November 21, 2014

August 12, 2010


Australian Church Legal Tribunal Rules Against Diaconal Administration

sydneyanglicans.net have a helpful summary of the situation…

An Anglican judicial panel has disagreed with Sydney’s Synod on the introduction of diaconal administration of the Lord’s Supper.

The Diocese of Sydney Synod in 2008 overwhelmingly agreed there was no impediment to persons other than a presbyter administering Holy Communion.

The national church’s Appellate Tribunal - consisting of three bishops and four senior lawyers - has given an advisory opinion both on lay administration, which is not sanctioned in the Diocese of Sydney and on administration by deacons, which is practised.

Since the 2008 Synod resolution, some Sydney parishes have allowed deacons to administer the Lord Supper where a presbyter is not able to do so.

Lay administration is neither authorised nor sanctioned in the Diocese of Sydney.

Although both forms are quite distinct, they have often been confused in the debate.

The tribunal’s advisory opinion jointly considered lay and diaconal administration and concluded that a general synod canon would be required to implement either practice.

A previous opinion had declared that lay and diaconal administration of the Lord’s Supper was consistent with Scripture, the Book of Common Prayer, and the 39 Articles, which are the bedrock of the National Constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia.

The matter was referred to the tribunal in 2009.

The tribunal was not asked to consider the theological merits of persons other than a presbyter administering the Lord’s Supper, given a previous opinion which endorsed its doctrinal validity.

Instead, it considered only legal argument.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Sydney says “The advisory opinion of the Tribunal will doubtless receive attention at the Diocesan Synod to be held in October.”

Doubtless. We’ll bring you news of that response later in the year as it happens.


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40 comments

I am confused.  What is meant by ‘administration’?  Does it mean consecration of the elements?  If so I can understand this decision.  However, for some time in the CofE, we have had Deacons doing everything in the Communion Service save for consecration, which has meant that they use pre-consecrated wine and bread.  If the latter is what is meant by administration, I find it hard to understand the objection.

[1] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 8-12-2010 at 09:08 AM · [top]

yes pm. In this context “administration” means everything including consecration.

Sydney Diocese took the view that there was neither theological nor legal impediment to deacons acting in the same was as presbyters in this matter. The tribunal appears to disagree on the legal front.

[2] Posted by David Ould on 8-12-2010 at 09:13 AM · [top]

PM- We have established in previous threads that the Australians use the 1662 definition of “administer” which indeed includes what we refer to as “consecration” and not just “distribution.” So they are indeed talking about the blessing of the host and wine, in addition to the duties commonly assigned to a deacon or a lay eucharistic minister (not sure if that would be the same nomenclature used in the CoE, or even some dioceses in the US- but the reference is to a lay person assisting at the Eucharist as chalice bearer, or who in some cases might take the consecrated elements to those unable to attend a Eucharist service).

[3] Posted by tjmcmahon on 8-12-2010 at 09:19 AM · [top]

Don’t feel bad, PageantMaster.  I had the same question.  I thought administration is distributing the elements and not necessarily consecrating them.  I stand corrected. 

Unfortunately, I did not read the report that came out when the theological study was done on lay presidency (if someone has a link, I’d appreciate it!).  However, it seems from this article that the theological report said that there is no biblical prohibition against non-presbyters administrating (there, I’m using my new word in a sentence) the Eucharist.  This new study was to test the canonical legality of deacons administering the Eucharist.  This canonical report says that, as the canon stands now, it would be non-canonical or illegal for a deacon to administer the Eucharist.  I don’t think we can infer any infighting from this article.  The article is merely reporting the findings of the second study as compared with the first in brief.  I have not followed this subject as I wanted to when it first came up, so I am not as informed as I should be.  Nevertheless, I hope that helps to lay those snakes straight for you, South Voice. 

As for the subject itself, I am intrigued.  If deacons, and indeed the laity, can consecrate and distribute the Eucharist, that would go a long way toward realizing the priesthood of the believer and open up new ministry possibilities.  I understand it would also open a can of worms as most lay people do not have the specialized training that clergy have.  So, if diaconal or lay presidency is to be considered realistically, there would also have to be a comprehensive training program for those wishing to be licensed Eucharistic ministers.  It would be interesting to see how that might work.

[4] Posted by Modest Mystic on 8-12-2010 at 10:36 AM · [top]

Whatever it’s called, so-called diaconal administration of what some might call the Holy Eucharist can be canonical or uncanonical, defined, redefined, and so forth as an ecclesial body so decides. The constant testimony of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church throughout the ages has never recognized its validity, and as a matter of fact has forbidden it. This kind of theological revisionism by Protestants calling themselves Anglican is as wrongheaded, arrogant, and destructive in the life of the Church as anything TEC did or does.

[5] Posted by A Senior Priest on 8-12-2010 at 04:44 PM · [top]

#5, why would those who might want to explore this possibility be “wrongheaded, arrogant, and destructive”?  Revisionism?  Be careful there.  I think your list of descriptions ought to drop the assumptions of motive and include plain old ignorance.  I’ll admit it.  I’m ignorant of what the “testimony of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church throughout the ages” asserts regarding the biblicity of lay or diaconal presidency.  Please enlighten us.  Show me the relevant passages, and I will study them.

[6] Posted by Modest Mystic on 8-12-2010 at 05:11 PM · [top]

[6] Modest Mystic

Show me the relevant passages, and I will study them.

Since there isn’t even a sacramental priesthood set forth in the New Testament, it’s going to be hard to find Scriptural passages that support the functions of a sacramental priesthood.  The institution is instead derived from a vaporous cloud of the alleged oral teachings of Christ and the Apostles - teachings without content or provenance.  Please understand that this doctrinal accretion is not - repeat NOT - revisionism.  It’s more like an acorn that grows into an oak tree.  The seed of the doctrine was present at the beginning, and was only progressively revealed through the authority of the church.  This is a totally different argument than the argument all those revisionists are using to legitimize homosexuality.  Now, let’s please return to bashing Protestants for being “wrongheaded, arrogant, and destructive.”

carl

[7] Posted by carl on 8-12-2010 at 05:36 PM · [top]

Senior Priest’s attitude is a good example of why Sydney has gone the way that it has. It has always been strongly evangelical, but until the last 20-30 years it has stayed firmly within the mainstreanm of traditional Anglican practice. However, in the 1970s and 1980s, when Sydney was under assault by liberals (spearheaded by the Movement for Ordination of Women), we noticed a distinct lack of enthusiasm on the part of overseas Anglicans to encourage or assist us. Essentialy, they seemed to view evangelical/traditional/anglo-catholic differences as the REAL differences, and liberalism as just a side-show.

Sydney fought its battle, against the same creeping liberalism that has devastated TEC, essentially alone. It comprehensively won that battle. After the dust settled, a common feeling among Sydney laity and clergy was “Who needs other Anglicans? All they want to do is whinge because we don’t use chasubles, and they don’t care about ordination of women, marginalising of scripture, acceptance of homosexuality in the priesthood etc”. (I am not saying that this was either fair or reasonable, at least in respect to some overseas Anglicans, but its what many people in Sydney thought).

The strong push towards lay presidency in Sydney Diocese is I believe the product of sydney’s isolationism in recent decades, and therefore at least partly due to the way in which many overseas Anglican dioceses treated Sydney at a time when liberalism was not really taken seriously by most Anglicans.

Fortunately, ++Peter Jensen has led a push to change attitudes within Sydney Diocese, to value our relationship with the rest of the (orthodox) Anglican Communion. As that concept takes hold, I believe we will see the momentum towards lay presidency in Sydney recede.

Doctrinally, as Carl correctly points out, it is very difficult to find evidence one way or another for the Apostolic or even sub-Apostolic practice in regard to celebrating the Eucharist. Acts 2:46 implies that it was done in homes, which would have made it virtually impossible for the Apostles to conduct it.

Be that as it may, there is no point in fighting over this. The Anglican Communion is becoming more important in Sydney, and I believe that as this process continues, so we will see that keeping the presidency of Holy Communion restricted to Elders (or “priests” as the BCP terms them) is the best course to maintain unity and avoid unecessary offence to our brethren.

[8] Posted by MichaelA on 8-12-2010 at 06:39 PM · [top]

Bishop Glenn Davies (from Sydney) who appeared before the tribunal to argue for diaconal administration has said that the tribunal’s earlier ruling on Women Bishops was based on what the words in churches legislation said, rather than the intent of the authors at the time. (That ruling, rather than a general synod vote, lead to women bishops in Australia.)
In this ruling the tribunal has accepted argument about the intent of the legislation on deacons, in particular that since the church has not allowed deacons since the council of Nicea to administer communion it was unlikely that that was what the General Synod had intended with its legislation. IMHO it is odd that the tribunal did not accept that argument with respect to women bishops.

[9] Posted by obadiahslope on 8-12-2010 at 07:03 PM · [top]

#8 MichaelA - Certainly the 1662 BCP Communion Service uses the word “Minister” interchangeably with “Priest”, if that makes you more comfortable.  “Elder” always sounds, well, superannuated.

Interesting reflection from you on Sydney’s journey and food for thought.  Thank you.

As far as I can make out from David Ould, one of the issues for Sydney has been its policy of not ordaining priests unless they have a parish for them, which must be difficult for the supply of priests for presiding at Communion.  The simple answer, I suppose would be to ordain as priests some of the deacons.

[10] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 8-12-2010 at 07:04 PM · [top]

MichaelA (and others),

First, let me confess to being in “senior priest’s” camp on this one.  But in an ecumenical spirit (and because, this issue aside, I am quite thankful for the prayers and support for ACNA from the Sydney diocese), let me try to explain why so many of us find the attitude of many in Sydney difficult to understand (and I mean “understand” in the sense of “comprehend”, not in the sense of “agree with”).
Many areas of the Anglican Communion face difficulties in finding “enough presbyters to go around.”  The usual solution to this is to utilize retired priests in a given area, or, when necessary, to ordain “local priests”- usually those in another profession, or perhaps retired, who have been given a modicum of training in the sacraments, pastoral practice and theology.  One assumes (I hope correctly) that the supporters of lay presidency envision similar training for those who would be lay presiders, so I don’t see the training cost as substantially different between ordained volunteers and laity performing the same sacramental tasks.
Granted, there are places (like N Michigan) where this has gone completely overboard (20% of the ASA of the local TEC parish are ordained volunteers- 4 “priests” and 3 “deacons”).  Such egregious ordinations are every bit as dangerous as lay presidency, in my own view.  However, I do know places where such local ordination has relieved the clergy shortage.
It seems, for some reason, that those who support lay presidency in Sydney reject the idea of ordination of trained volunteers, and this is where I have a “disconnect” in my understanding.  The bishop has it within his power to ordain as many presbyters as needed.  Is there something peculiar to Australian law that precludes this (such as, do you by law have to pay a presbyter a certain salary, regardless of whether his congregation is 1000 in downtown Sydney or 6 at a station in the bush, or something that would make it financially impossible to have enough presbyters for all the small congregations)?  Certainly, in most places outside Australia, a class of “volunteer presbyters” could be created with authority limited to Eucharistic and other sacramental functions.
In any case, it would be most helpful to the discussion if we could understand the apparent objection to the ordination (to the presbytery) of all those who preside at the Eucharist.

[11] Posted by tjmcmahon on 8-12-2010 at 07:07 PM · [top]

LOL my feelings are not hurt in the least, my friends. I love this kind of conversation, since at least it’s honest. smile Did anyone take Church history at any seminary, ever? Admittedly, my Patristics and Liturgics professor was Massey Shepherd, but surely someone knows what I’m talking about. Start with reading the authentic letters of Ignatius of Antioch which refer to bishops, priests, and deacons which date certainly from the second or third generation of Christians. Did the Church go off track even then, only to be restored by some sixteenth century ideologues and their successors? You should then go on to the letters of Clement of Rome, who was authentically the disciple of Ss Peter and Paul. The vaporous cloud referred to above simply does not exist in this context. Historical fact is easily arrived at if one actually looks and has eyes to see. As to “the biblicity of lay or diaconal presidency” one cannot derive it from the text of course, since it was not relevant to the issues being addressed at the time, and was therefore not discussed by the authors. Everyone on this thread knows that the Bible as we now know it (well, the NT at least) became authoritative in the Christian world through canonization by the Ecumenical Councils. If the canon of the NT had not been closed by the Councils we would also have the additional pseudo-Gospels of Barnabas, Peter, Thomas, and the like, as well as numerous other books, gnostic and so forth to deal with. Those very same Councils made all sorts of decisions as regards the orders of ministry to which the Roman, Orthodox, Anglican, and many other Christian bodies still adhere. Just as the TEC is rightly condemned for revising the settled doctrine of the Church as regards suitability of candidates for ordained ministry, so this mere one diocese (Sydney) has no authority whatsoever to presume to change the sacramental functions of the ordained according to its liking. Perhaps I’m making a false assumption, but I presume we are classical Anglicans here, and not pseudo ones. Sola Scriptura is contrary to not only Anglican theological tradition but to the teaching of the Church from its early times. Arrogance? Yes. Just like TEC. Revisionism? The thing speaks for itself - they are revising the settled doctrine of ordained ministry to their liking. Wrongheaded. Yes, in that a tiny group of people in an out of the way province of the Anglican Communion is presuming to change the settled doctrine of the Church, just like TEC.

[12] Posted by A Senior Priest on 8-12-2010 at 07:20 PM · [top]

I believe David Ould has also suggested that preventing Deacons from presiding at Communion is inconsistent with letting Deacons preach.  It tends to elevate Sacrament over Word. 

carl

[13] Posted by carl on 8-12-2010 at 07:22 PM · [top]

Carl-
I would suggest that if a deacon presides at the Eucharist, then there is so little distinction between deacon and priest that they might just as well ordain all the deacons into the priesthood rather than create another schism.  Again, what I am missing is the driving necessity for either diaconal or lay presidency of the Eucharist- why it is preferable to ordination of those ministers to the presbytery if they are going to be presiders.

[14] Posted by tjmcmahon on 8-12-2010 at 08:29 PM · [top]

#11 TJ

The bishop has it within his power to ordain as many presbyters as needed.  Is there something peculiar to Australian law that precludes this (such as, do you by law have to pay a presbyter a certain salary, regardless of whether his congregation is 1000 in downtown Sydney or 6 at a station in the bush, or something that would make it financially impossible to have enough presbyters for all the small congregations)?  Certainly, in most places outside Australia, a class of “volunteer presbyters” could be created with authority limited to Eucharistic and other sacramental functions.

I wonder if our cousins in New South Wales would find it useful to have flying priests to serve small remote churches.  It could be organised like the Flying Doctor Service, and the priest could be parachuted in by plane or helicopter as needed, and then whisked off to the next service.

Alternatively the priest could consecrate wine and bread en route which could then be parachuted to the waiting congregations and their deacons, if time is short.

I think that a Flying Priest service would be a useful development from Flying Bishops and indeed Flying Nuns.

[15] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 8-12-2010 at 08:40 PM · [top]

Mind you TJ and A Senior Priest would probably approve of my scheme as the ultimate way of elevating the host.

...we are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from under thy helicopter…

[16] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 8-12-2010 at 08:50 PM · [top]

Obadiahslope wrote,

IMHO it is odd that the tribunal did not accept that argument with respect to women bishops. 

Well put. This sort of hypocrisy is rife in much of the Anglican Church in Australia, which is outwardly traditional or even anglo-catholic, but thoroughly liberal in orientation.

The only reason ACA have not gone as far down the same path as TEC is because there are pockets of orthodoxy in Australia which are strong and wealthy. There are many in (evangelical) Sydney or (A-C) Murray who would love to start planting orthodox congregations in liberal dioceses.

So, the liberals keep the peace, somewhat. Fear is a wonderful incitement to maintain a facade of godliness.

[17] Posted by MichaelA on 8-12-2010 at 08:56 PM · [top]

Tjmcmahon and Pageantmaster,

The questions you ask are pertinent and I can’t answer them adequately. I know there are a number of legal complications and I don’t want to comment in detail when I am not across the detail.

Despite my comments above, I remain a Sydneyite in many ways, in particular that I tend to ignore events outside Sydney, which all occur in horrible god-forsaken places with uncouth names like Melbourne and Brisbane. Even some upstart country town called Canberra.

Flying Priest - not a bad idea. Bush Church Aid Society already does something like that, and Sydney helps to bankroll it, FWIW.

[18] Posted by MichaelA on 8-12-2010 at 09:04 PM · [top]

#18 MichealA - I did also wonder whether the history of Australia had something to do with the independet mindedness of the churches in each state.  From what I remember the push for closer federation among the States who had mainly been linked by sea, only started to gain ground after the federal government was given tax-raising powers to cover the costs of military expenditure in WWI?

[19] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 8-12-2010 at 09:13 PM · [top]

A Senior Priest at #12,

1. I am not too concerned about patristic sources on this issue since as I wrote above I don’t really have a dog in the fight.

However, I am intrigued by your rather glib refences to Ignatius and Clement. Do they actually say that Holy Communion can only ever be administered by a presbyteros or episkopos? You might correct me on this, but offhand I don’t recall that they go into that much detail (and BTW I am not arguing that absence of evidence is evidence of absence, just curious as to what you were referring to).

2. You wrote:

Everyone on this thread knows that the Bible as we now know it (well, the NT at least) became authoritative in the Christian world through canonization by the Ecumenical Councils.

I am sure you know that most Anglicans today don’t believe that, nor did the Anglican Reformers! Of course you are welcome to believe it yourself.

3. You wrote:

If the canon of the NT had not been closed by the Councils we would also have the additional pseudo-Gospels of Barnabas, Peter, Thomas, and the like, as well as numerous other books, gnostic and so forth to deal with.

No, the closing of the NT canon was done long before any of the councils, as was the exclusion of the gnostic works.  The councils derive their authority from scripture, not the other way around.

Perhaps I’m making a false assumption, but I presume we are classical Anglicans here, and not pseudo ones. Sola Scriptura is contrary to not only Anglican theological tradition but to the teaching of the Church from its early times.

I can’t comment about *we*, however *I* am a classical Anglican, not pseudo, and I also believe in “sola scriptura”! Many other classical Anglicans like Thomas Cranmer, Matthew Parker, George Whitfield have done the same. Do make sure however that you know what the phrase means - I find many who rail against it don’t actually understand it. 

Arrogance? Yes. Just like TEC. Revisionism? The thing speaks for itself - they are revising the settled doctrine of ordained ministry to their liking. Wrongheaded. Yes, in that a tiny group of people in an out of the way province of the Anglican Communion is presuming to change the settled doctrine of the Church, just like TEC.

Hmmm, Sydney just like TEC? I think I can safely say after the Jerusalem conference in 2008 that most Anglicans don’t think so.

As for your other charges (which finally get us back on-topic!), they may be justified. But its not as simple as you make out. Nor is this issue restricted to Sydney alone.

Nor has Sydney actually made most of the decisions that you assume it has. There are certainly proposals for Sydney to do certain things, which may or may not come to pass - some people were confident in the 1980s that proposals for female priests were going to be adopted in Sydney also, but they never went beyond the proposal stage.

[20] Posted by MichaelA on 8-12-2010 at 09:30 PM · [top]

[12] A Senior Priest

The vaporous cloud referred to above simply does not exist in this context. Historical fact is easily arrived at if one actually looks and has eyes to see.

I have no doubt that you could cite any number of ECFs into whose writings you would anachronistically read the false doctrines overthrown by the Reformation.  But this serves only to emphasize the complete lack of any Scriptural support for those doctrines.  The need to cite Clement means you are incapable of citing John, or Paul, or Peter, or James, or Luke.  And for good reason. 

Sacred Tradition is not sourced in the words of the ECFs.  It is sourced in the (alleged) oral teachings of Christ and the Apostles.  Can you tell me even one word spoken by Christ that is not found in the Gospels?  One word of an Apostle?  Since you can’t, (and I know you can’t)  then what is the provenance of your Sacred Tradition?  You know neither its content nor its source.  And no amount of appeal to Clement will let you separate the musings of Clement from these alleged oral teachings.  Clement did not write Scripture.

Everyone on this thread knows that the Bible as we now know it (well, the NT at least) became authoritative in the Christian world through canonization by the Ecumenical Councils.

  I know no such thing.  The authority of Scripture is sourced in the giver of Scripture, and not in the church.  Men recognized Scripture as Scripture long before there was nay church to ‘authorize’ it.  The caveat “(well, the NT at least)” is telling because the rules you establish for the NT cannot be applied to the OT.  And yet Jesus held men accountable for knowing the Scriptures and obeying it.

Did the Church go off track even then, only to be restored by some sixteenth century ideologues and their successors?

The church was certainly far off track by the 16th century, having effectively re-established OT temple practices dressed up in NT clothes.  The Gospel the Reformers rejected was a false Gospel, and it deserved to be overthrown.

carl

[21] Posted by carl on 8-12-2010 at 09:33 PM · [top]

Nicely put, carl! It’s just that you’re a Protestant and I’m a Catholic, both in the same denomination (if one may use that designation). That is very clear. My question was not what the reformers supposedly restored, but do you (in the plural) really believe the Church went off-track from the second or third generation onward (something the Mormons -echoing some Protestant views- hold), or not? Admittedly, the Roman Church needed to make some corrections. The Reformation isn’t what I was writing about. The clearly defined sacramental ministries of bishops, priests, and deacons is accurately set forth in the earliest extra-Biblical sources, and accurately reflect what was present in immediately post Apostolic times. Either the Church had departed from the Truth by 90 AD or not.

[22] Posted by A Senior Priest on 8-12-2010 at 09:53 PM · [top]

Can you tell me even one word spoken by Christ that is not found in the Gospels?


Within the NT itself:

1. Acts 20: 35, “...remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’”.

2. Revelation

[23] Posted by driver8 on 8-12-2010 at 10:49 PM · [top]

[23] driver8

You are correct.  I meant to write ‘Scripture.’

carl

[24] Posted by carl on 8-12-2010 at 10:52 PM · [top]

I don’t want to get involved too much here but Carl I want to know what you mean by tradition.

Is the list of books that form Scripture a part of what you understand by “tradition” (because such a list is not part of what you understand by “Scripture” is it?)

[25] Posted by driver8 on 8-12-2010 at 11:13 PM · [top]

The Reformation was tragic in that it was caused
by severe corruption in the Catholic Church.
It had absolutely nothing to do with false
doctrine, since the Catholic Church teaches the Eternal
Truth given the apostles by Christ himself.  As a result
of the Reformation, the Catholic Church was forced to
clean itself up, but by then Protestantism had taken
on a life of its own.  Those who imagined that
Catholic teaching was false (or who simply preferred
to figure out their own religious beliefs) were not about
to return to the Church of Rome!  And that, my good
Christian brothers and sisters, is one of the biggest
mistakes ever made by us sinful human beings
in Jesus’ own Church.

[26] Posted by PaulA. on 8-12-2010 at 11:52 PM · [top]

I have to agree with MichaelA (#20) about the closing of the Canon and that the councils derive their authority from Scripture, not the other way around.  If you read the decrees of the ancient councils they were careful to show that their doctrines were grounded in and wholly in agreement with Scripture.  Also, though it is surprising to many Anglicans today, the concept of Sola Scriptura (if not the actual term) can be found in classical Anglican writings and formularies, such as Articles VI, VII, VIII, and XX.

If you take the writings of Abp. Cranmer and other Anglican Reformers, they will postulate a thesis, then show with pages of Scripture references that their thesis is in agreement with Scripture. They will then follow with several more pages citing the Councils and the early Fathers to show that they are interpreting Scripture in a way that is consistent with the teaching of the undivided Church.  It is not a violation of the principle of Sola Scriptura to treat the Councils and the Fathers as a guide to interpretation, so that one does not fall into a misinterpretation, or “private interpretation,” or novel, or eccentric interpretation.

Article XXI, “Of the Authority of General Councils” says that “And when they [Councils] be gathered together, (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God,) they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of holy Scripture.”  So while even the Councils themselves are to be tested by Scripture, the decisions of those Councils, having stood the test of time and the consensus of the Church certainly carry great weight.  And when the Councils speak on matters of order and discipline that pertain to the growth of the Church following the closing of the Canon of the New Testament, they shouldn’t be ignored as just antiquated opinions, as those we think of as revisionists are eager to do, not only with tradition but with Scripture itself. 

But here is where I agree with A Senior Priest (#12): Revising the teaching and practice of the Church is revisionism, even if it isn’t the liberal revisionism in matters of faith and morals we so often see today.  Even though we can argue the relative importance of each category, we cannot, on principle, criticize anarchy in faith and morals and simply disregard anarchy in matters of order and discipline.  I know some will take exception to my characterizing Sydney’s proposed actions as anarchy, given that they take such pains to ground everything in Scripture.  But to say that there is no bar to lay presidency because there is nothing against it in Scripture—when Scripture says precious little about many matters of order and discipline, is so reckless as to invite such a characterization, IMHO.

[27] Posted by ToAllTheWorld on 8-13-2010 at 02:18 AM · [top]

Hmmm, okay, now we have evangelicals, anglo-catholics and roman catholics all in the same small room. Cosy…

Getting back to Sydney, Pageantmaster at #19 wrote:

#18 MichealA - I did also wonder whether the history of Australia had something to do with the independet mindedness of the churches in each state.  From what I remember the push for closer federation among the States who had mainly been linked by sea, only started to gain ground after the federal government was given tax-raising powers to cover the costs of military expenditure in WWI?

Your terminology is a little out, “federation” refers to the political act that unified all the states into one country in 1901. But I understand what you mean and I think there is a lot of truth in it. “The tyranny of distance” has been a factor in every facet of Australian life.

But differences between the dioceses were apparent way back in the 19th century. For example, there was a major scandal in about 1840-1850 over the Oxford movement, with various figures in each area for and against (come to think of it, there was only one diocese for the whole of Australia at that time, but the seeds of difference were already sown!)

Yet paradoxically I think there was also a lot more unity in other ways than we have now (e.g. the way all the archbishops got together to hush up the Gough scandal in the ‘60s!)

[28] Posted by MichaelA on 8-13-2010 at 02:46 AM · [top]

Oops, my initial sentence in #28 was not directed at Dean Munday - I hadn’t seen his post when typing it!

Dean, thanks for your comment and I largely agree with your comments about Church Councils and sola scriptura.

Re your last paragraph, I suggest that some active engagement by orthodox non-Australian Anglicans with Diocese of Sydney would be helpful. We have been isolationist for about 30 years now (not by choice, at least initially), which is a complete generation and this has adverse effects on how any group behaves and thinks.

I don’t think you need to do much convincing on ++Jensen about the need to avoid steps that would cause a unity problem among the orthodox. But there are plenty of other influential people in Sydney (and many of these are laity) who need reminding that they actually do have friends in the wider communion and need to be thinking about the needs of the whole body.

[29] Posted by MichaelA on 8-13-2010 at 03:08 AM · [top]

#27 ToAllTheWorld:

But here is where I agree with A Senior Priest (#12): Revising the teaching and practice of the Church is revisionism, even if it isn’t the liberal revisionism in matters of faith and morals we so often see today. 

Speaking as another ‘Sydney’ guy with sympathies for where MichaelA is coming from, this will only convince Sydney that it must do this.

Sydney, like evangelicalism generally, considers the Reformation very important.  If all revisions of teaching and practice are ‘revisionism’ irrespective of whether they are an attempt to return to the word of God or an attempt to bring things ‘up to date’ then the Anglican Communion should not exist, and the Reformation was sin.  If that’s what at stake here, then Sydney simply will not be talked down from this move.  Because it will never agree with Catholicism that the gospel of justification by grace and apart from works should not have been articulated.

Even though we can argue the relative importance of each category, we cannot, on principle, criticize anarchy in faith and morals and simply disregard anarchy in matters of order and discipline.  I know some will take exception to my characterizing Sydney’s proposed actions as anarchy, given that they take such pains to ground everything in Scripture.  But to say that there is no bar to lay presidency because there is nothing against it in Scripture—when Scripture says precious little about many matters of order and discipline, is so reckless as to invite such a characterization, IMHO.

And again, this simply strengthens the conviction of those who want to press ahead with lay presidency come-what-may.  Scripture has nothing to say about whether we should have a three-fold order, married clergy, communion in two kinds for the laity, or eat meat in Lent.  And so the English Reformation considered itself free to adopt the three-fold order as compatible with Scripture and reflecting ancient tradition.  The silence opened up a freedom for the Church of England to arrange its affairs differently from other Protestant Churches on the Continent without rejecting their validity either. 

But it also rejected the idea that the Church had the authority to bind Christian consciences and ministry by speaking where Scripture was silent: requiring celibacy, limiting which emblem was consumed, restricting what could be eaten when.  The silence of Scripture was not to be filled with the chatter of Church leaders.

Behind this move by Sydney is an important conviction about the freedom of the Church and the believer to be bound only by the Word of God and not by every decision and decree from human authorities, however well intentioned.

To call that ‘anarchy’ and ‘reckless’ just encourages evangelicals to think that this really is a hill that has to be fought and died over after all.

[30] Posted by Badders on 8-13-2010 at 03:49 AM · [top]

Badders (and also MichaelA and others)-
I think we all need to see the Reformation as having had both positive and negative impacts on the Church (the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church).  In a positive sense, it brought to light the ways in which the Roman Church had erred from its own doctrine, and that in some sense the then-recent councils were compounding the errors.  Although it took several hundred years, the (Roman) Catholic Church of today is substantially reformed (although not Reformed) from the version of the 16th Century.  There is no http://www.indulgence.com (oops, it lit up, maybe there IS, but it does not belong to the Catholic Church), and recent Popes have not been giving red hats to their minor children, or for that matter, have not been fathering children.
The original intent of the Reformers was indeed the reformation of the whole Church, and not just a little piece of it in this or that corner of Europe.  I think Calvin, Luther and Cramner weep over the fact that 25% of Christianity has voluntarily divided itself into dozens of separate denominations.  It seems to me that it is our task to begin to reverse that trend, lest we in the West eventually become 500,000,000 churches of one.
At the same time, of course, the Church must maintain standards of doctrine and order.  Anglicans may argue over whether to accept the first four Councils of the undivided Church, or five, or six.  But I think we must consider long and hard the implications of accepting practices that are clearly at odds with the ecclesiology of the Church at the time of those Councils.  While we can argue over specifics of the Apostolic period, because we don’t have a lot of evidence- Peter did not leave us a webpage showing the orders of the various clergy in Rome circa 50AD- the structure of orders at the time of Nicea is pretty clear.
Strictly speaking, from an Anglo Catholic point of view, women presiding at the Eucharist is a form of lay presidency (an priest of my long acquaintance refers to WO as a “fantasy”).  And this forms a substantial part of the Anglo Catholic objection to the practice.  And I don’t want to go any farther down that particular road, lest the Commenatrix rise up in anger against me.
  I do have a sympathy for the problem of isolation and distance, being the only Anglo Catholic for 200 miles (in the US, there might be some on the Canadian side of the border, closer).  Had to travel 250 miles to have a chat with the bishop (and he was traveling farther).  Time zones alone make it difficult to communicate with folks in Australia.  However, I cannot see isolation as an excuse to change doctrine.  The literature exists and is readily available, even if it means several weeks of delivery time.  In the modern day, communication is almost instantaneous.  The Church in a given place can be self sufficient without “making it up” as it goes along.
  The orders of ministry and rubrics of the BCP are inherent to and defining of Anglicanism.  Should Sydney elect to pursue lay ordination, it will remain Christian.  But it will no longer be Anglican.  To institute lay presidency would divide Sydney from the rest of the Communion sacramentally.  This may, of course, be a moot point, because it is an open question, at this time, whether the Communion will survive TEC’s determination to destroy it, and the Standing Committee’s overthrow of its ecclesial and political structure.  In some weeks or months, we may all be separate churches, some linked by mutual communion and other not.  But lay presidency would guarantee such a future for Sydney, and likely hasten such a future for the balance of the Communion.

[31] Posted by tjmcmahon on 8-13-2010 at 07:12 AM · [top]

[22] A Senior Priest

do you (in the plural) really believe the Church went off-track from the second or third generation onward (something the Mormons -echoing some Protestant views- hold), or not?

Do I think that priests in AD90 were baptizing ex opere operato, and transubstantiating, and offering penance, and last rites and otherwise presenting themselves as little Alter Christuses who stood between God and Man?  No, I don’t.

The Sacraments were given to the Church, and it is the responsibility of the Church to guard the sacraments from misuse.  This is why the officiant should be controlled.  Priests otherwise do not add anything to the sacraments by means of their position. A Sacrament does not become a Sacrament simply because a priest is present saying the right words at the right time.  It’s not a magical incantation.

[25] driver8

I want to know what you mean by tradition.

I mean Sacred Tradition - the extra-Biblical revelation contained in the (alleged) oral teachings of Christ and the Apostles that forms the foundation of so much Catholic doctrine.  Only this kind of tradition would bind my consicence because only this kind of tradition would have the same authority as Scripture. 

carl
with all the Reformed qualifications on the use of the word ‘priest’

[32] Posted by carl on 8-13-2010 at 07:45 AM · [top]

Two questions:

(a) As far as I can recall, Scripture does not stipulate that Communion must (or even can)be administered by either laity or deacons (as it has been pointed out earlier, it does not speak to the subject); therefore, it would seem to be, on purely Scriptural basis, to be adiaphoron, and therefore something on which to defer to the practice and teaching of the wider Church. Why, then, is Sydney unwilling to submit its teaching to the wisdom of the past 1977+ years of the Body of Christ?

(b) This one is a bit more complicated. It would seem to me that in considering the Eucharist at least as a formal meal, if not a sacrifice (of ‘ourselves, our souls and bodies,’ the Body of Christ on earth offering itself to the Father even as the Head of that Body eternally offers Himself ‘once for all’ in Heaven), that some principal of headship is involved as to who presides. It would seem, further, that headship within the Church is exercised not just by the licensing from the Bishop, but by Orders, and specifically by the episcopate and the presbyterate, in that it is the bishop (occupying, at least in function, the Apostolic office of overseeing the people of God, safeguarding the teaching of the Gospel from error, and leading the mission of the Church) who sits in council with the presbyters (c.f. Acts 15:4), acting in concert as ‘authoritative teachers,’ safeguarding the Church’s teaching. While teaching (instruction) may be a vocation of some deacons or laity, this authoritative doctrinal role is held only by the episcopate, and by extension from them to the college of presbyters. Headship within the Church, then, resides principally in the episcopate and by extension in the presbyterate; and so too, historically from the earliest post-apostolic records we have, the Eucharist has been celebrated principally by the bishop, and by delegation from him to the presbyters under his jurisdiction (now known as licensing or ‘canonical residence’). So, my question is, does Sydney agree with this? If not, do they deny that there is a special role of headship in the priesthood and episcopate? (if not, why oppose WO?); or, do they deny that headship is involved in presidency at the Eucharist? (which would implicitly suggest that Ordination, a ‘sacrament of the Church’ or a ‘manner of life’ is due more honor than one of the two ‘Sacraments of the Gospel’).

[33] Posted by tk+ on 8-13-2010 at 09:25 AM · [top]

#33 tk+

a) Because it’s not being treated as adiaphora, but as part of the content of the faith.  For Anglo-Catholics the form and order is part of the substance of the faith, and that view has gained widespread ground.  We might disagree about whether Christ rose from the dead and be Anglican, but you certainly can’t have anyone other than a priest preside and be Anglican.  And when that happens a good argument (from a Protestant perspective) can be run that when a good tradition becomes a bad tradition (which happens when it is elevated into part of the substance of the faith) then it must be opposed and rejected.

b) I think you’ve hit what is the nub of the issue for me, and why I’m opposed to lay presidency.  I think ‘Sydney’ has gotten the preaching of the gospel and the sacraments entangled in their thinking.  Anyone can preach the gospel, because there is no church discipline issue to do with someone hearing the gospel. 

We can even have people preaching and teaching Scripture who are not presbyters because those tasks can be done under the headship of the church leadership.

But part of presiding at Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, is to exercise church discipline and not give the emblems to anyone who presents themselves.  That role should only be carried out by those with, as you say, ‘headship’ in the church, not by laypeople in general, or even with training. I think stating that case well might help present a strong positive case for not following through on the idea.

(And that is part of my biggest rejection of the alternative some people have suggested - of ordaining people just to preside at the sacrament while holding down a secular occupation.  That is every bit as much a scandal to the theology and ordering of ministry in the BCP and Ordinal as lay presidency is to just the ordering.)

[34] Posted by Badders on 8-13-2010 at 09:39 AM · [top]

#32 So the list of books that form Scripture are neither a part of Scripture nor a part of Tradition (as you have defined it). Yet I would guess you think that this list is itself infallible. Is that right?

[35] Posted by driver8 on 8-13-2010 at 03:48 PM · [top]

[35] driver8

Yet I would guess you think that this list is itself infallible. Is that right?

No, the Canon is properly described as a fallible list of infallible books.

carl

[36] Posted by carl on 8-13-2010 at 06:01 PM · [top]

Yes, while the question is a good one driver8, it is a little bit like asking where is the list that indicates what is to be recognised as tradition.  And then whether that list is part of the tradition or part of something else.

If Scripture is only recognised as Scripture because tradition says so, then we also need a list of what counts as tradition.  And then a further list of what’s in that new category which will be part of a further category again.  It’s a ‘third man’ argument.

Christians recognise Scripture because it is Scripture.  The list is our confession of the reality we’ve come to know.  As such it’s very useful and even has an authority about it, but it gets its authority from its recognition of a reality that existed prior to it.  Even if the Corinthians rejected Paul’s letter to them, it still would have been the word of God.

[37] Posted by Badders on 8-14-2010 at 03:05 AM · [top]

Badders at #34 wrote (in response to Tk+ at #33,

b) I think you’ve hit what is the nub of the issue for me, and why I’m opposed to lay presidency.

Me too. Even though Tk+ expressed it in different terms to what I would, his second question struck a strong chord as soon as I read it. The issue of headship is significant. Sydney has stood firmly for the principle of male headship as taught in scripture, and I have little doubt from things I have seen that lay presidency would start to break that principle down.

Same goes for the biblical concept of “good order and discipline”, which has also been a strong point in Sydney. In practice, lay presidency is going to cause a problem to this.

Badders also wrote:

And again, this simply strengthens the conviction of those who want to press ahead with lay presidency come-what-may.

Just to reinforce Badders’ point, Sydney has spent the past few decades holding its own against the entire range of vilification, threats and assorted nastiness that the liberal establishment in Australia can throw at it - churches, politicians, institutions, you name it, they’ve been lining up to beat us. One side effect of this is that Sydney clergy and laity are most unlikely to be moved by threats, particularly of isolationism (“Do what’nsoever you want to do with me, Brer Fox, but please, please, please! Don’t throw me in that briar patch!”).

But I think they can be persuaded, and I think they need to be, on this issue. Sydney is important to the Communion - many both outside and inside Sydney don’t want to accept that, but we are all stuck with it. So its important that Sydney show leadership in significant areas.

[38] Posted by MichaelA on 8-14-2010 at 07:23 AM · [top]

I would really like to comment on the canon of scripture issue, but this issue of Sydney Diocese is too important for distractions. Canon will come up sooner or later on another thread anyway.

[39] Posted by MichaelA on 8-14-2010 at 07:25 AM · [top]

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