12:30-13:00 GreekTime (10:30-11:00 GMT) “The Religious Historical and Sociological Typology of Women’s Submission to Men. The Ecclesiological Consequences on the Ordination of Women” Prof. Christophoros Arvanitis
Deaconesses, Ordination of Women and Orthodox Theology. International Conventional and Electronic Theological Seminar and Conference, 22-24.1.15
60 years ago Emeritus Professor Evangelos Theodorou, 93 years old now, opened the discussion within the Orthodox theological circles on the thorny issue of the Ordination of Women with his dissertation on the deaconesses. To honor this pillar of modern Greek Orthodox theology the Center of Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies “Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou” (CEMES) organized an Online International Theological Seminar, using the BigBlueButton platform of the e-conferencing facilities of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece.
The Concept of the Seminar The Orthodox Church for more than a generation now has taken a concrete position on the issue of the Ordination of Women in the Sacramental Priesthood, expressed in the final document of the famous Rhodos Conference. Quite recently, however, a number of distinguished Orthodox theologians have expressed some reservations concerning the theological arguments put so far officially forward. The reformulation by Metropolitan of Diokleia Kallistos (Ware) of his seminal and primordial argumentation on the ordination of women, the tireless and prayerful approach to the issue by the late Elizabeth Behr-Sigel, as well as her titanic struggle for the overall place of women in the Orthodox Church, including the liturgy, or the expressed theological views by the late Nikos Matsoukas, one of the greatest Orthodox dogmatic theologians, to mention just few, in addition to a considerable number of theological dissertations by Orthodox theologians, not to mention other well documented positions by both Orthodox and non-Orthodox theologians, seem to have challenged the official Orthodox, but also Roman Catholic, position.
Addressing two decades ago the Anglican communion during their Lambeth Conference Metropolitan of Pergamon John (Zizioulas), representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate, warned all concerned that the problem cannot be solved by using either the argument from sociology or the argument from tradition. What is desperately needed is to address this delicate issue, which has caused painful divisions among, as well as across, almost all Christian traditions, on the basis of a sound theological ground.
The seminar, which started early October 2013 in the traditional face-to-face conventional way, aimed at scrutinizing all the theological arguments, both for and against the possibility of the ordination of women in the sacramental priesthood, in order to provide the Orthodox Church and the world Christian community with all the authentic theological (not just sociological or traditional) evidence.
International Ecumenical Conference After the end of the seminar (June 3) CEMES, together with other Orthodox academic institutions, will organize an International Ecumenical Theological Conference on "Diaconesses, Ordination of Women and Orthodox Theology, dedicated to Prof. Evangelos Theodorou. The official languages of the conference will be English and Greek, and will take place in both conventional and electronic form in December 2014-January 2015.
The conference will be open to all interested academic or cleric theologians, and the call for papers from July 2014 to the end of September 2014. All speakers will be invited to submit a 300 word (max) abstract and a short CV with a photo to the secretariat of CEMES (firstname.lastname@example.org) to be posted in advance to the website of the Conference. The speakers’ papers may be rooted in the areas of biblical, patristic, liturgical or fundamental theology, or other related to the subject areas. All registered speakers will present a 30 minutes final paper (approx 4000 words). In the case of a large number of candidates selected speakers will address the plenary, whereas the rest to smaller groups arranged according to the topic. All accepted papers will be considered for publication.
Electronic Conference Information For both presenters and attendees of the conference from around the globe no extra software is needed, and Webinar access will be provided by the organizers entirely for free. All is needed is registration to the secretariat of CEMES (email@example.com). All registered participants, speakers and attendees, will be given very simple instructions how to use the electronic platform and enter the plenary or group rooms of the conference. Thus they will be able to present, and listen to or watch presentations from anywhere in the world with just a reliable internet connection and a computer. To all those who would wish to receive a certificate, the academic committee will provide one.
All further information about the conference, as well as details how to register, or to view biographies of the registered speakers and the abstracts of their paper, will be displayed on this website later.
The Concept of the Conference on the basis of the dilemmas posed in the course of the international post-graduate/post-doctoral seminar on«Deaconesses, Ordination of Women and Orthodox Theology»
We should ask ourselves: 1. Historically, is the exclusion of women from the sacramental priesthood based on human law (de jure humano) or divine law (de jure divino)? 2. On the thorny issue of the ordination of women, should the Orthodox Church and her theology use canonical, liturgical, Trinitarian, Christological, ecclesiological, eschatological or sociological criteria? 3. In selecting theological criteria, should priority be given—and if so, how much—to the long-standing “primary” liturgical tradition of the Church, over the various doctrinal expressions that were subsequently formulated? 4. Is it legitimate to use human, biological concepts of gender and the supposedly masculine or feminine structures of each of the persons of the Holy Trinity? 5. Does the Church’s acceptance of the dominant stereotypes of social appearance and behavior, as well as elements of an institutional character, belong to divine or human law? On an ethical level, does this, rather than confronting gender-based violence (GBV), actually lay the foundation for it and perpetuate it? 6. How and to what extent does the basic theological position that at the eschatonthere will be no discrimination based on biological sex influence the debate about the ordination of women? 7. If our secularized society today seems to have moved beyond the biblical principle of “woman from man,” is it necessary—and, if so, to what extent—to abolishpatriarchalism in the Christian Church? 8. Over the course of history, the Christian priesthood has been rationally juxtaposed to deified worldly power, magic, mystery cults, and orgiastic rites, which sometimes worshiped feminine life in creation. What significance, therefore, can we attribute to the Paschal sacrifice of the (male) Christ and the final victory over all these binding authoritarian forces that lead to death, and what impact does this have on the issue of women's ordination? 9. Given the kenotic sacrificial love and ascetic assumption of the world with a view toward the sanctification of all things, how can we prevent the association of women's ordination with secular games of power, subjugation to the egocentricity of the human beings, male or female, and subordination to the priority of an instinctual life whose greed rapes the natural environment? 10. Does the invocation of elements of ontological reduction and the division of humans into two hierarchically superimposed sexes negate the doctrine of the Divine Incarnation and annul its objectives? 11. Does the presence of demonic elements (e.g., ideas about women being cursed for their culpability in the Fall and their eternal punishment in subjugation to men, as well as about their impurity with their consequent marginalization in the Church’s life of worship and administration, etc.) compromise the Church’s witness to the world, raising in addition an enormous ethical problem? 12. Does the exclusive “male priesthood”—derived from the historically indisputable male form of the Incarnate God—constitute a binding element of divine grace? How strong is this theological argument? 13. If, according to Orthodox Christian anthropology, the archetype of the human being is Christ, does the invocation then of the male sex of the Word of God provide theological, canonical, historical-critical, and liturgical grounds for the exclusion of women from the sacramental priesthood? 14. If every human person is created unique, complete and free, designed to achieve deification (theosis) through his/her virtuous life, how is possible theologically to define the nature of human beings, or even their virtuous life, on the basis of gender? Does this not lead to a denial of the completeness of human nature at the crown of creation, as well as its call to the “likeness of God”? 15. Regarding the ministry of the priesthood, does not the selective use and transfer of practices based on gender—which theologically and anthropologically permit the impairment of the human person—substantially undermine rather than encourage the achievement of the Orthodox ideal of theosis? 16. If the human person is determined by his/her relationship with others, and if the Eucharistic community is, for the Orthodox, the primary framework for constructive and virtuous relationships, which are fully possible for both men and women, perhaps then women are not only capable of entering the sacramental priesthood, but are actually needed for it, so that the members of the body of Christ have, in the person of their pastors, examples of more fully embodied virtue? 17. Great theologian saints, such as St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom, speak about the priesthood with metaphors based not on male paternal models, but rather on examples of virtue for the community. Additionally, both hierarchs use both masculine and feminine metaphors to describe the method and the ministry of the priesthood. What theological arguments, therefore, can justify the exclusion of women from this priesthood? 18. How important, for the Orthodox Church’s theological arsenal, is the fact that the institution of deaconesses has a conciliar ecumenical and canonical foundation, which in fact has never been repealed by subsequent synodal decision? 19. Since deaconesses were installed into their ministry through ordination (hierotonia), which was the same as that for the major orders of the clergy, and not by simple laying on of hands (hierothesia), and their ordination had an absolute likeness in form and content with the ordinations of the major order of the clergy, what does this mean for the general issue of women's ordination? 20. Can the proposed distinction of the special priesthood into “diaconal” and “hierourgic,” i.e., a quantitative rather than qualitative distinction, have an effect on the general issue of women's ordination? 21. What impact does the close terminological connection that Basil the Great makes, repeatedly, between “diaconal” and “hierourgic” have on the general issue of women's ordination? 22. How can the clear assurance in the ancient prayers that Christ did not ban womenalso from having liturgical duties in the churches (ὁ μηδὲ γυναίκας …λειτουργεῖν τοῖς ἁγίοις οἴκοις σου ἀποβαλλόμενος) possibly lead to a change in the Orthodox Church’s stance regarding the ordination of women into the special sacramental priesthood? 23. How can the interpretation in the canonical sources that the deaconess, as a symbol of the Holy Spirit, held a higher position even than that of the presbyters, who were considered symbols of the Apostles, affect the possibility of upgrading the status of women in relation to the theological legitimacy of their participation in the special sacramental priesthood? 24. Can Orthodox bishops at any time, without any relevant conciliar decision, ordain deaconesses and accept them into the major orders of the clergy? 25. If the Orthodox Church is characterized by its liturgical (and Eucharistic) theology, how crucial is it today to revive the institution of deaconesses ordained for their necessary missionary witness, particularly in the area of Orthodox Church ministry? 26. Even with the current («τό γε νυν έχον», based on tradition and the canonical order of the Church) exclusion of women from the sacramental priesthood, can the Church ignore the calls and contemporary challenges for a stance more consistent with the core of her theology? 27. Throughout Western Christian history, there has been a gradual degradation of women on three issues: the position of Mary Magdalene, of St. Junia, and the institution of deaconesses. The long-standing tradition of the East, on the other hand, which has now been scholarly confirmed, takes pride in these persons and institutions. How could this affect the position of the Orthodox Church? 28. How can the indisputable evidence in the New Testament and in the first Christian centuries of important women “apostles” (e.g., Junia), scientifically now and unanimously accepted, affect the Orthodox theological argument on the issue of women's ordination? 29. Does Patriarch Gregory of Antioch’s reference connecting women, until the 6th century, with both the apostolic office and the ordination («Μαθέτω Πέτρος ὁ ἀρνησάμενός με, ὃτι δύναμαι καὶ γυναῖκας ἀποστόλους χειροτονεῖν» PG 88, 1864b) not demonstrate that there is at least some evidence that the Church held a different attitude in the Eastern Christian tradition regarding the liturgical role of women?
*Information about the seminar are given in Greek here και here. The program, the speakers and and their papers are displayed here
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