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

By Cardman, Francine | Theological Studies, December 2015 | Go to article overview

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


Cardman, Francine, Theological Studies


Woman, Women, and the Priesthood in the Trinitarian Theology of Elisabeth Behr-Sigel. By Sarah Hinlicky Wilson. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. Pp. viii + 200. $120.

Often referred to as the "grandmother of Western Orthodoxy," Elisabeth Behr-Sigel (1907-2005) was a theologian, ecumenist, and ecclesial activist whose extraordinary life and prolific scholarship deserve more attention than they have generally received. To that end she is well served by Wilson's careful study of her long theological development and evolving views on the ordination of women to the priesthood.

W. ably locates Behr-Sigel, a Lutheran convert to Orthodoxy (1929), within the milieu of the Russian emigre community in Paris where Orthodox theology flourished as it sought to assess its relationship to Russian nationalism and Western modernity. Detailed discussion of the sources and influences on Behr-Siegel's theological writings introduces readers to key Orthodox theologians from that period, notably Paul Evdokimov and Vladimir Lossky.

The close, contextual, and chronological analysis of Behr-Sigel's major writings on women and priesthood is one of the book's strengths. While Behr-Sigel's own recycling of her arguments occasions some repetition, W.'s approach allows her to show the organic evolution of Behr-Sigel's thought as she moved away from Evdokimov's attribution of ontological significance to gender differences and the necessity of a male priesthood, to a critique of his theological anthropology and trinitarian theology (1980s). …

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