Church orders at the British patristic conference

The British patristic conference in Birmingham in September yields one paper of direct relevance to the study of the ancient church orders.

The abstract is as follows:

Pauliina Pylvänäinen

A Common Purpose for Paul and the Female Deacons?

The author writes in 1 Tim 1:12 that Christ has appointed Apostle Paul εἰς διακονίαν. The same enunciation has been used in four other verses in the Greek NT. About three hundred years after that, the Apostolic Constitutions, one of the most influential ancient church orders, was compiled. Among its various ecclesiastical instructions the author commands the special group of women in his midst: He gives several instructions and presents an ordination prayer for them. In the prayer the author uses an enunciation, which rings a bell. He writes that the female deacon has to be appointed – εἰς διακονίαν.

The noun διακονία has commonly been translated as “service”. However, the traditional understanding about the early Christian use of the verb διακονέω has lately been challenged. Especially John N. Collins and Anni Hentschel have re-interpreted its ancient usage. According to them, service is not the main meaning for διακονία. If anything, the term refers to the areas of agency and attendance. It connotes intermediary functions. Collins’ and Hentschel’s results form the background for my research.

In the presentation I will have a glance at the usage of εἰς διακονίαν in its contexts both in 1 Tim 1:12 and AC VIII, 20, 2. I will find out, to what kind of purposes Paul and the female deacons really are appointed. Are the enunciations parallel? Do they have the equivalence both of form and content?

This, and the other abstracts, may be viewed at
http://cal-itsee.bham.ac.uk/itseeweb/conferences/britishpatristics2016/abstracts.html

My quick answer to the concluding question is “probably not.”

For the convenience of readers the relevant prayer reads as follows:

O Eternal God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Creator of man and of woman, who replenished with the Spirit Miriam, and Deborah, and Anna, and Huldah; who did not disdain that Your only begotten Son should be born of a woman; who also in the tabernacle of the testimony, and in the temple, ordained women to be keepers of Your holy gates—do Thou now also look down upon this Your servant, who is to be ordained to the office of a deaconess, and grant her Your Holy Spirit, and cleanse her from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, (2 Corinthians 7:1) that she may worthily discharge the work which is committed to her to Your glory, and the praise of Your Christ, with whom glory and adoration be to You and the Holy Spirit for ever. Amen.

This is the ANF translation. The phrase εἰς διακονίαν is rendered “to the office of a deaconess.”

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