Can church structure keep pace with reality?

Elizabeth Kaeton of Telling Secrets has been thinking about the likely future roles to be played by laity and clergy.

The rubrics of the Prayer Book say that “In the absence of a priest, all that is described above (The Service of the Word), except for the blessing, maybe said by a deacon, or, if there is no deacon, by a lay reader.” (“Additional Directions”, BCP, p 407)

The ‘preferential option’, however, is always for the ordained. Only …. “In the absence of sufficient deacons and priests, lay persons licensed by the bishop according to the canon may administer the Chalice.” (p 408).

However, also on p 408, the rubrics are very clear that “When the services of a priest cannot be obtained the bishop may, at discretion, authorize a deacon to distribute Holy Communion to the congregation from the reserved Sacrament in the following manner. .”

There follows a carefully scripted piece on how the Eucharist is to be distributed by the deacon, in the absence of a priest or bishop.

Here’s my question: Why?

I’m not asking a theological question. I understand Church history. I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on liturgics.

I’m asking a very pragmatic question: Why?

She peppers us with a barrage of pertinent questions:

Is ministry being redefined in our midst and the church is just catching up with it? Should we allow our present cultural financial crisis be the basis of the change for ecclesiology?

Is that short-sighted? Is the picture much larger? Or is the current trend speaking to us of a movement of the Spirit? A rebirth, or reformation of the church?

And, what about the issue of compensation and the prejudice encountered by lay pastors all around the country in every denomination from the Roman Catholic Church to the United Church of Christ? How do we determine compensation for ecclesiological acts and functions? Should there be compensation? Should there ever have been a system of compensation for sacramental ministry?

Chime in – here or there.

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