I appreciate all the answers and there's quite a bit here to respond to, so I may not get to everything said and for that I apologize.
B) Yep. Once I started really taking the early patristic writings seriously, I was totally screwed.
But then after you become exposed to this information, the Holy Scriptures themselves open up to you. The "mere memorial" view is decimated by 1 Corinthians 11:30. I never knew that "falling asleep" is a euphemism in Greek for dying. Mere memorials don't kill people, or for that matter make them sick or bedridden.
This has been happening for me. Today was the first opportunity I've had since I've looked at Orthodoxy to partake in the Lord's Supper at a Protestant church. To be honest, I struggled with whether or not I would do it (since I am not Orthodox, nor am I in the process of converting), but decided to. I actually felt guilty afterwards and knew that I shouldn't have done it.
But reading the Scriptures has completely changed. I now look to Church history first and see what they said. On issues where there's no disagreement, I find it hard to adhere to Protestantism. On issues where it's iffy, I struggle.
At least for me, they stopped being a problem once I realized that the Roman Catholic Church isn't the only church that believes/teaches/practices these things. After that, Church history played a major role in how I started forming my beliefs. My standard went from "can this be proven using the Bible" to "what really happened".
That has helped me quite a bit honestly. I knew
the RCC couldn't be true, just because too much of what they taught didn't line up with what the Church Fathers wrote or what Scripture said.
Starting with your questions about the role of the pastor in the Protestant churches:
I believe most Protestant churches that consider themselves "Bible based" and hold a conservative opinion on the definition of their biblical basis would oppose the ordination of women on the grounds of St Paul's "I do not permit a woman to teach".
As to the reason for having the position of "pastor" at all they would point to verses regarding the "overseer"(episkopos) and point out that there is no New Testament correlation between the administration of the Sacraments to the role of the "overseer". Basically they have to live in a New Testament-only vacuum, disregarding any historical evidence (such as the writings of Sts Clement and Ignatius) that would tell a tale to the contrary. So long as you disregard the other evidence their view pretty much boils down to an "absence of evidence" fallacy. But, I suppose, in a sola scriptura world absence of evidence really is the evidence of absence.
As to the difference between a Pastor and teacher, well, it's simple: the pastor is the guy that puts you to sleep for thirty minutes every Sunday, the teacher is the one that you see in Sunday School leading you through whatever banal devotional your denomination publishes.
Regarding your other questions specifically toward converts: While the Lord's Supper and the presence of bishops were deciding factors in my conversion to Orthodoxy they did not quite lead me there directly. I got sidetracked by the Anglicans who claimed Real Presence and Apostolic Succession, the latter under the wonders of the Branch Theory. This was much easier thirteen years ago when the Anglican Communion, while it was apparent it had it's troubles, was nowhere near as wildly chaotic as it has been in the past seven years. Once that edifice came crashing down I was basically left with a choice between Orthodoxy and a sort of "emergent Catholicism" (if that idea makes any sense, probably would have been something very similar to the early Evangelical Orthodox movement of the late 70s). It was basically the role of the priest and the Church that finally won me over.
The comment about preaching and teaching is too true. Of course, many Protestant churches are trying to "spice" things up and discussing sex more and more from the pulpit. Not that it's a wrong thing to do (after all, look at the homilies of St. John Chrysostom on marriage), but it becomes the focus and it's simply "shock theology."
And I'm familiar with the "Emergent Roman Catholic Church" (I think it's called "Radical Orthodoxy," James K.A. Smith is a proponent if I believe) and I agree, it's not much of a choice between Orthodoxy and that form of Roman Catholicism.
And finally, it is a problem when they live in a New Testament vacuum, and this has been a problem I've noticed in Protestantism. What we think the Church was and what it actually was tend to be two different things.
Interesting, what connection are you making here?
In the New Testament we have examples of women teaching and taking on some roles of prominence. Many protestant theologians who support women being pastors often use these passages to show that women held authority and taught. Even in the early Church we see many women took on teaching roles. We can even see in St. Gregory of Nyssa's dialogue over the soul and resurrection with his sister St. Macrina that she is teaching him (fictional or not, it shows that St. Gregory had no problem with casting his sister in the role of a teacher and him as a student).
So if the role of a preacher is essentially a teacher and women were allowed to teach in the New Testament and early Church, why should they be forbidden from being teachers? It would seem that nothing in God's economy for the Church would prevent women from being teachers. The only defense I can think of would be saying that there is something special about the pulpit, but if this is true then why deny the Sacraments? Furthermore, wouldn't the idea of "There is something special about the pulpit" go against the Protestant belief of the "priesthood of the believers"? In short, if all of us are truly priests and equal, then why can't women teach?
It would seem that Paul's forbidden women to teach or have authority would only make sense if there was a certain Church economy where the pastorate held actual power and that power was only meant for men. I'm certainly not trying to sound like a sexist, but merely saying that God designed men and women for certain roles and functions in life; it would appear that the pastorate (or priesthood) is meant only for men for whatever reason, but this only makes sense if there is something involved in being a priest other than teaching.
I hope that makes sense.
I am always being criticized by Reformed protestants by connected this to later secularism and atheism.
How does it lead to atheism? Are you going along the lines that it takes too big a bite of naturalism and denies the miracle of the Sacraments? I'm not disagreeing, I'm just curious where your reasoning is going on this.
To the scandal of many of my colleagues, many of whom are Protestants, I'm fond of turning to mystery when explaining the deeper things of theology. I've noticed that this doesn't go over too well, which would explain their opposition to the Sacraments (i.e. "But how can the bread turn into flesh? Wouldn't Jesus 'run out' of Himself at some point?" At some point they forget that God is God).
Yes, I recall the passage by Ignatius. Those who wish to see it as a corruption refuse to consider the fact that maybe, just maybe their doctrine was the brand new doctrine by way of the 9th century christian Naturalist who saw it as a symbol. Some of the Reformers took his lead some centuries later.
I wasn't familiar with Ratramnus at all and this is the first time I've heard about him or the connection to the Reformation. If you know of any books or articles concerning this, I'd be very grateful for the link.
Again, I thank all of you. All of this has been helpful for me just to have a place to voice my frustrations. My best friend is converting to Orthodoxy, but he's married with three kids and lives two states away right now so we don't always have time to go over this stuff like we used to (ironically we were both being drawn to Orthodoxy without the other knowing about it, at the same time!), so if nothing else this has been very therapeutic for me. I think I am at the point where it is no longer a matter of if
I'll convert to Orthodoxy, but merely a matter of when.