The necessity of an immediate restoration of the order of deaconesses, the history of the decision to hold the symposium at this particular moment, as well as its expectations, were presented at the opening session. The first and primary reason for convening the symposium was to encourage the traditional access of women to the sacramental “diaconal” priesthood. Unlike the general issue and demand for women ordination into episcopacy and the “hierurgic” priesthood, the symposium aimed at highlighting the diaconal character of the Christian faith, and not the redistribution of power within the Church. As Prof. Dn. John Chryssavgis underlined, we should perceive and practice “the diaconal ministry not as a stepping-stone to the priesthood or episcopate, but as a symbol of the vocation of every Christian (male and female) to serve. It is (he is convinced) today more than ever before, harder to be a deacon in the Orthodox Church than it is to be a priest or a bishop. Unfortunately, centuries of hardened clericalism, ecclesiastical illiteracy, and blatant disregard for the diaconate have rendered it almost impossible for people in our church—clergy and laity—to appreciate how the diaconate should inform every aspect of pastoral leadership and church ministry.…If we do not understand the diaconia, we cannot understand the other ranks of priesthood…even the role of the laity in the Church…The authentic image of the Church that we should be seeking—in our minds as in our ministry—is that of a dinner table, not that of a corporate ladder. The Church is not a pyramid, where all attention and authority are turned toward the summit. Instead, we should imagine the Church as a sacrament, where the primary and essential focus is the celebration of the Eucharist.”Chryssavgis is making the "diaconate" the model for understanding Christian service, though Christian service is not fully explained here, nor how it is different from the life of agape. Often in English translations of Matthew 20:28 and Mark 10:45 there is an interpolation of "others" which is not present in the Greek, so that it reads "[the Son of Man came...] to serve others." This is not warranted by the Greek original. Whom does the Son serve? Not us, but God, the Father. Is the "diaconate" a kind of service to God? Yes. Are Christians to be servants of God? Yes. Does that mean the diaconate does not need to be reformed? No. But do we need to restore the order of deaconesses? To me it does not seem obvious that this is necessary, except perhaps in female religious communities.
Except for extreme cases, Orthodox women are never entrusted, as in the Early Church, with leading roles in the Church’s ministry, the only exception being—especially in the East—the order of deaconesses. The gender ambivalence of ritual is revealed by the dichotomy between theology and practice. While the Orthodox liturgy includes female saint veneration and reputes the Theotokos as “more honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim”—that is above the world of the celestial beings—down on earth women are excluded from joining the superior clergy to the rank of deaconesses.
The Old Testament, of course, exemplifies patriarchal bias in many ways, notably in the metaphor of woman coming out of man (Gen 1:22). It is inescapable, however, that this was corrected in the New Testament, by the explicit Pauline statement that “when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman” (Gal 4:4). God becoming incarnate “from a woman” is a reversal of woman “coming out of man.”
Should we call this Modernism? It certainly is a questionable take on the interpretation of Scripture.