First, in my prior observations, I did concede that Dr. Karras' comments on the historicity of the female diaconate were sound, consistent with the scholarship of now numerous voices of both women and men within the Church. Whether one agrees with contemporary arguments for the ordination of women to the Holy Diaconate, the history of the order is no longer seriously debated.
Second, in a more recent article appearing on the "Public Orthodoxy" website (found here), Dr. Karras' argue cogently for the broad re-establishment of the order of female deacons within the contemporary Church, and her argument has much merit. She is to be credited with making this argument without resorting, as she has tended to do in previous work, to debatable or even somewhat dubious presuppositions and theological analyses.
I would, however, make two comments of a critical nature in order to improve an opinion with which I generally agree in principle:
1. Subordination is not necessarily negative as Dr. Karras states, while "domination" and oppression are.
2. It is unclear if any of the Holy Orders of the Church are "Ideally,...full-time, paid ministers..."
First, Dr. Karras addresses one contemporary criticism for restoring female deacons as normative in the life of the Church by rightly noting that what I would deem "oppressive domination" of male over female is a result of the primordial fall of humanity. On this, with Saint John Chrysostom whom Dr. Karras quotes in this regard, all Orthodox can agree:
"Wherefore you see, she was not subjected as soon as she was made; nor, when He brought her to the man, did either she hear any such thing from God, nor did the man say any such word to her: he said indeed that she was 'bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh:' (Gen. 2:23) but of rule or subjection he nowhere made mention to her (Homily on I Corinthians).
However, Dr. Karras' summation of this, in light of likewise undisputed (an indisputable!) doctrine of the Orthodox Tradition, is problematic when she writes:
"Domination and subordination. therefore, are negative consequences of the Fall which should no more be theologically enshrined as normative for male-female relationships than death or disease (other biblical consequences of the Fall) should be theologically normative for the human body."
Domination, in the sense of "subjection" as found in her quotation of Saint John above, is certainly a negative consequence of the Fall. This is not true, however, of the concept of "subordination" which is broader and not necessarily negative at all if we consider that the word literally involves an "ordering" of something, "subordination" meaning to come below another in order. Indeed, deacons and presbyters are, in the Eucharistic assembly, subordinate to the Bishop. And while sharing of one essence (ousia) and will (thelema) among the Divine Persons points to communion and the unicity of God, there is an economic subordination of the divine Son and Spirit to the Father.
In short, subjection in the patristic quotation she uses is not identical to the idea of subordination.
Second, it is clear that Dr. Karras would prefer that female deacons "ideally" attain the same "status" as other members of the clergy in the so-called "major orders" of the Deacon, Presbyter, and Bishop. On this we can agree, again in principle. I would just pause before suggesting that any of the Holy Orders are "ideally...full-time, paid ministers..." as she writes.
In the contemporary Church, it is more common for Presbyters and Bishops, if not always Deacons, to be "full-time" professionals, though this is not always the case. Many deacons and presbyters ("priests") are actually "part-time" professionals, and some are not technically "professional" at all as they do not receive financial compensation for this sacred service to the Church. (Indeed, the ordained clergy in monasteries would largely fall into this "non-professional" category.)
Nonetheless, the general point Dr. Karras intends to make is clear and fair: ordained deacons of either sex (male, female) should be respected in like manner.
These criticisms focus on but two semantic issues, and do not negate the thrust of Dr. Karras' argument which, in contrast to some other writings and opinions, here is fully consistent with the "mainstream" of Orthodox Tradition.
This is not to dismiss other voices in the contemporary debate about restoring the female diaconate and the means by which this might be accomplished. The issue is actually more complicated than many advocates would suggest. Complicated, however, does not mean impossible patrunworthy of serious consideration. It does appear that a consensus has emerged in the last half-century: in theory, the Church has and can (and apparently, from time to time, does) ordain women to the Holy Order of the Diaconate, and now probably should for good reason. Likewise, for too long the Diaconate has been woefully neglected even when it comes to ordaining males to this Holy Order.
In any case, it will still take some time for a consensus to emerge (considering the number of dissenting voices) as to how this may be properly effected for the good of the Holy Church without causing scandal and schism (if only at a local, grassroots level). Still, this is progress from "if possible" to "how to implement." In all likelihood, the best manner will be consistent with the emergence in the first two centuries of Church history of Holy Orders in the manner we know them now following the Apostolic age. Indeed, it took many centuries for the ecclesiological "order" to which we are now accustomed (for example, the structure of deacon, presbyter, bishop; or parish, diocese, patriarchate) to be universally established.
Even in the New Testament, we can witness a diversity in ministries emerging after the disappearance of the Apostles. Subsequent developments of "formal" ministries and "offices" throughout the Church were, in fact, uneven and just as diverse. It was not only the female diaconate (which never seems to have been truly "universal" in the Church) which faded away with time, but also other once-common ministries such as the "exorcist," not to mention the itinerant "prophet" (and "prophetess"?).
One thing does seem clear with hindsight in the twenty-first century. For too long, though perhaps for comprehensible historical reasons, the Church "settled" on the formal, ordained ministers of deacon, presbyter, and bishop as normative without truly considering contemporary needs. Perhaps there was no need during previous centuries to consider others, though the Church has always been served in those times by informal ministers and varied ministries.
Dr. Karras, preceded by many others, is certainly right to note that--especially in the last half-century or so, the life and lifestyles of women in the vast majority of the world have changed considerably. The Church is right to consider the proper means of ministering to them and to all persons in the most effective and appropriate manner. I, for one, see the "push" for the restoration of the female diaconate as a most positive, hopeful sign no matter where the debate may ultimately lead.