When you walk into an Orthodox church it is clear that women are revered along with men in the sainthood. The largest image and most prayed to saint is Mary the mother of God or Theotokos. That cannot be emphasized enough and was lost in the movement of Western Protestantism along with the primacy of all the other saints in the life of the church. She is the first Christian. She is the first person to carry God inside of her. She is the image of how all of humankind ought to respond to God in submission – not just women but also men. More than this as the Mother of God, she is also the spiritual Mother of all those who follow Christ. She looks over the church as a mother to her children. Further, honor and veneration are given equally among female saints such as St. Mary of Egypt who is the patron saint of penitents and St. Junia who we see in the icon above that is also on Held Evans’ site this week.
So what is the role of Orthodox women today? While it is clear that while there are always going to be those who will stick with their social and cultural roles as fixed absolutes, it is simply not the case elsewhere. While there are clear roles to fulfill in the family (e.g., men cannot have babies unless through a radical surgical process), they do not translate into fixed social roles (e.g., women serve men and should “stay in the kitchen”). That kind of “complementarianism” is disdainful and demeans the nature of women as image-bearers of God. The context is of mutual obedience to one another.