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The role of women in Orthodoxy


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#1 Rick H.

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 01:33 PM

Possibly we can start with the posts below, and with what Deborah Valentine wrote:


It (Feminism) is not left wing ideology, it is civility and completely consistent with Christian values.



I understand this to say Femimism is completely compatable with Orthodoxy and Orthodox values.



In order to keep the thread about Women as Priests on track, I would like to start this new thread to allow more room to explore the Orthodox teaching and logic of the role of women in Orthodoxy.


Forgive me for asking but what is the issue with feminism? I see it as a good thing. It gave us the right to vote and not be arbitrarily beaten by our husbands. It has given us equal pay for equal work and many other positive benefits.



That's kind of what I am asking. It is from feminism that we find men's liberation. It is from feminism which seeks equality for women (and more I think) that brings into question other things such as gender roles, questions about what is masculine and what is feminine (for example the 'suffering inflicted on boys and men through their socialization into manhood).

When women are elevated into positions of authority over men in non-Church settings . . . what is the Orthodox logic here?



There is not one way to live in church and another way to live in the world; there is only the recognition that we cannot expect everything in the world that we should expect in the Church.


Yes, feminism has given us men's liberation — from the responsibilities of husbands, fathers, and gentlemen. This is well documented. The winner of the Sexual Revolution is the single man seeking casual sex.

Gender roles are essential for the formation of healthy heterosexual self-identities by the young. Raising girls the same way we raise boys denies the difference between the two and pushes both away from the roles of father and mother. The inevitable result is population decline, as women choose not to bear and raise children so as to live more like men.



Excuse me Fr. Dcn,

That sounds terrible. What do you think of women? Please don't fear us. Of course we needed feminism for equal rights and certainly, the right to vote. Many feminists were jailed to get us the right to vote. I am grateful I made a salary equal to my male co-workers for the same work. It is not left wing ideology, it is civility and completely consistent with Christian values.

I have no issue with the different roles played by men and women in the Church but I think we need to be clear about where some of our Traditions actually came from.



#2 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 03:16 PM

I recommend that anyone interested in this thread read two homilies of St. John Chrysostom: Homily 26 on 1 Corinthians (ch. 11) and Homily 20 on Ephesians (ch. 5). These provide a useful baseline for any discussion of patristic teaching on men and women.

#3 Rick H.

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Posted 23 August 2012 - 04:42 PM

CHURCH FATHERS: Homily 26 on First Corinthians (Chrysostom)

CHURCH FATHERS: Homily 20 on Ephesians (Chrysostom)

#4 Anna Stickles

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Posted 24 August 2012 - 02:59 PM

"As for Him who loving guides us along the way to the better life, we ought to return Him love and live according to the dictate of His principles. This we should do not only by fulfilling His commandments and obeying His prohibitions, but also by turning away from the evil examples... and imitating the good. In this way we shall make our own actions, as far as we are able, like those of our Educator, that the ancient saying, ' according to His own image and likeness' may be accomplished...

Let us welcome more and more gladly this holy subjection, and let us surrender ourselves more and more completely to the Lord, holding to the steadfast cable of His persuasion. Let us recognize too, that both men and women practise the same sort of virtue. Surely, if there is but one God for both, then there is but one Educator for both.

One Church, one virtue, one modesty, a common food ( I think here he refers to the Eucharist), wedlock in common, breath, sight, hearing, knowledge, hope, obedience, love, all are alike (in man and woman) . They who possess life in common, grace in common, and salvation in common have also virtue in common and, therefore, education too. Clement of Alexandria, Christ the Educator, p.10-12


and he goes on to talk about how the rewards of heaven "await not man or woman as such, but the human person"

Before we can talk about feminism we have to make the lines clear in what we are talking about. Above I see discussion of good results, but if we look at the values which feminists hold are these really Christian? Do they hold tightly to a worldview that values obedience, submission (as St Paul said, "Submit to one another out of reverance for Christ") and humility? I hardly think so.

What does Clement say? - that Christian virtue is the same for both men and women. In this way Christianity is universal and operates in all cultures. It doesn't try to dictate cultural roles, but rather teaches how to live within those roles as a Christian.

So I think if we really want to examine the "role of women in Orthodoxy" we should not confuse this with discussing the "role of women in certain cultural traditions" which is what the whole preceding discussion seems to be about.

The other thing Clement encourages us to do is to look at the examples set before us. If we look at how the saints dealt with various cultural situations what example do we see, how did they live and interact with culture? Do the feminists set an example of good Christian virtue or are they aggressive, harsh and unChristian in their manner of dealing with people?

Edited by Anna Stickles, 24 August 2012 - 03:14 PM.
formatting


#5 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 24 August 2012 - 03:53 PM

Before we can talk about feminism we have to make the lines clear in what we are talking about. Above I see discussion of good results, but if we look at the values which feminists hold are these really Christian? Do they hold tightly to a worldview that values obedience, submission (as St Paul said, "Submit to one another out of reverance for Christ") and humility? I hardly think so. . . . Do the feminists set an example of good Christian virtue or are they aggressive, harsh and unChristian in their manner of dealing with people?


This is a very good point, but shouldn't it begin another thread? The subject of this thread is the role of women in Orthodoxy.

What does Clement say? - that Christian virtue is the same for both men and women. In this way Christianity is universal and operates in all cultures. It doesn't try to dictate cultural roles, but rather teaches how to live within those roles as a Christian.

So I think if we really want to examine the "role of women in Orthodoxy" we should not confuse this with discussing the "role of women in certain cultural traditions" which is what the whole preceding discussion seems to be about.


Christianity is universal, but all cultures are not equally compatible with it. Some cultures are more Christian; some cultures are less Christian. Living as Christians will therefore mean both living in accordance with the prevailing culture and living in opposition to it. As a culture become less Christian, Christian will fall more and more out of step.

Also, all roles are not merely cultural. Men and women are ordained by God to live as men and women, and our God-given human natures support the roles to which He has called us. God has also provided us with quite a lot of guidance on how Christian men and women should behave. He hasn't spelled out everything in simple dos and don'ts, but He has told us enough that we should be able to discern the principles of sexual distinction.

#6 Rick H.

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 12:43 PM

I would really like to understand what the Orthodox teaching is of this subject!

What do we read from our Patristic writings and what do we see from Monastic studies about this?

Speaking of adults:

1.) For example, when is it appropriate for a woman to hold a position of authority over a man in the church?

2.) When is it appropriate for an Orthodox lay woman to exercise authority and correction over and to an Orthodox man?

3.) When, for example, would it be appropriate for an Orthodox lay woman to exercise authority over and provide correction and direction for an Orthodox clergy man?

#7 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 01:32 PM

1) when she holds a position of authority within the Church then she is obligated to direct all concerning whatever her responsibility is.
2) when she sees something going wrong or that needs attending to.
3) when she sees something going wrong or that needs attending to.

note that for 2) & 3) discernment is needed.

#8 Rick H.

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 01:41 PM

1) when she holds a position of authority within the Church then she is obligated to direct all concerning whatever her responsibility is.
2) when she sees something going wrong or that needs attending to.
3) when she sees something going wrong or that needs attending to.

note that for 2) & 3) discernment is needed.




What is the basis for these answers? I would think at the very least that it is *never* appropriate for an Orthodox woman to excercise authority over an Orthodox clergy? That just doesn't even sound right.

I would not even argue that it is ever appropriate for an Orthodox lay man to excercise authority over an Orthodox clergy man.

#9 Olga

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 01:44 PM

I would think that it is never appropriate for an Orthodox woman to excercise authority overy an Orthodox clergy?


Just one example: If an Orthodox clergyman is espousing heresy, anyone, layman or woman, has the right and duty to do something about it.

#10 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 01:52 PM

What is the basis for these answers? I would think at the very least that it is *never* appropriate for an Orthodox woman to excercise authority over an Orthodox clergy? That just doesn't even sound right.

I would not even argue that it is ever appropriate for an Orthodox lay man to excercise authority over an Orthodox clergy man.


Read carefully though the words that I wrote.

I'm referring to the actual experience in my own parish, which I would think is very similar elsewhere.

Thus we have a parish sisterhood and a head sister. They organize & direct meals, the cleaning of the church, etc. Now when a meal is organized they ask for my blessing. But from this point once delegated- they direct the task they have been appointed to- and this needs a level of obedience also from the clergy.

Same in a more informal sense in the rest of the Church with men & women.

We work as a body then even if it is hierarchal.

#11 Rick H.

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 01:53 PM

Wouldn't heresy be the responsibility of the Bishop of the area and not a lay woman who perceives something to be heresy? Even here the woman would not assume to take authority over the clergy man as if she was a Bishop? I don't think this example holds water anymore than Father Raphael's assertions above less Orthodox churches start to look like the chaotic 'protestant' churches who have no order. Thanks but no thanks, that is what I tried to leave behind. This lack of clarity is what ruins churches and other christian communities.

#12 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 01:58 PM

Heresy is defintely all of our responsibility.

The question of directing others about this though is another matter. Praying, being attentive to oneself, pointing something out (even to the priest), being insistent- these can all have a needed place. But discernment is needed as to what measure to employ.

Whatever it is though the Body is all of us acting responsibly together in whatever role we have been called to.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#13 Olga

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 02:04 PM

Wouldn't heresy be the responsibility of the Bishop of the area and not a lay woman who perceives something to be heresy? Even here the woman would not assume to take authority over the clergy man as if she was a Bishop? I don't think this example holds water anymore than Father Raphael's assertions above less Orthodox churches start to look like the chaotic 'protestant' churches who have no order. Thanks but no thanks, that is what I tried to leave behind. This lack of clarity is what ruins churches and other christian communities.


The authority for laymen to act on an errant priest, even an errant bishop, be it for heresy or other misconduct, is to approach his superior and inform him of his error. This has always been Orthodox practice, most notably in the aftermath of the Council of Florence, when the bishops who had signed off on the unia were unequivocally condemned by the people, resulting in their deposition, and the installation of right-believing replacements.

Orthodoxy does not hold to clerical infallibility, nor in a monolithic, untouchable hierarchy.

#14 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 02:14 PM

Why 'attack'? By far most times the faithful point things out, discuss things.

But most times this isn't about doctrine but about what affects the practical running of the parish.

Then it's also good for clergy to listen.

#15 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 02:36 PM

Surely the best approach is to look at the example of the saints. St Helena had free use of the imperial treasury and the authority to order the civil service to make what arrangements she saw fit. St Hilda had absolute authority over the double monastery at Whitby. St Genevieve of Paris scolded the men who wanted to flee before the advancing Attila. Some women saints are called 'equal-to-the -Apostles such as St Nino of Georgia. St Theodora convened a Council, at which the Iconoclasts were eliminated, and the veneration of icons was reinstated, and established the annual celebration of this event, the Triumph of Orthodoxy, on the first Sunday of the Great Fast. There is a multitude of such saints.

#16 Olga

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 02:56 PM

I'm not sure what the above accounts of the Saints has to do with the question at hand about lay women and ordained clergy?


Look up the story of Great-martyr Euphemia and the part she played in the deliberations at the ecumenical Council at Chalcedon. She was a layman, and the bishops and clergy at the council were divided as to what was correct Christological understanding.

#17 Rick H.

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 03:03 PM

Well, I guess I will try again with an abbreviated version of my first post today:


What do we read from our Patristic writings and what do we see from Monastic studies about this?

When, for example, would it be appropriate for an Orthodox lay woman to exercise authority over and provide correction and direction for an Orthodox clergy man?



This question is asked under normal everyday life and void of Orthodox clergy who are heretics.

#18 Rick H.

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 03:32 PM

Possibly, the word authority needs to be defined? Possibly, whether we admit it or not (regardless of our cliches) there is really just and only a submission to the authority of the 'Bishop within'?

#19 Anna Stickles

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 06:08 PM

When, for example, would it be appropriate for an Orthodox lay woman to exercise authority over and provide correction and direction for an Orthodox clergy man?


Maybe we could get a clearer answer if we separated the two situations of authority and correction?

A lot of the recent posts have been talking about the fact that there is some extent to which we are all called to offer correction. But correction isn't necessarily authority. After all the clergy may not listen. Then what? Certainly in a case of serious problems, it is not the place of any non-clergy, man or woman, to remove that clergy from their position, but rather this has to be done by the Bishop following whatever due process is in place. In a less serious case there are probably a variety of options available depending on circumstances, but whatever options are available I would assume they would be available to both men and women.

Looking again at Fr Raphael's example in his parish, this does not have to do with the "Bishop within" but with who has been given particular authority to accomplish a particular job. So the sister in charge may need to give the priest certain instructions - "sit here, do this at that time", in order to get the job done in an orderly manner, and if the priest doesn't obey but insists on inserting his own will and idea of how things should be run into an area where he has given authority to someone else, then this is going to cause chaos. So it is better for him to obey those to whom he has given the authority.

Likewise with female rulers of a country, they have the responsibility to exercise their rightful authority as a ruler and the clergy are obliged to obey just as they would a male ruler. Other examples might be eldresses who like elders have a particular kind of non-authoritative authority in the Church.

I think the answer is, that trying to make hard and fast rules that we can outline and categorize isn't going to work. It's situational. One size does not fit all. :-) A lot of it is just common sense when we put first the fact that we are called to work together as a body. Then we all submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Certain PC sects make a big deal out of various early writings that talk about women needing to be under authority. A question I have, but which I have not seen an answer for is how much of what we see in these early writings is cultural and how much Christian.

In other words, aside from the particular sacramental role of men, how much of the roles for men and women in the Church are set according to nature, and how much does the Church allow for adaptation to the culture and/or individual circumstances? There does seem to be in some writings I have seen that in the Church, there aren't set gender roles. That in the Kingdom there is no male and female. This then would allow for a great deal of flexibility according to individual circumstances, which would include culture.

Just one other quick thought here. Authority in the Church seems to be tied into the Mystery, the sacramental life of the Church, whereas a typical "traditional" mindset in our culture ties authority to gender, or the "modern" mindset ties it to individual conscience, and in other times it has been tied it to a position in society such as emperor. This difference is something that could probably use a more detailed discussion.

#20 Rick H.

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 06:39 PM

That sounds good let's just look at authority (or as I suggested above maybe this word needs to be defined):

When, for example, would it be appropriate for an Orthodox lay woman to exercise authority over a Orthodox clergy man?



With things like Fr. Raphael's church and his example of the women cooking and cleaning aside, and again under normal situations void of a clergy member who is a heretic. . . I wonder if we would answer this question with such as:

It's situational.



I am not talking about a trivial thing here like when to change the vacuum cleaner bags or where to put the place cards next to the dinner plates. I am talking about what I have witnessed in a local Greek Orthodox Church and even here on Monachos whereby the Orthodox clergy is totally disrespected by women who have offered correction and direction to clergy in a loud and condesending way. How can this be justified? When is this ever appropriate? Is it situational? Is it cultural, or is it just wrong? It is easy to blur and widen the conversation to make it confusing and hard to follow, but how can anyone justify such a thing as this lest we leave traditional Orthodox thinking and align ourselves more with non-Orthodox Christian groups primarily found in American Fundamentalism and Revivalism where the majority rules and people vote for their clergy, and determine when he is okay and when he should be transferred out or fired?

I guess this is the way the conversation has evolved as it has been continually narrowed, but I guess this is how it will have to start if it is to go forward. But . . . why is it so hard to say a women should not put herself in a position of authority over a clergy man? I'm surprised this is such a tough question based on the History of Christian Thought and the History of the Church.

Based on what I have seen, I suspect the rule of these non-Orthodox Christian groups applies to Orthodox communities (including online communities) . . . a community usually gets what they deserve.

Edited by Rick H., 16 October 2012 - 07:00 PM.





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