Friday, January 11, 2008

Deaconesses

Michael sent this as a comment on the San Joaquin thread, but I decided not to publish it as such. I think it is worthy of a separate thread. I know for a fact that the Anglican Catholic Church has lay deaconesses, but know nothing of the ministry as such. Perhaps, as a starter, someone there could brief us on just how that ministry is perceived and practiced. At the same time, it would be interesting to know if the ACC, or any of the other continuing jurisdictions, provide for permanent deacons.

I believe that it's time for the traditional Anglican movement to undertake a comprehensive historical and theological study on the diaconate, the order of deaconesses, and the role of laity in the liturgy.

The goal of such a study should be to develop a policy on the ministry of women that is at once wholely orthodox and catholic, and also designed to utilize the gifts and callings of women in the fullest and most effective way within that orthodox context.

It should seek to develop a theology of diaconal service, explain the differences between deacons and deaconesses, and also outline various proposals for how deaconesses can minister within the Anglican context. The work of other orders for women (both traditional monastic orders and contemporary "secular" orders) should also be considered.

The end result of this should be to preserve, completely and without fault, the orthodox character of the church, but also to provide maximum support, without reservation, to those women called by God to various ministries within the church. This should include programs for theological education and credentialing, with the understanding that although ordination to Holy Orders is a unique type of vocation that is male in character, the Church badly needs the vocations of women.

8 comments:

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Albion:

You are right that this deserves a separate thread.

One point to be made upfront is that in order to create the innovation of women's "ordination" TEC (and other innovative post-Anglican sects) destroyed the ministry of the Deaconess. In the name of equality, the innovators have actually followed the teaching of the Gnostic "Gospel" of Thomas (which is just as likely the work of Danny Thomas as the Apostle Thomas). In that book Jesus is alleged to have taught something that is in keeping with the confused Egalitarian principles of our time:

"(114) Simon Peter said to them: Let Mary go forth from among us, for women are not worthy of the life. Jesus said: Behold, I shall lead her, that I may make her male, in order that she also may become a living spirit like you males. For every woman who makes herself male shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.

This does not affirm the true value, gifts and vocation of any woman. Neither does making her cross dress in vestments in order be allowed to have any ministry.

Sandra McColl said...

Interesting: I actually thought that that particular passage from the 'Gospel' of Thomas was something that had been ignored by the feminists (beginning with Pagels)--or perhaps suppressed because it was a little embarrassing. Far from making claims of female equality, it suggests that only by somehow being made male--fully male, not just dressing up as male--can a woman be saved. Indeed, I recall reading a book by Susanne Heine in which she argued that this passage was one of the passages that proved that the Gnostics weren't feminist-friendly at all, and, if I recall aright, that it was a passage to which Pagels failed to refer.

Alice C. Linsley said...

God bless you, and thank you.

ACCVicar said...

The Constitution of the Anglican Catholic Church has the following section with regard to Deaconesses:

Article XVII - OF DEACONESSES

Section 1 - Of the Lay Office of Deaconess. Devout women who are rightly baptised and confirmed and who are regular communicants in good standing of this Church may be appointed and advanced by the Ordinary to the venerable office of Deaconess, by solemn prayer and imposition of hands as prescribed by Canon. Such imposition DOES NOT (my emphasis) admit any such women to any Holy Order, and specifically not o the Order of Deacons, nor shall Deaconesses be allowed to excercise Sacramental orliturgical function peculiar to or reserved to any Holy Order, nor shall they be allowed to preach at the Holy Communion

Section 2 Of Their Duties. The Ordinary may, within the limits of the Ancient Canons, assign them such duties as he may see fit, especially counseling, teaching, catechizing, and visitng of women, young people, and children.

Section 3. Of the Age and Examination of Deaconesses. A woman must have attained the age of forty years before she may receive the imposition of hands as a Deaconess, and then only after a searching spiritual, moral and theological examination by the Ordinary.

Canon 16 also requires that 'no woman shall be admitted to the Office of Daconess except she be unmarried or in Holy Widowhood.' Should she subsequaently desire to be married, she shall be released from the vows she has taken and shall cease from the exercise of her ministry.

Tom McHenry+

Anonymous said...

There is an excellent study of deaconesses by Aime Georges Martimort--Deaconesses: An Historical Study, Ignatius Press,U.S.; 2Rev Ed edition (May 1996). It is comprehensive and, I believe definitive. I have used it in a paper I prepared some years ago entitled "Deaconesses: A Role or a Rift". (I'd be happy to share that with folks, but Martimort is a far better and recognized scholar!)

Epiphany blessings.

CHN+

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I have the Martimort book. Bill Tighe sent me a copy when I was living in Arizona. It is the kind of detailed scholarship that modern sloppy TEC types choke on.

poetreader said...

This post hits well on three vital points.

1. There is a difference between male and female. That difference is God's invention, and not to be quibbled with.

2. The ordained ministry (which includes deacons) is characterized in part by the male character of the ministers.

3. God does call women to significant ministry that is essentail to the proper operation of the Church.

I'm reminded of the large number of strong women from the very pages of Scripture right down to our own age. None of them claimed to partake of the priesthood, but all of them, in a variety of ways, exercized vital ministry. There have been religious, deaconnesses, teachers, ministers of good works. Some women have evidenced so much divine charism that the Church has been moved by them onto paths once neglected. Hilda of Whitby, Hildegard von Bingen, Teresa of Avila, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and others show the diversity and power of these women. I am personally aquainted with the Mother Superior of a small order doing a beautiful work, who has managed to convince Rome to do other than had been planned in support of her muission. None of these sre ordained. None of them wear men's clothing. None of them take on male liturgical roles. All of them are essential to the life of the Church.

We need to hold fast to the Tradition we have received, but within that tradition we need to be very intentional in allowing wimen to take their rightful place in the work.

ed

Jewel Kennington said...

I am currently preparing to be a Deaconess in APA, and I also read Martimort's book. The book is an excellent overview of the history of the deaconess ministry, but I found it lacking in information about how the present deaconess ministry works. My personal ministry will be dedicated to teaching and theological scholarship. I have a masters in Christian apologetics with a heavy emphasis on philosophy of religion. While it seems that few women are interested in the "heavy" theological disciplines, I believe there is certainly a place for them in the deaconess ministry, and there is definitely a scholarly vacuum to be filled by women who are so inclined.