Woman, Women,
and the Priesthood in the Trinitarian Theology of
Elisabeth Behr-Sigel


About the Book

Elisabeth Behr-Sigel (1907-2005), a convert to Orthodoxy in her early twenties and a central figure of Orthodox theology among Russian émigrés in Paris, first began to reflect on the question of women in the priesthood in 1976. Initially supporting the general consensus that female priesthood would be impossible for the Orthodox, Behr-Sigel came to retract this view, finding a basis for female ordination in women's distinct spiritual charisms. However, she later shifted the foundation of her case from feminine charisms to personhood, inspired by the work of fellow Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky, and came to the conclusion that all the Orthodox arguments against the ordination of women were, in fact, heretical at root.

In this book, all of Behr-Sigel's writings about women and the priesthood across the whole sweep of her career are analyzed, demonstrating the development of her thought on women over the last thirty years of her life. Her relationship to feminism, Protestantism, and movements within Orthodoxy are evaluated, ultimately leading to new insights about this much-contested matter for the ongoing debate in both the East and the West.

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Endorsements and Reviews

“This is an important book ... Sarah Hinlicky Wilson has produced a book which presents an intriguing picture of a woman who was a bridge between East and West, as well as offering a profound account of the complex issues raised by the question of the ordination of women in the context of Trinitarian ecclesiology.” –Ecclesiology

“Elisabeth Behr-Sigel is perhaps best known for her lifelong concern for the place of women in the ministry of the Church, which led finally to her advocacy of the ordination of women to the priesthood. The depth of the author's learning makes this book not only a critical analysis of the thought of one very brave and exceptional woman, but also an illuminating introduction to the exciting theological world of Russian theology in the West both in Paris and in America. The growing interest among Western theologians nowadays in the contribution of Eastern Orthodox theology to theological reflection makes this work very timely.” –Andrew Louth FBA, University of Durham, UK

“This concise yet comprehensive study of one of modern Orthodoxy's most creative minds is required reading for anyone interested in Orthodox theology, Christian feminism or modern ecumenism.” –Paul Valliere, Butler University, USA

“Wilson has written the best account I've seen of how someone may, mid-career, come not to abandon one of her chief theological convictions but to question and ultimately abandon one particular way of arriving at those convictions.” –Wesley Hill, Trinity School for Ministry, USA

Elisabeth Behr-Sigel

Elisabeth Behr-Sigel


More about Elisabeth Behr-Sigel

Olga Lossky, an accomplished French journalist and novelist, has told the story of Elisabeth Behr-Sigel's life in her biography, available in English as Toward the Endless Day.

Most of Behr-Sigel's own books have also been translated in English, including The Ministry of Women in the Church, The Place of the Heart, Lev Gillet: A Monk of the Eastern Church, Discerning the Signs of the Times, and The Ordination of Women in the Orthodox Church (with Kallistos Ware).

A new collection of interpretive essays about Behr-Sigel is A Communion in Faith and Love: Elisabeth Behr-Sigel's Ecclesiology.

See also a couple of shorter pieces: “A Debt of Gratitude to Elisabeth-Behr Sigel and Sarah Hinlicky Wilson on Elisabeth Behr-Sigel.”