07 August 2008

On Acolytes and Such

Twice in recent months, the question has been put to me about the wisdom of allowing the young ladies to serve as crucifers and acolytes and torchbearers together with the young men. It's one of those areas that I confess I haven't reflected on much. It was the practice of the parish I became a Lutheran and Christian in. It was the practice that was in place when I arrived as pastor at both Redeemer and St. Paul's. That doesn't make it right, of course. But it has sort of been a "machts nichts" sort of issue to me.

Some people are troubled that the practice opens the door to women's ordination somehow. I must confess that I don't follow that line of thinking. These young women and men are all catechized that our Rule of Faith, the Sacred Scriptures, prohibit any woman and also some men from serving in the Office of the Holy Ministry. I'm certainly willing to learn or be taught better. Does anyone have any thoughts on this particular question that they'd be willing to share? What has your experience been? What do you think it should be? Why?


Pastor inTexas, but Not a liberal said...

To me it is one of those things that I have not given much reflection on either.

However, I have heard a pastor say that allowing the girls to serve in those rolls gives the idea: "You can serve in the worship service in this manner, publicly serving in the worship service, but once you are grown/confirmed, you are only to be a member in the pew."

I'm willing to learn more as well.

Ryan said...

I have struggled with this issue too. What other role do VESTED females play in the service, it seems odd in some ways, then again it is a non-speaking part. Paving the way to women's ordination has to be a departure from Scripture and so the burden is to describe the role of acolyte et all as part of the office... historical, traditional, and especially Scriptural arguments must come to bear on this. I'm not sure if anyone has done the real work.

I inherited acolytes (young ladies and gentlemen).

I was privileged to introduce torch bearers and crucifers (due to a generous donation from a liturgical leaning retired pastor, and chasubles too!) I limited the crucifers to males only but do have female torch-bearers and salve my conscience with the young ladies who hold the lanterns waiting for their Lord. (Matthew 25).

I also have the odd practice of making the twin torch-bearers same sex, otherwise it looks unbalanced to me.

It is a fearful thing to introduce a tradition/practice into a congregation that may affect generations. God have mercy!

Lutheran Lucciola said...

The acolyte thing doesn't make me cringe at all, or the crucifer etc. The only thing I saw at an LCMS service was a girl dressed as Santa Lucia for a Christmas Eve service (I think that was the service), and she carried the communion cup.

Mind you, the then-pastor of that church had serious "looking at women" issues, and that was the reason for that whole Lucia parading around display.

I left that church, needless to say.

Father Hollywood said...

The fact that women/girls serving liturgically is so recent (corresponding with Vatican II, feminism, and the women's ordination movement) gives me great pause.

Also the fact that masculine clerical vestments (such as alb and cincture) are now being unisexed is problematic. For example, I served my vicarage in a parish where adult women served as acolytes, held the gospel book, and assisted with distribution in the chancel. They wore alb and cinture - just like the typical vicar (though I was consecrated a deacon and was permitted to wear a diagonal stole). We all vested together in the sacristy.

Also in my vicarage parish, girl and boy confirmands were compelled to serve as acolytes - even though one of our girl confirmands wanted to serve on the altar guild instead and was rebuffed. I found the practice to be rooted in a not-so-subtle feminist/egalitarian agenda.

I find that serving as acolyte gets a young man used to prayer, liturgical service, reverence, and to wearing clerical attire - and that these are not feminine in any way. It has always been a traditional stepping stone to the priesthood (a great many RC priests served as altar boys when they were kids). But where the office of acolyte and the corresponding vestments have been unisexed, it is just one more reason for a boy not to want to take part in it.

Enough already! Before you know it, we'll be like Roman churches, where women do absolutely everything and the only man in the chancel is the priest, relegated to a few words of the liturgy - while the women distribute, bid prayers, lead the congregational singing, do the readings, and get the altar ready for Mass.

It's no wonder men and their sons aren't really keen on attending church, let alone wearing vestments and serving in the chancel. It's also no wonder the office of the ministry itself is being feminized.

I guess it's obvious that I'm opposed. ;-)

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

While I might agree that there's nothing inherently wrong with the practice from a theological or liturgical standpoint, I believe female acolytes and crucifers are a slippery slope. It takes on the appearance of women becoming more involved in the worship service. If they can do this, why can't they do that, and if that why not such and such. What are young women learning to do in this role that will serve them as adult women? It's best in my opinion to retreat from such slippery slopes.

Traditionally, I believe such jobs as this were given to young men in hopes that it might inspire them to go into the ministry. If that was the hope, then it seems logical to take seriously the concern of some that it might encourage young women to go into the ministry. But even if it doesn't, there is at least one other argument I find more compelling.

When my oldest daughters got near the age where they would be asked to serve as acolytes/crucifers as part of the duty/service of a catechumen, I gave my pastor an early heads-up that my girls would not be participating in this ritual.

Our pastor wisely decided at this point that he would begin to have training in the altar guild as the service for our young women catechumens, retaining the acolyte/crucifer positions for young men to serve in. This has the added benefit of ultimately providing some relief to our aging altar guild teams, and at the same time giving our older ladies time to interact with our young ladies.

I believe the church should be an example of how women and men serve in different, but complimentary roles instead of serving to reinforce the gender neutral secular world. The more the gender roles are blurred in the church, the more I fear the angels are offended (1 Cor. 11:10).

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

My discomfort with female acolytes probably stems from the fact that I use acolytes for more than just lighting candles. They act more as servers, than merely acolytes. I have my boy acolytes do things like collect empty communion cups, move the missal stand around the altar, and other things associated with the Communion service. In my mind, this is a way of encouraging boys to begin to consider the possibility of entering the ministry one day, and I am just plain uncomfortable with girls serving in a liturgical capacity, especially since, as Fr. Beane pointed out, this is such an innovation. Isn't having non-ordained folks serve at all in the chancel something of an innovation? Weren't these roles historically reserved for clergy? (I'm talking waayy back when).

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Having said that Rev. Weedon, I am not judging you for a practice which you inherited. I wouldn't refuse to serve a congregation because of it. I just think that there are better roles for young women in the church that are more "behind the scenes."

Dr. Matt Phillips said...

The acolytes were part of the ordained clergy in the Middle Ages...acolyte, exorcist, subdeacon, deacon, priest, bishop, archbishop. This doesn't mean the acolytes were not young. Did we not change this around the same time as Vatican II? It's amazing how much that event influenced our practice. My congregation practices it and I have confessing pastors. I have a daughter who could currently serve as an acolyte but she doesn't want to do it so I don't encourage it.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

I find that serving as acolyte gets a young man used to prayer, liturgical service, reverence, and to wearing clerical attire - and that these are not feminine in any way.

Surely prayer and reverence are qualities as feminine as masculine, or else transcending both?

Chuck Wiese said...

Since strictly speaking Scripture is silent on the issue I think we should be careful. However, the closest thing to an acolyte that we find in Scripture would probably be the Levites serving in the temple and they were all males. I also think that the use of young girls (and even very young boys) could shift the mood from that of reverence to "awwww...how cute."

Scott Larkins said...

Amen Father Hollywood. I was a Roman Alter boy in the early 80's. Now there are no young men left in the local parishes. It's all girls. I does come from the feminist movement.

Bad idea.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Anastasia:

No. Not in that context, the context of praying with the pastor reverently in the sacristy while vesting and preparing to serve at the altar. That is the context here.

Of course, in the Eastern Orthodox church, women are not permitted at the altar *at all* - no matter how reverent or prayerful (though an Orthodox priest friend of mine allows women to clean the altar when nobody is looking).

I knew of one congregation where there was a dispute because the priest allowed the newly baptized girls to be passed over the altar - which was offensive to some in the parish. I don't know how it was ultimately resolved.

Serving at the altar as an acolyte is not traditionally feminine - neither in the East nor in the West.

Blogversary said...

I think most Lutheran churches stop having girls or boys as acolytes etc after they are confirmed. So, I see it more as a form of service for children and not about opening the door for women pastors.

It is something to ponder.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Thanks for the clarification, Fr. Beane.

I don't see anything about vesting or praying reverently in the sacristy with the pastor that's inherently unfeminine. We can come up with various reasons for not having altar girls, but that just doesn't strike me as one of them.

Right. The Orthodox don't believe in altar girls, and *nobody* is supposed to be in the altar, male or female, except those with specific liturgical functions there.

As you note, the prohibition from time to time is violated -- by cleaning ladies, TV camera crews, etc. It is probably violated more often by males who misunderstand and think their gender allows them entry, not realizing that the prohibition extends to anybody whose service in the altar is not liturgically required.

Past Elder said...

When I became a Roman altar boy (1957 or so) it was explained to us that we were exactly that, altar boys, NOT acolytes, which is a minor order of the priesthood. Altar boys were also called servers, back before the title passed to fka waiters and waitresses or mainframe computers.

An altar boy is not someone who carried a big lighter up the aisle and lights a candle, sitting down until the end when he puts it out and walks out (BTW, extra credit if you know which side first and in which direction to light!). He assists the priest in the ceremonies of the Mass -- moving the book from the epistle to the gospel side (more extra credit for knowing what in the wide world of sports that is), bringing the cruets with the water and wine, the water and bowl for the lavabo (more extra credit, especially if you can pronounce circumdabo right), and saying the congregational parts of the prayers in Latin, being the people's voice (50s here guys, pre Revolution) und so weiter.

Now, the list is not essential, but what is, is this: yes, indeed, it was a boy's glimpse at what happens at the altar from the altar, from which seed perhaps a vocation (to the priesthood, always implied when vocation is used with no further modifier)might come.

So in Lutheran practice, being Lutheran now, I am ambivalent. I see no reason to doubt that Lutheran "altar boys" were much the same, in that the assistance rendered to the celebrant in the service might inspire being the celebrant one day himself. Yet, this office is not of the institution of Christ, not a part of the reality called the priesthood by RCs or the Office of Holy Ministry by us, is a church custom, and as such in no way is violated by females doing that.

Yet, ask any good operative, covert or overt. Victory doesn't always, or even usually, come in one campaign. You take what you can get, rest a while, and attempt a little more later, take what you can get, rest a while, repeat until victorious. And in this way, "altar girls" even when not meant at all to be a stepping stone to a female pastorate can function that way, and will be used that way by those whose ultimate goal is that.

So, as with so much that's "Christian Freedom", you can't say no altar girls, by divine command, because there aren't altar boys by divine command either, unlike the Office of Holy Ministry itself. Therefore it is a matter to be judged in light of good order in the church and the experience of the church in attaining good order.

At this time, I think altar girls serves no good end, makes us look more than ever like Roman wannabes since we ape what they do several hundred years on into the Reformation, Father H's description of the post conciliar Roman parish being dead on, yet at the same time I cannot say it violates the institution of Christ or contradicts the Gospel per se.

PS once we get started throwing out 1960s Romanism, let's keep it going with novus ordo for Lutherans liturgies and lectionaries!

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Yet, ask any good operative, covert or overt. Victory doesn't always, or even usually, come in one campaign. You take what you can get, rest a while, and attempt a little more later, take what you can get, rest a while, repeat until victorious. And in this way, "altar girls" even when not meant at all to be a stepping stone to a female pastorate can function that way, and will be used that way by those whose ultimate goal is that.

Exactly so. We'e are not talking about a mere slippery slope; we'e talking about a campaign tactic, an objective to be met on the way to the strategic goal of W.O.

(Having what's-her-name Jobe lead the singing at that youth conference in Texas is the same thing, a tactical move, and a clever one, since the organizers can say, "Okay, so she's a woman pastor? So what, as long as *WE* didn't ordain her? n She's just leading the singing!")

Take heed.

Lutheran Lucciola said...

I guess I can see the point with churches that have the acolytes do other things, as far as communion cups and such.

My previous church (not the leering pastor one), had young children doing acolytes, so it wasn't anything about a little girl acting as a future pastor.

It is nice to think that the young guys in the service may think about pastoral stuff, so there's a point to that.

Truthfully, we have got so much garbage going on right now, I don't know what to say. You guys figure it out and get back to me! ;-)

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Here are just a few thoughts on this.

1 - Is being an acolyte part of the movement towards being part of the clergy? 1500 years ago that was a yes. . . today, well, at my church it's just part of your duties as a kid in confirmation class. For that reason I don't know how much of a slope is left. It may be slippery - but the logic of "You've acolyted, why can't you be a pastor" isn't present. Acolytes don't talk.

2 - As for the garb - well, we don't here, but how many places have people wear white robes for either Baptism or Confirmation? Those are the same for both boys and girls, and we don't attribute them as being part of the down fall of society. The simple fact that the acolytes dress alike in and of itself doesn't destroy gender barriers.

3 - You can use acolyting as a movement towards the altar guild style of service just as well.

4 - Whatever your current practice is now, the question must be asked, "what am I trying to teach if I change this now?" Why make the change, what is it going to teach. Every congregation has things that they need to learn - is the fact that acolytes used to be considered a minor order and that there is a slippery slope there the point we need to teach right now? For some, that is yes. For most who have this custom, I would guess no. Hence, spend your political capital elsewhere.

Christine said...

Enough already! Before you know it, we'll be like Roman churches, where women do absolutely everything and the only man in the chancel is the priest, relegated to a few words of the liturgy - while the women distribute, bid prayers, lead the congregational singing, do the readings, and get the altar ready for Mass.

Well I'm glad that's not the case at my parish. But then, we have an active and growing Knights of Columbus chapter and it has encouraged our male parishioners to be involved in many parish activities as lectors, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, as well as charitable outreach.

We also have a strong group of boys serving at the altar.

Christine said...

Oh, and as a matter of note, the LCMS congregation in a neighboring suburb does allow girls to serve as crucifers, acolytes and torchbearers. From what I know of it it is solidly confessional. On the other hand, the LCMS "mission" congregation a few blocks from my home doesn't have girls in those roles but it appears to be very much modeled on the "Water's Edge" culture.

Mark said...

The question hasn't occurred to me either. I've only skimmed the comments and haven't yet had enough coffee to take in all the arguments.

Suggesting that the better roles for women in the church are "behind the scenes," as one comment offers, makes me wonder what to do with female organists and women in choirs.

Both instances are what Lutherans have considered public "liturgical leadership." Often these women are vested in distinct garb. The choir robe tradition for protestants simply evolved from the practice of choirs wearing cassock and cotta or surplice, often what acolytes wear; the choirs of Lutherans who have maintained catholic practice still embody the cassock and surplice tradition.

And if singing is a form of prayer and "the one who sings prays twice," in both examples we must acknowledge that women are leading us in prayer.

Perhaps the slippery slope falls both directions. I'd hate to have one of my ham-handed men try to play the organ or a choir bass sing falsetto because the lifting up of prayer through a hymn descant just wouldn't be the same.

Time for more coffee.

Orianna Laun said...

Acolyting can be a stepping stone for service in the church. I was never an acolyte for many of the reasons given before, especially the stepping stone to pastoral ministry one. That had never crossed my mind. I had only thought of it as a way to serve the church when I was younger.
I agree that if the acolyte not only lights the candles but also assists at the altar in some form during communion, then absolutely no females.
I guess you could say I'm of a mixed opinion on the topic.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

Choirs and organists should be "behind the scenes" as well. It is preferable for them to be in the balcony or the back of the church so that they can avoid the appearance of a performance.

William Tighe said...

I remember reading this:

J. Fessio, S.J., "Admittance of Women to Service at the Altar as Acolytes and Lectors," in Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Newsletter 11:2 (March 1988) pp. 14-16

years ago, and being mightily impressed by it, but I do not know if it can be had online.

Christine said...

Dr. Tighe,

It is online. Father Fessio, of course supports the postion of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, which is the conservative one.


Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Bottom line is: female acolytes and crucifers are here to stay in Missouri. If a pastor inherits this practice, it is unlikely that he could change it without losing half the congregation (given the attitude of parishioners today). Those who inherit a different practice or can institute male only acolytes without controversy should count themselves blessed.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

I'm not sure I agree with your broad stroke assessment, Pr. Beisel. Certainly it would be difficult in some congregations, but it is not the whole congregation one has to deal with. It is primarily the parents of would be female acolytes.

I believe it is relatively easy to direct the girls to the altar guild rather than to the service of the altar, depending on the parents of the catechumens one has at any given time. It doesn't have to be done as a matter of saying girls shouldn't be acolytes, but rather that we would like (need?) young ladies to be trained in the work of assisting the pastor before and after the service in caring for the Lord's Body and Blood. It could even be gradually phased out by offering the altar guild as an optional service for female catechumens.

One has to choose his battles wisely, and this is probably not high on the priority list for most pastors. But I wouldn't take it off the list as something that is "here to stay."

It is even more difficult a battle in my opinion to end the practice of female lectors, but that must be done on the basis of clear Scripture. If one can accomplish that, I would think ending female acolytes/crucifers will be small potatoes.

As an aside, I find co-ed sports teams for young people to be an analogous blurring of gender in secular society. This is a practice I am also not in favor of. Women and men certainly can to many of the same things, but this doesn't mean they should. I wish I lived in the day when men were men and women were women. These distinctions are getting more and more difficult to discern every day.

Have any of you read about the impressive "Acolyte Corps" at Redeemer - Ft. Wayne?

Mark said...

Having women choristers and organists in the balcony or back of the church, "behind the scenes" as it were, still doesn't attend to the question at hand.

It certainly doesn't solve the dilemma of 'performance.' The last thing the presiding minister 'up front' better have on his mind is that he is engaged in some sort of performance. Front or back, it's never a performance. It's always prayer.

For most of our parishes, and at one level or another--front, back, up, down--through music women lead us in the liturgy, the primary sung prayer of the church.

It's hard to imagine why they shouldn't light a candle.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Mark:

Is that all that an an acolyte does? "Light a candle"?

If that's the case, the pastor can just carry around a bic, or one of the elders can ignite it off the end of his cig before he butts out before Mass...

It's not about "lighting a candle."

The office of acolyte is just that - an office. It is traditionally a minor order of the clergy. This is why little Johnny or little Britney often wears an alb and cincture like the clergy, processes in with the clergy, serves in the chancel with the clergy, sometimes assists with the gospel book and/or distribution of communion with the clergy.

Even granting that they are in no way clergy today, it's hard to miss the connection between the pressures of feminism and the way churches that claim to be traditional and conservative have only recently acceded to unisexing the office.

While not an order of clergy, it isn't hard to see the way such service is a perfect stepping-stone to pastoral ministry.

For a young man, it is a big deal to vest with the pastor, pray in the sacristy, reverently assist the pastor in the chancel, participate in the leading of the liturgy in a way that is almost like that of a subdeacon, etc. If we want young men to be interested in going into the ministry when they grow up, it would be best not to have albs and liturgical ritual in the chancel to be yet one more thing that is gender-neutralized - and to what end?

It's already hard enough to convince boys and men in this day and age that wearing "robes" and "gowns" (sometimes embroidered with lace) is manly without seeing little girls wearing the same vestments. In fact, in my former experience as a layman in many churches, congregations that had female acolytes quickly had no boys serving in this way. The boys find it girly, and the girls find the "robes" to be "cute."

It reminds me of the situation in the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden. Less than half a century after "ordaining" women, it is getting very hard to find male seminarians. The holy ministry is seen by most men in that place as "women's work." The office of the ministry has been so feminized that even the most liberal of bishops is concerned because of the dearth of male priests.

We have been so cowed by feminism that our churches will soon look just like liberal Vatican II Roman churches where the only thing not considered unisex is the actual consecration (and pressure is mounting for that domino to fall as well). After all, women are capable of preaching, teaching, chanting the liturgy, pronouncing absolution, wearing collars and albs, and even being addressed by the now-unisex title "Pastor" just as well as a man.

Besides, if it's just "lighting a candle", why is it so important to make sure both genders are represented?

This is what happens when sociology rather than church history is used to shape those matters that are considered adiaphora.

James said...

The "Acolyte Corps" at Redeemer, Ft. Wayne resonates completely with what Fr. Beane has said. Some of the young men who serve as acolytes have gone one to attend Christ Academy and, at least one of them, is planning on going to CTS upon his graduation from college. The "corps" is remarkable (and it is made up by a group of remarkable young men); but given the reality of the LCMS, it would be nearly impossible to replicate it in many of our parishes.

Erich Heidenreich, DDS said...

It might be nearly impossible in many parishes at present, but thinking long term we should have an ideal to shoot for. Maybe it will take a few years, maybe a few decades, but that's not reason to take the attitude that we can never get to the way things should be. With that attitude (which I admit to succumbing to at times) we might as well hand Missouri over to the liberals.

Chris Jones said...

This is what happens when sociology rather than church history is used to shape those matters that are considered adiaphora.

Well put, Fr Hollywood; but I would put it even more strongly: this is what happens when human reason (controlled by the spirit of the age) rather than Tradition is used to shape those matters which are misguidedly thought to be adiaphora.

Mark said...

I'm not arguing that both genders ought to be represented. Far from it.

Rather, Fr Weedon has raised a lively question that, in light of evidence and practice both past and present, has expanded.

Why not women serving as acolytes (literally "followers") when women have _led_ the church's primary prayer at the organ bench and in the choir loft, often in historic vestments?

As for acolytes as an "order," I have a hard time finding that in the confessions. Didn't we eliminate the minor orders?

And though I can't quite put a finger on it yet, I find a strange sort of preaching of the law in the comment that "if we want young men to be interested in going into the ministry when they grow up, it would be best not to have albs and liturgical ritual in the chancel to be yet one more thing that is gender-neutralized."

"If we do this...then the following will result." Isn't this the law? Isn't God's call to men, young and old, always sheer grace apart from our effort?

As I said before, I'm not making a case one way or the other...just aware that Fr Weedon's initial question has, for me, uncovered for me additional questions and complications.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Mark:

Cassock and surplice (or choir robes) are indeed vestments - but they are not *clerical* vestments. The laity is also a holy office. When a pastor wears a cassock with a collar, it is not a vestment. It is his work clothing.

However, when acolytes and acolytesses vest in albs - they are wearing a *clerical* vestment. That's just a historic reality. Personally, I would rather see our altar boys in cassock/surplice - which is more traditional.

One could easily argue (as I heard one former prof in a homily) that lay people should wear clerical collars. Indeed, there is nothing in Scripture to prevent it. Isn't it a matter of adiaphora, of the gospel? Why not? Priesthood of all believers and all that... But there is something very salutary about having ministers wear distinctive garb in their public ministry (something that goes back to the Levitical priests).

As for organists "leading the church's primary prayer" this is simply not true. The organist is a man-made office that assists the divine office of the pastor. He or she is not bidding prayers by serving in this way. Why try to clericalize their office? That's a way of denigrating the holy office of the laity.

Just because you won't find orders such as acolyte in the confessions (and I'm not convinced that you won't - I don't have my BOC handy) doesn't mean they are not orders or we don't have them (or may not have them).

You will look in vain for "elders" and "deaconesses" in the confessions - and yet we reserve the right to have those orders to assist the office of the ministry.

Back to the point - the modern movement to have girls wearing masculine vestments and serve with pastors at the altar is part (as someone else here put so eloquently) of an overall strategy.

The general calling the shots in that strategy to feminize the ministry is the devil himself. Why play on Satan's turf at all? Why taunt the lion with raw meat?

As far as law and gospel go, that is a helpful tool for giving pastoral care. People who are not repentant need to hear law, people who are penitent need to hear the gospel. But this matter of acolytes isn't a law/gospel situation. It is a matter of order.

Whether the pastor wears a collar or a t-shirt and jeans has nothing to do with whether or not he is sorry for his sins, and whether or not he needs to hear admonition or absolution. Whether or not a certain individual should serve at the altar has nothing to do with law and gospel, but has to do with vocation.

What happens when the gospel is invoked in these situations is a form of "anything goes" gospel reductionism - with the result that (big surprise) "anything goes." Is the lectionary law or gospel? Rock music? Girl acolytes? Circus elephants? Polka masses? Dancing girls? And when the pastor draws the line and says: "no," he is called a "legalist." Screwtape could not devise a better way to mess with the Lutherans than to play the Gospel card as a kind of blind trump.

Rather, a better "Lutheran" lens to use in this case is one of confession against the dominant feminist culture. When every other institution is rushing to become politically correct, gender neutral, and egalitarian, the Church should stand unabashedly in her femininity, her Brideship of Christ, and defend her Husband, in whose stead the masculine pastor stands to do the Lord's work.

And why we would want to discourage young men from stepping up to the plate to become the next generation of pastors by introducing them to service, to the holy things, to the chancel, to the liturgy, to proximity to the holy things, etc.? All so our daughters can get to do the same thing (lest our culture be offended)? I just don't see the point. I fail to see how any of this advances the Word of God our Father and the work of the Church our mother.

Mike Baker said...

I have noticed that many of the boy-only acolyte supporters have the demographic luxury of actually having boys to serve as acolytes. This is not always the case.

What about small congregations, those with few children, and those whose boys are unfit for the duty? In many cases, female acolytes are the only option if you want to use children.

In those cases, what option do those who oppose female acolytes advocate? Do the small congregations use adult males when no young males are available? Do they refrain from using acolytes at all?

Mike Baker said...

...on another note. I wonder if the majority of the concern over female acoyltes stems from a misunderstanding / miscommunication about why we have Male-only clergy.

I hear a great deal of "behind the scenes" talk when we talk about female service. That sounds more Victorian to me than Scriptural. Is it all about having males "in the scenes?" and females "behind the sences"?. That sounds like this is not a question of leadership and teaching in the church, but of public exposure in the roles of service.

In my opinion, it should never be a question of exposure but that of authority.

If the principle that we are trying to teach is proper gender roles, what is more subordinate and service-oriented than an acoylte? I thought that was the role of women servants in the church... am I wrong? Is it just bad because people see them doing work for the Pastor during the service instead of afterwords like in the Alter Guild?

I don't buy the arguement that the child acolyte is a position of authority in the church.

I also don't buy the arguement that the acolyte grooms children for pastoral service. If that is the case, then the roles of the acolyte should be much more involved than just ceremonial on Sunday. Some churches do this and make the acolytes real servants of the church to the point of being almost mini-elders. I commend this if you can pull it off, but it is not always this way. I was an acolyte as a young boy and it didn't teach me anything other than the fact that I loved to play with fire.

Rt. Rev. Jack Bauer said...

There may be some merit in avoiding confusion, but lighting candles isn't really the administration of the means of grace by any stretch.

William Weedon said...

Goodness. Many good thoughts here that I will have to think over and ingest. Though it is common parlance to use the term acolyte I do not think we Lutherans have ever intended that in the technical sense of being one of the orders. I confess I resonate with Pastor Brown's words, yet the good counsel of the Dean of the SSP (and several others) gives me pause. I'll be thinking more about it, that's for sure. Thanks all for chiming in, and if anyone has anything more to say, feel free!

Mark said...

Quote from above:
"When acolytes and acolytesses vest in albs - they are wearing a *clerical* vestment."

I'm not making a point here, just asking a question...didn't the little white baptismal gown that babies wear, or are given, grow from (shrink from?) an alb.

Isn't an alb a sign of our baptismal dignity, the white (alba) robe in which ancient baptismal rites attest adult neophytes were clothed, emerging from the water after dying and rising with Christ, the same clothing they continued to wear during the mystagogical catechesis of the 50 days? The monastic community of which I am a part, in common with other Benedictine communities, has non-clerical lay brothers wear albs for that very reason.

If baptism isn't the source of the alb, what is?

Here I will make a point: I disagree with the assertion that "As for organists "leading the church's primary prayer" this is simply not true."

You know the old joke, Q: "Do you believe in infant baptism? A: I've SEEN it." Do I believe organists lead the church's primary prayer?

The liturgy is the church's primary prayer--we evangelical catholics make that point repeatedly--and we acknowledge in countless ways that organists lead the singing of the liturgy, our sung prayer. Again, as St Augustine reminds us, "He who sings prays twice." Denying that an organist is leading my sung prayer looks like making a distinction without a difference, or at least making a distinction in order to avoid dealing with the implications of acknowledging the actual, real liturgical leadership of the woman or man who may be sitting on the bench.

Please note that none of this, for me, leads to an argument for the ordination of women. Nor do I find Fr Weedon's initial question that led to this vigorous conversation similar to the situation with the upcoming LCMS youth event where a woman who denies the real presence will be be leading worship.

In the end, and after my questions have expanded, I find Fr Weedon's solution most amenable: "These young women and men are all catechized that our Rule of Faith, the Sacred Scriptures, prohibit any woman and also some men from serving in the Office of the Holy Ministry."

It is hard to beat Weedon's Wisdom, even if he avoids carbs.

Rt. Rev. Jack Bauer said...

There is no teaching or exercise of authority in lighting candles either.

Stole, chasuble, mark office over a white robe. White robe alone does not mark an office.

Somewhere I heard/read from Pr. Cwirla that all the saints wear white robes, but not all the saints or even all the men wear the chasuble or stole.

I'm more concerned about confirmation "stoles" which CPH still sells though they call them scarves as disposable cups now have the nomenclature of simply "plastic."

Brother Boris said...

Very interesting discussion. I side with Father Hollywood on this issue. Redeemer Fort Wayne sounds like a good model to follow.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

There's really only ONE reason to avoid girl acolytes. And it's nothing to do with whether a girl can light a candle, wear an alb, do anything else as well as a boy, or whether acolyting is a service or whether girls ought to be seen performing that service. The reason to avoid girl acolytes is that today, feminists are going to use them, and aggressively, too, as a stepping-stone toward ordination of women.

That's how it has happened in other denominations.

And that, I should think, ought to be a rather compelling warning to Lutherans.

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

REsponding to Mike Baker, why do young children, boys or girls have to do it at all? Why do elders have to do it? Why can't the pastor just do it before the service, or appoint an adult male to be a "sacristan" of sorts (like they do at Kramer Chapel). Why get stuck in a rut? Lately I have been doing all the candle lighting because the two boys that used to do it moved. The elders could do it, and that would be fine, but I certainly don't mind. Why do we clergy feel the incessant need to farm off liturgical duties to everyone else?

Past Elder said...

We pre-conciliar RC altar boys never in a million years -- well, at least until the novus ordo -- wore a bloody alb. Altar boys wore cassocks. A cassock is not a vestment at all. It is the everyday wear of the (male) clergy, often dispensed with for just a Roman collared black shirt with black coat and pants for secular (as distinct from regular, those under a regula) clergy. The connexion then of the altar boy with a potential clerical state is clear. Over the cassock, a surplice, which is of common descent from the alb, is worn.

If one would argue the implied connexion to the clergy with cassick, how much moreso with the alb, which is a liturgical vestment!

As to the derivations, it's just a Roman tunic in origin with no religious significance whatever, much like the clerical collar was originally a sweatband and nothing else, so one can carry these things beyond relevance.

All this seems like yet one more thing that was once perfectly clear to everyone and now is up for grabs. Tradition is clear. No, that's not Law. Divine Law is not the only good reason for doing something, it's just the only good reason that's divine, which does not make adiaphora Greek for The rest doesn't make any difference.

Lutheran Lucciola said...

We have a guy in his 60's do the acolyte job. No crucifer, or book-bearer, though.

Man, P-Dub, look what you started. I thought I was the only trouble-maker this week!

wmc said...

Wow! 45 comments on girl acolytes. Christendom must be secure.

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Bill Cwirla, always the cynic.

I think it is a worthwhile discussion, personally, especially considering the fact that it is such a big issue for most congregations. If a pastor puts on his SET that he is not in favor of female acolytes, he might as well forget ever getting a Call even to an otherwise conservative parish. Anymore, pastors have to leave themselves open to serve congregations whose practices are not ideal. We need to be willing to do this.

saxoniae said...

Our acolytes wear cassock and surplice and both boys and girls are allowed. It used to be for those of confirmation class age (7th grade) through high school graduation, but has been recently lowered to include 5th graders due to lack of youth members.

Our congregation didn't have any acolytes until 1972, the same year we hung an eternal flame from the chancel ceiling.