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The role of women in Orthodoxy


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#21 Georgianna

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 09:51 PM

...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.


Please forgive me for I do not want to derail the thread. I tried to refrain from posting but in my ignorance, I cannot reconcile the above example with the writings of the Church Fathers and Orthodox examples provided in the lives of the saints – in particular the lives of the spiritual mothers.

It is not unusual to receive a blessing from the priest or monastic superior to accomplish a task in service to the Lord. I will confine myself to the parish setting as in the example above. The “instructions” given to the priest should be a request subject to his blessing and not an order to be obeyed. One example typically takes place during religious school (aka Sunday School) graduation where the teachers often “take the lead” in the program and all the sundry logistics. Perhaps I am misunderstanding the example or perhaps I am over emphasizing the word “obey.” {If I have, please forgive me.} If the priest desires a change to the program that he delegated (for lack of a better term), it is with his blessing the woman received the “authority to accomplish a particular job.” In such a case, she should prayerful accept with love in Christ the changes – regardless of what the motives may be - for only God knows. It is through her rejection or her acceptance to the change that will or will not cause the chaos.

(Disclaimer: As I am sure the reader understands, these poor comments are not at all addressing cases of heretical doctrines and/or statements.)

Edited by Georgianna, 16 October 2012 - 09:55 PM.
Fixed grammatical error


#22 Anna Stickles

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 10:35 PM

Rick, let me ask you in your example above, if it had been a man correcting the clergy exactly the same way would it have been more acceptable? If the answer is yes, then we are dealing with the role of men and women, if the answer is no, then we are just plain dealing with how people fail to live up to the ideals that Christ calls us to.

People in some traditions that I am familiar with would say yes, it is acceptable for a man to correct a man, but not for a woman to do it. Even if the woman did it meekly and respectfully the woman would still be in the wrong. They would have many other rules for what men can do that women can't do. But I have not come across this type of division of roles in any of my reading thus far in the Fathers. What I see historically and in what I have run into thus far is that there is the same expectation of moral purity on both, but not much mention of roles per say.

Actually these sermons don't teach that man has some kind of absolute authority over a woman that puts her in subjection to him. In the homily on I Cor. His point is that the relationship between man and woman is similar to the relationship of Christ to the Father. And specifically in the case of those who were trying to subordinate the Son to the Father in some kind or hierarchy he rebukes this notion.

For had Paul meant to speak of rule and subjection, as you say, he would not have brought forward the instance of a wife, but rather of a slave and a master. For what if the wife be under subjection to us? It is as a wife, as free, as equal in honor."


In the homily on Ephesians his main emphasis is on harmony. And again there is no absolute subjection of the wife to the husband but rather

"And Paul would never without a reason and without an object have spent so much pains on this subject, as when he says here, Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. And why so? Because when they are in harmony, the children are well brought up, and the domestics are in good order, and neighbors, and friends, and relations enjoy the fragrance. But if it be otherwise, all is turned upside down, and thrown into confusion. And just as when the generals of an army are at peace one with another, all things are in due subordination, whereas on the other hand, if they are at variance, everything is turned upside down; so, I say, is it also here. Wherefore, says he, Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. ...

He does not say, one spirit, he does not say, one soul (for that is manifest, and is possible to any one), but so as to be one flesh. She is a second authority, possessing indeed an authority, and a considerable equality of dignity; but at the same time the husband has somewhat of superiority. In this consists most chiefly the well-being of the house.


Notice he compares this not to a general and his subordinate, but to generals of an army and the way in which they need to submit to one another and work together in order to have harmony in the army. I am actually amazed, because I had not noticed anything like this before, not having looked through these sermons with this in mind. One work though cannot be said to tell us what Orthodoxy teaches.

However, later in the homily on Corinthians he does say,

"For with us indeed the woman is reasonably subjected to the man: since equality of honor causes contention. And not for this cause only, but by reason also of the deceit 1 Timothy 2:14 which happened in the beginning. Wherefore you see, she was not subjected as soon as she was made; nor, when He brought her to the man, did either she hear any such thing from God, nor did the man say any such word to her: he said indeed that she was bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh: Genesis 2:23 but of rule or subjection he no where made mention unto her. But when she made an ill use of her privilege and she who had been made a helper was found to be an ensnarer and ruined all, then she is justly told for the future, your turning shall be to your husband.


In other words, what it seems to be saying is that by nature, as man had been created there is an equality of honor between men and women. This is different then certain traditional mindsets where women are subject to men because of their inferior nature. But he also says that due to sin, the woman is subject to the man and certainly this has been true throughout most of history and this curse has been intrinsic in most cultures.

However, since the Church is the reality of the New Creation and man's redemption, then ideally men and women have regained this equality of honor in Her and within Her life. But we also allow that sin still happens and so how has Orthodoxy traditionally dealt with this? I stated above what I have seen historically but admittedly this is sketchy and I don't know the full answer to this question.

#23 Anna Stickles

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 10:48 PM

Please forgive me for I do not want to derail the thread. I tried to refrain from posting but in my ignorance, I cannot reconcile the above example with the writings of the Church Fathers and Orthodox examples provided in the lives of the saints – in particular the lives of the spiritual mothers.

It is not unusual to receive a blessing from the priest or monastic superior to accomplish a task in service to the Lord. I will confine myself to the parish setting as in the example above. The “instructions” given to the priest should be a request subject to his blessing and not an order to be obeyed. One example typically takes place during religious school (aka Sunday School) graduation where the teachers often “take the lead” in the program and all the sundry logistics. Perhaps I am misunderstanding the example or perhaps I am over emphasizing the word “obey.” {If I have, please forgive me.} If the priest desires a change to the program that he delegated (for lack of a better term), it is with his blessing the woman received the “authority to accomplish a particular job.” In such a case, she should prayerful accept with love in Christ the changes – regardless of what the motives may be - for only God knows. It is through her rejection or her acceptance to the change that will or will not cause the chaos.

(Disclaimer: As I am sure the reader understands, these poor comments are not at all addressing cases of heretical doctrines and/or statements.)



Georgianna, If you will go back and read the post where Fr Raphael brings this up, this exactly the situation presented. I agree about what you say the woman's response should be to the priest wanting to change things, this is a very good example of how the main goal is harmony, not absolute rules about who is obeying whom.

Maybe I am wrong, but Rick seemed to be postulating a situation in post #8 where it was never right for a clergy to obey a woman, ( and I know religious sects that teach this) and Fr Raphael's response was to give almost the exact example you give here saying that these are situations where a clergy is obeying a woman. So yes, the priest has the ultimate authority, the primacy of honor (which I think is a much more Christian way to think about it) but this was not what was being questioned.

#24 Anna Stickles

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 11:31 PM

Rick, we are not talking about changing vacuum bags but about a situation such as a dinner, like Fr Raphael mentioned, or such as a Sunday school graduation such as Georgianna mentioned where there is a woman choreographing an event. Maybe we could say that the relationship between priest and parishioners is a little like the relationship between husband and wife in how issues of authority work out.

But all this only involves specific ways Orthodoxy sees the role of women if we can say that there is a difference between what is allowed a woman and what is allowed for a man. Otherwise it is just roles of priest and laypersons in general, not roles of women in particular. If someone said, well since clergy are involved then a man has to choreograph this event, and a woman cannot, because women are never allowed to have authority over a man, then we would be talking about the roles of women.

#25 Rick H.

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 11:42 PM

Rick, we are not talking about changing vacuum bags but about a situation such as a dinner, like Fr Raphael mentioned, or such as a Sunday school graduation such as Georgianna mentioned where there is a woman choreographing an event. Maybe we could say that the relationship between priest and parishioners is a little like the relationship between husband and wife in how issues of authority work out.

But all this only involves specific ways Orthodoxy sees the role of women if we can say that there is a difference between what is allowed a woman and what is allowed for a man. Otherwise it is just roles of priest and laypersons in general, not roles of women in particular. If someone said, well since clergy are involved then a man has to choreograph this event, and a woman cannot, because women are never allowed to have authority over a man, then we would be talking about the roles of women.


You come from some of the same places that I do Anna . . . especially with the Independent Baptists and the Southern Baptists there are very clear and specific things that women can and can't do and that men can and can't do and these are often different things.

Maybe there are no special rules like this in Orthodoxy?

I honestly don't know if we are having a pooling of ignorance or if we are getting somewhere.

Is your suggestion above about the relationship between the priest and parishners being like the husband and wife one that is your idea or are you saying this is the Orthodox understanding of things?

It's not even 8 PM and I am passing out for the night, starting to have trouble thinking . . . I wonder if there is anything in print about this subject or what I have seen today is representative of the Orthodox view(s) of the role of women in the church?

#26 Anna Stickles

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 11:59 PM

Maybe there are no special rules like this in Orthodoxy?

I am saying that I have not seen any special rules like this in Orthodoxy aside from the sacramental roles being restricted to men.

And the thought about priest and parishioners was just a thought about interdependence as the real basis of relationship.

#27 Father David Moser

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 04:11 AM

In reading through the recent posts, it seems to me that there is an underlying assumption that we all know what we mean when we say "under the authority of" but I don't think anyone really does know what that means and what they think that means is not shared by anyone else in the conversation - thus making the whole conversation confused and misunderstood. Rather than answer Ricks question, I would pose a further question "What do you mean by the phrase 'under the authority of'?"

Fr David

#28 Rick H.

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 11:29 AM

"What do you mean by the phrase 'under the authority of'?"


Yes, Father, I think you are correct. Here's my attempt to answer:

One meaning would include what Father Raphael wrote about in terms of the women who are responsible for cleaning and cooking in his Church. They have roles and assignments and they are doing these things 'under the authority of' him.

Another meaning would include what Georgianna wrote about with the women and the Sunday School. They have roles and responsibilities in their positions of teaching the children and setting up the graduation, but they are 'under the authority' of their priest.

For a woman to have a role in the Orthodox Church she must be' under the authority of' the male clergy of the Church. Period. If the clergy wants something done differently then the women are to ultimately submit to his authority even if they think he is incorrect. Once this principle is violated the demons work is finished, they can go somewhere else because they have set things in motion that will take care of themselves--resulting in division of a church and sometimes the closing of a church. The women under the authority of the clergy are not to challenge, correct, or rebuke the priest about such things as what is taught in the Church. Even if a woman disagrees strongly (about non-heretical issues) she is to submit to the authority of the clergy and not rail against or cause trouble and stand against the priests and deacons or their bishops! This causes contention, division, discord and can blow a church or a spiritual community apart. This goes against anything remotely resembling order in the Church.

I have seen this many times first hand in non-Orthodox churches and I have seen this in the first Orthodox church that I have joined. It is not a unique thing in my experience to see women refuse to submit to the clergy. Each time I have observed this situation it has resulted in the closing of a church or division/chaos and people leaving a church to go elsewhere. It starts with one woman who is out of line and then it spreads through gossip and grows until it is a real problem regardless of the area of which the woman/women disagrees with the leadership of the church.

In these examples above, the women have 'positions' in the church but they are under the authority of the clergy as long as the clergy does what they want them to do. But, when the clergy does not submit to them they turn on him and do what they can to get him out of their church so they can get another man who might do what they want him to do.

In reality, there is no submission of the women to the clergy . . . they are not under the authority of anyone let alone the clergy. The women do what they want to do and in reality expect the poor clergy to be in submission to them and "under the authority of" them.

I am suggesting that women can have 'roles' in the church, but when they start to challenge and attack the clergy on their own or as a group this is never the right course of action and only evil and discord will result from this.

In another life when women would start down this path and when it would move into a refusal to be "under the authority of" the church (especially when they would start railing) we would start the church discipline process and if there was not repentance through this process the woman would be removed from her position of responsibility (whatever it was), she would lose her 'role' in the church. If she continued to cause division and discord then the discipline process would continue and she would repent or she would be "churched" or put out of the "church." This kind of thing was taken seriously by my former groups. There was such a thing as church discipline there.

Regardless of what 'role' or 'position' a woman holds she is under the authority of the clergy of her church or she is rogue and submits to only herself.

So, I am saying for the purposes of *this discussion*, for a woman to be "under the authority of" her clergy necessarily implies "submission to" as opposed to putting herself in a position of 'dominating' the clergy of her church.

It is not right for an Orthodox woman to attempt to dominate and control Orthodox clergy. I almost never use the word 'evil' but, based on my experience in various Christian spiritual communities, such a situation in the Orthodox church is evil and straight from the pit of hell.

#29 Anna Stickles

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 11:34 AM

Well I think in the last couple of posts we got off of the topic of authority altogether and more into relationships in general.

"Under the authority of" to me means in reasonable submission to. By reasonable I don't mean according to human reason or logic (this is often full of all kinds of self-justification, people pleasing or fear and other passion) but rather by "reasonable" I mean according to the right working of our reasonable nature in imitation of and submission to the Logos, Reason.

But the topic of the thread is about the roles of women, and it hit me this morning I think more clearly what is behind some of these questions. Rick's mention of the Southern Baptists really nails it. In the Puritan and Baptist traditions which have formed much of our culture authority is connected with gender. If you look at this tradition, interpretations of such passages in the Bible as "A woman cannot teach or have authority over a man" are interpreted as investing the male gender with an intrinsic authority according to their nature as being male.

Examples of how this work out are: A woman cannot teach a class that has adult males in it. A woman should not be CEO of a company or president of a country because this is contrary to nature. Sometimes the justification is that her nature is weaker, sometimes the justification is that her nature is fallen and is connected with how Eve was the first to sin. Sometimes it is how God created men and women, that this authority has simply been invested in the male gender from the beginning, not even having anything to do with the fall.

The question I have for the priests then is this - How does the Church see woman's nature? Is she ever prevented from certain roles due to her nature being different then a man's?

I would like confirmation from our priests who know more, but what I understand in Orthodoxy is that the curse of Eve has been healed through Christ and through the obedience of His Mother. Also, that Orthodoxy teaches that in the beginning men and women were created "equal in honor" not that women were created by nature to be in subjection to men, nor that their nature is intrinsically weaker. Therefore the ideas that are present in the Puritan and Baptist traditions about how the male gender is invested with authority that the female gender doesn't have, or that women should be banned from certain roles because of her nature is not Orthodox.

The feminist movement was brought up earlier.
The feminist movement overturned traditional beliefs and practices on the strength of the declaration that "All mankind is created equal". (Which I think that Orthodox would agree with) However, the feminist movement is not just about being created equal, but is also vehemently anti any kind of authority, since deeply embedded in this movement is enlightenment ideals of the individual's freedom of self-determination. However Orthodoxy certainly does not agree with this latter, because we do not teach an individual's freedom for self-determination.

We teach that all things are in subjection to Christ and thus the priest has authority, not because he is male, but because he is ordained. For instance, the priest could bless a woman to teach a catechism class that contained men, and this is fine and she would really have authority in this situation. Likewise an Abbess would have real authority over male pilgrims. Olga's authority is not different then Herman's on this forum. This is so because the authority is not invested in the male gender (or even in "positions of authority" such as in secular society) but in the sacramental life of the Church as under Christ.

So to answer the question about the roles of women in Orthodoxy at least in this area of authority we have to ask, is all authority sacramental, or is some invested in gender?

#30 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 12:20 PM

Let us first try to clarify what ‘authority’ is. It has two senses.

First, it is the power to enforce obedience by having a moral or legal superiority. A person with this authority is competent to make an ultimate decision.

Secondly, ‘authority’ may entail the competence to influence opinion and belief. Such a person may be entitled to have his or her opinion on a subject accepted.

I would expect us to agree that bishops have authority in both senses (save for those rare occasions when he is in error). All clergy below the rank of bishop and all laity are ‘under the authority of’ their bishop in these senses.

Where authority in the second sense lies could be a subject for discussion if the context was made clear.

This thread started by an invitation to consider ‘The role of women in Orthodoxy’. In my judgment, this is too vague a concept and lacks any reference to patristic, monastic or liturgical context though posts #2 and #3 pointed us to some which were not then brought into play. In post #8, the thread shifted to an invitation to consider the exercise of authority by women which is not how the thread started. In post #19, the thread shifted to this: when can an Orthdox [sic] woman to challenge the authority of and excercise [sic] authority over an Orthodox clergy [sic]?

In post #29, Rick H posted this:

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?


This is clearly aimed at yet another matter – the perception that women on this forum have exhibited disrespect for clergy on the forum. The comment speaks for a very loaded agenda which is clearly not an appropriate matter for a thread (even if it were true and I am not persuaded that it is) but for moderators who have authority to deal with such a matter were it to arise.

Fr David is obviously right that the thread has become hopelessly confused. What is the subject that is to be discussed? Is it the role of women in the Church? Is it whether a woman can have and exercise authority in the second sense, and if so in what circumstances, and is there any sense in which that authority is less than the authority of a layman? Whatever the subject may be, discussion should be conducted objectively and dispassionately in a genuine spirit of enquiry without any pre-conceived motives.

With regard to post#45, I cannot see why there should be differentiation between men and women: surely all laity are under the authority of the priest as representative of the bishop. In what sense are women under authority (of the priest, I presume) more than men? Is this the real question?

#31 Anna Stickles

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 01:34 PM

I really hope we do get some help from the clergy on this as you say Anna. If there is any room allowed in the church for a "blurring of genders" in the sense of the relationship of authority and gender . . . then I would think it is "Katie bar the door!" so to speak because this would turn everything upside down from the male priesthood to other gender specific issues.

In my mind to be able to avoid the path that many liberal non-Christian churches have gone down we could never allow room for this kind of blurring of genders and roles. If the distinction between genders / roles and authority is blurred in the church (regardless of how it is justified) this is how it starts. I will be very surprised if this is what the Orthodox Church teaches.


Rick, I am really appreciating this thread, despite a few tangents, these are good points to discuss. Getting rid of the relationship between authority and gender does not open the door to liberalism precisely because liberals base their arguments for women in the priesthood, and other authority issues on the fact of equality of nature between men and women. But the argument for males priests is not based in Orthodoxy on the fact that men are superior by nature. Therefore if we recognize as invalid, the argument "equal nature deserves equal authority, equal access, and equal everything else", we have escaped from the merry-go-round.

But escaping from the liberal merry go round still doesn't get us to any positive truth about genders.
The more I think about it the more I have to absolutely reject gender being in the realm of nature. This is completely at odds with what the Fathers teach about nature. And yet we rightly recognize gender as something that should not be blurred and that it will follow us into eternity. Women will still be women and men will still be men even after they die, and even if men and women will be living "like the angels" there is still some relational particulars that will exist between the genders. I think the right way to look at this is that gender is an additional "layer" so to speak of hypostasisity. In other words the Trinity is tri-hypostatic, but humanity is bi-hypostatic, but also at another level multi-hypostatic.

When we look at the Trinity, we don't exactly say that Christ's relationship to the Father is one of authority and submission per say. Words may fail us, but we realize that authority and submission are something lesser then what this hypostatic relationship consists of. I really liked Andreas contribution because it does define authority so well, and we can recognize that categories of moral or legal superiority don't have a place in the Trinity, and that there is no need for the Father to influence Christ from a position of superiority - rather they act in concert. But nevertheless we recognize a difference in that the Father has a primacy that the Son does not have. This is part of the hypostatic reality. Through the Son all things were created, and the Son is handing all things over to the Father.

In Genesis it says that God made man in the image of God, in the image of God He created them (men and women). The most basic way that man imitates the hypostatic reality of the Trinity is through the relationship of the genders. Adam was made first and Eve was created as his helpmate. St Paul talks about this as something existential, not something cultural. And so maybe the fact that the clergy are male is not reflecting a difference in nature, but a difference in hypostatic principle. And this would be in addition to how Christ himself was male and the clergy are male in an image of Christ.

This is probably confusing, but I hope that we can continue to explore things.

Edited by Anna Stickles, 17 October 2012 - 01:56 PM.


#32 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 01:58 PM

In the posts above I'm not sure there is any real disagreement. As long as we understand that within the Church authority is always delegated, then it's understood how especially in a parish setting, that both men & women go about their appointed tasks without the priest needing to micromanage and supervise the result of everything. This in fact is harmful to what the Church is and so in this sense the priest practices obedience towards his own people as they go about their appointed tasks.

In other words we're talking about something relational here, where everything we do needs to be blessed. But yet we're not hyper controlling the outcome. This is a regular temptation and is antithetical to the life of the Church which is based on faith.

Think of it also in this way- unless obedience works this way in the Church, then there is no real openess to the various and unexpected gifts which people have. There isn't a real life of mutual trust occurring. As this breaks down (or never occurs in the first place due to human efforts to control every detail) then the worst occurs- the slide towards favourites, an in crowd and an out crowd.

Is this an Orthodox parish? I don't think so.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#33 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 02:05 PM

Can anyone tell me why we are getting the silent treatment here on source material from the treasury? Right now, I can, with great speed, give a very detailed account of how different non-Christian groups view the role of lay women (or women clergy) in their particular group. But, as it relates to Orthodoxy I got nothin'.


Well, much of the hymnography concerning the Theotokos imlies what we are talking of here. Also much of the hymnography of women saints (no wilting pansies there). Also the icon of Pentecost has the Theotokos pre eminently placed above the apostles.

These are just a few ideas for now.

#34 Olga

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 02:10 PM

Can anyone tell me why we are getting the silent treatment here on source material from the treasury? Right now, I can, with great speed, give a very detailed account of how different non-Christian groups view the role of lay women (or women clergy) in their particular group. But, as it relates to Orthodoxy I got nothin' but stories about how some folks do it or what some folks think.


Far from it, several people have given examples on this thread of sainted laywomen having authority of various sorts over men, as well as present-day examples of women who also have positions of authority over men, and this is well-accepted. Please go back and review what has been posted.

#35 Olga

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 02:27 PM

The Mother of God was a laywoman, and maintained her humility to the end of her days. Yet the Apostles themselves consulted her on many matters, as various Fathers attest. Is this relevant enough for you, Rick?

#36 Father David Moser

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 02:43 PM

For a woman to have a role in the Orthodox Church she must be' under the authority of' the male clergy of the Church. Period. If the clergy wants something done differently then the women are to ultimately submit to his authority even if they think he is incorrect.


I disagree. The priest's authority is in matters of faith, not personal behavior. Also the priest is not a dictator or micro manager of the parish. While his agreement is needed for any project that is directly tied to the Church's adornment and teaching - there is a lot of room for personal initiative and independent action.

The women under the authority of the clergy are not to challenge, correct, or rebuke the priest about such things as what is taught in the Church. Even if a woman disagrees strongly (about non-heretical issues) she is to submit to the authority of the clergy and not rail against or cause trouble and stand against the priests and deacons or their bishops!



It is the responsibility of a woman - or any person in the Church for that matter - to question the teaching of the priest (or bishop) that does not seem to be consistent with the teaching of the Church. "Railing against" and "causing trouble" are not constructive ways to do this and in fact have nothing to do with being "under authority". Such behaviors are sinful no matter toward whom they are directed (clergy or not, male or female).

It is not a unique thing in my experience to see women refuse to submit to the clergy. Each time I have observed this situation it has resulted in the closing of a church or division/chaos and people leaving a church to go elsewhere. It starts with one woman who is out of line and then it spreads through gossip and grows until it is a real problem regardless of the area of which the woman/women disagrees with the leadership of the church.

In these examples above, the women have 'positions' in the church but they are under the authority of the clergy as long as the clergy does what they want them to do. But, when the clergy does not submit to them they turn on him and do what they can to get him out of their church so they can get another man who might do what they want him to do.


Again, this example has nothing to do with authority and everything to do with sinful, fallen behavior that would be wrong no matter toward whom it was directed clergy or laity, male or female.

In reality, there is no submission of the women to the clergy . . . they are not under the authority of anyone let alone the clergy. The women do what they want to do and in reality expect the poor clergy to be in submission to them and "under the authority of" them.


But this isn't about being "under authority" in the Church or about the position of women in the Church. This is about our fallen nature and sinful behavior. Just because a person acts in a sinful manner does not negate the propriety of the place of women in the Church and the proper exercise of management (note that I did not use "authority" here) roles within the Church.


So, I am saying for the purposes of *this discussion*, for a woman to be "under the authority of" her clergy necessarily implies "submission to" as opposed to putting herself in a position of 'dominating' the clergy of her church.

It is not right for an Orthodox woman to attempt to dominate and control Orthodox clergy. I almost never use the word 'evil' but, based on my experience in various Christian spiritual communities, such a situation in the Orthodox church is evil and straight from the pit of hell.


But then this discussion would have nothing to do with the teaching of the Church on authority and the role of women and just become a forum for "railing against" those who are sinners (and then it would be about ourselves, for aren't we all sinners?)

You're going to have to redefine the question if you want to have a discussion that just doesn't end up with the suggestion that some people (women and men) are sinners and need to repent, which is not a productive discussion at all.

Fr David

#37 Father David Moser

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 02:51 PM

The question I have for the priests then is this - How does the Church see woman's nature? Is she ever prevented from certain roles due to her nature being different then a man's?


Well, since you asked, I certainly believe that a woman is prevented by her nature from fathering a child. That is a role that is proscribed by her nature. I also believe that a woman, because of her gender, is proscribed from the priesthood. Beyond that nothing else comes to mind.


So to answer the question about the roles of women in Orthodoxy at least in this area of authority we have to ask, is all authority sacramental, or is some invested in gender?


Ultimately all authority rests in and comes from God. Within the Church that authority is invested in the bishop who then delegates it to his clergy (sacramental). But authority is not management (and especially not micro-management). Just because the "buck stops" with the rector (not just any priest) of the parish or beyond him with the ruling bishop of the diocese (not just any bishop) does not prohibit others (clergy or laity, male or female) from assuming control and management of various projects and responsibilities that are delegated to them.

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#38 Anna Stickles

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 03:00 PM

Rick,

Since I assume what you are trying to do here is sort out what Orthodoxy teaches, from your "past life" then I will give you the big difference. In the old life wasn't it a fact that men didn't have to listen to women in authority because it was "unnatural" for a woman to have such authority. It became a justification for men to do whatever they pleased and see themselves as superior.

Say a woman has been blessed by a clergy to run a work project of some sort. In the process of this a man doesn't happen to like how she is running things. He thinks it should be done differently. He starts complaining, won't do what he is told, becomes insubordinate to the woman in charge. He starts trying to dominate and control the situation. Should the clergy rebuke this man and tell him he has to obey the woman in charge, or would you say that men don't have to obey women because of the natural order and that he should be allowed to be in charge and thatshe should be removed?

#39 Anna Stickles

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 03:24 PM

I think he knows that when such natural orders are violated the results are devastating. And, this is why so many of our families are screwed up and so many churches are screwed up, and this is why our country is so screwed up (USA).


It is wrong to blame things on "having the natural order screwed up". Rather we should blame things on how self-will and sin is the rule in this fallen state. Otherwise, in societies like Islamic societies where women are kept in their "proper place" we should see healthier families and less sin. But no, we see all kinds of harshness, abuse of authority, etc. in those cultures. Certainly an Islamic man would feel completely justified being insubordinate to a woman who was maybe better qualified to do a certain job then he. I don't think that this is where we want to go.

What I am trying to say is that there is a difference between "roles" for men and women which are cultural and based on fallen perceptions of man, which tend to be very structured, rule based, mechanical and inflexible - and at times have even been sinful and harmful.

and the way that gender is allowed for as being a hypostatic principle based on humility and love. The latter is flexible and allows for individual gifts and variations in circumstances. The Theotokos and women saints, even empresses who are saints, in this sense aren't exceptions to a rule of nature, but exemplify the fulfillment of our nature and our redemption from its fallen state.

#40 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 04:27 PM

For a woman to have a role in the Orthodox Church she must be' under the authority of' the male clergy of the Church. Period. If the clergy wants something done differently then the women are to ultimately submit to his authority even if they think he is incorrect. Once this principle is violated the demons work is finished, they can go somewhere else because they have set things in motion that will take care of themselves--resulting in division of a church and sometimes the closing of a church. The women under the authority of the clergy are not to challenge, correct, or rebuke the priest about such things as what is taught in the Church. Even if a woman disagrees strongly (about non-heretical issues) she is to submit to the authority of the clergy and not rail against or cause trouble and stand against the priests and deacons or their bishops! This causes contention, division, discord and can blow a church or a spiritual community apart. This goes against anything remotely resembling order in the Church.


This really isn't so Rick- or at least it shouldn't be so. Here I would repeat Fr David's words and ask what is meant by 'under the authority' in the first place? I mean we're talking about the Church here- the Body of Christ which is composed of many members many which we can't even see. To think that these members are under my authority as a priest would be the heighth of hubris and a peparation for a fall (which hopefully could then be a good lesson).

This warning though doesn't mean that Church is not hierachal. Christ is the Head of the Church; the synod of bishops appoints a particular bishop to a disocese; this bishop appoints priests to particular parishes/ roles; the priest appoints & blesses the faithful to their own particular roles & positions.

What you're speaking about though is an attached issue of who can speak to those in authority above them, once they are appointed for a certain position. Well, the answer to this is- anyone can speak to those in authority. Of course this should be done respectfully & soberly. But this doesn't mean that those in authority need an attitude of 'lording it over the natives'. This is what is so wrong. So then we do our best to be respectful, but even a difficult word we at least try to listen to. Sometimes the difficult word is even the best to pay heed to. And the same goes for challenging characters. Otherwise we fall into the temptation which is so grave in our time- of a cleaned up Church with all of the frayed edges removed. But by this time there's no faith left, no labour of love & patience, no Holy Spirit. Is this even the Church or is it a religious management office?

Anyway- better to listen to the women. We might learn something :).

-Fr Raphael




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