Monday, May 13, 2024

Alexandria speaks on deaconess kerfuffle

This letter fails to address much of what many people are asking. To name but a few:

  • How could this happen?
  • By what authority to you make an entirely new order of clergy?
  • What are you going to do next?
  • Is this woman going to perform as her bishop "ordained" her to do?

(Patriarchate of Alexandria) - In the last few days, there was talk about the energy of the Most Reverend Metropolitan of Zimbabwe and Angola, Mr. Seraphim, who, last Thursday, May 2, 2024 , ordained a minister for the missionary needs of his Holy Metropolis. The event caused a lot of reactions, and gave rise to the free expression of various opinions and approaches.

To avoid confusion, the following is clarified:

– The mission in Africa needs deaconesses, mainly for the pastoral work and for the baptisms of adult women, as well as in special cases, such as widowhood, in stricter male-dominated environments, where for a long time the widowed woman is cut off from social and church life.

- The Church is well aware of the position, the order and the conditions-conditions of the status of a ministry, as they are described in the Prayers, the Rules of the Apostolic Orders and the Synod in Trullo. It is particularly pointed out that deaconesses were never established in the history of the Church as women-ministers of the Holy Mysteries, but as dedicated women-helpers of the general pastoral, liturgical and sanctifying work of the Church, addressed only to women, where local conditions and customs they were excluded from church life. The first Church was faced with this pastoral problem and found the solution, through deacons. When, of course, societies progressed spiritually, matured, recognized women's rights, the institution of deaconesses fell into disuse. But it is documented that the institution existed and certainly remains in the "spiritual arsenal" of the Church to deal with similar situations even today, under special local conditions.

-In the face of the continuous spread of the Gospel word in Africa and the continuous influx of local brothers to Orthodoxy, pastoral issues were raised, concerning African women, exactly similar to those faced by the Church of the early Christian years. The Holy Synod of the Presbyterian Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa took the decision in principle to revive and activate the institution of Deaconesses within its pastoral jurisdiction. However, this Decision was referred for further study to finalize the individual details, such as the vestment, the way of ministry and the functional position of the deacons in the life of the Church today.

However, Rev. Metropolitan of Zimbabwe Mr. Seraphim, for many years a missionary in Africa, joined the implementation of the initial decision of the Holy Synod, which, however, has not become active until today, since the study on the subject to take the final Synodal Decision has not been completed. Does this mean he jumped the gun? Does it mean this was the eventual goal of the study? Is some correction coming? What of this woman?

Let us have confidence in our Church and especially in the Ambassadorial Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa, which sacrificially, quietly and selflessly proclaims Christ and this Crucified One to the ends of the African land, based on the tradition and practice of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. May the same sensitivity be shown, which now appears in the case of the intention to properly revive an ancient pastoral act of our Holy Church and in the matters of staffing the holy clergy of the Patriarchal Throne of Saint Mark, of the systematic and practical support of the Apostolic work in Africa or to the major issue of the illegal entry of another Autocephalous Church into the jurisdictional limits of the Palaeate Patriarchate of Alexandria and to the blasphemous attempt to split His native flock, which came to know Christ through the intense sacrificial ministry and the death of even humble Greek missionaries, to the glory of God and illumination of our African brothers who are "in darkness and the shadow of death".

From the Patriarchate of Alexandria and all Africa

Alexandria, May 11, 2024


  1. Christ is Risen!  Truly He is Risen!

    Metropolitan Theoliptos (AXIOS!) said it all when it comes to the issue itself (which is why I didn't comment in the other blog entry), but this statement by the Patriarchate is confusing.  Even Orthodox Times (which as many know is a Greek outlet that is staunchly anti-Russian) has slammed Alexandria for this action, and this "statement."

     I genuinely don't understand why they would do something so blatantly uncanonical, scandalous, and that could only undermine their position on every front.   Looking at the politics of it (which this statement sadly does), it wasn't the Exarchate that dressed a woman up as a Deacon and allowed her to administer Holy Communion, so this attempt at damage control by blaming the Russians for "stirring up controversy" is not going to hold. Metropolitan Theoliptos no doubt represents the Greek hierarchs (and other powerful figures in the Greek world) angrily chewing Pope Theodoros' ear off about this behind the scenes.   Even those who would otherwise support this move in another time and place are probably beside themselves, as doing this now only bolsters the Moscow Patriarchate's position in Africa.  It also ensures that the deaconess discussion will be forever taken off the table of serious consideration, and will only exist in academic papers and wistful Fordham posts.   The women's ordination folks moved too far, too fast.

    For Alexandria, it is a lose-lose situation.   They can:

    1.)  Double and Triple Down.   Since ordination is a pan-Orthodox concern (contrary to the dismissive tone of this statement), the other Churches will have to chime in, and the response will be overwhelmingly negative.   It risks further schism in the Church, and isolates Alexandria at a time when they desperately need the support of other Churches.   The Russian Exarchate will no longer be seen as an uncanonical invader, but rather as "a necessary evil" in the face of Alexandria's behavior.   Additionally, the Ecumenical Patriarchate will be forced into the conversation, which is the last thing HAH wants, I suspect (as the EP itself is also divided).   Maybe the only silver lining of this scenario is it might finally force a Pan-Orthodox meeting on the Church's "problems."

    2.)  Reverse Course.   This is more likely, once the outrage in Greece reaches a certain point (the actual photos of this event are doing more damage than any polemic the Russians could write).   Metropolitan Seraphim will be sanctioned in some way (maybe forced to resign), as "irregularities" will be found "upon further investigation."   The "ordination" will be cancelled, leaving Ms. Angeliki spiritually abused, and their community scandalized.   Alexandria's spiritual authority will take a huge hit.   Again, the Russians stand to gain substantially from this.   

    Which leaves the question:  What were they thinking?

    Lord, have mercy.

  2. What the statement from Alexandria boils down to:

    "Teeheeet, whoops. We didn't think ya'll would notice"


  3. 1) This decision was taken years ago, so why it finally being implemented is a shock to anyone is puzzling.
    2) It's not new. Byzantine Orthodox churches used to have deaconesses. Other Orthodox Churches still have deaconesses (including the Church of Greece, no?). To paraphrase Boris, 'What is problem?'
    3) the pastoral needs of the people in need of care they discussed in their clarification? (Does anyone in the West have ANY idea of pastoral realities in other countries and regions?)
    4) Does any clergyman "perform" as their bishop "ordained" them to do? Surely the answer is all around you if you know any member of the clergy: Yes! No! Maybe! Honestly, what a ridiculous question to ask about another human being...

    1. Have you *actually* looked into this situation? The woman is clearly wearing a deacon's vestments and is helping distribute communion.

      Pastoral need my a**

    2. Up until now, Alexandrian deaconesses have been more like Catholic pastoral assistants with no significant liturgical role or vestments. This recent action is a major shift that goes beyond the likely historical reality and goes from none controversial to Orthodox proverbial bar fight

    3. Jon,

      The decision they made was to revive the office, AND "study" in detail how to do that, within the Synod. It was the conclusion of that process that the rest of the Church was waiting on. The Synod hasn't even issued any findings for pan-Orthodox examination, a lone Metropolitan just went ahead and "ordained" a woman to the MALE DIACONATE, apparently with the Patriarch's blessing.

      The problem, is that one Patriarch can't unilaterally change the ordination process. Ordination itself is a Pan-Orthodox concern.

      As for "pastoral need," why don't we look at what the Catholics are doing, as Michael alluded to. They've managed to do their thing quite successfully.

      The sad thing here, is that a tonsured, celibate deaconess role for middle aged women could have been a good thing, done right. We may not ever know, because like the calendar reform a century ago, haste and politics have messed this all up.

      In the middle is an innocent woman and community. A terrible situation.

  4. I agree David, as one supportive of a limited role (I might extend it beyond celibate widows myself) this move almost guarantees we won't see it our lifetimes. Excellent analogy to calendar issue....