Sunday, October 26, 2008

Presiding at the Eucharist

October 26, 2008

The Diocese of Sydney in Australia has approved a motion allowing deacons to preside at celebrations of the Eucharist. This is significant for a number of reasons, one of them being that it enables women (who may not be ordained priest but may be ordained deacon) to preside in that diocese. More significant in my mind is that the resolution as passed ( also sees no impediment to lay people presiding at the Eucharist but apparently the bishop of Sydney, out of respect for his colleagues in the GAFCON movement, has said that he will not license lay people at the moment.

For many Anglicans this is a significant departure from the traditional faith and order that has defined Anglicanism and is most certainly a problem for those inclined to more ‘catholic’ views of holy orders (often the foundation for arguments against the ordination of women). This is a much more complex matter than I can deal with here, but my own instincts tend to the idea that a) this is not worth causing division over and b) that there are times when it would be an aid to the growth and health of the church if celebrations presided over by people other than presbyters could be licensed from time to time. I am thinking particularly of the development and ongoing life of certain kinds of small group within a parish for example. I share the Diocese of Sydney’s belief that there is no biblical impediment to such a move, but recognize that there are historical, institutional, organizational and ecumenical concerns that make this far from simple.

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