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Concept of Trinity and the Role of Women in Church

by Rev. Fr. Thomas Ninan, South Africa

I write in the context of our Church at the anvil of considering voting rights for women in the Church. It comes out of my recent reflections on the Holy Trinity, based on teachings of Church Fathers. I will try my best to put it as simple as possible for all to understand.

The revelation of the Holy Trinity, through the Bible and then through the reflections of our Church fathers has profound implications for our life today. While the understanding on the Holy Trinity has been one of the most complex themes that has been dealt with, the studies so far by early Church fathers and then of late by modern theologians helps us to understand certain aspects of the Godhead.

One needs to understand the Holy Trinity much more than just a formula. The high priestly prayer of Christ reveals much about the unity within the Godhead as well as the desire of the Godhead for uniting with human beings as well. John 17 reveals much about the purpose of the Godhead as well as the implications for His Church. Noteable is John 17:21, "I pray that they may all be one. Father! may they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one so that the world may believe that you sent me."

The implication here is in the following forms:

i. God has created man and woman in His own image. This is the Trinitarian image within human beings, where both the man and the woman are bestowed with this Godly image in all its fullness. There is no partiality here. Genesis 1: 26-28 is the root passage where we understand this better.

ii. God's image in human beings is not just at an individual level, but it also has social connotations. Just as the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father in the presence of the Holy Spirit, human beings need to be one in each other. This relationship within the Triune Godhead (the church fathers like Tertullian, Irenaeus, Pseudo Cyril, St. John of Damascus describe it as perichoresis) means mutual interpenetration. God has blessed this characteristic within human beings also. The Church is called to witness that unity, in the form of upholding human dignity, living in mutual love where it is not one's own interest that one is worried about, but one cares and loves the other much more than oneself. There is no differentiation between male and female here. Human dignity needs to be upheld here, even within human relationships between opposite sex.

The creation of sex is an essential part of human relationship, where it is intended to be practiced only in the context of mutual love, where human dignity is prime. This needs to be practiced within married relationships as well. Sex is intended to be something good, not as something bad as taught by St. Augustine. St. Augustine limited sex to flesh and anything related to flesh was described as sin. The Eastern church fathers taught differently, where sex is part of psychological, emotional, physical and mental expression of love between two human beings, not just as something to be used for procreation.

Based on the Trinitarian image that is bestowed upon human beings, in equal measure, it is in this context that we need to respond to a greater participation of women in our Church. We often look at our traditions as something sacred and something which cannot be touched or corrected. But history reveals that tradition has changed from time to time in our Church and much has happened where we not only gained new understanding but also lost many good things that used to be practiced.

The role of women as described in the Bible also needs to be understood in the biblical context. When bible was written, it was largely a man's world. But we do see glimpses of how Christ regarded women in his ministry. The election of the twelve disciples needs to be seen not in the context of equality between the sexes, but in the context of how Christ understood the dominant man's role at that time. Let us not take away the importance Christ gave to the role of women in the early church. Though little about it is described in the Bible, it should not be understood in a literal sense, but thought deeply to understand the silent role the women played in early church. The lives of St. Mary (mother of Christ), St. Mary Magdalene (to whom the resurrected Christ appeared first), Martha and other women characters need to be recognized as guiding lights to us to understand and consider today the role of women in the building of the Church.

While the teachings of the Church Fathers reveal this reality, we need to realize and accept that much of what we have been practicing in terms of role of women in the church has had cultural influences in different times of history. While culture has its own place in the expression of faith and tradition, we need to understand that it cannot define or correct a theology. Theology, in practice, needs to find its appropriate expression within culture, and our Church is lacking in giving expression to the Trinitarian theology in practice today.

See Also:

The Role of Women in the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch
by Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka-I Iwas
The Role of Women is a topic of importance today in our Syriac Orthodox Church which is a deeply rooted traditional apostolic church. In our presentation, we shall depend upon the Holy Scripture and the tradition of the Church, namely the teachings of the Apostles which have not been recorded in the Scriptures.

Concept of Trinity and the Role of Women in Church - Follow Up
Going against natural selection is the mode of rupturing the fibre of the creation and society. But it is set to happen by woman dominating over man as the Kaliyuga signs which flower 'at the end of days'.

God, Trinity and Role of Women in Heaven
There is only manhood and son-ship in Heaven, making it transparently clear that femininity is meant only for the procreation process that is akin to this earth only. Anything thus associated with Heaven has no womanhood or maternity.

Women and Church Affairs
Can women be allowed to enter the Madbaha (the holiest place of our Church)? I have seen an active discussion about this topic in IOC Website. IOC actively encouraging this dangerous trend without considering the biblical teachings.

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