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Posted March 9, 2011
The Ordination of Women in the Orthodox Church by Elisabeth Behr-Sigel and Metropolitan Kallistos Ware of Diokleia is a wonderful book that more people need to read. Both authors take a very balanced and grounded approach toward exploring this controversial topic. In her section, Ms. Behr-Sigel points out, "An Orthodox woman who is competent to do so can occupy a New Testament teaching post in a prestigious theological faculty such as that of Thessalonica. She is, however, not permitted to read the gospel in the worship of the people of God." In exaining why this is the case, she explores both the arguments for and against women's ordination, weighing the merits of each. Her approach is both scholastic and prayerful. In Metropolitan Kallistos' section, he rightly points out two crucial facts: 1) The apostolic order of 'deaconess' has not been abolished, but has simply fallen into disuse. All that would be needed is a revival of this order with regard to female deacons. 2) As he writes, "On the subject of women and the priesthood, there exists as of yet no pan-Orthodox statement, possessing definitive ecumenical authority" (p51). He argues, throughout his essay, therefore, that the possibility of ordaining women to the priesthood in the Orthodox Church remains an open question, not to be decided either way with haste. Concerning the female diaconate, he draws our attention to, amongst other things, the conclusions that came out of the 1998 inter-Orthodox symposium in Rhodes which expressed: "The apostolic order of deaconess should be revived.Such a revival would represent a positive response to many of the needs and demands of the contemporary world in many spheres" (p59). One thing that really caught my eyes was the manuscript of the Meterikon (i.e. Sayings of the Desert Mothers), the compliment to the Paterikon (i.e. Sayings of the Desert Fathers), that remains yet unpublished in Greek. Anyone want to publish it in Greek? It would be a wonderful step towards honoring the role of women in the life and ministry of the Church. In exploring the issue of ordination of women to the priesthood in the Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Kallistos argues that the issue must be looked at not as a question of gender, but a question of gifts and charisms (i.e. spiritual graces). As such, he writes, "No woman, so it could be argued, should be excluded from the ordained priesthood simply because she is a woman; like a man, she should be judged by the Church on her personal suitability for this particular ministry" (p77). The question should not focus on her being a woman, but on whether or not women share the same suitability for this particular ministry. Without offering an answer to this looking question, Metropolitan Kallistos appeals of his readers: "Let us, then, have the courage to approach the question of women's ministry in the Church with and open mind and an open heart." I highly recommend this book to anyone open to an honest exploration of these issues.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.