Bosco Peters writes on his blog Liturgy about the proposal to institute lay presidency of the eucharist in the Diocese of Sydney of the Anglican Church in Australia.
I have written about lay presidency of the Eucharist previously. You can find one of my blog posts about lay presidency here. The publication of Sydney Anglican The Lord’s Supper in Human Hands – Epilogue (click to download PDF) makes a revisit possibly worthwhile. If you haven’t read my earlier post, that background may be worth a visit, even though some of it will be repeated here.
The context of Sydney diocese’s advocating of lay presidency is the pressing of an anti-catholic theology and practice. There is nothing more sacred than the Eucharist as the heart of catholicism. Sydney Anglicans are forbidden such “popish” practices as wearing a chasuble, adding water to the wine,… if they could get rid of the connection between priesthood and Eucharist they would have removed a central piece of the catholic hardware on which Anglicanism runs.
There is also the understanding that the sacrament is a “symbolic preaching of the gospel”. Those who are not bishops or priests are allowed to preach the gospel (but not preside at the sacrament). The perception is that this elevates the importance of the sacrament over the preaching of the gospel – in other words, the symbolic preaching of the gospel is more important than the literal preaching of the gospel. [This also assumes a ranked understanding of orders where one order is "more important" than another].
“However, if unordained people are permitted to preach, with all the importance the New Testament places on that function, why are they forbidden to administer the Lord’s Supper? By retaining such a prohibition, do we not elevate the Lord’s Supper above preaching the word of God?” (page 47 of The Lord’s Supper in Human Hands – Epilogue)
Sydney’s ecclesiology is congregational rather than diocesan. Anglican ecclesiology is diocesan. The primary community is the diocese, the primary leader is the bishop. Sydney appears, from the text, to be moving towards one presbyter per congregation.
“The presbyter, as incumbent, is the leader of the congregation, who oversees (or ‘presides over’, if we were to use this term) the congregation. All ministry that the deacon performs is by way of assistance to the presbyter. The deacon is responsible to the presbyter and his or her ministry is in that sense derivative.” (page 28)
has no sense that the presider presides over the whole Eucharistic liturgy
has no sense that the primary Eucharistic community is the diocese led by the bishop
What Sydney is doing, with its congregational ecclesiology, is transferring ministry appropriate to a bishop to the presbyter (one per congregation), and, hence, transferring ministry appropriate to a presbyter to the diaconate.
neglects the understanding of the diaconate as an “outward-facing” ministry
Let us put to one side that Sydney Anglicans also struggle with women bishops, “local priests” (whatever they are) and non-stipendiary priests (page 25).
Read the rest here