Monday, July 04, 2005

Ordination of Women

I was visiting Discarded Lies and came upon this post by zorkmidden. I answered her in the comments section, and promised a post on the subject here.

The Catholic and the Holy Orthodox Churches share the same views on the ordination of women to the priesthood. This is a controversy that has been a serious problem to the Catholics but a much lesser one for the Orthodox. This is, to some extent, a reflection of the quality of teaching inside the two Churches. Many Catholics are seeing issues of Church practice and Holy Tradition through secular and political eyes assuming that such things should change with the times. Orthodox Christians are not bashful about teaching that time does not matter. To the extent that the times have changed such that our practices no longer reflect them, it is the times that are wrong, not the Church.

That said, the reasons that the Holy Orthodox Church does not believe in the ordination of women to the priesthood are complex and only partially covered in Holy Scripture. They are covered in the Holy Tradition (as opposed to tradition) of the Church - the same Holy Tradition that produced the Holy Scriptures themselves.

I wrote to my friend zorkie (I would love to meet you and ev one day);
I'm sorry that due to my being in a big hurry just now I cannot give you a complete answer. The answer about menstruation is flatly wrong, priests that teach that need to go back to seminary.

The Church is the Bride, Jesus is the Bridegroom. The priest acts both as a representative of the Bishop in offering worship and the "sacrifice of praise" during the Divine Liturgy, and at the same time represents Christ to the Church in his ability to perform the Holy Mysteries (sacraments). Female priests would upset this relationship.

The priesthood is not the only, nor is it the most important ministry in the Church. For an important discussion of this matter see this from the Orthodox Church in America;

Ordination of Women

I hope that this helps.

The priesthood is not a job or career, there is no right for anyone, man or woman to any type of ordination. The priest is not separate from the people in any way. He is one of the people of God as all Orthodox Christians are. The laos tou Theou (laity) includes the priest and are not simple consumers of religion. All in the Church have a ministry, and each is different according to ones ability and the will of God.

The Ordination of Women (linked above) is an excellent artice in answer to this question. Rather than repeat its arguements, I would like to highlight a particular problem in the discussion. Most people from other Christian traditions, and all non-Christians look at issues from a different viewpoint. That viewpoint tends toward a rational, juridical view (many Catholics have this viewpoint also - hence their problems with this issues among others). The Orthodox viewpoint is not rational (and that is not a bad thing), but spiritual. Orthodox Christians see the entire person as being involved in a relationship with the Church and with God. The entire person is involved in worship and is sanctified and is saved. We worship with all five senses. The entire person includes a person's entire identity - and that includes gender. Each person has a slightly different charism, and men and women have different charisms. This is something not understood by people outside of the Orthodox Church.

As a result, most of the noise about ordination of women in the Orthodox Church comes from outside of the Church. As Fr. John Matusiak quite rightly wrote in the article linked above;
It is interesting to note that the controversy over the ordination of women is a rather recent one with roots outside the Orthodox Church. It is also interesting to note that, while the controversy rages in other confessions and has been a source of division, enmity, and schism elsewhere, it has garnered far less interest among Orthodox Christians. While the matter surely warrants thorough study, discussion, and dialogue, especially within cultures such as our own, and while there are certain related questions which indeed beg serious discussion -- such as the role of deaconesses in the early Church -- care needs to be taken not to create an artificial issue. The teaching of the Church clearly encourages all persons, women as well as men, young as well as old, to undertake essential critical ministries in the life of the Church -- the grandmothers of the Soviet era had a far greater impact on the life of the Church than the clergy of their day; had those grandmothers been ordained clergy, they would not have been able to have the same powerful effect on generations which otherwise might have been lost. [because they would have been killed as the priests, bishops, monks, and nuns were. - ed.] Perhaps the very success of the hordes of faithful grandmothers in their priestly ministry as grass-roots evangelizers is due not only to their faith, but to their understanding of ministry as a gift and a blessing and a calling and a vocation rather than a question of justice and equality, as is heard so often in heterodox circles. [all emphasis mine - ed.]
As an example of this, a site that calls itself Religious (which is intolerant of Orthodox Christian belief, so I will not give them a link) points out;
The general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) considers that the ordination of women in Orthodox churches is not a closed matter. At their 8th assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe, women's ordination and the use of inclusive language have surfaced as key issues. Most of the member denominations of the WCC are Protestant churches; most of them ordain women as ministers and priests.
The WCC has no say, and no right to say, what we Orthodox Christians should do in out ecclesiastical lives. They have no understanding of Holy Tradition and have conducted worship services with Wiccans and other animists in the U.S. and Australia. I do not even know why we are members of that (non-Christian) organization. They are trying to harm our Church. I could rant on this for a while, but I'll save that for another post.

So, with each person having their own charism, and with each person's entire Person involved with the Church - which is the Body of Christ, each person has their own role in the Church. Each of those roles is critical to the proper functioning of the Church. Since the Church is the Body of Christ, it is very important to Orthodox Christians that it function properly and that we all best use our gifts for the good of the Church. St. Paul explains this clearly in several of his writings. This one is particularly good; Chapter 12 of St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians;
1Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2You know that when you were heathen, you were led astray to dumb idols, however you may have been moved. 3Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus be cursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.

4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one. 7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

12For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body -- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free -- and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19If all were a single organ, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." 22On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, 25that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

And I will show you a still more excellent way.

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