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Sunday, April 22nd, 2012 03:34 pm

Orthodoxy needs a restoration of the diaconate of women.

Women deacons would
1. address the needs of the suffering by
a. comforting the sick, the dying, the imprisoned, the needy
b. fighting to end oppression
c. providing spiritual guidance
2. participate liturgically not only in ways restricted to the diaconate (such as dispensing eucharist and reading the gospel) but also in ways open to the laity (such as chanting, reading the epistle, and preaching homilies)
3. arbitrate in disputes among the male clergy, as members of the diaconate outside of the hierarchical ranks
4. arbitrate in disputes between laity and male clergy, including support to those who have suffered abuse at the hands of clergy

Of course, orthodox women already address the needs of the suffering in the ways I describe. Doing so as members of the diaconate would add further glory to the diaconate, bolster respect for ordination, and encourage every parish to conform to the norm of recognizing the personhood of all baptized and chrismated adult christians.

Peacemaking is a role that comes naturally to women socialized in our culture. We do it at home, in the workplace, among our family and friends. For the male clergy to not avail themselves of our expertise in this field is simply foolish, both regarding disputes internal to the clergy and disputes with the laity.

In our culture, women are more likely than men to have first- and second-hand experiences of abuse. The painful lessons we have learned make us better suited to sensitively and lovingly handle cases of asserted abuse with the goal of healing all parties involved.

Orthodoxy does not need women priests.

Traditionally food-making is, in our patriarchal culture, women's work, and women's work is disrespected. So, in order to be respected, the liturgical food-making must be performed by men.
This is an indication of a deficiency in our culture. Analogously, before the personhood of women is universally acknowledged in all its implications, having a female liturgical representative of christ is not possible. When women are acknowledged as persons, when our choices are respected and our options widened to be comparable to those offered to men, then we can begin to examine the question of women priests.

But it is my opinion, that even if we reach the point where we could begin that conversation, ordaining women priests would still not be beneficial. As indicated by the platytera, the altar is a type of the womb - in particular, the womb of the theotokos. It has one great opening and two small openings. It is where the body and blood of christ are made. Women carry the prototype of the altar inside our bodies (whether or not we can or choose to make children with it), so to have women within the church's altar would be redundant.

Because the seminary environment is so androcentric, it is unclear whether seminary education would be beneficial for women seeking ordination to the diaconate. Certainly pastoral training could be useful for women providing spiritual guidance. But many women have extensive experience comforting the suffering, giving them expertise that no amount of formal training could ever compare to. Women who do have formal theological training should be recognized for that, and if women theologians are also deacons, women who do not have such training should refer theological questions to them.

Increasing the representation of women with theological training, whether or not they are deacons, in teaching both laity and clergy is also a development that would benefit orthodoxy.


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