On the role of women in the Church?


I was reading the New Testament, specifically Paul's letter to Corinthians the first one. It stopped me because in chapter 11 that he orders women to cover their heads so as to show submission to men. Aren't women our equal partners? Equal in dignity and value and capabilities?

In 1 Corinthians chapter 14 verses 34:36
It tells women to be silent in the Church because it is indecent for them to do so, even if she had some questions she ought to ask her husband at home.
Why tell them to remain silent and submit, men are not better than women. They have full mental capacities.
Their input is rather helpful. Why would Paul say such things regarding women even though he himself there's neither man nor woman in Christ.

One of the reasons I left Islam because it didn't treat women fairly. Sure they had it better than Jahalya women but still it us very unfair.


  • الصديق / رأفت
    اهلا بك مرة اخرى
    ليس من الجيد للباحث ان يجتزأ او يقتص ايات من مواضعها، مواضعها المكانية والزمنية والتاريخية، اجتزاء النصوص والامانة فى البحث ضدان لا يلتقيان
    لو كنت تبحث عن تفسير اية كورنثوس فاللينك ده بيشرح سبب ايراد الاية ، ولو كنت تبحث عن مكانة المراة فى الكنيسة فاللينك برضو بيشرح ده

    اتمنى ان تقرا وتبحث بموضوعية
  • I'm not sure what is said above, but the male is like a priest (In the order of the priesthood of Melchizadek), and also if he is married, he is the head of the family in the same way Christ is head of the church.
    The relationship is the head and the body and when we receive the wisdom of the word, it is received by the church so body and head are united.
  • Often times, females in our Church feel left out and ignored. Is this a correct feeling? Does the Church really propagate such an idea in Her teachings? In addressing the issue of the role of women in the Church, we have to distinguish between Holy Tradition and customs that are influenced by culture and do not spring from the true spirit of Christianity. There are popular traditions which are linked to various cultures or families. In no way should they be despised. However, they should not be confused with Holy Tradition. Historically, our Orthodox Church has Her roots in patriarchal societies, which often times obscure the dignity of women as co-workers, yet it is not the true vision of the Church.

    To understand the role of women now, we must go back to the beginning of creation. Mainstream Orthodox teachings see the goodness of the created world and note that God in Genesis pronounced the various aspects of creation as "good". When God created Adam, He said, "Let us make man after our image and likeness" (Gen. 1: 26). Then He said, "Let us make him a helper like him" (Gen. 2: 18). So, according to the Church Fathers, God created woman equal in honor. The first tie was that of the bond between man and woman. Eve was God’s gift to Adam and God created her from Adam’s side (Gen. 2: 21-22), so they can walk together side by side.

    So What Happened To Change That Status of Equality?

    Because of sin, the ideal vision of human relations, in general, and those between the sexes, in particular, became distorted and corrupted. God did not create Eve to be Adam’s subordinate, but his helper. There was a complementarily between them. The fact that woman was created after man does not demean her since man himself was created after all the animals, yet he is superior to them. So rather than seeing the woman as secondary or inferior to man, she should be seen as interior to him, part of him. Adam said, "This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Gen. 2: 18). Eve was from the flesh of Adam, the other who was just like him. The Scripture implies that a woman’s role is not passive or inferior, but actually the other half which enriched Adam’s life. Yet each gender had its own domain. In Genesis, the story of the creation reveals the spiritual truths about the relationship between humanity and God, as well as the relationship between man and woman. The male-female relationship must be understood within the context of the relationship between God and man.

    After the Fall, the world we live in became not the harmonious creation which God intended it to be. This disruption and separation from God became also a separation between man and woman. Sin, which separated humanity from God, also caused the break-up of the unity of humanity. Although woman was originally God’s gift to man, she is later seen as the curse of the world. But is it really fair to say that? Shouldn’t both of them be equally blamed? Although Eve was tempted first and fell, Adam should have helped her rather than slide down with her. By his own will, he chose to follow rather than to lead. The subordination of woman to man and her exploitation do not reflect the order of nature as created by God, but rather the result of the sin. God told Eve, "Your inclination shall be for your husband and he shall rule over you" (Gen. 3: 16). However, this did not mean eternal damnation for mankind and womankind.


    Throughout history in the Old Testament, God has worked with individuals in which He saw fertile soil ready for the acts of His Grace, whether they were males or females. Therefore, in the Old Testament, we have examples of many saintly women. There were female prophetesses, e.g. Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron (Ex. 15: 20-21), Deborah, who judged the people of Israel (Judges 5), Huldah (II Kings 22: 14-20), and Anna (Luke 2: 36-38). Abigail was a wise woman to whom King David listened and took advice. Esther was a young Jewish woman born outside Israel in Babylon. Yet, God used her to save the Jews in captivity. Thus each person whether male or female, could acquire Grace by submitting to God.

    In the New Testament, the Most Holy Theotokos is the pride and honor of all women. The Holy Virgin personifies the perfect model not only of women, but of all humanity. She willfully acquiesced her entire being to God, standing humbly before God in obedience, which is the ultimate vocation of all humans. That is why she deserved to carry God the Logos, and she is regarded more venerable than the Cherubim and more glorious than the Seraphim.

    While in human form on earth, Christ addressed everyone, both men and women. There were women who responded to his teachings and followed him, and traveled with Him. The women from Galilee helped support Jesus and the disciples with their money (Luke 8: 1-3). At the time of the Crucifixion, when all the disciples escaped, the three Marys were the last to leave Christ’s side, and the first to be at His tomb. St. Mary Magdalene was the first one worthy to see the Resurrected Christ, even before the disciples (John 20: 11-18). After Christ’s ascension, the women were present with the apostles in the upper room and received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1: 13-14).

    Later, there were women who were co-workers with the apostles in preaching the Gospel. The women at the time of the apostles rejected worldly vanity and became companions of the apostles. St. Peter’s wife accompanied him on many of his missionary journeys (1Cor. 9: 5). There was a great number of women mentioned by St. Paul in his letters. Amongst whom was Lydia, who was a successful business woman; she carried on a prosperous business in Thyrian purple (Acts 16: 14). But she was also the hostess of St. Paul and it was at her home that the church in Philippi was established. Chloe in Corinth was a disciple of St. Paul; she hosted the church in her home and faithfully reported to St. Paul what happened (1 Cor. 1 : 11). She also helped establish the church in Corinth. Phoebe was also a disciple of St. Paul and she is considered the prototype of deaconesses. She was a leading Christian woman of the church in Cenchrea (Rom. 16: 1-2). In Romans 16, St. Paul also mentions the names of many women who helped in the ministry. Priscilla was often times mentioned before her husband Aquila, and she helped instruct Apollos, who was an eloquent man ( Acts 18:26). So, women were valuable co-workers with the apostles in spreading the faith. This activity has continued through the ages.

    Therefore what Eve lost through the Fall, Christian women could regain through adoption of a holy life. In Christianity, moral excellence is not judged by a person’s gender, but by the quality of spiritual life. At the time of martyrdom, we find female martyrs who displayed courage and valor equal to the male martyrs. St. Demiana received as much sufferings as St. George. Of course, the list of women martyrs is endless.

    In the Patristic era, women presented models of great asceticism, and we find them equal to men saints in asceticism. The Fathers, Sts. Gregory of Nyssa, Basil the Great, and John Chrysostom praise the strong woman, i.e. the one who shows strength in the battles of faith. By the early 4th century, communities of female ascetics had grown in Egypt, modeled after the monasteries founded by St. Pachomius. It is interesting to note that when St. Anthony decided to give up his possessions and embrace the ascetic life, he entrusted his younger sister to the care of a convent of virgins. Therefore, there must have been organized communities for women already in existence, even before St. Anthony settled as a hermit in the desert and before St. Pachomius established the first cenobitic monasteries for men.

    In the "Sayings of the Desert Fathers", there are spiritual mothers mentioned, e.g. St. Theodora, St. Sarah, and St. Synkletika. As much as women attained the heights of holiness in the life of consecrated virginity, there were also those who attained holiness as married women such as St. Helen, Emperor Constantine’s mother, St. Monica, St. Augustine’s mother, and St. Anthusa, the mother of St. John Chrysostom. In our Coptic Church, we have St. Rebecca and St. Dolagi, plus many more unknown to us. It is noteworthy to mention that when the angel appeared to St. Macarius, he told him to go to Alexandria to find the two married women who have reached a higher degree of piety than him.

    In the 4th century, we find many women with great asceticism who also undertook works of charity on a large scale. An example is St. Fabiola, who was St. Jerome’s friend. She founded a hospital in Rome and nursed the sick and lepers by her own hands. St. Jerome also talked about his friend Marcella, who is considered the first ascetic in Rome. In addition to being ascetic, these women were also learned in the Scriptures. St. Macrina, the eldest sister of Sts. Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Peter, was the one who taught her brothers, and they became bishops. She led St. Basil to renounce worldly glory for a life of Christian asceticism. She also engaged him in theological conversations. Also, St. Olympia the deaconess, was the closest friend of St. John Chrysostom and his confidante. She was very loyal to him and he often consulted her in theological issues; he wrote to her seventeen letters from his exile. St. Paula was also a woman of great learning; she helped St. Jerome translate the Scriptures.

    Some of these women who had great wealth, also used their wealth to build monasteries. St. Paula helped establish monasteries in Jerusalem for both men and women. Also St. Melania the Elder renounced the aristocratic life and sailed from Spain to Alexandria and then on to Nitria seeking the Holy Fathers: St. Serapion the Great, St. Paphnutius, St. Isidore the confessor, St. Arsanius, etc… Then she went to Palestine and founded monasteries for both men and women. Therefore, in Christianity we see that moral excellence is judged not by a person’s gender, but the quality of spirit. All the above mentioned women, as well as others, were not only pious women, but also cultivated, capable of discussing theological matters.

    All of us, both men and women, are called to a life of perfection and are called to service in the Holy Church. God does not call people according to gender nor does He show favoritism. The works of His Grace work through all who are receptive.

    The Question Then Is: What Can Women do?

  • So God cursed the women to be subordinate to man, and then left the curse because he/she never intended it. 

    The Examples you mentioned are great, but are women really equal to men? Can they teach in the Church? Can they lead or are they cast aside merely because they're women and leadership is for man?

    What can Women do?
  • @RaafatAbualazm: I struggled with the same issues. Coming from a younger generation, where equality seemed to be the bare minimum, there was a lot that seemed unfair: why are males given so many privileges in the orders of priesthood? Why do male martyrs proceed females in rites? Why do only males make the decisions, through the Board of Deacons, for the entire church, male and female?
    I came to a couple realizations. First and foremost, I realized that cultural norms have permeated the entire equation. Marriage is the perfect example. Whenever a decision had to be made, his opinion mattered infinitely more than hers, from small to big. If my mom wanted to buy a nice purse, she had to ask him. Even when she began working and making her own money, she still asked. I asked her and she said "I do it because that's how I was raised." Should this happen? I'm not entirely sure about every case. But I do know that there are some wrongs that happen- a woman should not be considered inferior to a male. The culture I've seen from my own parents and others often has that undertone. Both man and women are in the image of God.

    Second, I realized that everything is a scaled version of the Body of Christ. Let me explain:
    In the body of Christ, everyone preforms a different role- some teach, some learn, some sing, some lead, some follow, some pray, some cook, some clean, some support, some pay, some write, some interpret, and so on (St. Paul talked about it somewhere, I can't remember where off the top of my head.) Now some people have "flashy" gifts, like athleticism or a wonderful singing voice. But is that person more valuable in the Body than the person washing the dishes after a church party, or the people making sure the church expenses are paid for? No!
    Everyone, small and great, is equally responsible for doing their part and using their gifts to better the Church.

    Now in marriage (and the rest of the Church), there aren't 400 people, there are 2- a man and a woman. But the same concept still applies- men may do some of the more "flashy" things, such as priesthood or membership in certain things. But women are just as important. Paul says that women should submit to men, since men are the heads of their own mini-Body (Eph. 3:22-24). But what can a decapitated head do other than rot away, and the same for a body without a brain? Both are equally important. It amazes me at times how complex thought and everything our bodies do is controlled by a little fleshy mass in my head and some electricity. But much less often to I ponder at the equally amazing construction of our bodies- in everything from proportion to facial muscles to how joints work, how the body can be trained to do amazing things like run 400m in 43 seconds.
    We often are caught up in what women can't do to admire what they can.

    Now, some things can be improved. My example about the Board of Deacons holds true- a neurosurgeon does not decide how a cardiologist performs their surgery! And in some parts of society, there are true imbalances and inequalities present due simply because that's how it has been.
  • @Daniel_Kyrillos

    Well that is OK, all the cultural relativism and stuff. But there a certain aspects of culture proved itself right and should have been enacted long ago. That is the equality between men and women for the most part and not letting anyone be defined by what is between their legs!

    Yes each one has a role, what if a woman has a brain that can make any priest look like a child. Why shouldn't she be ordained or the very very least have a teaching and a government position?
    That is not equal to me.
  • I have three sons and there is one thing I have read and I thing is true about bringing son's up is that, if they are in trouble with me, then there is a high probability of them having problems with authority later on. And if they have a problem with their mother, then later on they may have problems with women.
    Then would young boy deacons if they had a problem with a woman priest also have a problem with both authority and women?
  • @Joshuaa

    What are you trying to say here?

    If a kid in kindergarten had a problem with a female teacher would he have a problem with authority and women?
  • @Raafat

    I think there is a misunderstanding of what I've said.

    I've said if the Son has trouble with either parent then the consequences of the way he feels of their role is determines future troubles. Problems are not troubles. Problems can be overcome, but troubles take a change in attitude.

    I don't understand your thinking of wanting to bring a modern element of what is deemed as equality between the sexes into what has been ordained by God for males to represent the priesthood.

    God is male, wouldn't He want men to represent Him?

    The congragtion is divided with Males on one side and females on the other. Having females mingle would make it very differcult to keep to keep the pure thought. Maybe that's a male flaw, but love of God and the cleansing from sin for the purity of the soul is what is important, not to make things more differcult.

    I do wonder about God's spirit. Is God's Spirit partly feminine as it supports us, was involved in creation like motherhood and is it God's soul?

  • joshuaa, God is greater than male and female and both men and women are made in the image of God. the Holy Spirit is God and so both motherly and fatherly metaphors can be used. but the Holy Spirit should never be described as anything less than God, He is an equal person in the Trinity of Father, Son + Holy Spirit and never a force or a feeling.
    as for men + women, God gave men extra muscles and women a womb. so they both have a vital but different role.
    together we form a beautiful picture of Jesus Christ in relation to the church so we should submit to each other in love and humility.
  • Yes you are right Mabsoota about God, but I was making the comment in the way humans relate and not necessarily of God Himself.
    Origen said the soul is feminine and I was looking at those atributes.

    God bless you Mabsoota and pray for me as I will pray for you.
  • origin was confused about theology so don't worry if you don't understand his writings. read all the writings of saint john chrysostom and saint macarius (the monastic father) and don't spend too much time with origin and tertullian ;)
  • I think this article I have just come across is a good place to start when considering gender and sexuality in general. Perhaps from this perspective we can then move forward and consider what this says about women and men in Church and in worship,

    The article is called, "Genesis: the book of love"

    The Least
  • It is me again. 
    So let's say to hell with sacraments, let's forget about them. 
    Can women manage and teach in a Church? 

    Can she give a weekly sermon, interpret the Bible and manage the affairs of the Church?

    I'll have a look at the link, thanks!
  • edited September 2018
    If you don’t see the Sacraments as vital for Salvation, you aren’t Orthodox, nor have you ever been Orthodox. You should consider evaluating what you really believe in, and ask why you believe what you believe in.

    Look into Protestantism if you don’t believe in submitting to Church authority, or you believe just reading the Bible without doing anything else is sufficient for Salvation. Certainly it’s better for your own relationship with God to be with a community that shares your own values, and have teachers to teach you, rather then living a life of passive aggressive liberalism and ignoring everything that comes from the Pulpit.

    My priest says that “anybody who has themselves for a teacher has a fool for a disciple.” 

    But a principle of Orthodoxy (literally: "Right Believing") is that the Church was made to change people, not people to change the Church.
  • The Sacraments were instituted by Our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • @LivenotoneviL

    Actually I am not a Christian, all together. I wasn't even born into the religion. So your lengthy talk about Protestantism Vs Orthodoxy is irrelevant really.
    I'm not sure how which changes which is in any way related to the question.

    Anyways, thanks for your input.

    I understand that you guys believe it is a Devine institution. What I meant by poorly phrased sentence was it is not really central to my question who is doing the sacraments.

    All I want to know how alienated are woman as compared to my previous religion.
    Can they teach? Make commentaries? Participate in Government of the Church, even on a local secular level?
    THAT'S what I want to know.

    Best regards.
  • I think Males are represented on a higher rank for God appointed them as in He appointed the Levities priests and for us Christians in the order of Melchizadek and that Christ Himself is the head of the church.
    Females I dont think have a rank but a role of which I know and that is school teachers.
    In any way it is still a service that is provided in the church and if there started to be comparing then it could become from jealousy and jealousy in our fallen state (apart from God who is perfect) is a fear of not been perfect. So you would find jealous people see things as unfair (as opposed to God who is always righteous), and because they see something as unfair become competitive.
    Where would that take us? That there is no competition and that we all serve in our own particular role.
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