There are numerous flaws with the case that David laid out in his thread on lay presidency, and I see that commenters are pointing those out in spades over on the thread. Among them are the notion that sermons are essentially the same sort of vehicle of the gospel as the sacraments—an excellent comment on why that’s not so is here—and that furthermore, the obvious answer to the supposed “disparity” between allowing laypeople to “preach” [which they don’t in TEC, anyway] but not preside over the Eucharist is to allow them then to preside over the Eucharist.
Clearly, if Sydney Anglicans are concerned over the disparity, then I’m sure we would all be happy for them to no longer allow lay people to preach, thus setting the lines between the lay and the ordained more clearly [which would also point out another massive difference between Sydney Anglicans and most of the rest of the Anglican Communion world, since the whole notion of “differences between lay and ordained” is something they resist, not merely the idea of the sacramental].
David makes another serious assumption in his case, and that is this one: “It is not a mystery that much of the opposition to Lay Presidency from those who would be more generally included in the “orthodox” camp comes from the “Higher” church Anglo-Catholics - those who look not to Cranmer but Laud, Pusey and, of course, Newman for their identity.”
Actually . . . no. The vast vast majority of Anglican evangelicals, myself included, who have not an ounce of Anglo-Catholicism in them, are irrevocably opposed to lay presidency and see it as entirely in violation of Anglican order in every respect. So the fault line is not between “conservative evangelicals” and “High Church friends” but between Sydney evangelicals and the vast majority of evangelical Anglicans throughout the Communion. In other words, they might as well be Plymouth Brethren or Pentecostal in their zeal for lay presidency—which is not a bad thing, it just ain’t Anglican.
So the effort to make the opposition to lay presidency some sort of “High Church” or “Anglo-Catholic” thing is wishful thinking.
Dan Martins writes about his objections in a post from which I’ve excerpted the below. The only thing I disagree with him on is that a violation of scripture—as with New Hampshire and TEC’s support and blessing of immoral and scripturally-denounced behavior—is the same as being distinctly non-Anglican in a contempt for order and tradition. Obviously, committing a clearly stated sin—or blessing such a sin—is of a different order than, say, deciding to serve koolaid and doughnuts as a “culturally relevant communication of the gospel in our day and age”. But the latter is bad enough. There would be no circumstances that I can imagine of joining a church [as opposed to worshiping in a church] that practiced lay presidency, since that would also mean taking on all the baggage and underlying beliefs that go along with such activities. And I could, as I said, go join the Plymouth Brethren and do better.
This past weekend, Sydney finally stepped off the reservation. Its synod voted to authorize deacons to preside at the Eucharist. This isn’t the whole deal. This isn’t all they would want. But it steps over the line nonetheless, and “Lay Presidency” is only a matter of time, it would seem. From an Anglo-Catholic perspective, this is so unspeakable as to scarcely even merit refutation. But even from a classic Evangelical perspective, it is a serious breach of good order.
Of course, in the present climate of Anglicanland, it takes irony and raises it to an unprecedented level. Sydney Anglicans have been in the forefront of the chorus of voices critical of the “progressive” position of the North American provinces in the area of sexual morality. They have been members of the choir singing the repeated refrain, “You have not adequately consulted. Your actions have breached the bonds of affection. For the sake of the unity of the communion, please do not do this. Show appropriate restraint.”
I have also sung in the same chorus, and I continue to do so. This is precisely why I am horrified—not surprised, perhaps, but horrified—by what Sydney has done. The members of the synod cannot have been unaware how their action, as much as it may “make sense” for them, will be seen as an egregious breach of Anglican norms by the vast majority of other Anglicans, even Evangelicals. But they allowed their own local convictions to trump the universal discipline of all the churches that share in the gift of the historic episcopate.
Some might contend that Sydney should get a pass on this because they are “orthodox,” while the Americans and Canadians are “revisionists.” But in doing what it has done, the Diocese of Sydney has utterly forfeited any claim to orthodoxy. Its offense is every bit as serious, every bit as much an abrogation of Anglican orthodoxy, as anything the American or Canadian churches have done. Sydney is no less culpable than New Hampshire in rending the fabric of the Anglican Communion.