As if things weren't complicated enough

The Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, the Most Rev. Peter Jensen, is said to be moving forward with plans to institute lay presidency of the Holy Eucharist as an integral part of the ministry of the Diocese of Sydney. Significantly, the plan is to do this under the cover of existing canons, designed for others purposes, so that past legislative defeated by the rest of the Anglican Church of Australia can be ignored. This way he can also avoid the scrutiny of the other Bishops in that Church.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that a committee of church officials want the Archbishop to shepherd this innovation under the guise of "empowering the laity."

The timing of this move has caused consternation in the rest of the Anglican Communion as well as the Anglican Church of Australia, especially among the various groups trying to unite against the full inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians in other parts of the Communion.

The tactics should seem familiar to those who have watched the organized response of the Global South and their allied groups in North America.

The Appellate Tribunal, the [Anglican Church of Australia's] highest court, has ruled there is no constitutional impediment to lay presidency and the national church was able to authorise lay or diaconal eucharistic presidency but that it required approval by a canon to the national church's general assembly.

In a report to the diocesan's parliament, Dr Woodhouse [principal of Moore Theological College] argues that legal permission may already exist in the form of two canons that permit lay people to assist the priest, or minister can authorise certain forms of service "from time to time".

The Morning Herald points out that

...(this) fresh attempt to have the Sydney Diocese to go it alone on lay presidency risks not only antagonising other high-ranking Anglicans - especially since the General Synod refused in 2004 to condone the practice - but sets the diocese on a collision course with other conservative evangelical dioceses in the Anglican communion with which it is allied in its opposition to same-sex blessings and gay bishops

The Archbishop prohibits the ordination of women and sees this move as a way of helping small congregations become established without having to obtain the services of clergy. In addition, Jensen views preaching from Scripture to be at least equal, if not more important, than the sacraments, and since laity can in certain circumstances baptize and preach, it follows that they should also be able to preside at the Eucharist. Proponents say that nothing in scripture prohibits the practice.

Conservatives in this church call it "poor timing for a bad idea."
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Hat tip to the blog Covenant Communion for the pointers.

Comments (1)

It's fun reading the horror among readers of TitusOneNine at Archbishop Jensen's supposed plan to institute lay presidency at the eucharist. Those with a long memory (me, for one) will remember a distinguished New Zealand theologian arguing at the 1963 Anglican Congress that bishops, possessing the plenitude of the church's ministry, have as much authority to license temporary priests as to ordain permanent priests. I thought he was pretty persuasive. Indeed priests are just bishops' stand-ins. I'd argue that the ministry of deacons is more Bible-based and closer to the heart of what we Christians are about. I wish we Anglicans weren't so nervous about the permanent diaconate.

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