Tag Archives: deaconess

Armenians restore female diaconate

The female diaconate has been restored with the ordination of Ani-Kristi Manvelian, 24, in Tehran as a deacon for parish life who is not a nun.

It is understood as a “restoring” rather than “reinstating” of the Order of Deacon for women. This act is see as a precedent. The ordination happened  at St. Sarkis Church on 25 September 2017 by Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian, the Primate of the Diocese of Tehran (Catholicosate of Cilicia).

Archbishop Sarkissian said:

“Today, our Church is confronting the imperative of self-examination and self-critique. It is imperative to rejuvenate the participation of the people in the social, educational and service spheres of the Church. It is our deep conviction that the active participation of women in the life of our Church would allow Armenian women to be involved more enthusiastically and vigorously, and would allow them to be connected and engaged. They would provide dedicated and loving service [to the people]. The deaconess, no doubt, would also be a spiritual and church-dedicated mother, educator, and why not, a model woman through her example. It is with this deep conviction that we are performing this ordination, with the hope that we are neither the first nor the last to do it.”

The narrative of the event was communicated by Hratch Tchilingirian on his blog.

The Armenians have had a tradition of female deacons serving, like the male deacons, at the Altar.

Deaconess  Ani-Kristi Manvelian served the Christmas Eve Liturgy on January 5th. For the Archbishop his act as the head of diocese is “to revitalise the participation of women also in our church’s liturgical life,” adding, “do not be surprised, a woman could also become a servant of the Holy Altar.”

Orthodox ordain women deacons

The Orthodox Church of Alexandria (Egypt and all of Africa) ordained a few women to the diaconate. His Beatitude Theodoros II, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, did the ordination on February 17, 2017 in the  Democratic Republic of Congo.

In a slight contrast, The Church of Greece officially “brought back” the female diaconate in 2004, though one Metropolitan had ordained a nun in 1986.

In this picture you see the women being tonsured a reader, which happens outside the altar (iconostasis) leading to being ordained deaconesses. A news brief is here.

Theologically in the Orthodox Church, ordination is not an ontological change. The Roman Church holds to a theology that says at priestly ordination the soul is changed ontologically. There is a hot debate in Roman Church about what happens to the man when ordained to the Order of Deacon (is there a change at the level of the soul?). That change happens when one receives the Mysteries of Initiation (scraments): baptism, chrismation Eucharist —one becomes a “new creation” in Jesus Christ. It may be more accurate to say that Pope Theodoros II consecrated but not ordained the women. In any event, this gesture is very significant and forward thinking and right.

Continuing in the ancient tradition Ordination, rather, is the setting apart for a specific task, for example as a reader, sub-deacon, deacon, priest, or bishop. Hence, the diakonia is lived according to rank: servant, elder, overseer. These women are being set aside for a specific task within the Alexandrian Church of Alexandria, a task which appropriately belongs to the order of deacons –the women were blessed into a minor order (cheirothesia). Yet, the exact nature of their diaconal ministry is unclear except to say they will be working for the mission of the Church. Also, absent from view is the liturgical text and rubrics used by the Alexandrian Pope. Some of the markers of this ordination are the towels and washing of the bishop’s hands, which are clearly pictured.

There is a Pan-Orthodox document (Consultation on Rhodes, 1988) stating that the church had, indeed, ordained females to the diaconate and recognized that, in some places, it had never fallen out of practice.

The Orthodox Church names women who fulfiled the ministry in the Order of Deacon and are saints: St Tatiana (January 12), St Olympias (July 25), and St Foebe (September 3).

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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