Reactions to Sydney vote on Lay Presidency of Eucharist

Reactions to the Diocese of Sydney vote to allow Lay and Diaconal presidency [translation: presider/celebrant] at the Eucharist can be found on blogs and in articles from news sources around the Anglican Communion. Most seem to find Sydney’s decision confused and illogical.

Tobias Haller comments:

What I find hard to understand is how any who so pride themselves in the 1662 BCP and Ordinal and Articles of Religion can adopt a position so at odds with the limpid clarity of their requirements, and what they present as a model for what it means to “minister in the Church.” The Articles demand that no one minister without being called; and the calling of a deacon is well spelled out to be (at most) an assistant in the ministrations limited to priests — also clearly listed in the order for making them. To read, as the current move has it, assists in as presides at seems to be an example of eisegesis at its most wishful and contrary. And this doesn’t even get into the murkiness of what it means for a lay person to “minister” (in the fulsome sense in which the classical documents use the term) — since as Richard Norris once said, a lay person authorized by a bishop to preside at the eucharist is properly called “a priest.”

Bishop Alan Wilson of Buckinghamshire, writes in his popular blog:

Contradictory signals from down under, driven by gross ecclesiological revisionism about Eucharistic Lay Presidency. I’m confused, anyway, about the news from Sydney.

The fatuous notion that “this will make the diaconate a real diaconate” demonstrates simple but complete ignorance of Catholic order. In those terms all the Sydney innovators’ proposals would do is make deacons, functionally, priests. This would obviously tend to obscure distinctively diaconal ministry. The C of E meets pastoral need from within a traditional understanding of Church, by authorizing Extended Communion. Cursing in fluent Kangaroo, as Dr Doolittle called it, is a non-traditional sport.

But has the time really come to trash the reformation formularies like this? The genius of Anglicanism, its missional crown jewels within the whole Kingdom of God, has been its ability to run essentially (but not exclusively) primitive Evangelical software on essentially (but not exclusively) primitive Catholic hardware.

Jared Cramer comments:

It is part of this idea that a full recognition of an order of ministry in the church necessarily involves getting more involved with the celebration of Holy Eucharist. There are those who believe that the way to celebrate and grow in our understanding of the ministry of the laity is to get them more involved with distribution of Holy Eucharist, moving them closer to the altar. However, as Mtr. Julia used to say in Pastoral Theology, “The ministry of the laity is not enhanced by turning them into mini-priests.”


Indeed, such a move with lay people and deacons is grossly demeaning to their order, it is based in the assumption that priestly ministry at Eucharist is the best sort of ministry. It’s wrong-headed and unhelpful for a real lifting up of the ministry of the church.

The Living Church:

The most serious challenge to passage of the resolution came from a priest who had attended the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) last summer and said approval could affect the diocese’s relationship with GAFCON bishops. The approved resolution includes a provision to send each GAFCON bishop a copy of a book published by the Anglican Church League explaining the theological rationale for lay presidency.

Passage of the resolution will in theory permit women to begin presiding at the Eucharist. Sydney does not ordain women to the priesthood, but does ordain women to the diaconate.

Dale Rye’s essay includes his perception of the development of the Anglican varieties in Australia in historical and sociological context.

Earlier story in The Lead here.

More from Church Times here with a roundup including conservative reaction here. And from Episcopal Life here. Ruth Gledhill also chimes in: “Just as making women deacons was a first step to the priesthood, everywhere except Sydney that is, surely making deacons celebrants can only be a step to lay presidency in full, especially in Sydney. This issue is as contentious as the ‘other’ issue that has split The Episcopal Church and is threatening to split the communion.”

Background article, The Subtle Sin of Lay Presidency, from Giles Fraser written in 2006 is here.

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