• 14:05
  • Monday ,28 May 2018

Women and Priesthood in the Orthodox Church

By-Sherif Rezkalla- coptopia



Monday ,28 May 2018

Women and Priesthood in the Orthodox Church

Before attempting to answer this question, it is worth to note that this question stems from outside the Church, influenced by the feminist movements, which arose in the west.  This does not mean that the Orthodox Church should not be concerned about it.  On the contrary, it is deeply rooted in Church life now, as some call it,  The controversy of our time .

Neither is the question a new one.  The Church was confronted with it during its first three centuries, while at the time many Gnostic sects were ordaining women to priesthood and even the pagan cults surrounding the young church had a lot of practices of woman priestess. However, the Church  stood its ground, opposing both practices not for cultural, but for theological reasons. 
From the beginning men and women were created equally in the image of God.  They are both called in their unity to achieve their human potential and live in communion with God.  
This union is reaffirmed in Christ, the incarnate God who brought back humanity to God the Father, so in him there is no male nor female anymore; as St.Paul says to the Galatians: “There is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).
This union is restored in Christ, the incarnate God who brought back humanity to God the Father; so in Him there is no male nor female anymore; as St.Paul says to the Galatians “There is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28)
Negating Unity
This unity does not negate the otherness and diversity between men and women, which is also stressed by scripture and the Church faith and tradition. The Church asserts that males and females are not interchangeable as the is claiming. The otherness of man and woman lies in the very essence of creation, men and women were created with different qualities, capacities and vocations and they are called to complement each other to reach God in their unity, a task which alone neither can achieve.
But this differentiation has often in history led to inequality, and women have been treated as inferiors. The diversity of spiritual gifts between men and women has been used to assign women to roles with lower significance and value. It is also true that the church Fathers  were influenced by their then-contemporary cultures, and some even had some antifeminist statements like Tertullian (Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, c. 155 – c. 240 AD,[1] was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa)  “Woman is the gate to hell” Women were seen as having the prime responsibility for original sin following the Jewish interpretation, or even as the source of evil.  The Orthodox Church does not agree with this; it sees the typology of Eve -Mary as decisive for the female vocation, as the role of the man is expressed by the Adam-Christ typology, if Eve was the one who introduced sin then Mary was then one who initiated salvation on the human side.
Nevertheless there were traces of these false thoughts that led to false answers on the question of women priesthood, most of the church theologians who justify their position against the ordination of women do this now on quiet sound reasons, mainly 3 arguments are discussed : Tradition, Iconicity and the real women vocations.
Has culture segregation played a role in how women are viewed by the Church?
The first and strongest point the opponents of women ordination mention is the appeal to the tradition starting from Christ Himself, who didn t appoint women among the apostles, nor did he allow even his mother, the Theotokos, to this function. Neither did the apostles including Paul as well, who mentions other special services for a number of his female followers and it also didn t happen in the whole church history.
Some supporters of women ordination answer this by trying to explain that Christ and the Church did this just to cope with the culture of their time and to make his message appealing to its time. A closer look tells us that this was not the case. During the time of Christ, most pagan religions had women priests and it would have been also quite dangerous and misleading to think that Christ along with the church would have conformed to the culture and based the teaching on it.  Another point to make is that Christ Himself broke many cultural taboos in dealing with women, including even allowing them to touch Him for healing, although they were sometimes impure according to the Jewish law. He spoke with women he should not have spoken to, he let them follow him with the apostles, and more importantly, he entrusted a woman, Mary Magdalene, to tell the apostles about His resurrection.  Given that women were not considered credible witnesses.
Despite the fact that Christ didn t have woman as apostles, should we then conclude that it is not possible to ordain women Priesthood? Can we cite cannon and consider the issue closed for the Orthodox Church as Elisabeth Behr-Sigel asks? She thinks alongside many other theologian that this will be betraying tradition, as tradition is not just the static repetition of old customs but it is full of dynamism, guided by the Holy Spirit, it is received and lived by each generation In its own way.  However, since there are no scriptural or traditional basis for women Ordination there must be very definite and compelling grounds to start doing it now.