Author Topic: Women in the Church  (Read 78286 times)

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Offline qawe

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Women in the Church
« on: July 01, 2014, 04:13:48 AM »
I am interested to hear from both EO and OO on this topic.

In the Orthodox Church, in modern practice, and historically, can a woman become:
a chanter? Reader? Sub-deacon? Deacon?
If so, is the woman ordained/tonsured to these roles, or does she just serve in that capacity without ordination?
Does the woman wear the same/similar vestments to the man when performing these roles?
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Offline LBK

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #1 on: July 01, 2014, 04:35:14 AM »
From the EO POV:

Chanter? Yes. No tonsure or ordination (same for men). No vestments.

Reader? Yes, but not tonsured. (Most men who read aren't tonsured, BTW.) Female readers read during Vespers and Matins, but are generally not blessed to read the epistle at Liturgy, unless there are no males present capable of doing so, such as in small mission parishes. No vestments for the women, as they are not tonsured.

Subdeacon/deacon: No. The liturgical deacon and the ancient but long-defunct rank of deaconess served very different functions.
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Offline qawe

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #2 on: July 01, 2014, 08:56:45 AM »
Just to clarify:
So am I right in saying that EOy does not "ordain" any women to any of the minor orders?

Also, there is no consecration/ordination of a male/female chanter - to become a chanter one simply joins the choir? (Ie there is no prayer by the bishop) Has this always been the case or is it economia? (I ask because in the Coptic church, one is in fact ordained a chanter, albeit without cutting of the hair)

And lay people/chanters can read, but are not "readers" proper? Is this technically a correct practice, or is it out of economia? And what is the rationale behind not letting women read in the liturgy, but permitting them to read in vespers/matins? Is this an ancient practice, or an arbitrary line that was drawn in modern times?

Thanks in advance.
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Offline LBK

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #3 on: July 01, 2014, 09:09:37 AM »
Quote
So am I right in saying that EOy does not "ordain" any women to any of the minor orders?

No female ordination, no female tonsuring into any clerical order.

Quote
Also, there is no consecration/ordination of a male/female chanter - to become a chanter one simply joins the choir?

Yes, and yes, as long as the person has musical ability, and is approved by the choirmaster/choirmistress.

Quote
Has this always been the case or is it economia? (I ask because in the Coptic church, one is in fact ordained a chanter, albeit without cutting of the hair)

IIRC it is not economia. I do not recall seeing any prayer service for a chanter or singer in the Book of Needs.

Quote
And what is the rationale behind not letting women read in the liturgy, but permitting them to read in vespers/matins? Is this an ancient practice, or an arbitrary line that was drawn in modern times?

For centuries, the only women permitted to read and sing/chant were nuns during services at convents. With the acceptance of mixed choirs in the Slavic world some 400 years ago, women have featured in parish choirs, both as singers and as readers. Greek tradition remains largely male-only for chanting and reading, though there are now parishes where women do take part. A very longstanding custom, in Greece and outside of it, is a large mixed choir assembled from parish members and the parish choir, to sing the Lamentations (Encomia) on Great Friday evening (Matins of Holy Saturday).
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Offline qawe

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2014, 09:33:22 AM »
Thanks! One last question: do women serve as acolytes inside the altar? And do males need to be ordained to do this, and if so, to which rank must one be ordained?
« Last Edit: July 01, 2014, 09:34:35 AM by qawe »
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Offline LBK

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2014, 09:41:19 AM »
Thanks! One last question: do women serve as acolytes inside the altar? And do males need to be ordained to do this, and if so, to which rank must one be ordained?

Other than older nuns blessed to do so when services are held at convents, women and girls do not serve in the altar, though there have been isolated cases where altargirls have served in parish churches, though this has been almost universally denounced and criticized. Males of any age are not ordained to serve in the altar, but simply blessed to do so by the priest.
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Offline LBK

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2014, 09:42:54 AM »
Thanks! One last question: do women serve as acolytes inside the altar? And do males need to be ordained to do this, and if so, to which rank must one be ordained?

Other than older nuns blessed to do so when services are held at convents, women and girls do not serve in the altar, though there have been isolated cases where altargirls have served in parish churches, though this has been almost universally denounced and criticized. Males of any age are not ordained to serve in the altar, but simply blessed to do so by the priest.
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Offline Jonathan

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2014, 10:07:05 AM »
Just to clarify:
So am I right in saying that EOy does not "ordain" any women to any of the minor orders?

Also, there is no consecration/ordination of a male/female chanter - to become a chanter one simply joins the choir? (Ie there is no prayer by the bishop) Has this always been the case or is it economia? (I ask because in the Coptic church, one is in fact ordained a chanter, albeit without cutting of the hair)

Thanks in advance.

And how ancient is this practice among the Copts? 1990's or as ancient as the 1980's?  The ancient practice regarding chanters looks far more like the EO practice than what the Copts 'restored'.

Offline qawe

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #8 on: July 01, 2014, 10:10:52 AM »
Just to clarify:
So am I right in saying that EOy does not "ordain" any women to any of the minor orders?

Also, there is no consecration/ordination of a male/female chanter - to become a chanter one simply joins the choir? (Ie there is no prayer by the bishop) Has this always been the case or is it economia? (I ask because in the Coptic church, one is in fact ordained a chanter, albeit without cutting of the hair)

Thanks in advance.

And how ancient is this practice among the Copts? 1990's or as ancient as the 1980's?  The ancient practice regarding chanters looks far more like the EO practice than what the Copts 'restored'.

Thanks Jonathan, I was not aware of this. Do you have any sources?
« Last Edit: July 01, 2014, 10:11:07 AM by qawe »
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Offline Jonathan

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #9 on: July 01, 2014, 04:47:01 PM »
Just to clarify:
So am I right in saying that EOy does not "ordain" any women to any of the minor orders?

Also, there is no consecration/ordination of a male/female chanter - to become a chanter one simply joins the choir? (Ie there is no prayer by the bishop) Has this always been the case or is it economia? (I ask because in the Coptic church, one is in fact ordained a chanter, albeit without cutting of the hair)

Thanks in advance.

And how ancient is this practice among the Copts? 1990's or as ancient as the 1980's?  The ancient practice regarding chanters looks far more like the EO practice than what the Copts 'restored'.

Thanks Jonathan, I was not aware of this. Do you have any sources?

Note that the rite of consecrating a Reader specifically mentions that it is the first rank.

A friend of mine was raised in a country without a church. A monk visited them every few months for the Liturgy. We wore a tonya and helped at the altar, brought the censor, but said no responses. When a bishop was near, the monk wanted to have him made a reader to help him. The bishop asked him, if I bring you today's readings, could you read them? Being 4 years old, he said no. The bishop said, "I'm sorry, then I can't ordain you a reader".

Why didn't he just make him a chanter? Because in the mid 80's, that was unknown. Try to find an old uncle at Church who was a chanter when they were 6. Everyone in that age was made a reader when they were 9 or 12 or something. Mind you, they probably just remember that they were made a "deacon", so the history is almost completely lost.

And if you're scandalized about what this priest did... not it's exactly what the EO do, and while I would be dead-set against it normally (for example in our large parish where parents take their 2 year old boys and girls into the Sanctuary for communion! Never), when there are literally a half dozen people in a chapel, and there's no one else to read, if Abouna hands my son a taper so he isn't crying that I'm not carrying him, that's ok! And there's hardly a sense of inside or outside since there's just an altar in a small room. Once recently I even ended up carrying my son while reading the Pauline. No one minded. Doing that in a big church though would be completely different.

There was an ancient order of chanter or cantor. It looked pretty much like what the EO's do today. There was no sense that they were a kind of deacon. It feel into disuse. In the late 80's or early 90's Pope Shenouda restored the order, but the idea of being a chanter having anything to do with entering the sanctuary is completely novel.

In 1992 or 1994 the Synod also decreed that a woman could be ordained a deaconess, a subdeaconess, a readeress, or a chanteress... But that the readeress cannot read, as that is a duty of the male deacon! What is the meaning of a reader who cannot read? This is all coming from the idea that the minor orders are kinds of deacons (they aren't). It is a confusion. Readers, chanters, and subdeacons have no business communing in the Sanctuary. Chanters are not even tonsured, so how can it possibly be argued that it's ok for them to take the place of a deacon or call themselves a deacon? They're just a layman that's been set aside or blessed to lead in the chanting of hymns.

« Last Edit: July 01, 2014, 04:49:06 PM by Jonathan »

Offline Jonathan

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #10 on: July 01, 2014, 04:56:04 PM »
And interesting reference is J. G. Davies (1963). Deacons, Deaconesses and the Minor Orders in the Patristic Period. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 14, pp 1-15 doi:10.1017/ S0022046900064344. It costs about $6 to read it.

Offline Jonathan

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #11 on: July 01, 2014, 05:02:30 PM »
And what is the rationale behind not letting women read in the liturgy, but permitting them to read in vespers/matins? Is this an ancient practice, or an arbitrary line that was drawn in modern times?

Thanks in advance.

Note that EO Matins is roughly equivalent to Coptic Tasbeha, not Coptc Matins (Raising of Incense). At many Coptic Churches, including mine, women and men both read the prayers from the Gospel and prophecies during koiahk or Bright Saturday when they are added to the Tasbeha... so I don't think there is any difference in practice here. It's not like our Matins Gospel, which is a reading in the Liturgy.

Offline Opus118

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #12 on: July 01, 2014, 11:43:41 PM »
I am interested to hear from both EO and OO on this topic.

In the Orthodox Church, in modern practice, and historically, can a woman become:
a chanter? Reader? Sub-deacon? Deacon?
If so, is the woman ordained/tonsured to these roles, or does she just serve in that capacity without ordination?
Does the woman wear the same/similar vestments to the man when performing these roles?

Hi Qawe,

There are numerous threads here that deal with deaconesses. They were ordained in the past.

This one is older, fairly complete (but without the school in Greece to train deaconesses) and included OOs. I recommend going down from the cited post rather than up:
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,4168.msg54693.html#msg54693
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Offline NicholasMyra

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #13 on: July 02, 2014, 01:51:05 AM »
Subdeacon/deacon: No. The liturgical deacon and the ancient but long-defunct rank of deaconess served very different functions.
What are some primary sources I can look at which demonstrate this?
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Offline LBK

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2014, 01:58:43 AM »
Subdeacon/deacon: No. The liturgical deacon and the ancient but long-defunct rank of deaconess served very different functions.
What are some primary sources I can look at which demonstrate this?

IIRC there are a few threads on deaconesses. You might find what you seek there.
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Offline qawe

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #15 on: July 03, 2014, 05:39:35 AM »
@Jonathan

Re: these unordained chanters you speak of - did they wear a tonia (idk what the English term is), did they need to get it blessed by a priest before vesting, and did they read?

Also, I was just wondering does a reader wear a stole or not, as I have seen you post in the past that they do, but the practice I have always observed is that subdeacons are the lowest rank that wear it.

Thanks
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Offline Jonathan

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #16 on: July 03, 2014, 07:32:48 AM »
@Jonathan

Re: these unordained chanters you speak of - did they wear a tonia (idk what the English term is), did they need to get it blessed by a priest before vesting, and did they read?

Also, I was just wondering does a reader wear a stole or not, as I have seen you post in the past that they do, but the practice I have always observed is that subdeacons are the lowest rank that wear it.

Thanks

The current practice among the Copts is for Readers to wear a stole. This is most certainly not the ancient practice. If I said otherwise, I was wrong :)  There are a few Coptic bishops who follow the old traditions. H.G. Anba Antonios Marcos instructs readers not to wear a stole. But in many places they've standardized on all "deacons" wearing the same stole regardless of "rank".

Chanters did not read, Readers did :) . Keep in mind that the whole idea of what a Reader is grew up in a different time and culture. Bibles and lectionaries were hand copied, and so were very expensive. They were not something that could be ordered for $10 from Amazon. So caring for them was a big deal. Literacy was lower, so those who could read well in church were few (arguably that is still the case).

In the ancient church, practices around vesting varied. The tonya is just the baptismal gown. Every Christian receives one at baptism. In some places at least, everyone wore it to Church, but this does out. If you see Ethiopians and Eritreans at Church, they normally all still wear a white gown to Church. So it's quite likely that in many places chanters would have been expected to wear one... but at that time that would have just been dressing properly, not a clerical garb.

Offline qawe

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #17 on: July 04, 2014, 02:36:59 AM »
Reader? Yes, but not tonsured. (Most men who read aren't tonsured, BTW.) Female readers read during Vespers and Matins, but are generally not blessed to read the epistle at Liturgy, unless there are no males present capable of doing so, such as in small mission parishes. No vestments for the women, as they are not tonsured.

Why is preference given to unordained male readers over unordained female readers (both groups essentially being regular laypeople) to read during the liturgy? Is it because of St Paul's "let your women keep silent in the churches"? If so, would that not stop women from reading during vespers/matins also?
« Last Edit: July 04, 2014, 02:37:51 AM by qawe »
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Offline LBK

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #18 on: July 04, 2014, 03:30:33 AM »
Reader? Yes, but not tonsured. (Most men who read aren't tonsured, BTW.) Female readers read during Vespers and Matins, but are generally not blessed to read the epistle at Liturgy, unless there are no males present capable of doing so, such as in small mission parishes. No vestments for the women, as they are not tonsured.

Why is preference given to unordained male readers over unordained female readers (both groups essentially being regular laypeople) to read during the liturgy? Is it because of St Paul's "let your women keep silent in the churches"? If so, would that not stop women from reading during vespers/matins also?

No, it doesn't.

My long experience in the EO church, including much of it in churches of Russian tradition, shows that males, if at all possible, read the Epistle. OT readings, including the OT readings at festal Vespers, and the appointed selections according to the weekly cycle from the Psalms at Matins, are still largely read by men, as are the Six Psalms at the opening of Matins. However, there are historical and present-day instances of women being given a blessing to read the Six Psalms, Psalm 50 at Matins, and the Hours, which are largely readings from the Psalter.

From this, I draw the conclusion that readings from the New Testament are on a different plane to those of the Old.
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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #19 on: July 04, 2014, 07:54:38 AM »
In the British Orthodox Church the Reader does not wear a stole, the Subdeacon wears a stole crossed over the chest, and the Deacon wears the stole over one shoulder.
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Offline JoeS2

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #20 on: July 04, 2014, 09:57:37 AM »
Thanks! One last question: do women serve as acolytes inside the altar? And do males need to be ordained to do this, and if so, to which rank must one be ordained?

I've seen photos of one OC with a girl as acolyte. Normally, females are do not or are not supposed to serve on the altar. 

Offline LBK

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #21 on: July 04, 2014, 08:16:37 PM »
Thanks! One last question: do women serve as acolytes inside the altar? And do males need to be ordained to do this, and if so, to which rank must one be ordained?

I've seen photos of one OC with a girl as acolyte. Normally, females are do not or are not supposed to serve on the altar. 

Yes, but these are isolated incidents and aberrations. They are contrary to established and accepted practice.
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Offline Aram

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #22 on: July 06, 2014, 03:11:46 PM »
Thanks! One last question: do women serve as acolytes inside the altar? And do males need to be ordained to do this, and if so, to which rank must one be ordained?
In the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, there are a number of parishes in which young girls serve as acolytes on the altar. The practice is (supposedly) being phased out, but it still occurs on a sporadic basis.

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #23 on: July 06, 2014, 04:39:07 PM »
Thanks! One last question: do women serve as acolytes inside the altar? And do males need to be ordained to do this, and if so, to which rank must one be ordained?
In the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, there are a number of parishes in which young girls serve as acolytes on the altar. The practice is (supposedly) being phased out, but it still occurs on a sporadic basis.


my guess is that they are prepubescent.

Offline Salpy

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #24 on: July 06, 2014, 06:44:48 PM »
Thanks! One last question: do women serve as acolytes inside the altar? And do males need to be ordained to do this, and if so, to which rank must one be ordained?
In the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, there are a number of parishes in which young girls serve as acolytes on the altar. The practice is (supposedly) being phased out, but it still occurs on a sporadic basis.

It used to be pretty common here on the West Coast.  Now I don't see it at all.

Offline Salpy

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #25 on: July 06, 2014, 06:45:03 PM »
Thanks! One last question: do women serve as acolytes inside the altar? And do males need to be ordained to do this, and if so, to which rank must one be ordained?
In the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, there are a number of parishes in which young girls serve as acolytes on the altar. The practice is (supposedly) being phased out, but it still occurs on a sporadic basis.


my guess is that they are prepubescent.

Yes, at least on the West Coast that's how it was. 

I always assumed the practice was a temporary influence from the Catholics or Anglicans. 
« Last Edit: July 06, 2014, 06:47:03 PM by Salpy »

Offline Stavro

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #26 on: July 07, 2014, 01:25:45 AM »
Thanks! One last question: do women serve as acolytes inside the altar? And do males need to be ordained to do this, and if so, to which rank must one be ordained?
In the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, there are a number of parishes in which young girls serve as acolytes on the altar. The practice is (supposedly) being phased out, but it still occurs on a sporadic basis.


my guess is that they are prepubescent.

Yes, at least on the West Coast that's how it was. 

I always assumed the practice was a temporary influence from the Catholics or Anglicans. 

There is something about the West Coast and female deacons wannabes.

A while back I watched a video of a liturgy recorded in St Mark Coptic Church in the diocese of LA. They had female pseudo-deacons standing behind the male deacons. They wore some tunic with a pallium around their necks, very similar to the one worn by the blessed Pope of Rome and the blessed catholic archbishops as a sign of authority.

The bishop was attending so I guess he allowed it. Maybe he even invented it. He is full of innovations, this blessed servant.

The ladies were probably in their late teens and older. Beautiful voices I must say. They looked very representative and confident while showcasing their talents. They were fully into it. May the gods reward them. I hope this great experiment by the enlightened left coasters is applied across all Coptic churches across all categories of believers, to get them involved. Because, you know, if you are not a deacon, you are not praying.
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Offline Salpy

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #27 on: July 07, 2014, 01:54:39 AM »
Could it be they were choir ladies with choir robes on?  When I visit Coptic churches, I only see male subdeacons singing, but it could be this church was experimenting with the concept of a choir.  Of course that's still an innovation, but it's different from deaconesses. 

And regarding the West Coast, yeah we get pretty crazy over here in California.   :)


Offline qawe

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #28 on: July 07, 2014, 06:09:44 AM »
Could it be they were choir ladies with choir robes on?  When I visit Coptic churches, I only see male subdeacons singing, but it could be this church was experimenting with the concept of a choir.  Of course that's still an innovation, but it's different from deaconesses.

Exactly my thoughts.
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Offline Stavro

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #29 on: July 07, 2014, 01:01:50 PM »
Could it be they were choir ladies with choir robes on?  When I visit Coptic churches, I only see male subdeacons singing, but it could be this church was experimenting with the concept of a choir.  Of course that's still an innovation, but it's different from deaconesses.  
And regarding the West Coast, yeah we get pretty crazy over here in California.   :)

They were wearing the same white tunic that is used by deacons in the Coptic Church. The pallium apparently replaced the "badrashen".

The choir robes are worn in Toronto, by another "mission" church. Traditionally, in the Coptic Orthodox Church, after the fraction and during partaking of the Body and Blood of the Lord, the congregation would sing Psalm 150 with appropriate seasonal tunes and refrains, and then an appropriate seasonal communion hymn with  a lot of theology. In this mission church, the girls take over right after the deacon inside the altar (a male deacon, till now) finishes the last confession, and begin hardcore worship and praise songs. Great stuff.  

I have little interest in debating the feminine trends in the Coptic Church. Copts, and most notably the lead-not hierarchs like the Angel and the Shepherd of the city of angels, struggle big time with defining and applying gender equity as opposed to feminist equality. They will try to squeeze a nonexistent historical precedent for this liturgical audacity to justify their position, while it is clear that the primary motive is to appease the feminists and their parents.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2014, 01:08:56 PM by Stavro »
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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #30 on: July 07, 2014, 01:41:05 PM »
One of the things I have been confused about is the role of readers and subdeacons.  I was under the impression that at the very least readers and cantors were lay orders.  Nevertheless, there were still ordained deaconesses for specific functions.  One has to wonder, to what extent is "reading" not allowed for a woman?  Is a reader a clergy or a layman?  And if the laity, what stops a woman from being a reader in the liturgy?

In California, the Coptic Church consecrated female cantors. Given that the cantor rank is an innovation in the Coptic church, it should be hardly controversial that the Church wanted to involve women with hymns. Otherwise we look like a Church that claims only men can chant.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2014, 01:43:33 PM by minasoliman »
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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #31 on: July 07, 2014, 01:52:43 PM »

In California, the Coptic Church consecrated female cantors. Given that the cantor rank is an innovation in the Coptic church, it should be hardly controversial that the Church wanted to involve women with hymns. Otherwise we look like a Church that claims only men can chant.

This logic breaks down when you say a chanter is ordained as a kind of deacon and so can take the place of a deacon at the altar... If say chanters aren't deacons then this discussion makes sense... But only after they're removes from the sanctuary.

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #32 on: July 07, 2014, 02:44:57 PM »

In California, the Coptic Church consecrated female cantors. Given that the cantor rank is an innovation in the Coptic church, it should be hardly controversial that the Church wanted to involve women with hymns. Otherwise we look like a Church that claims only men can chant.

This logic breaks down when you say a chanter is ordained as a kind of deacon and so can take the place of a deacon at the altar... If say chanters aren't deacons then this discussion makes sense... But only after they're removes from the sanctuary.

I agree. Nevertheless, that still doesn't address the general bias that only a man can be a "moallem" who holds the mic.  Forget about the altar.  No one is arguing about that.  But either we get rid of chantors (which in the age of Ibrahim Ayad lovers doesn't seem to be encouraged) or temporarily fill a void where women are actually encouraged to chant with the men.

The few times I have not dressed up when visiting a parish, I found myself the loudest voice in the men.  Whether we like it or not, our culture is "only dressed up men can be the choir".
« Last Edit: July 07, 2014, 02:46:33 PM by minasoliman »
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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #33 on: July 07, 2014, 08:27:00 PM »
Could it be they were choir ladies with choir robes on?  When I visit Coptic churches, I only see male subdeacons singing, but it could be this church was experimenting with the concept of a choir.  Of course that's still an innovation, but it's different from deaconesses.  
And regarding the West Coast, yeah we get pretty crazy over here in California.   :)

They were wearing the same white tunic that is used by deacons in the Coptic Church. The pallium apparently replaced the "badrashen".

If you see Jonathan's reply #16 above, it is clear that there is nothing with wearing the tonia, as it was originally for all Christians and not a priestly vestment. However I do agree that unordained (or wrongly ordained) women have no right to wear the badrasheen or any replacement thereof.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2014, 08:28:56 PM by qawe »
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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #34 on: July 07, 2014, 08:55:08 PM »
Could it be they were choir ladies with choir robes on?  When I visit Coptic churches, I only see male subdeacons singing, but it could be this church was experimenting with the concept of a choir.  Of course that's still an innovation, but it's different from deaconesses. 
And regarding the West Coast, yeah we get pretty crazy over here in California.   :)

They were wearing the same white tunic that is used by deacons in the Coptic Church. The pallium apparently replaced the "badrashen".

If you see Jonathan's reply #16 above, it is clear that there is nothing with wearing the tonia, as it was originally for all Christians and not a priestly vestment. However I do agree that unordained (or wrongly ordained) women have no right to wear the badrasheen or any replacement thereof.

According to Dr. George Bebawi, if you ever pay attention in the Coptic Museum, there is an ancient icon of a deaconess with a stole.  Their roles in the church were similar to deacons. They brought the Eucharist to widows and orphans and they were involved (key word here) in the Chrismation of women, among other things.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2014, 08:57:23 PM by minasoliman »
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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #35 on: July 07, 2014, 10:47:02 PM »
Yes, there is nothing wrong with women being deacons. Aka deaconesses. They assist at baptisms, and carried Communion to sick women, as you said. They did not serve at the altar as the male deacons did.

What is wrong is for chanters to be deacons.

The chanter, the reader, and the subdeacon are not deacons. They are minor orders.

If you take an illiterate person, and ordain them a reader, are they a reader? Obviously, they still cannot read. The prayers of ordination do not magically make them able to. What's supposed to happen, is you take someone skilled at reading, and bless them to serve in that capacity in the Church.

If you take a 6 year old boy, who does not know the vast majority of the hymns, and certainly cannot lead the congregation, and you ordain them a chanter, are they a chanter? They certainly still cannot chant, and the ordination didn't magically make them able. All we have done is lied to God, to the boy, and to ourselves... And the amazing thing is that we believe our own lie!

Worse still, if you tell the tuneless chanter and the illiterate reader that they are deacons, they believe you.

Deacons have nothing to do with outside the Sanctuary during the Liturgy (originally they were to keep order, but that was taken over by the subdeacon). The priest manifests to us Christ at the Altar, and the deacons manifest the angels. The Deacons commune inside. They cannot remarry, etc. It's a big deal. Over time, subdeacons were allowed to assist the deacon in the altar, being his hands as he is the bishop's hands. But the subdeacon did not become a deacon, or say his responses, or serve as a deacon... They just assisted with stuff, carrying the censer, etc.

Readers are those set aside to read outside. They have nothing to do with inside the altar. The proper place for them to commune is in the nave, with the rest of the people.

The chanters are those set aside to lead the Congregation in the hymns. They have nothing to do with inside the altar. The proper place for them to commune is in the nave, with the rest of the people.

Until very recently, the Reader was the first rank of service. They are tonsured, the hair cut and burned in the censer to show their setting aside for the service of God. The subdeacons are chosen from the Readers, and the Deacons are chosen from the Subdeacons and Readers. But Reader is not a stepping stone, it is its own service. To be a Reader was a big deal. Readers were martyred in the dioceletian persecution for refusing to give up the Church books they cared for. The lectionaries were hand copied, often by the Readers (there was no printing press), and they were rare and precious. The Reader had to know the Bible very well to be able to read it with understanding, so the people would understand. Contrast this with today when the Readers mispronounce many words and demonstrate from the random places in the reading where they put pauses and emphasis that they have no comprehension of what they are reading.

Chanters are not tonsured. They are laymen who have been blessed to lead in hymns. 50% of the males should not be chanters. It should be a few people who are really experts in the hymns and can lead. Then all the people sing together, with a few leaders to maintain the harmony, with no performance or solos.

There is nothing wrong with forming choirs of both genders to practice and sing the congregational responses together so that all the people can easily sing together. They are doing nothing more than the duty of everyone present.

In L.A., they have "chantresses", which they refer to as "deaconesses". H.G. Anba Serapion cannot be blamed for this alone. In 1992 or 1994 the Synod issued a decree that women can be ordained deaconesses with the ranks of chantress, readeress, subdeaconess, and deaconess. However, the readeress cannot read, as reading is a duty of the male deacons! What is the meaning of a readeress who cannot read?

These "deaconesses", who are no more deaconesses than the chanters are deacons (but it's also no more wrong to call them deaconesses than it is to call chanters deacons), stand behind the so-called deacons, and sing the hymns. This is very wrong, because it is the place of all the people to sing the hymns. You can also see looking in their faces that they have taken everything bad from the corruption of the male diaconate... it is not humble service, but a prideful rank to be obtained.

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #36 on: July 08, 2014, 01:59:40 AM »
Could it be they were choir ladies with choir robes on?  When I visit Coptic churches, I only see male subdeacons singing, but it could be this church was experimenting with the concept of a choir.  Of course that's still an innovation, but it's different from deaconesses. 
And regarding the West Coast, yeah we get pretty crazy over here in California.   :)

They were wearing the same white tunic that is used by deacons in the Coptic Church. The pallium apparently replaced the "badrashen".

If you see Jonathan's reply #16 above, it is clear that there is nothing with wearing the tonia, as it was originally for all Christians and not a priestly vestment. However I do agree that unordained (or wrongly ordained) women have no right to wear the badrasheen or any replacement thereof.

According to Dr. George Bebawi, if you ever pay attention in the Coptic Museum, there is an ancient icon of a deaconess with a stole.  Their roles in the church were similar to deacons. They brought the Eucharist to widows and orphans and they were involved (key word here) in the Chrismation of women, among other things.

Fair enough. I retract my comment about the badrasheen.
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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #37 on: July 08, 2014, 11:02:49 AM »
Quote
If you see Jonathan's reply #16 above, it is clear that there is nothing with wearing the tonia, as it was originally for all Christians and not a priestly vestment. However I do agree that unordained (or wrongly ordained) women have no right to wear the badrasheen or any replacement thereof.

It is not clear to me that there is any relation between white baptism clothing, which is not a tonia by the way, and ladies assuming priesthood ranks. Not every piece of white clothing is a priesthood garment, but the tonia most certainly is.

It is not for all Christians, nor did the previous generations wear tonias all the time. Only priests wore priesthood garments. And this applies to men not consecrated to a priesthood rank and any woman (except in LA under the blessed Bishop Serapion). Deacons are an integral part of priesthood, definitely more ancient that the rank of presbyter.

Visit the church of the the modern day Copts in LA wearing a full bishop's attire. See how the priests and bishop will react. The fact that the rank of deaconate has been diluted and brought down to a generic laymen service rather than a valid priesthood rank is sad. It was inevitable that it will lead to one audacious situation after another, one of them having female imposters assuming their duties.

The rank of deaconess is definitely a historical fact. They used to help out in administering the sacraments to the women, but  just help out. They did not assume any priesthood responsibilities. The majority of their time was heavy service including to care for the orphans and widows. Start with these services, which require humility and spirituality, if the true intent is to restore a forgotten rank.
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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #38 on: July 08, 2014, 12:44:35 PM »

The rank of deaconess is definitely a historical fact. They used to help out in administering the sacraments to the women, but  just help out. They did not assume any priesthood responsibilities. The majority of their time was heavy service including to care for the orphans and widows. Start with these services, which require humility and spirituality, if the true intent is to restore a forgotten rank.

From another thread on the topic, I found this old article:

http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2000/479/spec1.htm

It seems to describe the revival of what you are talking about.  That seems to be different, though, from what people are describing in Los Angeles.

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #39 on: July 08, 2014, 12:46:04 PM »
The choir robes are worn in Toronto, by another "mission" church. Traditionally, in the Coptic Orthodox Church, after the fraction and during partaking of the Body and Blood of the Lord, the congregation would sing Psalm 150 with appropriate seasonal tunes and refrains, and then an appropriate seasonal communion hymn with  a lot of theology. In this mission church, the girls take over right after the deacon inside the altar (a male deacon, till now) finishes the last confession, and begin hardcore worship and praise songs. Great stuff.

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #40 on: July 08, 2014, 01:48:40 PM »
I'm amazed at how when I mention deaconess, red flags come up as if I'm advocating the entrance of women into the altar or the priesthood.  Or the false assumption that HG Bishop Serapion is engaging in some sort of theological dangerous novelty as if to ridicule his practice.  First off, you talk to any priest of the LA diocese, no one ever claimed to have ordained "deaconesses".  They never call them "deaconesses".  They call them, as Jonathan pointed out, "chanters".  I know this based on the fact that I was there discussing this with them.

Like I said, I agree that chanters, readers, and subdeacons are NOT deacons, but orders of the laity, or so I thought they were, until I was told that Readers and Subdeacons by other priests were not orders of the laity.  I have been told that I have a basic misunderstanding of what a Reader and Subdeacon does.  I have thought they are not allowed in the altar, but of course, you hear differences of opinions from different sister churches.  I think this is an indication that either we have a problem with ecclesiology, OR we are nonchalant about it, so long as it's males or prepubescent girls (which is an odd thing, considering that I have a fundamental theological disagreement on the issue of monthly periods practiced and explained by many of our parishes).

Qawe knew exactly what I was replying to, the idea that a women is not allowed to wear a stole is a novel idea, which I showed this not to be the case.  That's all I was replying to.

Next, the issue of the tonia vs. baptism dress.  I know the Ethiopian Church engages in this practice, where all the congregation wear white.  The only difference you can tell are those of the clergy.  But from what I have seen, choir ladies have also dressed slightly different as well.  But of course, we would like to see the historical evidence, as now there is a disagreement between Jonathan and Stavro on this.  I will point out, if Jonathan is right, then the LA diocese giving tonias to women is not an aberration, but a fulfillment of previous roles as all the congregation should wear the same.  If however Stavro is right, then ALL of the Coptic Church is wrong to even give tonias to ANY chanter, reader, and subdeacon, since it's only for the clergy.

I have a slight issue with the way we describe the roles of clergy and the role of congregation in comparison to the hosts, or the Trinity.  There are so many different aspects of this.  But if we take the idea that the priest represents Christ, I like to reply by saying that using this logic, anyone can be a priest, because we all "put on Christ" in our baptism.  Rather, I take the Ignatian view.  If a bishop is Christ, the deacon is the ministration of Christ to the people that they receive Christ.  Thus, it becomes the source of Christ (bishop), the giver of Christ (deacon/deaconess), and the receivers of Christ (laity).  A more fulfilling analogy is the other part that St. Ignatius loves to use, which brings to fruition the Christ/minister of Christ analogy, that is the bishop represents the Father and the deacon and deaconesses represents the Son.  Presbyters end up taking the role not of anyone in the Trinity, but of the assembly of the Apostles themselves appointed by Christ, given power by the bishop to do as is allowed by the bishop.  What then of the congregants?  Angels?  The Holy Spirit?  Either way, the analogy fits that they do have a role, as to consecrate the world as the Holy Spirit consecrates their lives, and to minister to the world as angels.

Therefore, the deacon really becomes quite essential once you truly describe it as the true representative of Christ.  It is the goal of every laity, that is to become like the deacon or deaconess, or in actuality of their role, to become like Christ.  The bishop and presbyters are really those who do in fact fulfill the role of being like Christ based on their reputation, and do not cease being deacons even when they are presbyters or bishops.

Some rare occasions have allowed deaconesses to enter the altar, and only those rare instances according to Syriac Orthodox tradition; that does not mean they are casually allowed in (and food for thought: even clergy do not casually enter the altar either unless it is necessary):

http://www.socmnet.org/Resource_Articles_The_Role_of_Women_in_the_SOC_HHZakkaI.htm

Finally, in the ancient Church there was no differentiation between deaconess/deacon.  The deaconate encompassed males and females.  Females were also called "deacons".  That is not to say they did not have a different role.  They did, and they were not allowed in the sanctuary.  But to call one an ordination and the other a consecration is a gross misrepresentation of the deaconate.  Deaconesses are ordained, and they are part of the clergy.  They are not allowed to be priests or bishops.  That's all.
« Last Edit: July 08, 2014, 01:52:26 PM by minasoliman »
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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #41 on: July 08, 2014, 01:59:19 PM »
Next, the issue of the tonia vs. baptism dress.  I know the Ethiopian Church engages in this practice, where all the congregation wear white.  The only difference you can tell are those of the clergy.  But from what I have seen, choir ladies have also dressed slightly different as well.  But of course, we would like to see the historical evidence, as now there is a disagreement between Jonathan and Stavro on this.  I will point out, if Jonathan is right, then the LA diocese giving tonias to women is not an aberration, but a fulfillment of previous roles as all the congregation should wear the same.  If however Stavro is right, then ALL of the Coptic Church is wrong to even give tonias to ANY chanter, reader, and subdeacon, since it's only for the clergy.

I have no desire to debate with Stavro about the nature of the tonia. I will list where I have heard it, and leave it at that without comment or any further personal opinion.

-Fr. Thomas Hopko teaches this in his "worship in spirit and truth" podcast series
-Fr. Athanasius Iskander teaches this.
-When I was baptised, what I was given to wear was exactly the tonia the "deacons" wear.

I would readily agree that the white baptismal gown has since been elaborated with the embroidery to make it a mark of clergy. Ideally they should be simply white robes. If we want to accept the custom of placing embroidery on the priest's, clearly at least the chanters and readers should not have it. In this sense Stavro is also correct that today it has been made a priestly garment, and (in my opinion) wrongly given to the chanters and readers as such. The origin though seems to me to be clearly from the baptismal gown. First the priest puts on Christ, wearing his white baptismal gown, then puts on the pastoral stole showing his role as the pastor of the community, etc.

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #42 on: July 08, 2014, 02:02:31 PM »
Like I said, I agree that chanters, readers, and subdeacons are NOT deacons, but orders of the laity, or so I thought they were, until I was told that Readers and Subdeacons by other priests were not orders of the laity.

Canonically, chanters, readers, and subdeacons are not deacons, but are nevertheless clerics.  They are not "laity" except in the sense that clerics remain also members of the "people of God" (by this standard, even Popes are "laity").    

Quote
I have been told that I have a basic misunderstanding of what a Reader and Subdeacon does.  I have thought they are not allowed in the altar, but of course, you hear differences of opinions from different sister churches.  I think this is an indication that either we have a problem with ecclesiology, OR we are nonchalant about it, so long as it's males or prepubescent girls (which is an odd thing, considering that I have a fundamental theological disagreement on the issue of monthly periods practiced and explained by many of our parishes).

I've avoided entering this particular discussion because it seems to have more to do with local issues affecting the Coptic Church and not about "universal" principles.  I can only speak about the latter.
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Offline Jonathan

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #43 on: July 08, 2014, 02:08:39 PM »
Like I said, I agree that chanters, readers, and subdeacons are NOT deacons, but orders of the laity, or so I thought they were, until I was told that Readers and Subdeacons by other priests were not orders of the laity.  I have been told that I have a basic misunderstanding of what a Reader and Subdeacon does.  I have thought they are not allowed in the altar, but of course, you hear differences of opinions from different sister churches.  I think this is an indication that either we have a problem with ecclesiology, OR we are nonchalant about it, so long as it's males or prepubescent girls (which is an odd thing, considering that I have a fundamental theological disagreement on the issue of monthly periods practiced and explained by many of our parishes).

Can I suggest that perhaps part of the tension here might be because of a false dichotomy between priest and laity?

We tend to follow the western division of priest and laity, with the priests not being laity. But the Coptic word la-os just means people. Our liturgy books literally say the priest's part, the deacon's part, and the people's part. We would not say that when one becomes a priest, they cease to be a person. They are still a person, but one set aside for a role of service in the community as an elder or overseer.

The rite for ordaining a reader calls them the first level of the priesthood...

So a bishop is a bishop, the overseer, and is also la os, a member of the congregation
A presbyter is a presbyter, an elder, and also is la os, a member of the congregation, and one that serves on the council or synod of elders
A deacon is a deacon, a servant, and also is la os, a member of the congregation, and one who assists the bishop in charity and liturgy
A subdeacon is a subdeacon, an assistant to the deacon, and also is la os, a member of the congregation, and one who assists the deacon.
A reader is a reader, and also is la os, a member of the congregation, and one who has been appointed by the bishop to read
A chanter is a chanter, and also is la os, a member of the congregation, and one recognized by the people and bishop has knowledgeable in hymns and appointed by the bishop to lead them.

(on the other hand, a Patirach or Archbishop is a bishop, an Archdeacon is a deacon, a protopresbyter is a presbyter, etc. those are not other orders, but recognition within the order)

Of these, only the reader is tonsured. The hair is cut, meaning they are set aside for the service to the Church. Any ordination as a reader, subdeacon, deacon, presbyter, or bishop, is within that tonsure. They are not tonsured again, because it has already been done. They are ordained to a role of service within that tonsure.

The chanter is not tonsured, and so clearly cannot be a deacon. But neither are readers or subdeacons deacons, they are readers and subdeacons. You will be hardpressed to find a Coptic priest that would agree with that though (I know 2-3).
« Last Edit: July 08, 2014, 02:14:51 PM by Jonathan »

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Re: Women in the Church
« Reply #44 on: July 08, 2014, 02:13:41 PM »
I'm amazed at how when I mention deaconess, red flags come up as if I'm advocating the entrance of women into the altar or the priesthood.  Or the false assumption that HG Bishop Serapion is engaging in some sort of theological dangerous novelty as if to ridicule his practice.  First off, you talk to any priest of the LA diocese, no one ever claimed to have ordained "deaconesses".  They never call them "deaconesses".  They call them, as Jonathan pointed out, "chanters".  I know this based on the fact that I was there discussing this with them.

Unfortunately the decision of the Synod did not share your distinction between chanter and deacon, either male or female:

Quote
This may not be entirely helpful to you, Brett, but it's certainly illuminating. At the meeting of the Coptic Holy Synod on June 13th, 1992, it was decreed that a woman may be set aside for the following orders: reader, subdeacon, and deacon, with the reservation that they may not serve in the Sanctuary: http://www.theholysynod.copticpope.org/aspect21.htm (Arabic)

rough english translation:

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first part says in our church there are no female servant monks, just dedicated deaconesses. a woman can be ordained a reader, sub deacon or deacon, with necessary warnings without the sacrificial service or doing any priestly work. the woman teaches at church, and cannot teach men as per peter's (the apostle) words. the priest or deacons do the readings, as deaconesses can't read. a bishop needs to know before ordaining a female, not just a priest, and she is ordained with signs of the cross and not laying of hands she is not to be ordained as deacons after the prayer of reconciliation since she will not be serving in the altar. they can help a priest with baptism she can clean the church vessel but not the altar she can do other services (elderly, outreach) just not priestly ones.

I don't think that Anba Serapion thinks that chantresses are deaconesses... But H.G. is working within the framework of the decisions of the Synod, which seem to.