Although Eastern Orthodox churches remain opposed to the ordination of women priests, there is a growing openness among theologians to this possibility, even if they are not likely to become activists on this issue, writes Sarah Hinlicky Wilson in the journal Pro Ecclesia (Spring).
As might be expected, women are in the forefront of the effort to rethink female ordination in Orthodox churches, including a number of American Orthodox connected to the journal St. Nina’s Quarterly, as well as such scholars as Eva Catafygiotu Topping, Susan Ashbrook Harvey and Kalliope Bourdara. Many see the work of French Orthodox theologian Elisabeth Behr-Siegel (1907– 2005) as being the standard reference for the argument affirming women in the priesthood. What is more unexpected is that “several male Orthodox theologians have gradually moved toward Behr-Siegel’s position,” Wilson writes.
Such prominent Orthodox theologians as Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, Kallistos Ware, Olivier Clement and John Zizioulas have gone on record stating that there are no compelling reasons against the ordination of women. Wilson notes that there are still many opponents of women’s ordination in Orthodox circles, “likely the majority within the churches and certainly a vocal contingent in publication. The articles range from popular diatribes to serious theological scholarship.
What is chiefly striking about them, though, is how much the substance of the opposition has changed.” She adds that the older views that women are incompetent or physically unfit (due to “impurity” from menstrual cycles) have been replaced by concerns about the nature of tradition and the priesthood and how it relates to personhood and gender (for instance, the teaching that the priest is the icon or representation of Christ).
(Pro Ecclesia, 15200 NBN Way, Blue Ridge Summit, PA 17214)