The Brother’s Grimm Couldn’t do Better

In the Brother’s Grimm oft told tale, The wolf knows he’s a wolf; Red Riding Hood knows he’s a wolf, and grandma does too, but the latter two are swallowed whole by the first in no time. And if you don’t see the wolf of women’s ordination is fast closing, you too will be swallowed. The Brother’s Grimm couldn’t set this up any ‘better’

In 1988, German Catholic priest, Manfred Hauke, wrote Women in the Priesthood. He said that an important push to women’s ordination began in 1968 when the Lambeth Conference in line with a 1920 controversial paper decided to include deaconesses in “Holy Orders.” “An important forward-pushing role seems to have been played by the frequent use of women assistants, lectors and acolytes as it was by the training of the two sexes in common theological seminaries” (49, fn. 15). Forward thinking Lutheran seminaries like Fort Wayne are doing the last. Forward thinking, let’s call them progressive,  Lutheran pastors have been having woman lectors and girl acolytes for years.

Later on, Hauke observes: Proponents of ordaining the Fairer Sex knew they couldn’t go right to ordaining women. No, the wolf doesn’t immediately overwhelm Red Riding Hood when he meets her on the open road. That would be too public and warn others. Likewise, with the tearing down of the Order of Creation that Lutherans have been engaged in ever since 1969 can’t be done in toto. Hauke says that a modest starting point was girl acolytes and female pastoral assistants with clerical duties. Female deacons were regarded as especially promising entrance door (62). Once more seminaries lead the way.

Why do I write now? From the get-go I’ve said that if acolyting was merely about candle-lighting then let’s all take a turn. But if, as it was historically, is about introducing people to the pastoral office, it better be only men.

The word acolyte comes from the Greek akolouthos which means ‘follow’. It can be used outside of the church for an assistant or even a follower of, but in the historic usage of the church, it’s someone who attends a priest and assists at the altar.

Until January 1, 1973 an acolyte was one of the 4 Minor Orders (i.e. clerical grade, i.e. clergy ranks) below the rank of deacon in Rome (Oxford Dict. Of Word Hist., 7). Okay but that took place 50 years ago. Why bring this up now?

It takes a long, long time for the other shoe to drop particularly if you’re listening for it. I’m convinced very few pastors under 50 have had their ear to the ground at all. The other shoe dropped January 11, 2021 Pope Francis changed canon law so that women can be admitted to the Church’s formal ministries of lector and acolyte (

In my version of the Brother’s Grimm, Red Riding Hood is named Little Red Top (in others she is Little Goldenhood), and the wolf does swallow Grandma and Red whole, but a woodsman comes and rescues them by cutting open his belly and filling it with rocks. When he awakes, the wolf is too weighed down to escape.

This will how it will be with those who’ve swallowed the rocks of female acolytes, co-ed theological education, women lectors and/or Communion assistants.


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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