted at this site– on the rebuilding of Russian churches — so profound and beautiful, and the wonderful video about the orphanage in Ukraine! These are inspiring lives lived for Christ. We clearly all find these events good and important (to say the least). Why then, given that we both deeply love Christ, would you attack me like you have when I am a sincere visitor, a recipient of the hospitality of this site, and a fellow Orthodox?

                    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                      Photeini, if you think this discussion “mean spirited,” you are obviously too thin-skinned to be participating in a public debate over very controversial matters of faith. You can’t expect to argue publicly against apostolic tradition and not be boldly opposed.

                      You also can’t expect to make very bad arguments for the wrong cause and not have us call you out on them. Your latest argument for “female deacons” contradicts itself. You liken the distinction of deacon and deaconess to the distinction of murderer and murderess, waiter and waitress, etc. But the only difference between murderers and murderesses, waiters and waitresses, is their gender, whereas the difference between deacons and deaconesses is nearly everything they do, plus their gender. So deacons and deaconesses are more analogous to governors and governesses, misters and mistresses, and therefore should be distinguished in the traditional manner, not in the new fashion of feminists obviously intended to accustom people to thinking of deaconesses as deacons.

                      I’m trying to reason with you, Photeini, but part of reasoning with people is pointing out when they are being unreasonable and when they are giving evidence of being willfully wrong. By belaboring your preference for “female deacon” over deaconess, you are only giving evidence that you just don’t like hearing that women can’t be deacons. Only that would explain your resistance to facts and logic.

            • Carl Kraeff says

              At the risk of being accused of playing lay psychologist, I will say that you seem so driven by fear of females, homosexuals, and any threat to your ordered universe. The Orthodox Church is not the United States military and certainly not the Episcopal/Anglican Church. The Orthodox Church is the True Church and will not have female priests, ever. Nor will she ever regard homosexual conduct as something other than a sin. Just take a chill pill (as my grandchildren tell me at times) and quit being so rigid and so afraid.

  12. Leaving aside the issue of tonsuring girls, am I the only one who is troubled by tonsuring 12-year-old boys as readers–a first step into the priesthood? I am the mother of an 11-year-old boy, and I cannot imagine that he would be sufficiently mature (let alone sufficiently mature in the faith) to make that commitment at age 12.

    • You’re right, Kirsten. Tonsuring children that age as readers may be an attempt to fill in that 12/13 ‘rite of passage’ that Roman Catholic and Jewish friends get in confirmations and b’nai mitzvah. However, I don’t think the office of reader should be used this way.

      • That comparison crossed my mind as well, Helga. IMHO, if a “rite of passage” is that badly needed, perhaps it would be better to reserve service at the altar to boys age 12 and older. (Though such a rule would sorely disappoint my 9 year old, who loves serving at the altar!)

        • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

          Hear, hear. Boys need to see that serving in the altar and reading the Epistle are things men do, so they’ll want to do them to become men.

        • Michael Bauman says

          Here’s the rub–at least one of them IMO. Women started leading choirs and reading and boys serving in the altar, in part, because the men wouldn’t. The first year my son served in the altar (age 7) he and a 15 year old server were the only two altar servers for the entire Holy Week including Holy Thursday (our incredible sub-deacon had just died of cancer right before Lent). We have not had a shortage of altar servers since (child or adult) because those two boys stepped up and did the job when no one else would.

          When, several years later, my son served in the altar for my brother’s ordination (my son’s age 15) in another jurisdiction, he was the most experienced server in the alter (including the priests) for the hierarchical divine liturgy (our home parish is a cathedral so he served quite a number of them). He was able to lead them in what needed to be done because he had the experience, the confidence and the love of the altar that was necessary.

          To me he was a man at that point, at least in his shouldering of the responsibility for the faith in a specific way. His right of passage was his first confession at about age 12. Seems as if we could use that somehow, don’t you think?

          The only way we can make an argument that will be heard about the appropriate role of women in the life of the Church is if we men step up and do the jobs and do them with the same fidelity and faith as many of the women. Yes, the argument is theologically correct and an absolute necessity, but in this world we also have to have the existential bases covered in order to make the argument really effective. That includes men adequately supporting thier families on one income whenever possible BTW.

          • Men are very active in the life of St. Paul’s in Irvine and they always have been. In fact, our oldest acolyte was 93 before he retired. We have a number of mature men who serve in this role. At our church, a boy may seek to become an acolyte at age 10 or older. We have enough acolytes that we actually need two teams– each team serves every other week. Men serve during the liturgy in many other ways as well in our church– as ushers (keeping order in the church) and as members of the choir. The place where women surpass men in our church is in their attendance at the divine liturgy. Women tend to attend more frequently although there are men who have been amazingly faithful. The acolyte who retired at age 93 literally got up off his death bed and went to church at the beginning of Holy Week two years ago to hear the Gospel of Christ calling Lazarus out of the tomb. *He*, this old man, showed us the meaning of the Gospel that day. After communion, he went home and laid back down on his death bed where he died 15 minutes after the end of the Paschal liturgy. He remained with us in spirit all of Holy Week. Trying his best to imitate the teachings of Christ.

      • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

        Jane Rachel. Note that Heracleides says that photo is BASED ON on the actual photograph. Seems to me that the hairline is too far forward. I agree that even the holiest mugs would not be allowed to pose their hands for a mug shot.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Kirsten, I completely agree with you. I believe a mature Orthodox parish would have nothing but young men (and even middle-aged men) as Altar-servers for the most part. Speaking from my own experience as a 10-yr-old and then teenager, I had absolutely NO right to be serving God in this capacity.

      • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

        Got to disagree with you here George. Boys need men, and the altar is a male only province that, if responsibly administered, can be very powerful in a boy’s formation. They never forget it either. I have heard hundreds of men in their sixties and seventies tell me how they remember being altar boys.

        Frankly, I like having as many boys on that altar as I can. I’m strict with them, but the truth is they welcome it. Boys don’t do well without having something to do and they especially like being challenged to a higher calling, and serving God on Sunday is a high calling. They have to be taught this of course (abstract thinking doesn’t kick in until about 16 years old), but you teach them through rehearsals, befriending them, setting goals and standards they can reach but have to work for to reach them, and so forth.

        Also, if you can keep a boy from ages 11 to 13, changes are you have him until he reaches 18 and goes off to college. It can give him a head start, especially when facing the soul-crushing challenges he will find there.

        I’m speaking here primarily about the socialization of boys and how the Church can play a very important role in it. This also is aided by the fact that the altar is a no-girls-allowed territory. That’s actually important.

        These sociological factors don’t justify the theology of course. From another angle however, the theology shapes sociology and offers the priest and other men ways to teach boys some rudimentary principles of manhood, particularly his calling and service as a son of God.

        • Chris Banescu says

          Fr. Hans is absolutely right on this. Boys should serve in the altar. Some of my fondest and most formative memories, that helped mold and strengthen my faith, were in serving in the altar. There is a spiritual dimension in being close to the altar that is unmatched in the life of a child, especially a boy. Robing them of that experience is not wise.

          FYI, I started serving in the altar when I was 6 years old. I began serving with my grandfather and great-grandfather, both Orthodox priests. Their views mirrored Fr. Hans’ and for the very same reasons.

          • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

            Chris causes me to remember, with smiles, an event at Saint Innocent Church, Tarzana, California, years ago. Father Thaddeus Wojcik was the Rector at the time. It was a Festal Occasion, and I believe a Bishop served, perhaps Metropolitan Vladimir… At that time camcorders were NOT the common gadgets they are today, but rarities. Unbeknownst to the “Altar Boys”, a camcorder was positioned high up within the Altar and left running throughout the service. After the festivities, the new “film” was shown at, as I recall, Father Thaddeus’s house in Canoga Park. There was considerable consternation and then merriment when we observed Altar boys, seeing that the clergy were not looking at them or not able to see them, took to making wonderfully pranking, boyish, childish gestures and pulling faces at each other. Whatever you may imagine; they did it! We saw the ‘thumbs-in-ears-with-hands-waving”, the thumb on the nose, the single upright finger….you name it. How embarrassing for the Wojcik boys and others! Yes, there is A spiritual dimension (or may be) in being close to the altar, but that is not necessarily the only one!

            • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

              Here’s how it works with boys. You press on something small, like no talking on the altar. Boys will always talk. No amount of reproof will ever stop it. Yet you keep pressing. This is never done in anger or frustration of course. If you have a good relationship with them, the will obey because they don’t want to disappoint you. But boys are still boys. In ten minutes they are back at it. They are genetically wired that way and nothing will stop it.

              However, if you press that, nothing worse ever happens. And, if that is all they do, then you are largely successful, provided you do the needful things as well.

              • Peter A. Papoutsis says

                At the GOA Church I grew up at none of of us young boys wanted to be in the pews while church services, especially Holy Week services, were going on so we all went to the Altar. I think at one time we had 20 to 30 young boys.

                I cannot begin to tell you the majestic processions we had. However, it only worked because we were a big church. If it was a small church. Oh boy!


                PS You don’t even want to know about the fist fights that would break out in the back room behind the altar. Fond memories.


                • Fr. Hans Jacobse says


                  There’s nothing like a procession with 20 or more boys pouring out of the altar, lined up right, walking right, not looking around, taking their job seriously. Then they line up on the solea and the clergy come walking through, and as the clergy are walking up the steps they bow and start their entrance into the doors.

                  It really is a beautiful thing to behold.

                  You’re right about the pews too. Boys can’t sit in pews, not for more than 25 minutes anyway. Why make them?

                  • In a traditional Orthodox church, there are not pews. People are able to move about the nave freely. No problem for boys having to sit in one spot.

                    I do find it beautiful to see a whole cadre of altar boys taking their job seriously. I also find it very beautiful on Holy Friday when the male pall bearers pick up the kavouklion and carry it outside.

                • V.Rev.Andrei Alexiev says

                  Yes,Peter,I witnessed a few fist-fights,not serious,but still distracting,during the Holy Saturday Matins at a local Greek Old Calendar church.I should add that my parish was then renting the facilities of a local Carpatho-Rusyn church(then also in ROCOR).We would do Vespers and Matins earlier on Good Friday;whereas they would do just the Vespers later;hence I had time to visit the Greek church.We did double up for the Holy Saturday Liturgy and Paschal services,however.

        • Geo Michalopulos says

          Fr Hans, I stand corrected. I guess my reference is that when we served on the Altar we engaged in tomfoolery. It’s good if a priest can be strict with them but in my circle of reference (GOA) they are few and far in between. The parish dynamics between the various clans preclude a strong priest-in-charge. Maybe I’m painting with too broad a brush but the horror stories of priests who have been run out of town for going against the grain seems to buttress the lacksadaisical Orthopraxy that I participated in and witnessed in other parishes.

          Perhaps a mixture of men who are subdeacons to keep the boys in line?

          • Dn. Brian Patrick Mitchell says

            I would still say it’s best not to take them too young. When they start serving too young, the thrill of serving quickly wears off and serving becomes a chore. When they get a little older, they see younger boys still eager to serve but older boys wearily opting out. Serving begins to look like kids’ stuff, especially when there are no adult servers. Even grown men will stay away, thinking of servers as “altar boys.”

            • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

              Dn. Brian, boys respond to duty even though they naturally default to fun. But as you say, fun wears off relatively quickly. The key here their relationship to the priest, and the priest develops that sense of duty. Most learning is relational at that age, and if you can cultivate relationships with the boys, they will take in what they are taught. I used to have rehearsals that included how to do a procession properly, how to stand, and so forth — all things that were active and they responded to well. I even added a few — hold on to your hats folks — innovations like exiting out the deacon door before the Lord’s prayer and the Creed and then facing the altar to say it. It filled in a long lull of standing.

              The formal theological teaching began in the 7th grade. Since they were already on the altar (I start some as young as seven years old), moving into GOYA (youth group) was a natural shift. But even then the teaching was contextual. For example, I made a point of going into the Church after every meeting, sitting the kids on the solea in a semi-circle making sure their backs never faced the altar (decorum in important), and praying with them.

              In the center was a box of sand with one candle lit. A person who did not mind starting the prayer sat at the front of the circle (usually an older teen) and would start the prayer. We would go around the circle. If someone did not want to pray they could say “pass” but still had to light the candle (I never pressured anyone to pray). They would pray about what concerned them, very often a sick relative or a friend getting into drugs, and so forth. I would end the prayer by praying for them by name, asking God to make them strong men and women of God (in those terms, btw) for example, and then we stood and said the Lord’s prayer together.

              Before the prayer I would always calm them down first and tell them to listen for God. Believe it or not, the presence of God is palpable in the Church. He inhabits it. We don’t notice this on Sundays usually because of all the commotion. But go into the Church any other time and His presence is easy to discern. The teens, because in their heart they search for God, would find Him there. It came to be one of their favorite things to do and they always made sure I would not forget to do it.

              You can imagine the teaching opportunities that presented as well — the candles, the icons, it was endless. So they always got one theological lesson (appropriate to their age of course) as well.

              I should add that in my last parish I had the help of a woman who was a great administrator. She did all the planning, I did my priest work. I had some great younger parents too who would go on the retreats, etc. It was a very workable and successful meshing of labor — shared ministry really. They were just great people to work with.

              My point is that all this works together — youth groups, altar boys, etc. With teens, just like the rest of us, you frame their encounter with God with proper teaching. The teaching, however does not and cannot substitute for the encounter. Sometimes, given the confusing age they live in, you have to provide the context where the encounter can take place.

              I know this works because I’ve applied it time and again. And I’ve held onto boys who otherwise would have left the church — often the brighter ones who are also most susceptible to peer pressure. I created a counter-culture of sorts, quite deliberately telling them you have you school friends, but you have your church friends too.

              And, if the boys are active, so are the girls. Yes, I hear the complaints that girls don’t have enough to do but the truth is that if you hang on to the boys, you hang on to the girls too. It is just the ways it works.

              BTW, given our culture, this has to start young. I did go into a parish once where the children were neglected and the older boys had left and most of the older girls were already secularized — sexually active and so forth. Innocence was lost and I knew that they only way they would find Christ is when the pain of their choices would drive them to Him. You do what you can, but choices had already been made that could not be reversed.

              Start younger though, and a some of that pain can be avoided. And, even if they do stray they always know where home is. I developed this almost 25 years ago and my first crew of kids are still in the Church, most of them leaders of the groups that helped raise them in the ways of Christ.

              One final thing. Our Orthodox traditions are very powerful in shaping the conscience and character. But we’re Americans first which means that the practical utility has to be explained. People demand understanding — a demand that would cause me some consternation at times because I had to find a way to explain what we believed and why we do the things in they ways that we do. This was a hidden blessing because I discovered that if I could explain things in ways that teens understood, then I could explain it to anyone. I still use the examples that I had to develop over two decades ago.

    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

      i’ve always contended that Altar “boys” do not really come up to the mark, and that adult men are more appropriate to serving in the Altar. One should note that the rite of “making’ a reader is called the rite of making a Taper-bearer. One had to be tonsured in order to enter the Altar. Very basic. In addition, anyone who ascended the ambo or was blessed to sing had to have been tonsured to enter the Altar. This means that to be eligible to sing in Agia Sophia one had to have been previously tonsured to “ascend the ambo (amvon).” Today’s situation is quite anomalous. There are many singers who have never ever even entered the Altar in our days and one may hear from newly ordained Priests that they’d never served in the Altar because they were “needed” in the choir!
      An irrelevant, but related and interesting note; There were so many men tonsured as taper-bearers at Agia Sophia, that they could not all serve at the same Liturgy or other service: not enough room. So the singers for any given day were chosen by LOT, i.e.,, Klerikos. So the place where the “chosen by lot” would stand began to be called the Kleros: the place for the winners of the gamble. So at first, “clerks” or “clerics” or “clergy” were not Bishops, Priests, or Deacons at all, but singers-readers-taperbearers.
      Nowadays and especially in our native West, “cute little altar boys” are considered to be among the precious experiences of being a member of a church community.[I do not ever draw the conclusion that some do that the habit of using boys rather than men arose wherever the Priests were forced or preferred to be wifeless.].

      • Patrick Henry Reardon says

        Vladikha Tikhon remarks, “One should note that the rite of ‘making’ a reader is called the rite of making a Taper-bearer.”

        I am old man, closer to eternity than to time—with one foot in the grave and the other eager to follow it—but I did not know this.

        Here is a perfect reason why I would not argue history with Bishop Tikhon.

        • Well, technically, the rite of making a taper-bearer kind of got absorbed into the rite of tonsuring a reader over the years, and the tonsure of a reader has the blessing of a taper-bearer inside it. It precedes the tonsure and the part where they put the little phelonion thing on him.

          • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

            Technically, Helga, in order to ascend the ambo, in order to READ aloud, one first had to be made a Taper-bearer. There’s no such “kind of got absorbed into” process in Orthodox liturgical history. There’s no “kind-of” anything. The ancient rite of making a taper-bearer was expanded to include bestowing the faculty of reading. The rite begins with “The one who is going to become a Taperbearer is led by two Subdeacons into the center of the temple….” The last ritual action in that rite is “And the Hierarch gives him a Lampada and he goes to stands with the Lampada forward of the Hierarch on the appointed place.” in between is all the material about making a reader which came to accrue to the office of making a Taperbearer.

  13. You pretty much said what i could not effectively communicate. +1

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  14. Heracleides says

    The 16th AAC Begins: For an idea of a topic that will NEVER be addressed at this or any other All American Council (AAC), take a look at “Benny’s Jacket” here:

    P.S. Yes, the mugshot is based on the actual photograph of +Benjamin’s November 2004 DUI arrest & booking in Nevada.

    • Jane Rachel says

      Were his hands clasped together like that in the original photo? Did he have that same pleading expression on his face?

      • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

        Sorry, Jane Rachel: I replied to this, but my ancient fingers and perceptions made me put the reply in the wrong thread, just above. I’ll repeat that the photo pinned to the real documents in Heracleides’s photo is, according to him, only “based on” the actual photo.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      Herc, perhaps it should be called “Battle in Seattle”?

  15. Good Lord folks.

    A blessing for girls to read in Church elevates the reading in Church to something more than just “hey, can you read the Epistle RIGHT NOW because male showed up?” A female reading the Hours, Epistle, Pre and Post Communion prayers is not a right but a blessing, thus the Church extends a blessing. It is nothing more than that for a female, except that it may promote a deeper Orthodox life in the home, with her children, etc. For males, the very same thing and the added responsibility that they could be called to higher office in the Church.

    A blessing to read is not the same as a tonsured Reader. If a parish has a tonsured Reader, then those readers (male) are the “First team” readers. But, if no tonsured Readers are present, do we not read? Certainly not.

    I have been in parishes where the male readers were almost literate and where female readers did a much better job. In those circumstances, we offer the best readers to the Lord regardless of gender. In a female monastery or on a week day liturgy when only the baba are present, who reads?

    Tonsured readers are male. Period. No question. If a Church makes up rituals to please PC agendas those efforts should be dismissed.

    Churching females like males is simply not part of the Orthodox Tradition. In this case the Church has always known the difference between a male and a female. Why is that so difficult this to accept today? To please? Out of a sense of pride” Not good enough reasons.

    I would sincerely hope that the St. Paul Church idea was a blessing and nothing else. As for the age of a reader (not a Reader) , I recall being in a foreign country at the Saturday night Vigil service and a boy, no more than 8 read the Matins 6 psalms perfectly, and I mean flawless. I have never heard them read better in any language. So age is not important, rather, can you offer your best to the Lord? This 8 year old could and did. That, and only that is the measure that we offer anything to the Lord.

    My deflated 2 cents.

    BTW, the OCA Council has started? Is Jonah still the Metropolitan?

  16. I apologize in advance for the length of this comment, but I believe the question of sex and its relationship to vocation (among other things) is among the most important of our time and demands a thorough apologetic that is firmly grounded in the Tradition. This was originally written as a rebuttal to an unfortunate article that was published in Word Magazine (Antiochians will remember it well). Please forgive me if your patience goes unrewarded. I am open to critique from those who are far more knowledgeable than I.

    The only discussion in which the Church should involve herself with regard to this issue is an explanation of the ground of her practice, an apologetic for the sake of the salvation of those who may not understand it. Clearly this is something we have failed to do, secure in our tradition, often without having a grasp of it ourselves. We must be gentle. We must strive to be understanding and empathetic – not sympathetic – toward those who have been victims of legalistic male domination as opposed to loving headship. We must confess our sin and repent if necessary. But we must not compromise the truth. We must follow the example of the Apostle Paul when he addressed this issue for the Church at Corinth:

    “Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you…(and after giving his instruction about men and women along with the reason behind it, he continues)…but if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor do the churches of God.”

    It is correct to say that this issue is one about which the Church has never found it necessary to offer dogmatic definition. It is is also obviously correct to sayi that the doctrines of the Holy Trinity, the dual natures of Christ, etc. were true before the ecumenical councils provided a means for their expression in order to delineate truth from heresy. Moreover, the statement 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” is entirely true. Even the assertion that “as context changes, so can the practice which most faithfully expresses doctrine” is true if -and only if – we have a very firm grasp of doctrine and remain in the same Holy Spirit that guided our holy Fathers.

    Herein is the danger. Far too often we are seduced by the spirit of this age into distorting the doctrines of the Apostles and holy Fathers because we share neither their holiness nor their participation in the mind of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Our generation has become so enamored of our own reason and ‘enlightenment’ that we dare to pass judgment on the so-called ‘patriarchal’ mindset of the Apostles and the Apostolic Fathers who were the inheritors of their Holy Tradition. We do not share their holiness of mind primarily because we do not believe the Faith they proclaimed – a Faith based not on human reason, but on the revelation of God.

    When addressing modern questions about the roles appropriate to male and female in the Church we would do well to begin, as our God-bearing Apostles and Fathers did, with what God has revealed to us in Genesis. Only this revelation provides a clear understanding of Christian anthropology both before and after our first-formed ancestors broke faith with their Creator. If we have the humility to examine what is revealed to us in Genesis without arrogantly superimposing our modern ‘scientific’ presuppositions upon it, we will begin to understand the mind of the Church and come to realize that the traditional limits our Fathers established for male and female are ordained by God for our mutual salvation.

    The arguments favored by those who encourage us to have an open mind are not new – and certainly not in accordance with the Orthodox Faith. Few would disagree with where these arguments begin, which is why they are so seductive. God (in His divinity) has no gender. The Ecumenical Councils are silent on the subject in terms of dogmatic pronouncements (although to say that they are completely silent is patently untrue). The Church has always made adjustments to her practices in accordance with her needs. The work of Holy Spirit is not static. And, of course, “there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” All of these statements are true. The distortions lay in the conclusions they draw from them. As with all heresies, they pick and choose the truth they like and disregard the rest. The arguments set forth by them are the same ‘tried and true’ (in the sense that they have been effective) arguments of all those apostate rationalistic ‘Christian’ organizations who have now ‘progressed’ toward homosexual marriage. If we are inclined to scoff at the possibility of this abomination occurring among Orthodox it is because we fail to see that there is a direct link between the two issues. This failure to understand the link is a consequence of removing the foundation of an Apostolic and Patristic understanding of anthropology and soteriology.

    If we are to believe the very true statement of the Apostle Paul that in Christ “there is neither male nor female,” shall we then also feel free to disbelieve his other statements and injunctions?
    This same Apostle also wrote that he did not “suffer a woman to teach or have authority over a man…” And lest we understand this as merely his personal opinion, he added the reason (so abhorrent to the modern mind, wrapped up as it is in denial of the truth): “…for Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived fell into transgression.” What are we to do with passages such as, “But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God”? This in itself speaks volumes about our modern notions of equality when it comes to the aspects of authority and headship; for we know that the Son is equal to the Father in His deity, yet He, too submits in love to the divine Headship of the Father.

    Shall we ascribe to ignorant patriarchal prejudice the Apostle’s other words concerning men and women? Even if we edit out the specific words about what many may consider the culturally contextual issue of head covering, we are given a clear picture of the Creator’s design that shaped the mind of the Church:

    “…for he (man) is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the glory of man. For man is not from the woman, but the woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but the woman for man… Nevertheless, neither is man independent of the woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.”

    If one has listened to the hymnology of the Church and studied the Holy Fathers, one knows the direct typological link in the mind of the Church between Adam and Christ (man) and Eve and the Theotokos (and in her the Church [woman]). This typological link is perhaps most clearly expressed when the Apostle Paul speaks of how the Mystery of marriage is inseparably linked to the mystical union of Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5):

    “…For we are members of his flesh and his bones ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the Church.”

    It is within the context of the link between Adam and Christ (the second Adam) and between Eve and the Blessed Virgin Mary (the new Eve, “the mother of all the living”: the Church) that the Church understands the roles unique to male and female. Thus the passage quoted earlier points us to their very profound understanding when read in the context of Christ and the Church:

    …for He [Christ] is the image and glory of God, but the woman [theTheotokos (and, through her, the Church)] is the glory of the man [Christ]. For the Man [Christ] did not originate from the woman [the Theotokos], but the woman [the Theotokos] from the Man [Christ]. Nor was the Man [Christ] made for the woman [the Theotokos], but the woman [the Theotokos] for the Man [Christ] … Nevertheless, neither is the Man [Christ] independent of the woman [the Theotokos], nor the woman [the Theotokos] independent of the Man [Christ], in the Lord. For as the woman [the Theotokos] came from the Man [Christ], even so the Man [Christ] also was incarnate through her; but all things are from God.

    We must understand what the Apostles and the God-bearing Fathers of the Church understood about the dignity of men and women. It is as a man that Adam was created in the image of God and given primary dominion as prophet, priest, and king of creation. It is as a woman that Eve was fashioned from his own flesh to rule and reign with him – not independent of him. It is the woman who first fell into sin by being deceived into disbelieving the words of God she had received through her husband (Eve was not yet fashioned when God gave the command first and primarily to the man, Adam). It is unto Adam, who partook of the tree with willful disobedience and full knowledge of his headship over the woman, that God called saying, “Where art thou (singular)?” for he was the head of humanity and the king of creation.

    So also it is as a woman that the Virgin Mary is glorified for believing and assenting to give flesh to the Son of God, and it is as a Man that Christ is become for us Prophet, Priest, and King, thus fulfilling the calling of Adam. Just as it is only through absolute faithfulness to the truth of our created nature that we can be united with God in Christ, so it is only by absolute faithfulness to the natural distinctions God created that we are enabled to transcend them by the grace of our union in Him. Only in this way can we properly understand the Apostle’s statement that in Christ “there is neither male nor female.” As His Church (the Woman, the Bride adorned for her husband) we shall rule and reign with Him – not independent of Him. We are called to be gods by grace. Like Eve who shared fully in the dignity of her husband but was not equal to him (in the distorted, modern sense of the word which implies equality of authority), we shall in every respect be like Christ who is the image of God and share fully in His dignity; but we shall never be equal to Him.

    It is imperative to recognize that the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church has a very practical reason for wanting us to understand this link between Adam and Eve, the image of man and woman, and Christ and the Church: the salvation of our souls. In recent centuries there has been an all-out assault on this image by the Adversary. He began with using rationalistic theories of so-called ‘science’ to call God’s revelation of our creation into question, convincing us by this fraudulent method of the ignobility of our existence and thereby further distorting the image of God in humanity. Having removed the foundational truth of our creation as male and female from our consciousness, he has effectively undermined the theological basis of Christian anthropology; and this has resulted in the disintegration of marriage and the family, the foundation of a godly society. His strategy is clear: distort the image and thereby make the Gospel virtually incomprehensible to modern minds. Now these same distortions have begun to make inroads in the Church – even, God help us, in the Orthodox Church! But whether these distortions come ‘from below,’ from the realm of this world and its godlessness or ‘from above’ in the realm of so-called theological discourse the result is the same: a further falling away from the truth of who we are, a further distortion of the meaning of our human existence, and the disintegration of humanity.

    It is completely erroneous to compare “neither slave nor free” with “neither male nor female” and conclude from this that since slavery has passed into the realm of those things virtually eliminated by the progress of the Gospel, so will the same progress eliminate the boundaries of male and female in this present life. Slavery is a product of sin. Male and female are the creation of God prior to sin entering the world. “Have you not read that in the beginning God made them male and female?” Once again, faithfulness to the creation account as believed and understood by our Lord, the Apostles, and our God-bearing Fathers provides us with a reliable guide for the current debate.

    Many times throughout the history of the Church she was tempted to try and reconcile the wisdom of this world (human reason) with the truth as revealed by God. Each time she discovered that such attempts invariably lead to heresies that are irreconcilable with the Gospel revealed to us through Jesus Christ. It was the Church’s recognition that the Wisdom of God, as revealed to her in Christ through His holy prophets and Apostles, must be trusted above all human reason that always brought her back to a Biblical, Apostolic, Patristic understanding of her Faith. It may take a very long time for the Church to bring definition to our modern challenges, but she will do so in the way she always has: through faithfulness to the truth of who she is.

    • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

      Brian, there’s a lot here but basically it comes down to this (my theory):

      Women priests create a deep symbolic confusion in the Church. The reason is that the creative prowess of women — the biological potential to create new life — mirrors in some respects the creative prowess of the Creator. The difference is that the woman delivers life through her body, the Creator creates life by speaking it into existence.

      If a woman holds the chalice and offers communion, the new life life offered through the chalice (body and blood) gets conflated with her natural reproductive prowess, ie: the ability to create a new being of body and blood (a baby).

      The conflation actually opens the door to a neo-paganism, God our Mother and all that. Once God is Mother, or Mother/Father as the more ‘inclusive’ churches put it, then the means by which God created the world changes as well. Did the world emerge from the womb (the stuff and substance of God) or was it spoken into existence? The former collapses the ontological distance between Creator and created (and eliminates the necessity for Christ), while the second holds it as ambiguous.

      A male priesthood keeps the distance intact for the simple reason that males cannot give birth. It is a biological impossibility and thus no symbolic confusion is possible. The body and blood in the chalice in other words, never gets confused with the creative prowess of the male because males cannot create new life (they only contribute one half of the genetic code to the creation of a new human being, and even then the sperm cell that carries the code dies after delivering it).

      Secondly, the fact that communion is offered by the male confirms that our Lord’s manner of offering of His body and blood is distinct from the female. This preserves the knowledge that God’s manner of creation and recreation is wholly different from the creative (reproductive) prowess of the creature.

      Further, the slide into female homosexuality first, and male homosexuality second, of the liberal churches confirms my thesis. It is no accident that the churches that advocate a female priesthood are also the most confused about sexuality and reproduction. Of course the history is not as linear as I describe here, but that they are related in indisputable in my opinion.

      A male priesthood then, affirms and protects the means by which God offers His salvation in the created order and the way mankind appropriates it. In cultural terms, it also stands against paganism and its reemergence.

      • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

        Father, I’m sorry, but the explanation you’ve given doesn’t go nearly far enough. It hangs the male priesthood on the nature of the priesthood, instead of on the nature of manhood and womanhood, as if the priesthood were more fundamental to human life than the distinction of the sexes. It also attempts to secure only the male priesthood (on very weak grounds) providing no justification at all for sex roles outside the altar.

        It’s true there are symbolic problems with priestesses, and it’s true that one danger is the sexualization of the sacred. But the argument you’ve made was never made by the Fathers and doesn’t really work when you turn it around. Feminists would just say that a male priest “conflates [his] natural reproductive prowess” with the Eucharist as an act of sacred insemination.

        We have to go beyond the biology to explain in the distinction of human persons on the basis of the distinction of divine Persons in a nonsexual way. That’s what the concept of archy does (SVTQ 54 2, 2010). It enables us to relate relations between the man and the woman to relations within the Trinity without sexualizing the Trinity. Consider the parallels between what we know of God and what we are told about Adam and Eve in Gen. 2-3:

        • The Father is the arche (beginning , source, origin) of the Son and Holy Spirit; the man is the arche of the woman.
        • The Father does not willfully create the Son or the Holy Spirit; the man does not willfully create the woman.
        • The Godhead is complete in three distinct Persons; mankind is complete is two distinct sexes.
        • The Persons of the Trinity share a common divine nature; the man and the woman share a common human nature.
        • The Son and the Holy Spirit are “one in essence” with the Father; the woman is “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” (Gen 2:23)
        • The Trinity is of one will; the man and the woman at least begin in a harmony of wills.
        • The Son and the Holy Spirit look ever unto the Father; the woman at first looked to the man, receiving from him her own name (twice), the names of the creatures, and the commandments of God.
        • By the Son all things were made; by the woman the human race was multiplied.
        • The Son comes “in the glory of his Father” (Matt 16:27); the woman is the “glory of the man.” (1 Cor 11:7)
        • We honor both Christ and the Holy Spirit as the “Giver of Life”; Adam named the woman Life (Eve) “because she was the mother of all living.” (Gen 3:20)

        Notice that nothing we are told about Adam and Eve at creation or in the fall (Gen. 2 and 3) makes any mention of their sexual biology. Adam doesn’t “know” Eve until Chapter 4, yet the two are distinctly man and woman from the start. And it’s that start as “male and female” that is said to bear the image of God: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Gen 1:27) This doesn’t mean that God is male and female, but that the man and the woman are meant to relate to each other the way the Persons of the Trinity relate to each Other — even without the act of coitus coming into play.

        That way of relating is also the way fathers and sons are meant to relate to each other, and masters and servants, and kings and people, and priests and people. All of these relationships are a matter of archic heads and christic bodies. So the plain and simple for priests only being male is that the man is the head and the woman is the body. That’s what the Fathers say, even without going as far as I’ve gone in explaining the mystery.

        a last-ditch justification for the excep

        • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

          Please disregard the sentence fragment at the end of my last post.

        • Fr. Hans Jacobse says

          Well, it’s a theory and a work in progress. I don’t really know where it will end. I need to read what you wrote through again a couple of times though. Too late right now. Thanks.

        • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

          One thing about those old world churches. You don’t find so many, if any, people in them so ready and willing to explain the Mysteries. Even in Byzantium they confined themselves to Trinitarian theology and
          Christology. It explaining the Mysteries were at all vital, we’d be able refer to the Holy Fathers in our discussions of Them. Here we are content with rationality and exegesis to fill an apparent vacuum.

          • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

            Your Grace, I’m not sure what your point is, but I cited the Fathers many times in my article in SVTQ, and I cited them many, many more times in my 1998 book The Scandal of Gender (published by Frank Schaeffer, of all people). My argument above is fundamentally Trinitarian and Christological. The dominant heresy of our day is also fundamentally Trinitarian and Christological, though it manifests itself most obviously in an anthropological error denying everything the Church has ever taught about sex or gender. In offering an explanation of a mystery in defense of traditional wisdom, I’m only doing what the Fathers always did to combat the more subtle, more deadly heresies.


    Well, the fix was in from the start. Foiled in Santa Fe but not to be deterred, they got Jonah in Seattle.

    He takes full “responsibility” for all the chaos in the OCA the last three years. He will enter a Pastoral Care Program at St. Luke’s on Nov. 14.

    But what was not announced is that Jonah will be retired as of a decision of a special session of the Synod (nothing holy about it) at the end of November, or first of December.

    The deal was struck last night and this morning.

    And so ends the OCA.

    • Amos, what is St. Luke’s?

    • You think I would post it if it were not true? It is true.

      • It has occurred to me that others may try to flush out anonymous commenters on this blog by feeding faulty information to their suspected real identities.

      • John,

        Yes, I have been duped in the past however I stand by what I stated. The timing of which I have no control over but the conclusion of which has been determined.

        The retirement of Jonah of course would not be announced at the AAC. It would throw the whole Council into turmoil. So we will just have to wait as this soap opera plays out.

      • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

        I think you’re right, Amos. This would be fully consistent with the plans or, better, script laid out in the emails of Mrs. Steve Brown and her gang. NO retirement or removal of the Metropolitan until AFTER this Council. A long leave of absence from administrative duties, such as the one Metropolitan Ireney was given would be the next logical step, and a Temporary Administrator could be elected by the Synod, one like Archbishop Sylvester. Then one could simply drag things out for four or five years and get everything in horseapple pie order. I suppose Archbishop Nathaniel would be the senior, but he’d no doubt modestly decline in favor of, say, Bishop Benjamin as Temporary Administrator. In four or five years the Faithful will be prepared enough to chose between Bishop Benjamin and Bishop Alexander.
        I could be wrong, as I always like to admit, and they may go for another Council a soon as next year so there need be no competition with Bishop Benjamin….who will bless all the right people to do the right things….

    • if he is retired at END of November, then according to the OCA Statute ANOTHER AAC would have to be called within 90 days

      • George Michalopulos says

        The reports of +Jonah’s primatial demise are greatly exaggerated. Let’s all take a breather. (Myself included.)

        • Ken Miller says

          If Amos really has proof, then someone should ask the question openly on the floor and get the bishops on record regarding their intent. I can say definitively that if Jonah is ousted, I will leave the OCA. If a holy and spiritual leader like +Jonah can be ousted, then the OCA is behond help. If arrogance, politics, and modernistic revisionism triumph over humility, spirituality, and commitment to the ancient faith, then the OCA will be beyond hope and will have crossed the Rubicon toward apostasy.

          The question I have is, does the Synod (I will reserve using the term Holy until we know for sure that they do not have treacherous unholy plans) have the right to retire a Metropolitan? If so, what is the legal standard they would have to meet?

          Another question is, if such a thing happens and the faithful churches/dioceses find it necessary to leave the OCA to another jurisdiction, is that possible, who owns the buildings, and what are the legal ramafictions.

          I realize we are speculating, but Amos seems to be so sure of himself.

          Amos, when you said a “deal was struck”, do you mean a deal with the +Jonah, or a deal among the plotters? It would be hard to imagine that Jonah would abandon us with any kind of deal, and if he did, then the whole routine about admin school would not make sense. The only leverage the Synod would have to twist +Jonah’s arm to agree to training is if he is remaining Metropolitan. If he theoretically had made an agreement to retire, then he wouldn’t go throught he charade about attending admin school. Something doesn’t ring true, unless the deal you say was struck was done without +Jonah’s knowledge. It sure would help if you could tell us your source, at least in general terms.

          • Ken, I agree with you. For a “deal” to be “struck” would entail that both +Jonah and his antagonists have made it for the benefit of each. I think you, me, Amos and others have every right to be saddened to what the OCA has degenerated into, but to assume that +Jonah is going to take a bullet for an institution that is beyond redemption is ludicrous on its own face.

            Now, do I think that +Jonah has taken a bullet by agreeing to this idiotic demand? Yes, but that would mean that the OCA is not completely corrupt and that he is still going to have a place at the table at the end of all this. This is important for all our sakes (not just +Jonah’s) because regardless of what is voted on in Seattle, this will probably be the last AAC. In other words, the implosion of the OCA will continue, it’s just that it will be more elegant with HB at the helm, otherwise, it will be anarchic and chaos will ensue.

            Under the chaotic scenario (+Jonah ousted), then the OCA will continue to shrink but with the added torment of parishes leaving to join ROCOR and taking their property with them. If these parishes are sued in court, this will cost Syosset major bucks which they don’t have. Even if they win, the people will leave and if some of these parishes are indebted in any way, then Syosset will be left holding the bag. I could easily envision a scenario in which the various lending institutions will start placing liens on properties and Syosset will have to be sold to pay off the many creditors.

            I’d like to think that cooler heads will prevail on the present Synod. Clearly Benjamin is not in this camp as he continues to out himself as a graceless person who projects his own pathology (alcoholism) onto +Jonah, but the prospect of the wolf at the door may cower the more sane individuals from going the full Stokoe.

            Basically, a legimate primate like +Jonah can negotiate the terms of surrender better than the Keystone Kops that currently run Syosset and the MC like a Charley Foxtrot.

  18. Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels. Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God. Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.
    (1Co 11:1-15)

    Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
    (1Co 14:34-37)

    I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not; a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity. I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting. In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But which becometh women professing godliness with good works. Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.
    (1Ti 2:1-15)

    • Proof-texted like a Southern Baptist, Nik. I guess I’ll (a) stop singing in the choir, and (b) stop teaching Sunday School.

      • Carl Kraeff says

        Yup, we do have our own Protestants don’t we? And, like them they go around brandishing a few texts, often out of context, and with reckless disregard for the body of work.

        • So Orthodox don’t “proof text”? Do you just go by your tradition as you understand it? Are you “sola tradition” like Protestants are “sola scriptura”? You guys crack me up. One thing I’ve learned over the last two years is that Tradition informs the interpretation of Scripture and Scripture forms the Tradition. The two go hand in hand. One without the other and you end in either Protestantism (no Tradition) or Universalism (no Scripture).

          • Could someone help me to understand how the passage about women being silent relates to the earlier paragraph where women clearly prophesied in the same church (presumably not in silence).

            • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

              The difference is between prophesying privately and prophesying publicly. The Virgin Mary and her cousin Elizabeth prophesied privately to each other; no women are said in Scripture or in the Fathers to have prophesied publicly in church. Instead, the Holy Apostle Paul, when he speaks of prophesying in church, expressly forbids women from speaking at all, relating this to their subjection under the law. (1 Cor. 14:34)

              The Fathers all follow the Apostle in this. None of them make an exception to the rule of silence for prophecy. None of them say, women must remain silence in church except when they prophesy. Many of them say, women may prophesy but must remain silent in church. Tertullian, in his Montanist days, even gives us an example of a woman who experienced visions in church but always waited until “after the people are dismissed” to tell others about it. (On the Soul)

              There is an oft-cited passage from St. Irenaeus that speaks of “men and women prophesying in the Church,” but the context makes clear that his point is that men and women in the early Church already had the gift of prophesy and did not need the new outpouring of the Holy Spirit claimed by the Montanists. The setting of prophecy is irrelevant to this point. (Against Heresies, 3, 11)

      • Kirsten, since others have raised this subject again, I should point out that the Fathers did quite a bit of Baptist prooftexting on this very topic. They accepted the Apostles’ words at face value and often merely repeated them whenever the subject of women came up. For instance, in his Moralia, St. Basil merely quotes 1 Cor. 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-15 to backup his Rule 73 on the silence of women. In other words, he does exactly what Nik does here.

        I should also point out that any Orthodox reading of Holy Scripture would take its lead from the interpretations handed down by the Fathers like St. Basil, and that when we take those interpretations into account, neither (a) nor (b) follow from the scriptures cited. The requirement for silence did not originally prohibit women from singing in church (as St. Gregory the Theologian attests above), and women were expected to teach the faith to children and commanded to teach it to younger women (Titus 2:4).

        • Geo Michalopulos says

          I love hearing women chant in church. (And men too.)

          • That’s part of the problem (so the saints say).

            • Jane Rachel says

              I am interested in the discussion, have no opinion (the truth is out there), and am not nervous about being a woman. The Prophetess Deborah judged Israel, Jael put the stake through Sisera’s head, St. Mary Magdalene was equal to the Apostles, and the Most Holy Theotokos is the Mother of God.

              I hadn’t thought about whether untonsured women should read in the Church, but I believe women should not be tonsured as readers. Is it necessary? It seems to me the Church is very wise. If the Church does not tonsure women as readers, it must be for a good reason. I think it would confuse the witness of the Gospel to the people. Men, not women, are the clergy for sound theological reasoning having nothing to do with putting women in their place as unequal, unable, unstable, weak, silly, whatever.

              It is not necessary for women to want to be tonsured readers, deaconesses, or priests. Why do they want it? If young girls are told they should want it, they will. Children will grow up without a clue as to why clergy are men, and not understanding why it messes up the iconography of human beings. So what? We lose the meaning, the witness. I believe women were deaconesses in the past because it was necessary. Is it necessary now?

              It is bothering me that I found the article concerning the question on the ordination of woman, the one Deacon Brian Mitchell so objected to, on the web site, which led me to believe it was sound Orthodox thinking. I read through it quickly and posted the link.

              • If we want to focus on necessity there is probably much that can be streamlined in Orthodox practice. Is a deacon (male) truly necessary? The liturgy can take place without one and is a bit shorter. For efficency experts – shorter is usually better. Do we really need all those servers getting in the way of each other? I think that to ask what is necessary is a two edged sword and is the wrong argument to make, especially in Orthodox practice. Just my opinion.

                • Jane Rachel says

                  Thanks, JD.You’re right if by “necessary” we are talking about “efficient.” I wasn’t intending the word “necessary” to mean “efficiency.” I meant “necessary” as in what is essential. What is good, and acceptable and perfect. The Church, inspired by the Holy Spirit, has what is necessary, and when she needs to add something, she adds it (the Church, not individual priests, as they see fit). My point is that deacons are not only “necessary” for their efficiency, but even more importantly, they are essential for what they represent to the people. When my husband and I walked, totally clueless, into an Orthodox Church for the very first time, a baptism was taking place. It was St. Nicholas Sunday, full of people, and everything was astonishingly beautiful. The deacon had a golden sash over his golden vestments that said, “Holy” on it. The priest wore the most beautiful red vestments that swished when he walked. It was absolutely amazing. We couldn’t believe our eyes. The deacon was a big part of that witness to us. His face shining with light, his white beard, his deep voice. Everything they were doing had meaning, we could tell that much. We didn’t understand what it all meant, but we knew that baby was BAPTIZED. We couldn’t help ourselves, we were hooked.

                  So, as far as I can see, deacons, male deacons, are “necessary” as in “absolutely essential” as in “needful for the gospel of Christ.”

                  As for women, well, there was the mother, the godmother, the women there, and all those icons all over the walls, with lots of women in them, and the prayers to someone they called “Theotokos.” Who is that, we wondered? Then we heard, “Most blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary, pray for us sinners… More honorable than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim, without defilement you gave birth to God the Word, True Theotokos, we magnify you….” Oh, I’ll never forget that day.

                  Why in the world would women want to be deacons? Do they want more than we already have?

                • JDWatton says:
                  November 11, 2011 at 11:13 am
                  “Is a deacon (male) truly necessary? The liturgy can take place without one”
                  For whatever it may be worth:
                  In his book “Being and Communion,” Chptr. 6, Met. John Zizioulas writes (with reference to “the ecclesiological justification of each of the basic orders”)
                  “By regarding them as parts of a relational whole we can affirm and justify their distinctiveness and specificity, and hence their indispensability … The Deacons, whose existence causes so much embarrassment to the theology of the ministry precisely because their eucharistic role has been lost, will again regain their profound significance as bearers of the world (in the form of the gifts and petitions of the faithful) to the head of the eucharistic community in order to bring them back again to the world (in the form of holy communion) as a sign of the new creation which is realized in the communion with God’s life.”
                  Also, with regard to:
                  “there is probably much that can be streamlined in Orthodox practice.”
                  How would one approach “streamlining” the Divine Liturgy when, as is said in The Festal Menaion, “The celebration of the Lord’s Supper is always an ‘eschatological event, in which the eschaton, the Age to Come, breaks in upon this present age; and so, although occurring in time, it transports the participants to a point altogether outside of time— to the ‘heavenly places’ where there is no past, present, or future, but only the eternal Now.”

                  • PdnNJ, I was mostly playing the devils advocate and making the point that the argument that women readers or whatever are not necessary as long as men are available could degenerate into the question: What else is not necessary. If you go down that road you could end up in the Salvation Army or sitting on a coach at an Emergent church “service”. For me the more deacons the better. I’d like to hear the sermon preached by one sometime.

                    As for “How would one approach “streamlining” the Divine Liturgy”, my understanding is that has been done before if you stick to strictly temporal terms. St John Chrysostom edited St Basil’s did he not?

        • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

          Russian parish ;church choirs were all-male until into the 20th century. Women or girls could not sing in them, since, as in Byzantium, the singers had to be clergy/readers in order to stand on the Kleros and sing.

          • John Christopher says

            Except in Byzantium there were large choirs of deaconesses and possibly other women, who chanted the Orthros in the great cathedral churches, as described by Constantine Porphyrogenitus (c. 950) and Anthony of Novgorod (c. 1200).

            • Yes, and St. Ephraim the Syrian created a choir of virgins to compete against similar choirs among his local heretics. Yet from his time onward we hear complaints from the desert about the showiness and laxity of “city” churches, with specific reference to the singing of women. Then as now, the cities, especially capital cities like Constantinople, were not the most pious places. They were influential, of course, but not always in the best ways. Fortunately for all of us, Byzantine history does not equal Orthodox Tradition.

            • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

              I’d like to see the exact citations, especially for “possibly (sic) other women.” There was only one Cathedral in Constantinople, of course, so if the Porphyrogenitos and St. Anthony wrote of “the great cathedral churches” there, they must have been misinformed. One must not assume, of course, that agitation by women (or as the RCs call it “Women-Church”) to play bigger and, especially, more vocal, roles in church life is a modern novelty. Surely, Montanus and his women underlined the folly of such “movements.”
              I see, that some of us are still, like reformation era Anabaptists, using a kind of liturgical archeology to to address contemporary questions. Surely, there’s a DEAD tradition somewhere in the files which can produce what we need, no?

              • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                I also would like to see the citations. Valerie Karras mentions both passages without actually quoting them, but from what she says, they appear to refer to the place (khoros) where deaconesses stood in the cathedral, not to their singing.

                • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                  My mistake: The passage from Constantine Porphyrogenitus does refer to the place where deaconesses stood in Hagia Sophia, but Anthony of Novgorod does say that in that place “not far from this prothesis the Myrrhbearers sing.” Karras assumes that he meant the deaconesses, which seems reasonable.

  19. cynthia curran says

    Well, Byzantium actually had a more complex relationship with the Franks than is express here. In the earlier period the Franks were considered better than the other German tribes since they had not converted to Arianism and were sometime allies with Byzantium against other Germanic tribes.. With Charlemagne and the Pope around 800 declaring a new Roman Empire in the west the Eastern Romans cool. Granted, I don’t think the Holy Roman Empire was a Roman Empire. But sometimes the Byzantines married some Frankish girls that converted to Orthodoxy. The 4th Crusade destroy relations with Byzantium and the Franks for good of course. But many Byzantine emperors from the 5th century and on wards use the Franks against other German tribes as allies,

    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

      Oh “Franks” long ago became a synonym of just “western foreigner” without reference to the particular Germanic tribe called Franks. A Finnish Lutheran would be considered a Frank on Mt. Athos, for example. In some languages, Persian, for example, it’s just another word for foreigner. I think this usage was discussed more than once in the Theological Review. In modern German, “the French” (die Franzosen) is another word for syphilis. And neither the Pope nor Karl der Grosse (Charlemagne) declared around 800 or at any other time “a new Roman Empire in the West.”

      • George Michalopulos says

        Your Grace, going on from what you said, “Frank” became “ferengi” became “Franj” in Arabic whereas in Greek it became “Varangian.” Hence, the Varangian Guard which protected the Emperor (even though most of them were Saxon and or Norsemen).

  20. cynthia curran says

    How did my comment end up on this blog. I wrote it for Aoi Orthoodox. George remved it.

    • Cynthia, please explain. I haven’t removed anybody’s comments since the inception of this blog. I apologize for any misunderstandings but I’d like to get to the bottom of this.

  21. cynthia curran says

    Orange County is also the birthplace of Richard Nixon a politician that doesn’t really fit in the current left-right definitions today. As Photeini stated that doesn’t matter.

  22. cynthia curran says

    i met the one about Byzantium and the Franks, oh well, no big deal around here.

  23. Ps-Iosifson says

    I have been told by a Greek priest that the prayer used to ordain Readers in the Greek Archdiocese makes no mention that “the first degree in the Priesthood is that of Reader” and that by living “a chaste, holy and upright life thou shalt gain the favor of the God of loving-kindness, and shalt render thyself worthy of a greater ministry…”. (Hapgood, p. 309). If so, this may be much ado about nothing. The text of the prayer used in the GOA should be made available – or at least more public. More modern Greek practice is not identical with what are often (though far from always) older Greek practices inherited by Russia. This language very possibly no longer exists in the Greek service books – or, conversely, it’s possible this language was added to the Russian books from other sources. (It’s possible Roman Catholic influence wanted to see Reader/Taper-bearer, Subdeacon, etc. more in the way it sees Roman ‘minor orders’.)

    The issue of tonsuring girls as Readers is an issue only because the prayer defines the Order in the language above. Otherwise, it’s more of a blessing.

    Of course, it’s equally odd to just start making up prayers and adding actions from other rites (tonsure) without (seemingly) a whole lot of reflection given to how the entire Church might see such an act. Thus, both the innovation (if it is so) and the parochialism (Greek = Orthodox alone, whatever the actions) are problems.

    Some claim that Antioch, too, tonsures female Readers. It’s unclear whether this is done solely in convents when there are no male Readers to be tonsured. The prayer used by Antioch for this tonsure is unknown to me. Is it possible the Greek churches (and Antioch, which has been heavily influenced by more modern Greek practice) have a different prayer with no mention of the “first degree of the Priesthood”, etc.?

    Blessing female Readers (as in Russia, and in most US churches) is different in that it in no wise places them on the path to Priesthood or Episcopacy. It’s simply an official blessing and prayer for them to take up service in the church.

    • Geo Michalopulos says

      That makes sense to me. I am in favor of orders for women but they need to be understood that they cannot in anyway be considered stepping-stones to the priesthood.

      I also like your point that the various jurisdictions should make consideration for the other jurisdictions’ sensibilities.

      • “Orders” for women? There are many vocations and even offices for which men and women can be blessed in the Church. But the natural and economical order of male as “head” and female as “body” means that women cannot ascend the sacramental ranks of the Church hierarchy because that would upend the natural and economical order, placing women over men in the hierarchy.

        • Deacon, I stand corrected. Should I have said “offices” or perhaps “ministries” instead? I think that the office of deaconess should be revived although in the patristic understanding of the term. Not being part of the sacerdotum.

      • Ps-Iosifson says

        Any chance you could obtain a copy of the prayer used by the GOA for tonsuring readers? This could very well clarify the situation, or prove that the planned tonsure of female readers would have been highly inappropriate.

        Conciliarity isn’t a license to what you will and all other Orthodox will cover for you. Conciliarity is a brake on a given Orthodox cleric, monastery, parish, diocese, metropolis, local church as they preach and teach and do. It doesn’t keep all change from happening, it simply expects any change to be accepted by a broader crosssection of the Church. A parish should always be checking itself against its diocese/metropolis and bishop, a bishop and his diocese/metropolis should be checking itself against the wider eparchy/metropolitan region or local church; and each local church should be checking itself against the wider Church. It’s also a way to further communication on the problems facing a parish, diocese, etc. and to vette potential solutions without the gossip grapevine leading to shouts of anathema based on misunderstandings. More heads are better than one.

        • In the GOA the pray for tonsuring readers does NOT say it is a step toward the priesthood. I don’t have a copy of the prayer, however, to upload so that people can see for themselves.

  24. The hatred spewed out by both sides in these responses is just disgusting. I hope if any person considering becoming Orthodox stumbled upon this page that they are still considering doing so IN SPITE OF us. May this be a reminder to all of us to beg for God’s constant mercy in caring more about our egos than the saving Gospel of Christ.

    Josh Greve

    • Joshua, standing up for the faith is not “hatred.” If I’ve misread your criticisms, please forgive me.

      • Saying words that defend truth with sarcasm and flippant accusations heresy to people we don’t even know not to mention tones that are unloving is not truly standing up for the faith. I can be as right as rain on all theological issues in the book and still be less Orthodox than the Bishop tonsuring girl readers (which it seems he isn’t even doing).

        • Joshua, first of all, I haven’t accused anyone of heresy. That would take a trial of bishops. Second, sarcasm has its place, read one of Paul’s letters (i’ll find the actual chapter/verse) in which he sarcastically lauds his readers and puts himself down. As for invective, please read what St John the Evangelist said to Prochorus, when Cerinthus, a Gnostic, was seen entering the baths in Ephesus –“Come Prochorus, let us flee this place, lest the walls fall upon us!” And I believe it was St Cyril of Alexandria who said, upon hearing that John of Antioch (the future Chrysostome) was elected Archbishop of Alexandria: “Well if Judas could be made a disciple, then John can be made a bishop.”

          • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

            The best Scriptural expression of sarcasm came from the man born blind, to whom the Lord gave sight.
            Finally, exasperated by hearing the same question from the Jewish authorities, he exclaims, “Why are you asking me after I already answered your question; Do you want to become His disciples?”

    • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

      I haven’t seen any hatred here. Can the discerning Joshua point to some expressions of hatred? Many parents are angered by the antics of their children at times, and they express that anger: yet the children are enjoined to honor them. Where’s the hatred? Next thing Joshua will ask< Does that mean I'm going to hell" if someone points out an erroneous belief of his. I've not seen any expressions of hatred here.

  25. Re. “Female Deacons,”

    1 Timothy 3:12: “Let deacons be the husbands of one wife,”

    What does that instruction of St. Paul tell us, or imply, about female deacons/deaconesses in the early church?
    (It tells me that there weren’t any.)

    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

      Hear, hear. That’s the apostolic rule. The Church did later try deaconesses, but they didn’t last. One can easily imagine why. They didn’t fit in the hierarchy in any way that could be squared with the natural order. The Church in the West began banning deaconesses with the Council of Orange in 441. The Church in the East didn’t ban them but did stop making them and also banned the appointment of women as presbytides at the Council of Laodicea in 364.

      • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

        Speaking of the natural order, I have put off explaining the difference between archy and hierarchy because no one seemed interested, but the difference is considerable.

        A hierarchy is universally understood as an order based on dissimilarity of nature, inequality of powers, subordination of wills, and mediation between persons. In contrast, an archy is defined (by me if no one else) as an order based on similarity of nature, equality of powers, unity of will, and intimacy (or immediacy) of persons — on account of the derivative relationship of the persons, one person being the source, the arche, of the other person.

        The Trinity is an archy. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share the same nature, are all equal, are of one will, and relate directly with each other without mediation, on account of the Father being the Arche of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

        Likewise, the man and the woman are naturally an archy, the woman being made from the man, of the same flesh and bone, originally equal and united in will, relating directly to each other and to God (not one through the other to God). This remains the way the man and the woman are supposed to relate, the way they should strive to relate, and the way they will related in the next life.

    • M. Stankovich says

      In Acts 6:1ff were are told of a conflict that arose regarding daily distribution of food to widows. The Apostles gathered the disciples to inform them that they (Apostles) should not have to leave [preaching] the Word of God to “wait on tables” (v. 2) [διακονεῖν τραπέζαις – and lest there is any speculation of this to imply a liturgical function, you need only recall that in a monastery, “trapeza” refers to the place where daily meals are taken]. Seven men are selected and upon whom the Apostles “laid their hands,” yet they are never referred to as “deacons.”

      In Philemon 1:2, Apphia is simply referred to as “our sister” (τῇ ἀδελφῇ); Prisca (Priscilla), with her husband, is/are referred to as “fellow worker(s)”(συνεργούς μου) , as are Timothy (Rom 16:9) and Titus (2 Cor 8:23); Titus is also referred to as “my partner” (κοινωνὸς ἐμὸς), in the same construction as used in Lk. 5:10, where the Sons of Zebedee are referred to as “partners” of Simon. Yet, in Rom. 16:1, Paul refers to Phoebe as “our sister,” but also specifically as “deacon” (διάκονον) of the church in Cenchrea.

      Commenting on 1 Timothy 3:12: “Let deacons be the husbands of one wife,” St. Chrysostom writes:

      This must be understood therefore to relate to Deaconesses. For that order is necessary and useful and honorable in the Church. Observe how he requires the same virtue from the Deacons, as from the Bishops, for though they were not of equal rank, they must equally be blameless; equally pure.

      and in referring to verse 11, “Even so must the women be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things,” he notes:

      Some have thought that this is said of women generally, but it is not so, for why should he introduce anything about women to interfere with his subject? He is speaking of those who hold the rank of Deaconesses.

      (St. John Chrysostom, “Homily 11 on First Timothy” in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 13. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1889.)

      Canon 11 of the Synod of Laodicea – believed to have been held between the 1st & 2nd Ecumenical Councils – simply states: Presbytides (πρεσβύτιδες), as they are called, or female presidents (προκαθήμεναι), are not to be appointed in the Church. A commentator suggests the “answer” is found in

      Epiphanius, who in his treatise against the Collyridians (Hær., lxxix. 4) says that “women had never been allowed to offer sacrifice, as the Collyridians presumed to do, but were only allowed to minister. Therefore there were only deaconesses in the Church, and even if the oldest among them were called ‘presbytides,’ this term must be clearly distinguished from presbyteresses. The latter would mean priestesses (ἱερίσσας), but ‘presbytides’ only designated their age, as seniors.” According to this, the canon appears to treat of the superior deaconesses who were the overseers (προκαθήμεναι) of the other deaconesses; and the further words of the text may then probably mean that in future no more such superior deaconesses or eldresses were to be appointed, probably because they had often outstepped their authority.

      (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1900.)

      And this status of Presbytides is independently confirmed H. Alford:

      such widows as corresponded in office for their own sex in some measure to the presbyters, — sat unveiled in the assemblies in a separate place, by the presbyters, and had a kind of supervision over their own sex, especially over the widows and orphans : were vowed to perpetual widowhood, clad with a ‘ vestis vidualis,’ and ordained by laying on of hands. This institution of the early church, was abolished by the eleventh canon of the council of Laodicea

      (Alford. H. Greek Testament. Cambridge: London (1856). pp. 90-91.)

      • Stankovich, you still haven’t answered the question. Why do you have a gay icon on your website?

  26. Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

    Tradition is not what we read as having happened in this or that early or late century in the history of the Church. Tradition is what is handed over in the life of the Church from generation to generation. At first, circumcision was a vital part of becoming a Christian, but it soon became electtive or, at least, no longer part of Tradition. Public enumeration of one’s sins to each member of the local community as they entered the place of worship was a practice handed over for a while, but finally extinguished when the Emperor made membership in the local community of Constantinople to be something by which one could advance, and without which one could NOT advance, and all sorts of people were entering the place of worship; it became inappropriate and the practice dropped out of the Tradition. Subintroductae seem to have been part of Christian community life for a generation or two, but that practice stopped being handed over to succeeding generations. There are many such practices and even offices that have not been passed on or over for generation and generation, as we say: they cannot be called Tradition, or, much, much, worse, “Tradition we are reviving.” if it is not passed on, passed over, carried over, it is NOT Tradition, by definition. Exhaustive searching of ancient documents, theological or liturgical archeology does not produce Tradition: it may reveal the death of this or that tradition, however. If we resolve to follow Holy Tradition we must not seek ways and means to augment it with practices that the Church discarded long ago. This,of course, goes against all Baptist tradition: they, as we know, became great church historians because they turned to archeology and documentary research to dig up and PROVE that they were the REAL practitioners of “The Original Tradition.” The members of Una Sancta in the 40s and 50s, the monastics of the Black Forest, etc., devoted themselves to “The older Tradition” and they produced Vatican II. Some of that same spirit animated not only some documents submitted by Hierarchs to the All Russian Church Council of 1917, it also animated the notorious Renovators or Church of the Renovation(s), and to a certain extent, animates the Orthodox living under Western cultural domination today.
    What we have received, what was passed on to us, is MORE than sufficient for our every need and purpose which is unto salvation. Will the “restoration” of ANY kind of deaconesses or female deacons in renovated form save one soul that would have been lost without it? Anything is possible, but going by what is possible is a very problematic ethic, indeed.
    Restorations, reformations, renovations: so much energy is expended on them, physical and spiritual.
    Surely the Holy Tradition directs us toward other tasks.

    • I am perplexed by the logic here. If things have changed over the centuries, why should we assume that things cannot be changed in the future? Does this not (a) deny the continual working of the Holy Spirit in the Body? and (b) restrict tradition to a mechanical process, such as described by His Grace “Tradition is what is handed over in the life of the Church from generation to generation” ? Frankly, I do not see a better way of changing, if we are going to change in accordance with the will of the Holy Spirit than to going back to practices in the past that were blessed by the Holy Spirit. If they were good enough for our great-great-great-great-great (etc) grandfathers, they ought to be good enough for us. Why should we restrict ourselves to “It was good for dad and mother, and it is good enough for me” (Jim Reeves version)?

      • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

        That’s, what, more logical? Tee-hee!
        Things develop even when we don’t try to make them develop. That’s often felt to be action of the Holy Spirit.
        It’s overweening at the least to MAKE things happen and call that the action of the Holy Spirit.
        Time tells if a Council is ecumenical or not. No one can take a vote to decide if a Council is ecumenical or not. Time tells if an All-American Council was inspired or not. No one can say: “Oh THIS council demonstrated the action of the Holy Spirit,” OR “This council was not inspired by the Holy Spirit.” Unless, of course, one considers oneself something like the Dalai Lama of Protopresbyters, upon whom the charisma of discernment has been uniquely bestowed.

        • Carl Kraeff says

          Are you saying that all the changes that have happened were initiated by the Holy Spirit? Surely, following your examples, some things were started by mere mortals–even with the phrase “it is good for the Holy Spirit and us…”–but were retroactively confirmed by the laos with the passage of time. But, you say “things develop when we don’t try to make them develop.” Does this mean that the Holy Spirit develops them or that whatever happens is quite accidental, that is, happen by themselves with no start or push by humans, angels or the Holy Spirit? I am sorry I sound flippant but I am truly confused by your reasoning.

      • This really isn’t my issue, but let me jump into the fray with a few thoughts anyway.

        When thinking about holy tradition, it is useful to distinguish between different types of traditions. Doctrine was laid down once and for all by Christ and the apostles, and it has never and can never change. Morality is the same way. There is an amazing unanimity among the holy fathers on doctrine and morality, and it is in complete harmony with the holy scriptures. If these could change, then truth would not be absolute and what is true one day would not be true the next. That would be absurd.

        When we speak of Holy Tradition changing over time, we are speaking of issues that do not rise to the level of immutable apostolic doctrine or morality. There are many areas of canon law that do not represent mandates laid down by the Apostles, but practical rules for smooth functioning of the church, or pastoral guidance suited for the faithful at a particular point in time. These practices are certainly consistent with immutable doctrine and morality, they certainly contain a great deal of wisdom, and they certainly came about by the leading of the Holy Spirit appropriate to the time at which they were adopted. However, they are not immutable. When it comes to clerical orders, some aspects rise to the level of apostolic mandate and some are adopted practices that can change over time.

        If it is true, and it seems to be true, that deaconesses existed even in the apostolic age without incurring any apostolic condemnation, and that this practice persisted for at least 400 years, then we should be careful not to condemn the practice as outside the bounds of Orthodoxy. I think it is safe to say that if the mandate “husband of one wife” was intended to exclude women as deacons, then the Apostles would have condemned the practice of deaconesses, but they did not. On the other hand, if the practice since 400AD has been to have only male deacons, that tradition should carry a lot of weight and respect as well, though it should not be viewed as rising to the level of immutable doctrine. If it was legitimate to change the practice once, then we shouldn’t exclude the possibility of changing the practice again, especially if the change would be to restore a more ancient tradition.

        In the New Testament narrative, the office of deacon was not from the beginning, but it arose organically to fulfill the specific task of distributing funds to widows, orphans, and those in need. The Scriptures do not say that the office of deacon was created to assist in the liturgical rituals, though I suspect that tradition arose very early in church history. This is another area to consider – were deaconesses participating only in the distribution of the “deacons fund”, or did they have an active role in the liturgy in the early centuries. I have no idea, but I think it is a relevant question to ask.

        Some might be concerned about the “slippery slope” argument. If we allow women deaconesses, then the next step is the priesthood. In my opinion, the apostolic mandate that men are to do the teaching in the church raises that aspect of the priesthood to the level of apostolic mandate not subject to adaptation over time. If a theological distinction between the priesthood and the office of deacon is maintained, it is possible to avoid a slippery slope.

        I would invite all sides to consider the words of St Augustine: “In what is necessary, unity; in what is dubious, diversity; in all things, charity.” I have yet to hear an argument that this issue pertains to “the one thing needful,” the salvation of our souls. Tolerance for diversity in non-essentials is hard for Orthodox to accept, but it will be necessary if we ever hope to find unity among diversity in an eventual unified autocephalous American Orthodox church.

        • Here are some excerpts from the “Constitutions of the Holy Apostles.” The role of the deaconess in the early church was limited in some ways that does not give full precedent for women to serve in the role of a modern deacon:

          1. Deaconesses only ministered to other women, not to men
          2. For purposes of modesty, deaconesses played a role in the baptism of women so that the men had very little contact with the woman’s body.
          3. Deaconesses would serve in cases where a man could not serve, such as going to the house of a woman with an unbelieving husband. The husband would not allow another man to meet in private with his wife, but would allow a woman.
          4. There is no mention of the deaconess serving in the altar with men

          The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles

          From book III

          VI. We do not permit our “women to teach in the Church,” but only to pray and hear those that teach; for our Master and Lord, Jesus Himself, when He sent us the twelve to make disciples of the people and of the nations, did nowhere send out women to preach, although He did not want such. For there were with us the mother of our Lord and His sisters; also Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Martha and Mary the sisters of Lazarus; Salome, and certain others. For, had it been necessary for women to teach, He Himself had first commanded these also to instruct the people with us.

          XIV. …But those widows which will not live according to the command of God, are solicitous and inquisitive what deaconess it is that gives the charity, and what widows receive it. And when she has learned those things, she murmurs at the deaconess who distributed the charity, saying, Dost not thou see that I am in more distress, and want of thy charity? Why, therefore, hast thou preferred her before me? She says these things foolishly, not understanding that this does not depend on the will of man, but the appointment of God. For if she is herself a witness that she was nearer, and, upon inquiry, was in greater want, and more naked than the other, she ought to understand who it is that made this constitution, and to hold her peace, and not to murmur at the deaconess who distributed the charity, but to enter into her own house, and to cast herself prostrate on her face to make supplication to God that her sin may be forgiven her.

          Ordain also a deaconess who is faithful and holy, for the ministrations towards women. For sometimes he cannot send a deacon, who is a man, to the women, on account of unbelievers. Thou shalt therefore send a woman, a deaconess, on account of the imaginations of the bad. For we stand in need of a woman, a deaconess, for many necessities; and first in the baptism of women, the deacon shall anoint only their forehead with the holy oil, and after him the deaconess shall anoint them:(5) for there is no necessity that the women should be seen by the men; but only in the laying on of hands the bishop shall anoint her head

          XVI. Thou therefore, O bishop, according to that type, shalt anoint the head of those that are to be baptized, whether they be men or women, with the holy oil, for a type of the spiritual baptism. After that, either thou, O bishop, or a presbyter that is under thee, shall in the solemn form name over them the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, and shall dip them in the water; and let a deacon receive the man, and a deaconess the woman, that so the conferring of this inviolable seal may take place with a becoming decency.

          XIX. … And let the deaconess be diligent in taking care of the women; but both of them ready to carry messages, to travel about, to minister, and to serve, as spake Isaiah concerning the Lord, saying: “To justify the righteous, who serves many faithfully.” Let every one therefore know his proper place, and discharge it diligently with one consent, with one mind, as knowing the reward of their ministration; but let them not be ashamed to minister to those that are in want, as even our” Lord Jesus Christ came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many.”

          From book VI

          XVII. …Let the deaconess be a pure virgin; or, at the least, a widow who has been but once married, faithful, and well esteemed.

  27. cynthia curran says

    Well, your correct about the Pope and Charlemagne they didn’t say it was a new Roman Empire. And its probably true that as time went on the usage of Frank changed. Irene or Charlemagne might have thought of some alliance or sorts. There is gossip about a marriage. which may or may not be true. George and I discuss all the foreigners that served in the Eastern Roman Empire Army thru the 4th to 6th centuries. Asper a general under Theodosius the 2nd and Marican was an Alan not one of the Germanic Groups but another foreign group . The Franks were use against the Ostergoths during the Goth-Byzantine conflict but decided to take some land of their own in northern Italy during that time. Byzantines during the early centuries didn’t thing any worst of the Franks than the other Germanic groups. Both the Byzantines and Franks were sometimes allies and enemies depending upon the circumstances in the earlier period which served them best. In fact, even in the East a lot of Germans from different tribes were heavily involved in military service even into the 6th century A.D. The East created a new guard group in the palace which consisted of less Germans to prevent what happen in the west during the end of the 5th century.

  28. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has crossed the line — and even violated traditional Christian doctrine — by tonsuring several young girls as Readers in a Greek Orthodox Church in Scottsdale, Arizona.

    Many members of this church are disappointed with this non-Christian decision — and rightly so. It would not surprise me if a plethora of church member will now leave this church and join a church that is more Christian-oriented.

    The Scottsdale church needs to rescind its decision to tonsure young girls — and fast — to end the disharmony and anger it has caused among all of the Orthodox jurisdictions in America.

  29. This is the photo-gallery for the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy concelebrated by Patriarchs Kirill and Ignatius IV in the Antiochian Patriarchal Cathedral of the Dormition in Damascus on November 13:

    The 12th picture clearly shows girls garbed as altar servers, posing in front of the (closed) Royal Gates. They aren’t shown in action anywhere else in the gallery, but they’re dressed as altar servers, so….

    • Sho ’nuff. Right there on the ambo. How cute.

      And as these little girls grow up, what reason will be given them for why they can’t do more?

      • Carl Kraeff says

        This may be another one of those Holly Spirit-guided changes that just happen spontaneously–at least in accordance with Bishop Tikhon’s theology.

        • Or it could be the work of the devil. How are we to know, Carl? What does the Church teach us about “testing the spirits”?

          • Carl Kraeff says

            I agree with you 100%.

            • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

              So what does the Church teach us about “testing the spirits”?

              • So, you don’t know what I am agreeing with. OK. Here it goes.

                The phrase “test the spirits” comes I John 4:

                1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.

                4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. 6 We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

                It is important to note that the Beloved Disciple includes this in Chapter 4, which is mainly about love, as shown in the subsequent verses::

                7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

                12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

                17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.

                20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”

                Source: New King James Bible at

                So, why did I agree with you? To me the overall context was change, that is, how our practices have changed over the centuries. In that context, it is important to have some yardsticks, one of which is indeed “testing the spirits.” By this I mean that we (even the laity) have the responsibility to protect the deposit of faith, to make sure we do not follow false prophets. Some of us use a “no change from what I got” approach; others try to figure out the historical context and test it against the principals embodied in the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition. The first approach is certainly safe as it preserves what one has received and presumes to be The Holy Tradition that has evolved/changed under the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit. To these folks, even a rubric or a calendar is of equal dogmatic significance as the Holy Scriptures and the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Others, like Father Alexander Schmemann of thrice blessed memory, do not play it so safe but try to figure out what the Church practice should ideally be, given Her entire deposit of faith, placing progressively greater authority to sources that are closer to the our beginning–a yardstick long employed by the Church Fathers. An example is Father Schmemann’s appeal to the Holy Scriptures, Early Church Fathers and the liturgical deposit to weed out Roman Catholic influences that had crept into the Russian Church.

                I would suggest that the first approach simply overlooks 1 John 4 and reflexively rejects any change whatsoever. I realize that I am making a rather extreme statement here but where exactly is “testing of the spirits” (and doing so in the context of love), if one rejects any change?

                Going back to the “altar” girls, thinking that they are altar servers is an example of not testing the spirits, whereas one who understands 1 John 4 would ask questions like: “Did the girls serve in the altar or did they merely joined the Little Entrance procession outside the altar?” The first approach is devoid of love, and takes a formulaic, rubric worshiping approach. The second one tries to figure out exactly what happened and why in the spirit of giving a brother the benefit of the doubt, that is, in the spirit of verses 20-21 that bear repeating :

                “20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.”

                • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                  Thank you, Carl, for your earnest answer, which honestly expresses your overall perspective. It reveals you to be pro-change generally, and pro-change especially when it comes to equalizing the sexes, as evidenced by your assumption that opposition to this particular change equalizing the sexes is unloving.

                  Of course, 1 John 4 is not about change — it’s about truth. It contrasts the “truth” that is of God, coming to us through the Apostles, with the “error” of the world:

                  5 They are of the world; therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. 6 We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

                  Now, between the two of us, which will receive more applause from the Apostles? And which will receive more applause from the world?

                  • Carl Kraeff says

                    I am not pro-change per se but I do not shy from change if it aims to discern what is the true teaching of Christ and the Apostles. I am perfectly happy where the several local Churches are, although I admit to being aggravated by fanatical adherence to pious customs as if they are critical components of Holy Tradition. I am convinced by my reading of Church history that there are many things that some of us think are part of the Holy Tradition when they in fact are deviations from authentic Tradition. I think that some folks confuse the forbearance of the Holy Spirit with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and are caught in a logical bind. The issue of the calendar is a good example of how I feel; those folks who insist that the Julian calendar is the Church calendar are plainly wrong but I would not mind worshiping with them if they do not hate those who are on the new calendar.

                    Similarly on the present issue, I think that there is room under 1 John 4, even with your emphasis on “truth” over “love” for slightly different practices to co-exist. What I am saying is that opposition to your POV does not necessarily stem from feminism or an attempt to equalize the sexes. We already know the truth that there is no difference at all between the sexes before the chalice. We already know that there is an insurmountable difference between the sexes when it comes to the ordained priesthood. What we are arguing about is the role and functions of females between these two poles.

                    Regarding your question, I had not considered it until you asked. To paraphrase Rhett Butler, frankly I don’t care. I am just trying to be true to my baptismal vows, which are reaffirmed each time that I approach the Holy Chalice.

                    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                      Truth and love are not enemies. You can’t love people with lies. Only the truth will do them any good.

                      Speaking of truth, you write:

                      We already know that there is an insurmountable difference between the sexes when it comes to the ordained priesthood.

                      Tell me, what is the difference? I’ve asked this before, but you haven’t answered.

                    • Carl Kraeff says

                      I find the differences in the Holy Scriptures and Apostolic practice. The Lord did not choose female apostles. The Apostles did not choose female priests or bishops. All agreed with Saint Paul about the requirement for a bishop./priest to be a man. The Holy Bible does not have one instance to the contrary, Apostolic witness and practice ditto. Furthermore,there is no instance to the contrary since then and I challenge anyone to come up with any source in Orthodox Christianity that would justify female priests and bishops. The tortuous reasoning applied by some Protestants who have tried to justify such practice have done so by picking and choosing verses and concepts and then superimposing on them their own biases. This is hardly the way that the Orthodox Church does any change. Indeed, it is not orthodox Christianity at all. Look, I admire you attempt to figure out an overarching basis for our bedrock principle but I do not think that it is really needed. And, I do think that if “truth” and “love” were two separate weights and placed on a balance, I think that truth would be heavier in your case.

                      Now, may I ask you a question? If the Biblical and Apostolic witness is for female deacons to exist, why do you oppose their reintroduction, as has been done in the Church of Greece?

                    • Carl, I asked about the difference, and you haven’t provided one. You have only said, “It’s tradition” — no rhyme, no reason, no difference, just, “It’s tradition.”

                      Well, here’s a tradition for you: The Fathers all justify the exclusion of women from the priesthood on the basis of the subjection of the woman to the man. Do you believe in that tradition, or don’t you?

                    • Carl Kraeff says

                      First, this is the very first time that I know of that a clergyman of the Church has dismissed an argument based on Holy Tradition (and I am talking about tradition with a capital T, not pious opinion). It seems to me that you are so invested in your “archy” principle that you are not seeing the forest for the trees. What you are in fact trying to do is the apply your “archy” principle to every facet of the church, regardless of dogma and practice.

                      My position is not in opposition to “that tradition” so that your question is irrelevant and misleading. I had said that your overarching “archy” principle is not needed to determine the question of women priests. But, I do understand that it is important to you that woman’s subjection be total, whether it be in the choir, church school or in the middle of the congregation whilst reading the Epistle. I do understand that you do not want women to become deaconesses, or female deacons, since this would violate your precious “archy” principle. Or, is all of this scholastic discussion to prove the superiority of man to woman, or more specifically the superiority of Deacon Brian Patrick over all those uppity women who would dare to aspire to his cherished position as cleric?

                    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                      Carl, I’m just still trying to pin you down on your principles, and you’re still not giving me a straight answer. Do you believe in the divinely ordained economical hierarchy (not archy) of man over woman? And what’s the difference between man and woman relevant to the tradition that only men can be priests? Simple answers, please.

                      These are hard questions for you, I expect, because you don’t want to admit what you truly believe, because what you truly believe is not what the Church has always taught. If that’s not so, then you should have no problem saying plainly that women can’t be priests because, “For with us indeed the woman is reasonably subjected to the man, since equality of honor causeth contention.” (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 26 on 1 Cor.)

                  • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

                    The one who thinks the Apostles will applaud him needs our prayers.

                  • Father Deacon–I am not interested in (a) an anti-feminist crusade, (b) recreating Fourth Century society, or (b) putting uppity women in our Orthodox churches in their place. I have presented to you sufficient reasons why the priesthood is reserved to men only. And, I do not think that I need to keep on beating this dead horse any further.

                    • Dn Brian Patrick Mitchell says

                      Still you refuse to answer the question — more evidence that you do not believe what the Church has always taught on the nature of human existence. Face it, Carl, you are a heretic and are only pretending to support a tradition you see no real sense in.

                      I’ll leave it at that.

                    • Carl Kraeff says

                      I will bring it up with my spiritual father ASAP.

                    • Carl Kraeff says

                      I sent the entire thread to my spiritual father and he said the following.

                      Heretic is a strong word reserved for dogmatic differences, You two seem to be disgreeing on the “why,” not so much on the “what.”

                      He also asked me to find out why you are not with the Cathedral. I replied that I thought you had said that you were pushed out (?) . Anyway, would ypu please confirm/correct the reason for you not being the Cathedral so that I can inform him. Thanks.

                    • Heretic is a strong word reserved for dogmatic differences, You two seem to be disgreeing on the “why,” not so much on the “what.”

                      Carl, that is precisely why I stopped responding to the good deacon. He is a good man, though I think he is much mistaken about the why.

                    • Carl, the Apostles and Fathers are quite plain on the why, and their why is fundamental to their understanding of human existence. I have quoted some of them to you already. That’s why you are so evasive about your own why. You won’t tell me your why because you know it’s not the why of the Apostles and Fathers.

                      Now how can someone not believe everything the Church has ever taught about something so basic as the distinction of male and female and still be “Orthodox”?

        • Bishop Tikhon (Fitzgerald) says

          I don’t know what Mister Carl Kraeff means by “Holly Spirit.” As far as I know, gin is made from juniper, not holly berries. One would have to test his “Holly” spirits to settle it.
          On a lighter note, is not the present Patriarch of Antioch a graduate of St. Sergius Institute in Paris, and was he not, while a student there, sometimes the baby-sitter of the Meyendorff kids?

          Did one of my interlocutors here claim I referred to spontaneity as some kind of principle related to Tradition? What an idea! Certainly not! That would be industrial-strength, large economy size, non sequitur!

          • Carl Kraeff says


            “Master” Kraeff confesses to be a lousy typist and wishes to have half the typing ability and sight of His Grace.

            On a lighter note, the theory of spontaneity comes from Your Grace–from my reading of your explanation of change. For a fleeting moment, I even entertained the idea , preposterous as it is, that you were somehow an adherent of the Big Bang Theory. Like you say, what an idea!

    • M. Stankovich says

      Do you think Patriarch Kirill actually paid for the candle he’s lighting in picture #2?

    • The website of the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate says the following about these girls and boys:

      Orthodox scouts and children vested in dalmatics participated in the Little Entrance.

      • Carl Kraeff says

        The most plausible explanation is that the scouts and other children (probably those in the photo) participated in the Little Entrance outside the altar. It makes sense because the Antiochian Little Entrance goes from the left deacon door all the way down the nave along the wall and back to the Altar via the central aisle–plenty of room for the scouts and children in dalmatics to have formed outside the left deacon door and to be in the procession all the way back to the ambo.

  30. Antonia Colias says

    One peculiarity of this discussion relates to the age at which a male may be tonsured as a reader. From a very young age, my eldest son dreamed of being a reader. Archbishop Dmitri (of blessed memory) told him that age fourteen is the youngest age allowed by the canons for tonsure as a reader. (My son began reading at age fourteen, and was tonsured at age sixteen.) I mention this because it is strange to read of twelve-year old boys receiving the tonsure. To hear of seven-year olds reading the Epistle (even without being tonsured) is just plain weird.

    I visited the website of the GOArch parish under discussion to see what might have been posted regarding something that, within the parameters of Orthodoxy as it has been transmitted to me by priests whom, and by sources which, I feel that I can trust, is wrong. The following description [copied from the website] of the parish girls’ group explicitly supports the “tonsuring” of female “readers”:

    A ministry for young women

    The Ministry of Myrrhbearers

    The ministry of Myrrhbearers especially seeks to develop an active participation of its young women in the life of the Church. Beginning at 7 years old, Myrrhbearers will serve the Church in special ways and hopefully continue doing so throughout their lives. The scope of the ministry includes:

    • Becoming tonsured Readers of the Sunday Epistle

    • Being taught how to prepare the liturgical breads and koliva (memorial wheat).

    • Instruction in the care and cleaning of liturgical items.

    • Instruction in preparing the Church for feast days.

    • Becoming mentors for the younger girls as a Myrrhbearer for Holy Friday.

    • Engaging in Pastoral Care and Outreach.

    The Myrrhbearers will meet periodically for instruction.

    • Antonia, the verbiage found on this website only confirms my criticisms that within the GOA they make things up as the go along, particularly point #1. Mind you, I have no disagreement (and every inclination to support) the concept of Myrrh-bearers as described in the other points. (Except for the concept of tonsuring which I guess is restricted to only males entering the priestly orders.)

      • Antonia Colias says

        On the same page here. Eliminate that first “point”, and the remaining ones make for an excellent girls/teen service group. I would add an encouragement for girls to join the choir, if they have musical abilities.

        • Geo Michalopulos says

          absolutely. I love the voices of Orthodox chant when performed by females. Positively angelic.