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Orthodox Patriarchate moves to consider restoring female deacons—UPDATED

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As I noted earlier, yesterday I took part in a panel discussion with America Media on the subject of deacons in general and women deacons in particular. This morning, one of the panelists, George Demacopoulos, theologian and founding co-director of the Orthodox Christian Studies Center at Fordham University, passed along a timely item from the Orthodox (which has been translated by Google from the original Greek).

The big news, from George: “News broke this morning that the Patriarchate of Alexandria (which is the autocephalous head of Orthodox, Chalcedonian Christians in Africa) officially voted to restore the female diaconate.” (N.B., that may have been overstating things. See the update below.) 

The story: 

 On November 16  the Synod of aboriginal Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa continued its work under the chairmanship of His Beatitude Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, Theodore Vstin Patriarchal Seat.

Speakers at today’s meeting were Ven. Nigeria Metropolitan k.Alexandros who developed the theme of fasting within the African reality and Ven. Cameroon Metropolitan. Gregory who omilise on the institution of Deaconesses the missionary field. Both rapporteurs presented with theological arguments the positions and proposals, was done no extensive discussion thereon.

On the subject of fasting decisions of the meeting will be announced shortly to the clergy and people of the spiritual jurisdiction of the Patriarchate by the Patriarchate Circulars.

On the issue of the institution of Deaconesses, it was decided to revive it and ordained bishops on tripartite committee for detailed consideration. (Emphasis added.)

There’s an interesting overview of the history of women deacons in the Orthodox church here.  An opposing (and highly critical) view can be read here.  

So…There are a lot of unanswered questions. At the very least, this seems to me to be a significant first step, but much more discussion (or “consideration”) lies ahead.

We’ll see. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: A Jesuit reader sent me a clarifying email, more or less throwing cold water on the idea that this move will officially bring about a restoration of female deacons. This vote appears to be far more preliminary.

His note:

The Russian OCA priest in Berkeley tells me that they’ve revived the issue and appointed a commission to look into it, that’s all.

“Regarding the issue of the institution of Deaconesses, it was decided to revive this and a tripartite committee of Hierarchs was appointed for a detailed consideration of the subject.”

That does not mean they are restoring female diaconate, rather they are going revisit the question of restoration.

The official report on this subject, in Greek, is here.

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