Women were Apostles to the Apostles!
Matthew 28:5-10 tells us that an angel and Christ Himself instruct the women to preach the Good News to the disciples first. This is just one of many examples from Scripture that a former Anglican Bishop of Durham uses to establish legitimacy for women joining the priesthood.
This is important for you to understand because there may be those among you who believe that women should not hold pastoral or priestly roles for the sake of tradition and/or scripture. There may in fact be those of you who desire or will sometime in the future desire to aspire to the pastoral or priesthood role. I would like to offer information for the sake of all involved and to give a new perspective for those of you with doubts to deeply consider.
I will be presenting NT Wright’s rebuttal and explanation of the slippery slope argument, his arguments for women in the priesthood using Scripture, and the Eastern Orthodox Archdiocese arguments for women deacons in order to give a basis for women in senior ministerial roles in the church.
Retired Anglican Bishop NT Wright is a leading English New Testament scholar, and Pauline theologian.
He recognized that Americans are afraid that acknowledging one subject or aspect of an idea will eventually lead down a slippery slope,repeatingly breaking the norms of tradition. Bishop Wright reassures us that this is not the case and that this mentality is a result of America’s polarized state. He suggests that the slippery slope argument is best illustrated as a page on which boxes must be checked off one by one if something new or out of the norm is accepted. He argues that these boxes are arbitrary and culture bound. He further maintains that every issue must be wisely and carefully considered before moving forward.
Bishop Wright refers to Galatians 3:28-29 ESV and its context which was circumcision. The privilege of circumcision was provided only to males in a male dominated culture. Yet, he suggests that the context of this passage is equality before God.. Previous distinctions are no longer relevant between Jews and Gentiles, man and woman etc. because all are equal under Christ.
Bishop Wright points out the fact that when Jesus was arrested all of the men abandoned him. The women were there at the tomb first because the men had lost hope and were afraid. Jesus appeared to Mary and Martha first, and they were the first to be instructed to go and tell the men the Good News.
In Romans 16:7 Junia was described and praised as chief among the Apostles.
In Luke 10 Martha was sitting at Jesus feet while Mary cooked. In the Middle East sitting at the feet of a teacher was training for going into the position themselves. Martha was training to be a Rabbi. Paul in Acts 22:3 says that he learned “at the feet” of Gamaliel.
As these Scriptures were written down the church was growing and forming its own history.
For that I look to the Eastern Church.
Thomas Hopko was an Eastern Orthodox Christian priest and theologian. He was the Dean of Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. Dr. Evangelos Theodorou, is an Emeritus Professor and Former Rector at the University of Athens, Greece, and member of the European Academy of the Sciences and the Arts. He served for many years as the editor of the well respected national Greek Orthodox journal. His doctoral dissertation in 1954, The ‘Ordination’ or ‘Appointment’ of Deaconesses, revealed that ordaining women as deacons was a sacramental rite in the Early Church.
Kallistos Ware was a Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain who wrote in Man, Woman and the Priesthood of Christ that,
“The order of deaconesses seems definitely to have been considered an “ordained” ministry during early centuries in at any rate the Christian East. … Some Orthodox writers regard deaconesses as having been a “lay” ministry. There are strong reasons for rejecting this view. In the Byzantine rite the liturgical office for the laying-on of hands for the deaconess is exactly parallel to that for the deacon; and so on the principle lex orandi, lex credendi—the Church’s worshipping practice is a sure indication of its faith—it follows that the deaconesses receives, as does the deacon, a genuine sacramental ordination: not just a χειροθεσια(chirothesia) but a χειροτονια(chirotonia).”
Various clergymen and theologians have presented arguments advocating and affirming women in the role of pastor or priest and some have stopped at deacon. Various denominations have also allowed for women’s ordination such as the American Baptist Church, the Presbyterian Church, and the United Methodist Church to name a few. Bishop NT Wright as well as Eastern Orthodox Archdiocese Kallistos Ware and Orthodox theologians have offered their well researched understanding of the role of women in the church. All have argued either from Scripture, tradition, or history.
My personal hope is that women are allowed to aspire to the role of pastor and priest because I believe that God bars no one from shepherding His people based on their sex. If the Spirit leads women to seek the priesthood and good fruit flows from her work then who are we to restrain the work of God? Our Sisters have much to offer and teach us and I welcome and praise their work as well as their aspirations to their highest calling of God in Christ. Thank you.
Ware, Kallistos (1999) . “Man, Woman and the Priesthood of Christ”. In Hopko, Thomas. Women and the Priesthood (New ed.). Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press. p. 16. ISBN 9780881411461. as quoted in Wijngaards, John (2006). Women deacons in the early church: historical texts and contemporary debates. New York: Herder & Herder.