BROOKLINE, Mass. (RNS) — A consortium of Orthodox Christian scholars, clergy and lay supporters meeting this week outside Boston proposed guidelines for the church to revive the ancient practice of allowing women to be deacons. The proposed guidelines are not intended simply to ignite conversation about the need for female deacons, their authors say, but to launch a pilot program for their reinstitution.
“Despite the many calls for deaconesses today, there has not yet been an effort to create a concrete process with pragmatic steps towards ordaining deaconesses,” said Carrie Frederick Frost, an Orthodox theologian, professor and author and chair of the St. Phoebe Center, which sponsored the Nov. 10-12 symposium on women deacons at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and St. Mary Orthodox Church.
The Orthodox Church never formally banned or discontinued female deacons, but they became scarce in the Middle Ages amid an increasing emphasis on male monastic practice and a declining need for baptizing female adult converts.
Frost shared women’s stories of grappling with sexual abuse, miscarriages, stillbirths and other traumas particular to women, which she suggested women ordained to provide pastoral care could serve.
“Some of these gifts are already being shared with the Orthodox …