Orthodox Women in the Ecumenical Movement

An Inter-Orthodox Consultation, under the auspices of the World Council of Churches, held a program titled, “Participation of Orthodox Women in the Ecumenical Movement: Past, Present, Future” at the Volos Academy for Theological Studies, Greece, from June 8-12. The meeting brought together some 45 women from Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia and North America. They discussed the participation, ministry and concerns of Orthodox women in the church and in the ecumenical movement.

According to the WCC report, participants at the consultation recommended undertaking a full assessment of the current situation and needs of Orthodox women, given the many changes that have taken place over the last decade, as well as the development of a framework for future action. “We see the need to identify, together with our church leadership, the ways and instruments to implement decisions and recommendations of women’s consultations in our churches,” the participants stated in a report on the deliberations.

Photos from the meeting are posted here. Participants said that “many of the concerns of women have not yet been fully addressed within the life of the Church and are still relevant today.” They recommended the following:

— a need for better access to and funding for Orthodox women to study theology and then, if desired, to have the opportunity for employment within the Church
— a need to support pastoral care ministries by Orthodox women and to others (e.g. hospice, hospital, nursing home, prison and other institutional, community and military chaplaincies) and equip women for this ministry
— a need for women to be included in decision making processes in the administrative bodies of their churches
— a need to address the understanding of women’s biology and the dignity of women, including the prayers and practices associated with women’s menstrual cycle, childbirth, 40-day churching, miscarriages, etc.
— a yearning for women to be admitted into the “minor orders” (e.g. altar server, blessed reader, chanter, etc.) and newer ministries (e.g. preacher) to more fully serve within the liturgical assembly and other ministries and to better serve the needs of women and men in the Church
— a holy desire for the restoration of the order of Deaconess and a rejuvenation of all diaconal work

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