May 05, 2004
More on women's ordination

No, I haven't forgotten the subject, I'm just chewing on it. In the meantime, Tripp at Anglobaptist examines 1 Timothy 2:11-15, the lines from the Bible that seem most damning for advocates (and the most flamingly misogynist, IMHO). Andi also has a very interesting post about the issue in Buddhism (under May 5 -- Andi, I think you need to republish your archives!). Andi uses the term "ordination" to mean entering monastic life; it's not clear to me whether Korean Buddhism has a role equivalent to a priest or pastor in Christianity. Actually, I've been thinking that monasticism is an important point in the question for Christians also. Catholics and Orthodox restrict clerical positions to men but recognize women equally as monastics and/or saints, traditionally held in higher esteem than even the clergy. I think a major problem Protestants are dealing with is that with the loss of the monastic orders and the demotion of the saints and of Mary, women kind of disappear from the church if you don't have female clergy. But anyway, more on this anon.

Posted by Camassia at May 05, 2004 09:32 AM | TrackBack

Tripp here!

I also did a brief exegesis on Ephesians and the appropriate understading of "headship" and how we interpret scripture.

It is interesting. We get cought in these prooftexting ruts.

I'll keep tabs on how it goes.

Posted by: AngloBaptist on May 5, 2004 10:00 AM

Yes, I read that post and comments and it was like deja vu all over again, because it was almost exactly like the endless argument I had with Telford over the same passage (I wrote a bit about it here). I'm not as generally anti-Paul as Megan, however, and I tend to agree with your point that Paul's belief in the imminent end of the world probably made him less interested in redoing the social order.

Posted by: Camassia on May 5, 2004 10:12 AM

You read it?

Wow. Sometimes I forget that people I don't physically know actually read the blog. I will have to try harder at being articulate outside of my immediate circle of neredowells.

The language of equality and the language of role (position) are complicated to me. As human beings, I think we naturally set hierarchies. We do it in biological classification (humanity as a high, better?, life form). We do it in our social structures...low and high class people. We understand this to be a qualitative and not simply quantitative.

Now, whether Paul understands it this way is uncertain. I can't tell from scripture. Is he adhering to a heirarchy because he is blid to it, thinks it is a good idea or what?

What do you think? You don't like the hierarchical read, and that makes sense to me. But why does Paul? Does Paul?

Posted by: AngloBaptist on May 5, 2004 11:16 AM

Dear Camassia,

We might have to be a little careful about language here. I believe that women deacons in the Orthodox Church, who existed in Greek monasteries through the 1950's, would be considered to be "ordained." While women are not ordained to the diaconate in Orthodox churches presently, I do not think that there is any canonical reason for this refusal. Furthermore, while the Roman Catholic International Theological Commission is less than positive about the possibility, the Roman Catholic Church hasn't yet ruled definitively on the ordination of women deacons; the Bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, for instance, has spoken in favor of the ordination of women to the diaconate. Of course, there is a pretty clear theological distinction in Roman Catholicism between priests (who act in persona Christi capitis) and deacons (who act in persona Christi servi).

In any case, it seem quite clear that women have been "ordained" in the past, albeit not to the priesthood. Phyllis Zagano writes, "The ordination ritual of the Apostolic Constitutions for women deacons, codified by the Councils of Nicea (325) and Chalcedon (421) begins: 'O bishop, you shall lay hands on her in the presence of the presbytery.' Perhaps the oldest known complete rite of ordination for women deacons, a mid-eighth century Byzantine manuscript known as Barbarini 336, requires that women be ordained by the bishop within the sanctuary, the proximity to the altar indicating the fact of a true ordination." And about other sorts of ordination, after reviewing the evidence, Gary Macy writes, " ... neither liturgies, nor popes, nor bishops had a problem referring particularly to deaconesses and abbesses, or to nuns, as persons entering into an ecclesiastical order through a ritual ordination. None of these sources distinguished the ordination of deaconesses, abbesses, or nuns from that of priests or deacons. In fact, two of the sources include the ordination of women along with other forms of male clerical ordination. It should be noted as well that the sources quoted cover the fifth through the twelfth centuries, some seven hundred years, not an insignificant period of Christian history."

So, apart from questions of priest and pastors, there doesn't really seem to be any conclusive reason why women shouldn't be ordained and play a significant role in clerical life. Perhaps your penultimate sentence is on the right track. I look forward to reading your "more on this."

Thank you.


Posted by: Neil Dhingra on May 5, 2004 03:38 PM


I'll look into the archives bit; my permalinks (as most Blogspot bloggers know) are fickle. Argh.

In Buddhism, there are four "communities": lay men, lay women, ordained men (bhikkus, or "monks"), and ordained women (bhikkunis, or "nun"). Lay men and women, especially in the West, often serve in pastoral roles--as the abbots, guiding teachers, senior teachers, and advisors--at temples and for Buddhist communities. Many lay people are also "masters" of some kind or another (lamas, Zen Masters, roshis, etc.), which basically means that their meditation experiences and insights have been verified and they have received the offical OK to teach others. Lay people can take several levels of vows, as well. But all of these do not constitute ordination in the Buddhist sense.

The ordained community is the community of celibate bhikkus and bhikkunis, and in very traditional countries in Asia, monastics are often the only ones who can officiate at ceremonies or use ritual objects. This is different in the States, for a whole bunch of reasons.

The interesting thing about ordination in Buddhism is that, although it's definately a different lifestyle, it isn't necessarily a "special" lifestyle. Although, as I said, often only monastics are allowed to do certain ritual things in Asia, that's a more or less recent convention. There were only a few ceremonies during the time of the Buddha, and they centered around "Taking refuge," or becoming a student of the Buddha, and becoming a monk or nun. Not so much hoopla, no temples, etc. What this means is that while there is custom around what monastics do and what lay people do, basically there isn't anything a monastic does that a lay person cannot, and there's nothing a man does that a woman cannot.

Women, in my opinion despite the restrictions the Buddha placed on the Bhikkuni sangha at the time of its creation, have the same status as men in Buddhism (both lay and ordained). That's pretty amazing. Societies have relegated women to secondary status, but the Buddha himself did not. In many countries, though without the same funds, support, or status as their male counterparts, women have been officiating at their own temples, ruling their own roosts, so to speak.

In some sects of Buddhism, in Tibet, Japan, and Korea, you can "ordain" and be called a monk or a nun but without having to observe the Vinaya rules of celibacy...which to me means that you're a lay person. But that's a different discussion about Buddhist sects.

Thanks for the continuing discussion!


Posted by: Andi on May 6, 2004 06:54 PM
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