Mme. Elisabeth Behr-Sigel, the noted and pioneering French Orthodox theologian who delivered the 2003 Florovsky Lecture at Saint Vladimir’s Seminary, Crestwood, NY at the invitation of the Orthodox Theological Society of North America, fell asleep in the Lord on November 26, 2005.
Born into a Protestant family in 1907, she was one of the first French women to study theology. After graduating from the Univerity of Strasbourg, she spent a year pastoring a parish of the Reformed Church.
Mme. Behr-Sigel’s interest in Orthodoxy was nurtured by friends and colleagues of the Russian emigration in Paris, including Metropolitan Evlogy, Fathers Sergius Bulgakov and Lev Gillet, Mother Maria Skobtsova, Vladimir Lossky, Paul Evdokimov and other from the “Paris school.” She was especially attracted to the vision of the Church as “a community of men and women joined in joy and peace of the Holy Trinity.”
After her conversion to Orthodox Christianity, she served the Church in many capacities. She was a theology instructor at Paris’ Sergius Theological Institute, and for years she served as a theological consultant to France’s Orthodox hierarchs. She was a member of the advisory boards of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, the Saint Nina Quarterly, and other bodies. In 1976 she gave the keynote address at the first international gathering of Orthodox Christian women at the Agapia Monastery in Romania. Over the years, she spoke at numerous other gatherings, reflecting on the role of women in the Church and the vision of the Church as “in communion” to the end of her life. In countless ways, her personal history mirrored the history of the Orthodox Church in Europe and beyond during the 20th century.
May Mme. Behr-Sigel’s memory be eternal!