I kinda meant this to be an open inquiry into the roles in which females already serve in the church......and instead it downgrades into mere polemical tirades......but I've come to expect no better from Orthodox discussion boards of late, so its not like I should be suprised at all.
Females were ordained as full deaconesses, I think that's clear. See http://www.corpus.org/page.cfm?Web_ID=510
. The Council of Chalcedon says:
Council of Chalcedon (452 AD) Canon 15 (From Greek text in Harduin II,
1714, cols 607-08):
"A deaconess is not to be ordained ["cheirotoneisthai"] before
the age of forty and this with diligent examination.But if she
received the imposition of hands and for some period stayed in
the ministry, she gives herself to marriage, she has scorned the
grace of God. Such a one is to be anathematized along with the
one joined to her."
Then this raises the question: are sub-deacons and readers ordained
? Since these orders do not, usually, require the presence of a bishop, is it safe to assume that their "ordination" is of a different kind? So that the ordination which Chalcedon speak of here for deaconesses, and the ordination given to male deacons and priest and bishop is different from that which is given to sub-deacons and readers then why is there even an argument going on about whether female sub-deacons should or should not be "ordained"
And also, why is sub-deaconesses being lower step of full deaconesses bad ecclesiology? Last time I checked a lot of males I knew were on the "3-year program". 1 year as sub-deacon, 1 year as full deacon, and then at the 3rd year as priest. This seems to be pretty standard. Is this, then, bad ecclesiology too? Let's say a female becomes Orthodox (example could be me or any other cradle or convert female, doesn't matter), she spends a few years just going to church faithfully, she then gets involved more, joining the choir and getting on the list for making the prosphora. During this time her husband becomes a reader, then a sub-deacon. She learns how to chant too, and she goes to the priest to ask to read in church, he examines her, her abilites, motivations, pureness of mind, etc., she gets his approval and one sunday she is presented to the church as a new reader, the church accepts her, knowing her to be of good character and spiritual uprightness, the priest blesses her as a reader. She get more and more assignments from the priest, first reading the hours before liturgy, then epistle readings. She figures out the choir isn't really her thing, the choir director is always asking her to read instead of singing, she gets the hint. Now when she isn't reading she notices other things in the church which need to be done during the service, the door to be baby room gets left open frequently and many children just go in there to wrestle eachother during the service and end up hurting eachother, she tells her husband after church and he says "I can't do anything, I have to help the priest at the altar, we're hurting to get everything done as it is, next week you take care of it, you are a Reader after all, they should listen to you." The next week she watches the door closely, and makes sure it is closed and that children are not misbehaving. When she does that she notices that there is a group of teenage girls hanging out in the foyer, just talking, she talks to them and discovers that they aren't in the liturgy because they just don't see the point of it all. She listens and tries to explain to them why liturgy is important and convinces them to come in for the rest of the service, some do. Afterwards she gives the girls her email address, and they set up a tenative time to meet to read the Bible together. Later she tells the priest what she did and asks for direction, he promises to pray for her in this and gives her the phone numbers of a few other teenage girls who she can try to contact as well. The next week she also notices that the offerings are not being brought up to the front, her husband, looking very stressed and busy, motions for her to bring it up to the door, she goes and gets it and brings it to her husband. Later she notices that no one is bringing out the table for the wine and antidoron, wait, someone is, a 5-year-old girl is pulling it out by herself. She goes over and help her bring it out, when the deacon brings out the wine and bread she helps the little girl make the table and pour the wine. During the week the priest gets a call from an elderly parishioner complaining that what she was wearing that sunday was "too flashy" and "distracting" for someone reading the epistle and manning the table. She is hurt by this, because she thought what she was wearing was quite modest considering that everything else available in the department stores that season were much more revealing. After discussing this with the priest, they decide that she is to wear a modified cassock on the days which she is a Reader so as not to be a distraction from the message of Scripture. When she wears the cassock she notices that the girls from her Bible study group show up to church more, and give her more respect. When she asks them why they say "well, you're, like, really involved and stuff". She points out to them that she has been "involved and stuff" long before she was given the cassock and they say "yeah, but before when you just read, we thought, well, that you were just reading stuff, because the guy wearing the robe was someplace else". Rolling her eyes she tells this to the priest, he thinks over it, and realizes that when Scripture is read it should be read with honor and respect and with glory, meaning that whoever is reading on Sunday liturgy should also wear the Stikharion, so that everyone knows that the words coming from the mouth of the Reader is full of beauty and light. She is doubtful about this, but agrees to wear it when she does the epistle reading, stepping into the baby room briefly to put it on before she reads and then taking it off again when she is done. Some of the girls in her bible study group try to help her in this. Seeing their eagerness to serve she convinces most of them to join the choir. This goes on for quite a few years, she continues to read prayers and Scripture, she cleans icons from baby drool and purple lipstick, she runs the offerings back and forth when needed, she runs the table for the wine and bread. On days when there is a visiting priest and not enough deacons she jumps in to be the second holder of the communion napkin. Her priest looks at her doubtfully when she does this, but later asks her if she would consider being ordained a sub-deacon, she considers and accepts. The priest ordains her with the stole on Sunday and the congregation, seeing her good service and continuing spiritual character, accepts her. The priest allows her to light the oil lamps on the iconostasis and gives her more prayers to chant, she becomes the spiritual advisor to many more teenage girls and becomes the godmother of quite a few of their babies. More years go on, her husband is now a full deacon, her own children are now nearly grown up and are in good standing in the church. She sees many of those same teenage girls she first found talking out in the foyer become nuns, choir directors, and seminarians, others are Readers themselves. The priest sees all this and asks her if she would consider being ordained a full deaconess. After much prayer she accepts, she is given the full stole and the congregation accepts her with "Axios" having seen her spiritual nourishment of the community over the years. The priest gives her the duty of cleaning the altar area and repairing some of its furnishings. She is also allowed to pray for the names on the offerings at the side table, which happens to be outside of the altar area at this church. She is also given tasks to help the priest for panakedia's and becomes a vital servant on the days when the church celebrates a feast on a mid-week and most of the regular deacons have to be at work.
The above story is hypothetical, but many of the situations are problems are real. Perhaps a lot of people are stuck in complacency, "church goes fine now withou female sub-deacons running around, why change it?" What I'm saying is that church could be so much better
with female sub-deacons, that once we have them we'll all sit around saying "how did we ever do church without allowing the women to do what they do now?" The above examples are the ways in which I see female sub-deacons contributing positively to the liturgical and spiritual ministry to the church. Yes, women already do many of the tasks in the story above, but if they are doing them without the guidance of their priest and the acceptance of the congregation then their ministry, sadly, causes more strife and jealousy than spiritual edification. What's more, often when women do their tasks they feel very uncertain about it, "should I be pouring the wine into the cups?? is this someone else's job?? people are staring at me, am I doing something wrong??" are all the thoughts which runs through a woman's head everytime she jumps in to help out, simply because, no, they should not be serving unless the priest and the people ask them to serve. And then you have the opposite problem, women trying to also "jump in to help out" who most emphatically should not be doing so because of their own sin problems and tendency towards pride and jealousy. But because the priest can not control which females "jump in to help out" because none of them are recognized by him as servants, then there is a continual struggle going on.
I wouldn't expect any of you posting here to understand this, becuase you're not female. The only way you can know is to listen to what females have to say and take it seriously. Let's turn it upside down and see if it helps you see things, let's say the church was, traditionally, run by females, female bishops and priests and deacons and so on. But you try not to feel left out, after all, males are people too, just like females. You feel pretty odd though confessing to a priest who is female, after all, you have a lot of male problems, but the priest is special trained (sometimes) to understand you so it's ok. But for spiritual direction, wow, you'd really like someone to explain stuff to you on a male-to-male basis. You look around and, ummm, there's a few males who are allowed to chant prayers every once in a while. And a few guys who make the candles. Maybe you should ask one of them for spiritual guidance. But you're not sure, most of them are so busy with their jobs, it's hard to say which one you should go to. You kinda ask you priest, but she doesn't give you an answer, so now you just go to church and don't do much, you try to have a prayer life, but you're just not sure how to fit it into your work schedule, or even which prayer rule would be the best to follow and then........ I could go on, I'm having fun with this make believe world. But I think you get the point, this is a situation which is wrong and spiritually damaging, yet this is the world which a vast majority of Orthodox females have to deal with every day. All I'm asking for here is to give females a way to serve and grow in the church in a spiritual and liturgical manner which makes them not the best baker of cookies but the best encourager of the spiritual life of 1/2 of the church population. Being recognized as Readers and Subdeacons is a way to accomplish this which does not break any of the traditional rules concerning the place of women in the church. So I really don't know why some insist on turning this issue into a great big polemical problem.