Church History


Female Deacons in the Byzantine Church1

Valerie A. Karrasa1

a1 bibliographer with the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae at the University of Calfornia, Irvine.

Despite the energy devoted by American and Western European church historians and theologians to the question of the ordination of women in early Christianity and in the (western) medieval Christian Church, these scholars have shown comparatively little interest toward the female diaconate in the Byzantine Church, even when comparative analysis could potentially help elucidate questions regarding the theology and practice of women's ordinations in the West. Most of the research on the female diaconate in the Byzantine Church has occurred in Mediterranean academic circles, usually within the field of Byzantine studies, or in the Eastern Orthodox theological community; sometimes the examination of the female diaconate in the Byzantine Church has been part of a broader examination of women's liturgical ministries.


1 This article is based in part on Valerie A. Karras, “The Liturgical Participation of Women in the Byzantine Church” (Ph.D. diss., The Catholic University of America, 2002), chapter 6, “Female Deacons in the Byzantine Church,” and will be republished, in longer form, in the author's forthcoming book, tentatively titled Women in the Byzantine Liturgy (Oxford University Press, expected 2005). The author would like to express deep appreciation to her graduate assistants, Michael Farley, Brett Huebner, Julia Schneider, and Daniel Van Slyke, for their retrieval of books, proofreading, and so on, at various stages of this research; to her dissertation committee, George T. Dennis, S.J., Eustratios Papaioannou, and Dominic Serra, for their patience and suggestions; and to two anonymous reviewers for their extremely helpful comments. All errors are, of course, the author's.