Orthodox Church ordains female deacon

Orthodox Church ordains female deacon Deaconess Angelic Molen Photo: orthodoxdeaconess.org

The Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa ordained Zimbabwean Angelic Molen as a deaconess in the Orthodox Church. Taking place on May 2, Orthodox Holy Thursday, the ordination was conducted at St Nektarios Mission Parish near Harare, Zimbabwe, by the archbishop of Zimbabwe, Metropolitan Serafim.

The St Phoebe Center for the Deaconess, a US-based organisation that has advocated for reviving the ancient female diaconate, said in a press release that Ms Molen’s ordination would prepare the way for the restoration of the role in other branches of the Orthodox Church.

The group’s board chair, Dr. Carrie Frost, wrote: “Being the first to do anything is always a challenge, but the Patriarchate of Alexandria has courageously chosen to lead the way with Metropolitan Serafim laying his hands on Deaconess Angelic”.

According to the release, Ms Molen said: “At first I was nervous about going into the altar, but when Metropolitan Serafim blessed me to enter the altar as part of my preparation this week, those feelings went away and I felt comfortable. I am ready”.

According to the St Phoebe Centre, Ms Molen was well received by her community and parish.

“The Alexandrian Patriarchate in Africa felt the need to revive this order to serve the daily pastoral needs of Orthodox Christians in Africa,” the release read.

Metropolitan Serafim said that Ms Molen will have both liturgical and pastoral roles. He said: “She is going to do what the deacon is doing in the liturgy and in all the sacraments in our Orthodox services”.

Metropolitan Serafim added that “one of the most important fields of work of the deaconess was the exercise of the works of love. They were the angels of mercy and the visiting sisters of the sick, the ‘grieving’ and poor women, imparting to them the gifts of Christian love”.

The Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa has been on the way to diaconal ordination of women for several years. At a 2016 synod in Alexandria, Egypt, the Patriarchate voted to reinstate the female diaconate. In 2017, the Patriarchate ordained six sub-deaconesses in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Among the functions of deaconesses may be baptism, which in Orthodox churches is conducted by full immersion. In the early Church, full immersion for adults was followed by anointing of the whole body, which required the assistance of deaconesses for the sake of propriety.