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January 16th, 2018

WASHINGTON — Fifty-seven Orthodox Christian clergymen and lay leaders, including the heads of two leading Orthodox seminaries in the U.S., have issued a public statement calling on church leaders to defend Orthodox teaching on the creation and calling of man as male and female by opposing the appointment of deaconesses in the Orthodox Church.

The statement comes in response to a public statement issued in October by nine Orthodox liturgical scholars in the U.S. and Greece, expressing support for the Patriarchate of Alexandria’s November 2016 decision to “restore” the ancient order of deaconesses and its February 2017 appointment of deaconesses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Roman Catholic Church has also taken the first step toward the appointment of deaconesses with Pope Francis’s 2016 establishment of a commission to study the issue. That commission is headed by Archbishop Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Half of the commission’s members are women. One of them, Phyllis Zagano, professor of religion at Hofstra University, is a well-known advocate of deaconesses.

Several Protestant churches, including Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians, began appointing women as deaconesses in the nineteenth century. Most have since ordained women to all higher orders such as priest and bishop.

The statement by the Orthodox opponents of deaconesses takes issue with the liturgists’ representation of the place of deaconesses in Orthodox tradition and raises serious doctrinal issues relating to the appointment of deaconesses. It also questions whether Alexandria’s appointment of deaconess in the Congo revived an ancient order or instituted a new order with an old name.

The signers include 35 priests and seven deacons, as well as 15 laity (including four women) who are college professors or journal editors. They belong to seven Orthodox jurisdictions: the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America (AOCANA), the Ecumenical Patriarchate (in the United Kingdom), the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOAA), the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria (Africa), the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), and Mt. Athos in Greece.

Among the initial signatories four are from Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanvile: Archimandrite Luke (Murianka), Rector; Archpriest Alexander F. C. Webster, Dean; Archpriest Peter Heers, Assistant Professor; and Deacon Michael Pavuk, Director of Development.

Other Orthodox clergy and laity may add their names to the Statement online via the following website: http://www.aoiusa.org/a-public-statement-on-orthodox-deaconesses-by-concerned-clergy-and-laity/

For more information, contact Protodeacon Brian Patrick Mitchell at protodeaconpatrick@gmail.com.

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