Oh, BTW, We Have Deaconesses Now

From the visit at the Archdiocese. Shown are Deaconess Adamantia, Deacon Michael, Archbishop Elpidophoros, and Archdeacon Dinonysios. Photo: GOA



  1. Kephalonitis says

    In this case deaconess or διακόνισσα is how a deacon’s wife is adressed, a priest or πρεσβύτερος wife is called a πρεσβυτέρα, presbytera. In Arabic a priest is called a Khoury and his wife a Khouriya. In this case it refers to Deacon Michael’s wife.

  2. “A brighter future emerged after Archbishop Elpidophoros of America welcomed Deacon Michael Diamond and his wife, deaconess Adamantia, to Archdiocesan headquarters.”

    That his title is capitalized, and hers isn’t, seems imply to me that’s she’s a “deaconess” only in as far as she’s married to her husband. Seems somebody was just careless in the captioning under the photo.

  3. “Diakonissa” simply means “wife of the Deacon”, it is very commonly used as such in Greece and does not imply that the woman has been ordained; rather, that she shares in her husband’s ministry, being one flesh with him, and is addressed with this title of honor and respect. Similarly, the wife of a priest is “Presvytera”, wife of the presbeter, which does not mean an ordained female priest, but is a term of honor and respect, as she, too, shares her husband’s ministry, being one flesh with him.

  4. Fr David Straut says

    Well, you had me on edge with that one, George. Sure glad it was just a case of ignorance of English.

  5. For those of us who are new to Orthodoxy, it reveals an important theological question. To what extent does the “one flesh” of marriage confer the grace of ordination to wives?

    Among groups of women with an equal percentage of Matushkas, “deaconesses,” etc., and us regular women, this question is sometimes raised. There are parishes with large groups of matushkas / “deaconesses” without a special function in the parish per se, so the title refers not to a special responsibility or role, but only to the grace given to the woman via her union with her husband. What exactly does this imply?

    • Gail Sheppard says

      Interesting question, Michelle.

      • George Michalopulos says

        Personally (and this is just my opinion), here in America, to avoid any such confusion, the wife of a priest should be referred to as either “Rev Mrs” or “Mother”.

        Presbytera, Khouria, –though we understand its limitations–can connote in due time “Eldress” and “Priestess”. Strictly speaking that’s what they mean.

        We’ve kinda been here before, hence we recognize certain monastics of amazing spiritual quality as “Geronta” or “Staretz” rather than “presbyter (which literally means “elder”). In other words, over the centuries we’ve increased the distinction between these types of clergymen.

        Again, my opinion. That an 50 cents will buy you a cup of coffee.

        • Michael Bauman says

          Sorry George,

          That any Orthodox would EVER think that a priest or deacon’s wife has sacredotal authority and chrism is nuts. Frankly, my opinion is that is only those who have imbibed the toxins of modernism and/or the stupidity of ethnocentrism. Interestingly enough they often seem to come together.

          The solution is not to accommodate the toxic stupidity but teach the truth. The wives of our priests and deacons deserve the honor and deserve to be free of the modern insanity. Changing the titles would not do that.

          • George Michalopulos says

            Michael, I never said (or implied) that. Calling a priest’s wife “Mother” is no different than calling her “Matushka” (which means “mother” in Russian). As far as “Rev Mrs” that’s an old Anglican honorific for the wife of a vicar if I’m not mistaken.

            • Michael Bauman says

              George, I am just tired of changing because of the grotesque fantasies of idiots

              • Joseph A. says

                Yes, right on!

                • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster says

                  For what it’s worth, my wife of 48+ years, Matushka Kathleen M. Webster, prefers to avoid such titles and is quite happy with folks calling her “Kathleen.”

            • I believe the Reverend Mrs is a married female priest
              in the Anglican hierarchy. The wife of Reverend X would just be Mrs X.
              However, as I am not and have never been an Anglican, I can’t be sure.

    • There’s no grace of ordination for the wife. As stated above, it’s an honorary title which implies that she co-struggles with her husband in serving the parish (or supporting him in his ministry if he is serving in some other capacity, such as an assistant priest, teacher, etc.), but there is no necessary implication of pastoral, liturgical, or any other kind of ministry within the parish or community itself. Some clergy wives are very much involved in parish life – choir, philoptochos sisterhood, etc. – but some are not involved at all, preferring to stay in the background.

      • There’s no grace of ordination for the wife

        None, whatsoever? Then what does it mean for her to be one flesh with her husband?

        • What does the grace of ordination impart? The ability to serve the holy mysteries of baptism, chrismation, Eucharist, confession, marriage, and unction, as well as the canonical and liturgical duties of presiding over the divine services and rites of various kinds. Clergy wives don’t do this. They assist in their husband’s ministries in many, many ways, but they don’t partake of the responsibilities of an ordained clergyman. They are one flesh through the mystery of marriage, but the wife is still a unique individual person with no sacerdotal function. It can be both/and.

          To qualify the above, I will offer that God does give a special grace to clergy wives due to their additional spiritual burdens.

    • A deacon, his wife, and I had an interesting conversation about this topic today. The deacon said that there is either a canonical or folk practice (apologies; I do not remember which) that forbids a matushka from remarrying after the death of her husband, presumably because of the grace that she receives from her husband’s ordination.

      I inquired about the canonical restriction placed upon potential priests — that a priest cannot have been divorced, because the grace of his ordination would somehow affect or be affected by his previous marriage. (I welcome clarification about this restriction.)

      This article is interesting, “Clergy Wives on Sharing the Grace and Cross of Ordination”

      I do not have a preference for either argument, that we either do or do not have deaconesses. I have quoted before St John Chrysostom’s opinion that the title “deaconess” is best applied to old, grace-filled widows who were fully financially supported by the church. I do, however, believe that what is going on with priests’ and deacons’ wives is more complex… and that probably, the best way to learn about it is from them.

      • Probably a folk practice. Clergy wives (especially after their husbands’ deaths) are not subject to canon law, with the exception of the usual penances that we are all subject to.

        Interesting to note that Fr. Daniel Sysoev’s wife remarried and now lives in the States. Fr. Daniel, for those who don’t know, is a martyr and a saint.

    • Yes, a priest’s wife would then be a priestess. This implication might cause some to cross over into a sort of pagan worship scenario.

  6. Just a bad translation. I wouldn’t expect a TNH writer to know anything about Orthodoxy.

  7. Sean Richardson says

    So many of these arguments miss the point … Was there or was there not a special position given to a deaconess in the early, traditional church. I understand that this isn’t the case today, but is it historical?
    Obviously, for anyone who has done any historical research, the answer is “Yes”. The position of deaconess, and not as the wife of a deacon, is Traditional and historical. Let’s, please, not deny history.

    • It’s true that they existed, but they don’t anymore, and for a good reason. The work of a number of contemporary writers, Deacon Brian Patrick Mitchell being one that comes to mind, have been helpful in setting the record straight.

      • Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster says

        To correct a popular misnomer and to caution Orthodox today about the nefarious movement to establish female “deacons” equivalent to the historic order of deacon in the Orthodox Church, 54 clergy and lay scholars–a veritable “Who’s Who” in traditional Orthodoxy–signed the following statement in January 2018:

        “A Public Statement on Orthodox Deaconesses by Concerned Clergy and Laity”

        See https://www.aoiusa.org/a-public-statement-on-orthodox-deaconesses-by-concerned-clergy-and-laity-2/

        Additional signatories since January 2018 have raised the total to almost 350. The petition is still active. I urge readers of this blog to add their names if they concur with the Statement. You can be sure that the Orthodox bishops in the North America are aware of this endeavor.

    • Sean,

      I think the “point,” quite frankly, was missed in the headline of this article, “Oh, BTW, We Have Deaconesses Now.” A woman dressed in normal apparel standing with men in clerical dress should have been a clue that the translation into English, strictly accurate though it is, was not intended to carry the connotation perceived.

      The GOA and its “mother church” is certainly worthy of much of the criticism this site heaps upon them, but we mustn’t be quick to find fault in places it doesn’t exist.