By His Eminence Metropolitan Saba (Isper)

During Holy Week, ecclesiastical media reported news of the ordination of a liturgical deaconess in one of the churches in Zimbabwe, Africa, affiliated with the Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria. I won’t delve into the subject of ordaining a deaconess. That’s a matter I’ll leave to theologians and synods, for now. In this article, I’ll simply raise some questions stemming from this event. Such an event requires Orthodox consensus, as any ecclesiastical action outside Orthodox consensus and unanimity poses a danger and leads to undesirable consequences. How much more so a matter as sensitive as this, especially at this time, would be considered a step towards the ordination of women to the priesthood.

There is no doubt that a deep and faithful study of the Christian heritage, especially the Orthodox one, and the pastoral needs required by the Church in today’s world, is urgently needed for this topic. However, resorting to individual decisions remains more dangerous than any step its proponents might perceive as beneficial to the Church. Theological studies require scientific honesty and objectivity, not manipulation of information to serve personal agendas. Here, the role of the pure saints, not just scholars and researchers, is highlighted, lest we negate what we have been saying for centuries, that theology is the experience of God’s presence, not just rational or philosophical thinking.

My deliberations stem from a concern for Orthodox unity, which I see in danger due to the absence of dialogue among the churches and the spread of individualism within them, to the point where the fear of following the footsteps of Protestant-type individualism is imminent. May God protect us from replacing Orthodox unity with an Orthodox union.

The existence of deaconesses in the early Church needs further clarification. Our historical information does not confirm that all churches witnessed the service of deaconesses, but rather some, especially large churches and in major cities. Moreover, the distinction between the service of deaconesses and the service of widows also needs further exploration. Our available information indicates that the service of deaconesses included several aspects, such as guarding and overseeing the women’s section in the church; according to the social custom in the past, women and men each stood in designated areas of the nave. Also, deaconesses assisted women in baptisms, such as anointing their bodies with oil. Furthermore, deaconesses may have been responsible for teaching women, but not all scholars agree on this. In the fourth service, based on the social tradition of the past, deaconesses accompanied women when they needed to meet with the bishop, as it was forbidden for a bishop to meet with a woman alone.

There came a time when this ministry fell into disuse in the Church. We do not know the exact reasons for its disappearance. Don’t we need studies to show the reasons why? Don’t we need to clarify its fields of service before adopting it in our churches? Is its acceptance consistent with Orthodox tradition and understanding of the ordained priesthood? Can it be limited to educational service and service of love in all its forms? What are the boundaries between this ministry and the ministry of the faithful (laity)? What are the motives behind giving it a liturgical role? Why is this role necessary?

If this type of service is authentic, should we demand it, and does the Church really need it? To what extent do we demand it as influenced by humanistic and feminist movements? What is motivating the Church to activate its pastoral service: theological thought or worldly thought? How does the Church respond to the faith, moral, and humanitarian challenges facing today’s societies? On what basis does the Church build its pastoral programs, social or theological?

Moreso, what is the effect of accepting deaconesses and female priests in non-Orthodox churches that have adopted this phenomenon? Has this acceptance increased their spiritual and numerical growth, or the opposite? Is accepting deaconesses a first step towards accepting priestesses? What would be the effect of having male and female priests on the spiritual and theological concept of the priesthood? To what extent does this contribute to the secularization or degeneration of the priesthood and considering it a religious function? What is the psychological effect of having both sexes around the Holy Table?

Where will the Orthodox Church end up if each church continues to adopt what it deems appropriate without consulting and agreeing among all Orthodox churches? Where is the collective spirit that distinguishes Orthodoxy? What about the unity of the Faith? And what will unite Orthodox Churches if practices without unanimous agreement begin to appear here and there?

Do those who applaud the emergence of deaconesses think about the future of Orthodox unity? How do we know if we are allowing the Holy Spirit to work and create new talents? How do we know if we are limiting It within the framework of our limited thinking? Are we submitting It to our personal desires and visions?

I won’t add any more questions here, although they would be necessary if we truly want to be honest, faithful, and pure in every work we do in the Church. The pain from what is happening stifles me.

I hope that some of these questions encourage a few sincere, honest, and humble persons to pause before proceeding with individualism that increases divisions and creates new schisms.

7 COMMENTS

  1. I would love to see Met. Saba speak out against and rebuke Archbishop Elpidophoros. When it comes to Orthodox unity especially in America there is no individual even remotely close to destroying that unity.

  2. This is great stuff, your Eminence, and we all are 100% with you and agree…

    However, there are multiple of these “…matters pertaining to theologians and synods” that are piling up in before our eyes rapidly, and at some point someone has to call a Synod together to deal with this, so that people understand exactly which bishops they can follow and which ones they can’t anymore…we all pray sooner rather than later.

    Hopefully the “hierarchical phones” are “burning off the hooks” behind the scenes right now…

    • @Markos:

      “However, there are multiple of these “…matters pertaining to theologians and synods” that are piling up in before our eyes rapidly”

      Speaking of, it looks like the Church of Bulgaria is the next to fall. They have officially concelebrated with the OCU at the Fanar. Unsightly since they haven’t even elected a patriarch to approve of this.

      IMHO either the patriarchs need to get together and condemn the Fanar/OCU, or, just go ahead and recognize them. This wishy washy milquetoast in the middle behavior is how this schism is going to get worse.

      • There are some “technicalities” to consider here:

        A proper vote never took place in the Synod of Greece…it was a “perception of more verbal opinions in favor vs. against” during a nasty, ugly yelling session. The Archbishop had a prepared statement that he unilaterally read in front of TV cameras outside the Synod Conference room on that day to falsely give the impression that “the Synod decided” to approve Epiphanios…in fact it remains a fact that only a portion (albeit quite large) of the Synod concelebrates with the Ukrainian Schismatics today…however, it’s the same with Mt. Athos…only some of the monasteries have concelebrated, and 8 of the 20 had voted in favor of sending a delegation to Epiphanios “enthronement” back in the day (which led to the Ephraim of Vatopedi “illness” incident in Kiev)…not others.

        Similarly, a proper vote never took place on the matter in the Synods of Alexandria / Cyprus, but rather we saw unilateral action of Archbishops and some other hierarchs as well…

        Bulgaria is likely following the same “model”

        The proof that only the Synod of Constantinople has voted to recognize the tomos of autocephaly is that Moscow has only “cut ties” with Constantinople, and not yet by the others. However, Moscow’s “solution” is to keep a list of those metropolitans in Greece / Cyprus / Alexandria who are “undesirable” because they either commemmorated Epiphanios, or actually concelebrated with the Schismatics.

        http://www.patriarchia.ru/en/db/text/5529978.html

        A more comprehensive list is here (includes Crete, the Dodecanese, Cyprus and Alexandria):

        http://www.sourozh.org/maineng/2023/9/12/to-the-attention-of-pilgrims-from-the-russian-orthodox-churc.html

        Essentially, that’s the official situation right now, but Bartholomew has certainly succeeded in creating schisms everywhere right now, even on Mt. Athos…it’s a mess

  3. Marcos and Petros … what do you not understand…. The Greek Orthodox Church and all Christian Churches of the U.S. Israeli led EUNato Crime Syndicate “Governments” like Greece and Cyprus are no longer democracies , where laws of God and Man matter, and where their is no oversite or accountability by the Representatives of the Faithful of our Churches or the U.S. government ! Helleniscope has documented in detail, the Criminal activities of Geoffrey Pyatt ..former U.S. Ambassador
    of the Ukraine and Greece ..who is responsible for not only destabilizing the Government of the Ukraine and Greece, but the Ukrainian, Russian and Greek Orthodox Churches !
    Helleniscope .. has followed the itinerary of the Synod of the U.S. State Department who already have ruled what EPI, BARTHOLOMEW, MISTOTAKIS, AND LEADERS OF EU/NATO COUNTRIES CAN “ILLEGALLY DO Helleniscope .. has followed Geoffrey Pyatt criminal itinerary in traveling to the Good offices of EPI and Bart, and directly to the Vatican of the Orthodox World at the mountain of God ..Mt. Athos to advise them that laws of the Orthodox Church of the Ukraine, Russia ,Greece, and Eastern Europe was violating the “Human rights and freedoms” of the populist of those countries and undermining the democracy of the Government of the Ukraine and Europe ! Furthermore, the Synod of the EU Parliament demanded compliance to protecting the now defined Human rights violation as those pertaining to the …communities of Gay and Transgender population ! Hence , Bart and EPI .. did not do what the President of Hungary did .. throw out LGBQT U.S ambassador to Hungary and his male wife for meddling and interfering in the internal affairs of the sovereignty of Hungary and undermining the traditional religious values of the country of hungary, no they proceeded with complying with the Synod of the U.S , Israeli and EU/Nato parliaments and with Geoffrey Pyatt and Zelensky .. began dismantling the Orthodox church of the Ukraine affiliated with the Moscow Church of Russia .. by far the acknowledged Greatest offender of the human rights of the now “Protected LGQBT AND TRANSGENDER COMMUNITIES , AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, THE CARETAKERS OF THE CRIMINAL ENTERPRISE CALLED THE ORTHODOX CHURCH WHOSE LAWS VIOLATE THE HUMAN RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS OF ALL CITIZENS OF AMERICA , EUROPE AND THE WORLD…
    MARCOS.. YOUR WORDS ARE PROPHETIC…HOWEVER, THE SYNOD HAS ALREADY MET… AND WE ALREADY CAN SEE WHO WE SHOULD NOT FOLLOW… AND WHO WE SHOULD FOLLOW… IN ENFORCING THE LAWS OF THE ORIGINAL CHURCH OF CHRIST ..THE ORTHODOX CHURCH!

    EXACTLY MARCOS .. WE NEED A THEOLOGICAL SYNOD TO ENFORCE THE LAWS OF ALL ORTHODOX CHURCHES , AND REMOVE THOSE WHO BETRAY THEM.. TO SERVE THE SYNODS OF THE DEMONIC GOVERNMENTS OF AMERICA , ISRAEL AND EU/NATO CRIME SYNDICATES…. AND YES ..WHO IS THAT SOMEONE ..WHO WILL STEP FORWARD TO CALL A SYNOD ? WHEN THAT BISHOP STEPS FORWARD …WE WILL ALSO KNOW WHO SHOULD BE THE NEXT PATRIARCH OF THE GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH ?

    “However, there are multiple of these “…matters pertaining to theologians and synods” that are piling up in before our eyes rapidly, and at some point someone has to call a Synod together to deal with this, so that people understand exactly which bishops they can follow and which ones they can’t anymore…”

    • Ευχαριστω για τις διευκρινισεις!
      Υποψιαζομαι οτι κανεις δεν θα καλεσει Οικουμενικη Ορθοδοξη Συνοδο διοτι οι Εξοισιαστες του διαβολου θέλουν την αποδυναμωση και καταστροφη του Πατρια
      ρχειου Κωνσταντινουπολης και των συγγενων Πατριαρχειων.
      Χρειαζεται διατκης επαγρύπνησης

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