Friday, 13 April 2012

Take part in a poll on lay celebration of the Lord's Supper

Yesterday I posted an article arguing that the acceptance of lay celebration (administration) of the Lord's Supper would be consistent with a biblical theology and therefore beneficial to the Church of England.

As I probably won't be posting anything else for a few days, I thought I'd leave readers with something to do.

Above the blog posts on this page, therefore, you'll find a poll allowing you to respond to the following statement: "The acceptance of lay-celebration (adminstration) of the Lord's Supper (Holy Communion) would have a beneficial effect on the life and witness of the Church of England."

There are five 'voting' options, from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree.

You are also invited to argue your case in the comments section.

I'd be pleased if you could urge others to contribute, so as to keep things busy and (hopefully) to improve the sample.

Please give a full name and location when posting. Comments without this information may be deleted. Recommend:

39 comments:

  1. John,
    I was trying to join in the interesting discussion on the post below, but you seem to have shut it down. All comments about the preaching skills of Readers I fully accept, being one myself, but I've often noticed a tendency among fellow readers to defer to the skills of clergy. Somehow they don't want to outshine their Vicar, so they don't try. This is not the way to improve anyone's preaching skills.

    However, the subject is Lay Presidency. Having endured an 18 month interregnum some years ago, I know exactly what it is like to invite a total stranger to your Celebration and expect him to take charge. It seems to me to be a celebration of nothing except clerical authority, especially when they insist on the Sinatra method ('I did it My Way'). Such long interregnums are likely to be the norm rather than the exception in future, and for churches that are far more Eucharistic than ourselves will present a real problem. However, it is just those churches that will defend clerical authority for whom the obvious answer will be the least acceptable.

    Like you, I can see the need for some authority and control over what we usually call the sacraments. The 2008 General Synod report recommended that Bishops think very seriously about allowing readers to baptise – something the episcopacy has politely ignored so far. Lay presidency in the sense that ’anyone can have a go’ is no more sensible than allowing anyone to be able to conduct a wedding – it reduces the status of the occasion to a mere sideshow.

    It has always seemed to me that we have a very narrow idea of the concept of ‘ordination’ in the church, having reduced it to essentially a closed shop for clergy. The ‘ordination’ of Acts 6 was, of course, not an ordination of priests, but of those with admin and pastoral skills, so why don’t we ordain our churchwardens and treasurers, for example? And if we can do that, we can ordain our Eucharistic Celebrants and Baptisers, and not expect them all to be the same person. The act of ordination celebrates, therefore, an obvious God-given talent and a skill which is set apart for God’s glory, and a talent which is recognised by the local congregation, not by a faceless committee accountable to no-one. In the light of mass retirements of clergy over the next ten years (strangely, this has come as a surprise), these are ideas that should be taken more seriously.

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  2. Mark Smith, Ridley Hall13 April 2012 17:24

    John, thank you, as ever, for an interesting and stimulating post.

    I have voted "strongly disagree", and I do so as a Reformed, conservative evangelical, Anglican.

    Since there is no explict Scriptural injunction either commanding or prohibiting lay eucharistic presidency, proper practice is, along with other matters adiaphora, up for the Church to authoritatively decide (Article XX). The Church of England has made its decision, which is to reserve eucharistic presidency to the office of presbyter, and all churches and ministers should submit to this ruling in godly obedience (whilst campaigining, if they wish, for change).

    The default position, then, must be for those who wish to advocate the strange innovation of lay presidency to put forward their case, not for those who follow the Church's teaching to justify their position.

    Nonetheless, a host of reasons could be given in support of priestly presidency:

    1). It is the practice of the church 'ubique, semper, ad omnibus'. To adopt lay presidency would be to depart from the catholic tradition.

    2). It is the practice of the Reformed fathers. For instance, in his Genevan Catechism of 1545, Calvin argues strongly against it. To adopt lay presidency would be to depart from the Reformed tradition.

    3). It is a key point at which spiritual discipline is exercised (as the BCP Communion liturgy and rubics explain) - e.g. in barring the ungodly - and this is the proper responsibility of the ordained pastor.

    4). It is part of ensuring order and decency in the church (1 Cor. 14.40), by preventing chaos or dissention. For instance, since the authority to authorise those who can preside at the Eucharist resides in the bishop, it is up for him, publically, to delegate this responsibility to chosen people. This is precisely the point of ordination. Lay presidency is, in this sense, a nonsense - since precisely to be approved for eucharistic presidency is to be ordained!

    5). It is an expression of the catholicity of the church. Since the Eucharistic celebration constitutes us as the catholic Body of Christ it is appropriately led by someone in catholic (ie trans-local church) orders.

    6). When a community gathers, the pastor is performing a certain representative function (that which is potential in all of us - our common priesthood - is exercised and expressed by one person, the pastor). Since it is a good Reformed principle that the Word and Sacrament belong together (cf. Article XIX), it is appropriate that the one who presides at the preaching of the word shoud also preside at the celebration of the Eucharist. The modern practice of allowing non-ordained persons to preach is not evidence against my argument, but rather itself a deviation from traditional practice.



    Furthermore, the arguments given in favour of lay presidency are not strong.

    1). Luther and Cranmer rightly recognised that, as a matter adiaphora, in certain extreme situations lay people could perform tasks not normally allowed to them (such as the 'desert island' scenario). This is by no means the same as commending it as appropriate normal practice. Hard cases make bad laws.

    2). The lack of priests is solved not by 'democratising' their eucharistic function but by ordaining more priests!

    3). The ill-education of priests is solved by better educating them!


    We do indeed live in radically changing times. But the solution is not to throw our history out the window - especially in a context where many conservative evangelicals are increasingly in danger of forgetting (or, worse, consciously discarding) a properly Reformed doctrine of the sacraments. The solution, instead, is a properly (and etymologically!) 'radical' solution - that is, to return to the 'radix' - the root - of our catholic and Reformed tradition, and there to find wisdom and truth.

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  3. Mark Smith, Ridley Hall13 April 2012 17:37

    John, thank you, as ever, for an interesting and stimulating post.

    I have voted "strongly disagree", and I do so as a Reformed, conservative evangelical, Anglican.

    Since there is no explict Scriptural injunction either commanding or prohibiting lay eucharistic presidency, proper practice is, along with other matters adiaphora, up for the Church to authoritatively decide (Article XX). The Church of England has made its decision, which is to reserve eucharistic presidency to the office of presbyter, and all churches and ministers should submit to this ruling in godly obedience (whilst campaigining, if they wish, for change).

    The default position, then, must be for those who wish to advocate the strange innovation of lay presidency to put forward their case, not for those who follow the Church's teaching to justify their position.

    Nonetheless, a host of reasons could be given in support of priestly presidency:

    1). It is the practice of the church 'ubique, semper, ad omnibus'. To adopt lay presidency would be to depart from the catholic tradition.

    2). It is the practice of the Reformed fathers. For instance, in his Genevan Catechism of 1545, Calvin argues strongly against it. To adopt lay presidency would be to depart from the Reformed tradition.

    3). It is a key point at which spiritual discipline is exercised (as the BCP Communion liturgy and rubics explain) - e.g. in barring the ungodly - and this is the proper responsibility of the ordained pastor.

    4). It is part of ensuring order and decency in the church (1 Cor. 14.40), by preventing chaos or dissention. For instance, since the authority to authorise those who can preside at the Eucharist resides in the bishop, it is up for him, publically, to delegate this responsibility to chosen people. This is precisely the point of ordination. Lay presidency is, in this sense, a nonsense - since precisely to be approved for eucharistic presidency is to be ordained!

    5). It is an expression of the catholicity of the church. Since the Eucharistic celebration constitutes us as the catholic Body of Christ it is appropriately led by someone in catholic (ie trans-local church) orders.

    6). When a community gathers, the pastor is performing a certain representative function (that which is potential in all of us - our common priesthood - is exercised and expressed by one person, the pastor). Since it is a good Reformed principle that the Word and Sacrament belong together (cf. Article XIX), it is appropriate that the one who presides at the preaching of the word shoud also preside at the celebration of the Eucharist. The modern practice of allowing non-ordained persons to preach is not evidence against my argument, but rather itself a deviation from traditional practice.



    Furthermore, the arguments given in favour of lay presidency are not strong.

    1). Luther and Cranmer rightly recognised that, as a matter adiaphora, in certain extreme situations lay people could perform tasks not normally allowed to them (such as the 'desert island' scenario). This is by no means the same as commending it as appropriate normal practice. Hard cases make bad laws.

    2). The lack of priests is solved not by 'democratising' their eucharistic function but by ordaining more priests!

    3). The ill-education of priests is solved by better educating them!


    We do indeed live in radically changing times. But the solution is not to throw our history out the window - especially in a context where many conservative evangelicals are increasingly in danger of forgetting (or, worse, consciously discarding) a properly Reformed doctrine of the sacraments. The solution, instead, is a properly (and etymologically!) 'radical' solution - that is, to return to the 'radix' - the root - of our catholic and Reformed tradition, and there to find wisdom and truth.

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  4. Can we keep both strands of this discussion going? Someone pointed out at a Readers' meeting I attended the other week (I am not a reader) that because Readers don't have all the duties of ordained clergy they can indeed preach better. So given that they might feel deferent, what's the problem?

    On the other strand, I have an open mind and would value more comment on Eucharistic Presidency from others.

    David Brock

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  5. It has always puzzled me why the good old CofE allows such freedom in the pulpit while dictating the actual words one may say at Communion ... surely the pulpit should have the greater safeguards?

    So, yes, I am in favour of lay presidency - it is both logical and sensible as well as biblical. But for goodness' sake, do something about the standard of preaching!

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  6. I am glad to see discussion here and I think Richard Brown makes a good point about interregnums. I have never thought 'just anyone' should preside at communion, nor that 'just anyone' should preach. But I cannot see how someone who is authorised to preach the Word of God should not also be authorised to celebrate the Holy Communion.
    I suspect the opposition has been 'political', in that Anglican catholics believed in some form of transubstantiation with a 'priestly power' to do so, and lay celebration would have upset this polity - already strained by women's ordination. Moreover, the C of E has abandoned ecumenical dreams of union with Rome, as A-Cs trickle into the Ordinariate.

    I would still very much like ot hear what Andrew Godsall - never at a loss for words - has to say on this.

    Mark B., W. Kent

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  7. Mark B. writes

    "I suspect the opposition has been 'political', in that Anglican catholics believed in some form of transubstantiation with a 'priestly power' to do so,..."

    It has always baffled me as to where AC's get this idea from. It seems to be a mish-mash of Old and New Testamant ideas of priesthood.

    Is there really any evidence that the early church had this concept of clergy and laity with a 'priestly power'?

    And how do they justify someone being 'authorised' and by whom? Are 'Holy Orders' a purely Anglican construct or do they really have any spiritual validity since so many
    C of E priests (that I have encountered) appear to hold lightly to the historic orthodoxies of the christian faith?

    Chris Bishop
    Devon

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    Replies
    1. Chris,

      I don't think they will be able to defend their ideas of priesthood much longer. If a priest is required, there won't be enough to go round, it's as simple as that, regardless of theology.

      Delete
  8. I weighed in on this in a couple of posts here and here. They were meant to be the beginning of a longer series, but, alas, work and life intervened...

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  9. A good number of years ago, Exeter Diocese held a 'study day' on this subject. If I remember correctly the thesis put forward was that the Eucharist is based on the 'Sabbath evening meal' of the ordinary Jewish family. This would be presided over by the 'head of the household'. It follows that the president at the Eucharist would be the 'elder' of the church congregation. Small groups (congregations) of Christians, meeting in private homes would naturally 'break bread' together. The problems seem to have arisen very early in Corinth where a larger gathering (bringing their own food to a common table?) are criticised for 'not discerning the body'.
    'Who would preside at the larger gathering?' is the pertinent question.

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  10. As an outsider, I left the CofE over a year ago due to poor preaching standards that were ignored by the vicar, but I vote for changing the sacrament for many reasons already mentioned here. These next few years are indeed crucial to the CofE in how it moves forward and even if, it survives!

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  11. I am totally in favour of lay celebration on theological grounds, but I don't think it would make the real issues like women bishops and homosexuality go away. And, as others have mentioned, anglo-catholics have a big problem with it.

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  12. Does this help?

    "The vital point at issue today is that which was raised by the Tractarian movement, but never before in the Church of England, the question of sacramental grace associated with a sacerdotal priesthood. There does not seem to be room for compromise on this point. Either the priest is necessary for the consecration of the elements by which in some way the presence of the Lord becomes attached, or else the clergyman, as minister, sets apart the elements for the purpose of becoming symbols of our Lord's Body and Blood. The latter is the New Testament, the former the medieval view."

    It is from Principles of Theology by WH Griffith Thomas, written in about 1920, which I was reading today.

    David Brock

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  13. Dear Richard,

    regarding your poll comment:
    The acceptance of lay-celebration (adminstration) of the Lord's Supper (Holy Communion) would have a beneficial effect on the life and witness of the Church of England.

    I disagree with your comment on two fronts brother.
    1. I disagree with Lay Presidency (see below for reasons)
    2. I disagree with the notion that LP would have a beneficial effect on the life and witness of the C of E. I don't see the correlation between LP & 'Life and Witness. Are you also implying that not having LP will hamper the life and witness of the C of E? Surely not!?!?!

    While I acknowledge that there is no Biblical prohibition for lay people to preside over the Eucharist, I think the notion of lay presidency is not a good idea for three reasons:

    1.Although it is not heretical, it is not Anglican in that it departs from the Anglican understanding of the threefold order of Bishops, Priests and Deacons and their respective roles. And this I believe will create a massive stumbling block for other Anglican brothers and sisters. If it harms a Christian brother or sisters conscience, to do this would be very unloving. For argument’s sake - just say that those who are wanting LP think that those who don’t are the weaker brother or sister, would not Romans 15:1 apply?
    By the way I am not suggesting that those are against lay presidency (myself included) are weak, but all of God’s people are obligated to strengthen, encourage and build up each other.

    2. I have noticed that those pushing for lay presidency are Reformed-Evangelical Anglicans. Yet there are many Reformed-Evangelical Anglicans who disagree with lay presidency and want nothing to do with it. If it causes division and concern amongst Anglicans of the same ilk then I don’t believe it is worth it. There are bigger hills to die on.

    3. I believe that Presiding over the Eucharist is an act of headship and therefore is to be reserved for the Ordained Priests/Presbyters of the Parish.

    in Christ
    Joshua Bovis
    p.s (For UK readers - I know that my sirname rhymes with a popular UK bread)


    p.p.s Please give a full name and location when posting.
    Rev Joshua Bovis, Muswellbrook, Australia (Newcastle Diocese)

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  14. Not only that Joshua, it's the very name of a construction company - 1 Cor. 3!

    All three points are good; only at point 3 I wonder whether precisely the same couldn't be said about "preaching of the Word"? What in your view is the Biblical/theological foundation for lay preaching? That, it seems to me, is always going to be the great big elephant knocking about whenever LP is discussed, as this thread has already shown.

    Dan

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  15. Dear Dan,

    Surely the question is rather, what is the Biblical/theological foundation for reserving preaching to the ordained?

    David Brock

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  16. If I may comment on both Dan's and David's questions above in relation to the concept of preaching.
    There seems to be huge confusion about this. It may surprise some to learn that almost all the contexts where "preaching" occured in the NT involved speaking to unbelievers, not to fellow believers in their regular gatherings. e.g. all of the 42 occurences of the word 'euangelizomai' from the beginning of Acts onwards refer to the proclaiming of the Good News of the Gospel - that is what we call today, evangelism.
    So what should take place within the church? Not preaching, but rather a reversion to the practice of the early church of mutual ministries as Paul sets out in 1 Cor. 12-14. Eph. 4. Romans 12 and elsewhere.
    Surely that is the "Biblical/theological foundation you are looking for David?
    As to who is to engage in such ministry - clearly 1 Cor 12 alone indicates that is is the privilege and function of the whole church, not some separated clerical class - vicar, pastor, preacher etc?
    Please could someone tell me: If the practice of mutual ministries as I have indicated was good enough and fully functional in the early church, why is it rejected today as being impractical, or somehow unsuitable for the spiritual needs of believers in churches today?
    Paul's teaching on these matters were not his own private opinions, but essential expressions of apostolic authority, received from Christ himself, to be applied to the churches at all times and in all generations surely? Otherwise large parts of the NT remain as merely historic and antique relics only.
    Is it any wonder therefore that "preaching" fails to meet the spirtitual needs of the people for it was not designed primarily for that purpose, and that many leave the church for what is often a desperate search for greener pastures?

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  17. Joshua and others,

    As I pointed out in an earlier post, 'Presidency' often (and increasingly so) leads to ridiculous ideas in the C of E. If, as Tio Tel suggests, the president is Head of the Household, to whom to you go when he isn't around? The Deputy Head, or the Head of somebody else's Household?

    I liked the quote from WH Griffith Thomas, once the theologian of choice for Evangelicals but now rather neglected, on the medieval view of the priesthood, which still seems to be the one that dominates clerical thinking on this issue. Thus apparently, only those who are qualified to do so can handle the sacraments, and that includes the water of baptism and the wedding ring, as well as the Communion elements. Everything else can be safely sub contracted to those who have a lay vocation.

    I might be tempted by the medieval view, were it not for the fact that my brothers and sisters outside the Anglican fold have ditched it long since.

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  18. Dan,

    All three points are good; only at point 3 I wonder whether precisely the same couldn't be said about "preaching of the Word"? What in your view is the Biblical/theological foundation for lay preaching? That, it seems to me, is always going to be the great big elephant knocking about whenever LP is discussed, as this thread has already shown.

    The practice in the Anglican Church is that not every Tom, Dick or Harry can get up and preach, but that they must be licensed by the Bishop. In the diocese in which I am a part of, the Bishop takes this responsibility very seriously. For example a bishop licences a lay preacher because the Rector recognises that the Holy Spirit has equipped the man in question with the gift of preaching; he tell his bishop and the Bishop gives the licence.

    Perhaps other diocese are looser on the whole issue of licencing a lay preacher, I don't know.

    The lay preacher is also under the authority of the Rector of the parish.

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  19. Joshua. Dan asked for the "Biblical/theological foundations for lay preaching"
    Leaving aside for a moment the wholly artificial distinction of "clerical" and "lay", I suggest that a decision by a Bishop as to who is gifted or capable of ministry is quite inadequate.
    In any event such a highly subjective assessment is not a "Biblical/theological" one!
    If we want that we could of course refer to several passages of Scripture, say Eph.4, or 1 Cor. 12 or Romans 12. These specifically mandate the functioning of spiritual gifts as given by Christ to his church.
    The tragedy is that since little or no opportunity to exercise such gifts is given in the liturgical and stereotyped "services" in most churches, such gifts are quickly atrophied and die out.
    Thus the churches remains largely in a dependency culture on one omnicompetent man/leader, who it is assumed possesses all the gifts necessary for the edification of the church week by week. Impossible!
    If we want a Biblical/theological approach I suggest that 1 Cor. 12-14 provides us with the mind of Christ on the matter. Are these passages merely theoretical and 'out of date' for the modern church, or accepted as God's provision for vibrant, healthy, spiritual Christian fellowships?

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  20. For some reason my original post in reply to Joshua was deleted. I re-post as follows:

    The question was"What in your view is the Biblical/theological foundation for lay preaching?"
    Leaving aside the artifical concept of "clerical" and "lay" it seems to me that the subjective opinion of a Bishop as to who is gifted and qualified to engage in ministry is inadequate, and certainly not a New Testament idea.
    If we are looking for a Biblical/theologigical foundation for ministry then of course the NT abounds with precept and example. e.e. Ephesians 4 is certainly foundational abou the gifting of the church, Romans 12 about the exercise of such gifts, and 1 Corinthians 12 about the need to recognise the indispensability of the whole body of Christ (to engage in a functioning ministry) when gathered.
    The problem is that many of the liturgical, stereotyped 'services' represent a closed system where any exercise of ministry is excluded. That is completely alien to the spirit and letter of the New Testament.
    It is generally left to one man/leader with supposed omnicompetent gifts to minister week by week.
    I suggest therefore that the 1 cor. 12-14 passages provide us with an adequate working biblical/theological framework for ministry, as well as reflecting the mind of Christ, and should be recognised as God's provision for a healthy, vibrant, and Bible based church life.

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  21. As those posting comments may have realized, I'm out of internet range at the moment (connecting through a mobile phone, which is v slow).

    I am glad to see a discussion developing on what I think is a most important set of issues, so I'd just put in a plea for a respectful tone, as it is necessary to listen as well as speak as we try to work out the right approach.

    I must say, though, I am surprised at the high level of disagreement with my original suggestion - yet few people seem prepared to defend the case!

    John Richardson

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  22. John,

    The high level of 'strongly disagree' just illustrates that it's not difficult to skew a poll like this just by putting the word around. I tried to vote twice, but found I couldn't, so there must be some record kept of who has voted - might be interesting to find it.

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  23. "The high level of 'strongly disagree' just illustrates that it's not difficult to skew a poll like this just by putting the word around."
    It probably isn't difficult, but why do you think this particular poll is an example of deliberate skewing? This is not the kind of blog that would attract campaigners.

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  24. Can I first apologise if I have said anything disrespectful - I am finding this a very helpful discussion and thank all contributors.

    Graham's contribution is very thought provoking. Are not fellowship groups a good way to exercise that mutually supporting ministry? But Paul also writes in 1 Cor 12:28 that God appointed apostles, prophets, teachers, healers and so on. Prophets speak from God to men and women. So isn't that part of the origin of preaching? But apart from having the gift and it being recognised, there is no requirement for ordination.

    I quite follow Joshua's point that we need some order when we meet to worship - as Paul also says at 1 Cor 14:26ff, with the advice that “two or three prophets should speak and others should weigh carefully what is said”. But it is specifically envisaged that the church meeting needs to evaluate what is said. That is the quality control over Tom, Dick etc.

    So, to the original issue raised by John, lay presidency; where is the justification for reserving it to the ordained? Griffith Thomas argues eloquently that ordination is no more than recognition of gifts and does not bestow them. I have read Eucharistic Presidency and like John found the Bishops’ arguments obscure. Where then is the Biblical/Theological justification, not just the practice of licensing particular people? If there was a Biblical justification would we not expect it to leap clearly off the pages of the New Testament?

    David Brock

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  25. David - I asked the question I did in the context of Joshua's opposition to lay presidency. Briefly, lay preaching i.e. spare-time preaching appears to be completely absent from the pattern of the pastorals, being incompatible with the idea of "giving yourself wholly to these things" (cf. Acts 6:4 of course). Given that a 'full-time' preaching/teaching ministry (to give due allowance to Graham's distinction) is clearly laid down there, the ball now passes to anyone to show explicit Biblical sanction for an activity of permanent lay preaching in the church.

    Graham thinks it can be found in 1 Cor. 12-14, but is that specific enough for us to be sure? In any case that's where Paul asks "Are all teachers?" (answer, no)

    At any rate Joshua didn't provide the *Biblical* basis for it that I requested, instead referring to current Anglican custom. But again, if it's okay for lay preachers to be licensed by bishops, why can't said bishops also license lay presiders?

    Seems to me we're still going round in circles. Against which backdrop the noted high number of votes against lay presidency just looks reactionary. However we're still waiting for official confirmation on that point from the mysteriously still absent Canon Andrew!

    Dan

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  26. Dan,
    I think a wee look at the articles may be of help?

    Article XXIII

    Of Ministering in the Congregation

    It is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of publick preaching, or ministering the Sacraments in the Congregation, before he be lawfully called, and sent to execute the same. And those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent, which be chosen and called to this work by men who have publick authority given unto them in the Congregation, to call and send Ministers into the Lord’s vineyard.

    Regarding lay preaching, according to the Anglican formularies (the Articles, BCP, and the Ordinal) there seems to be little room. Also the polity of Anglicanism is not democratic, nor is it congregational. Ordination I think affirms and confirms calling. Though I don't think this rules out lay preaching, as Bishops can and do licence lay people to preach. My point is that the Anglican norm is ordained ministers are ministers of Word and Sacrament.

    I would be naive to suggest that every Christian should hold to the same view. Baptist polity is different for example, as is their view on whom can administer the sacraments.

    My main concern about lay presidency is not due to Biblical/theological reasons but would cause a stumbling block for other Christian brothers and sisters. It is avoidable. Also in the context in which I serve where Anglicans who are theologically Reformed are in the minority, for lay presidency to be pushed I think will creat another line of division.

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  27. Joshua,

    There are many stumbling blocks we put in the way of our brothers and sisters - one of them is the ordination of women priests, and potentially, bishops as well. Another (at least where I come from) is the excessive concentration on the intrinsic importance of the sacraments - they should be a means to an end, rather than an end in themselves. These are issues that typically divide the Anglican camp into Anglo-Catholic, Middle of the Road, Evangelical, and others, but with which we have rubbed along together for the last few hundred years without worrying particularly about stumbling-blocks.

    Article XXV (part)
    The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about, but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same, they have a wholesome effect or operation: but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves damnation, as Saint Paul saith.

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  28. Dan. To respond to your point above.I believe that much of the confusion about "ministry" in the church is sourced and exacerbated by what I called "the artifical distinction between 'clerical and lay', and I'm not alone in this view.
    Thus you wrote: "Given that a 'full-time' preaching/teaching ministry (to give due allowance to Graham's distinction) is clearly laid down there, the ball now passes to anyone to show explicit Biblical sanction for an activity of permanent lay preaching in the church.
    This is another form of the 'have you stopped beating your wife?' question, for the Bible nowhere makes any distinction between clerical and "lay"! Indeed, dispense with it and it removes at a stroke much by way of any "problem" concerning ministry.
    As you probably know, the word itself (lay) comes from Gk 'laos' which simply means 'people'. All Christians are without distinction in NT terms the people of God.
    The word 'cleric' is a medieval construct derived from the Gk 'kleros', meaning 'lot or 'inheritance'. Thus 'clericalism grew and developed into a massive tradition. By contrast, from a NT perspective, we are all by grace, God's lot or inheritance.
    In addition is it not a fact that we are ALL "priests" under the New Covenant, not in any sacerdotal sense as under 0T, but rather having the privilege of being able to minister to the Lord and to one another - hence Peter's reference to a "royal priesthood" (1 Pet.2:5,9).
    The church then is not therefore a collection of isolated priests each going separately to God, but is a community of priests. We have this ministry together (or should have when we gather!.) This is what the Reformers only partly understood when speaking of the 'priesthood of all believers', as opposed to the (then) specialist clericalism of Rome.
    I return therefore to 1 Cor 12-14 which is in effect Paul's broad "blueprint" for the practical exercise of such 'priestly' gifting - not now by a priestly and separated "caste", but by all believers.
    Whether permanent or occasional is irrelavant for the principle has been established by Paul in these two passages, and including Eph 4. (foundational) and Romans 12. In fact, it is assumed throughout the NT - thus we have no less than 58 references to mutual ministries in the two words "one another" Please check it out!
    This is not to exclude the clear gifting of those with a variety of preaching/teaching, leadership gifts (always 'elders' and a plurality in the NT) - a separate topic too big to venture on here.
    To summarise then, 'lay' ministry, is the privilege and potential gift for ALL, as Paul makes clear, and as I sought to point out before. Thus 1 Cor 12-14 remains as a "working norm" for the church, noting in particular Paul's caution that the body is "not ONE part, but many".
    Incidentally I believe these passages are very "specific" indeed!
    Graham

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  29. As a Catholic Anglican it is unsurprising that I disagree with Lay Presidency seeing a sacerdotal Priesthood as biblical, authentic to the Apostolic Fathers, and essential to the fullness of salvation.

    However I also suspect that in the early church an area the size of a typical CofE deanery would have its own bishop and as many presbyters as we have Church Wardens. So in a sense I agree, except that I would call a lay person ordered to make what the early fathers called 'The Offering' a Priest.

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  30. I'm rather suprised to see Griffith Thomas quoted.A lot of theological water has flowed under the bridge since the early 20thc in the area of Church,Ministry and Sacraments both in the writings of Anglican theologians ( inc Evangelicals) and esp in the ecumenical dialogues Anglicans have been engaged in:with the Reformed, Lutherans., Orthodox and Roman catholics ..as well as the BEM document of the WCC and its responses. GT was hardly a critical theologian, more a historian and his approach tended to the deductive even scholastic.It was vitiated by its excessive individualism."The Church comes about as individuals, already serarately related to Christ through personal justifying faith,come together for fellowship" ( Paul Avis in his chapter "The Church and Salvation".Such a view would have come as a suprise to Luther and Calvin I think.
    Lay Celebration would be more divisive than women priests/bishops so I cant honestly see Lay Celebration getting back on the agenda at the moment. Women Bishops, the implications of the failure of the Covenantand Gay marriage..all in the context of continuing numerical decline and financial retrenchment ( and pension problems)mean the C of E has quite enough on its plate. One wonders who among our Bishops has the courage to take the Primacy with all this!!

    Perry Butler

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  31. An LEP with a local Baptist Church might solve the problem!

    Has anyone got any experience of this, from either a C of E or Baptist position or for that matter an anglo-baptist position?

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  32. John,
    As far as I'm concerned churches which have "enjoyed" the "ministrations" of persons ordained by any bishop who supports any of the au-current platforms of modernists, feminists, homosexuals, liberals, etcetera, have lay-celebration already, its simply been un-diagnosed.

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  33. As the person who introduced Griffith Thomas into this discussion, I feel I should respond to Perry. I do not think he can be that out of date as his “Principles of Theology “ was recommended to me only six weeks ago by the principal of one of our theological colleges, following a discussion about the nature of ordained ministry. I was unable to read the whole of the work as it was on a short loan from an academic library but those parts I read, especially on Article XXIII (from which I quoted) struck me as biblical. It also chimed with my own experience as a Christian for over 30 years.
    The Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry document of the World Council of Churches recognises that there is no Biblical requirement for an ordained minister to preside – see para 14 which states “It is Christ who invites to the meal and who presides at it. In most churches this presidency is signified and represented by an ordained minister.” And in the commentary; “The New Testament says very little about the ordering of the eucharist. There is no explicit evidence about who presided at the eucharist. Very soon however it is clear that an ordained ministry (sic) presides over the celebration.”
    Has not the discussion in this string come to the view that there is indeed no NT requirement for an ordained person to preside (see Joshua’s generous comment of April 18th) but that it is an Anglican norm.
    If we can have licensed lay preachers, whether readers or local preachers, which conforms with Art XXIII (It is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of publick preaching, or ministering the Sacraments in the Congregation, before he be lawfully called, and sent to execute the same. And those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent, which be chosen and called to this work by men who have publick authority given unto them in the Congregation, to call and send Ministers into the Lord’s vineyard) why not lay presidency. It should be introduced with care and sensitivity, and, if it is as sensitive as is being suggested in this string, perhaps, as with women priests, with the ability of congregations to opt out.

    David Brock, Essex

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  34. Perhaps we should remember what the word Lay comes from:

    Laity refers to "People of God" i.e. everyone not just part of the body of Christ.

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  35. Note I have now blogged further on this here.

    I apologize that I've really not been able to participate more in the discussion. First I was on holiday, now I'm absolutely flat out busy and will be away next week at the FCA gathering in London. I'll keep an eye on things, and I am trying to take on board what is being said.

    Well done for a good discussion. Keep it up!

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  36. Intrigued..and slightly suprised.. to hear a theological principal recommending GT ( and not anything else??)I wonder if the Principal's of Westcott or cuddesdon still recommend Bicknell.Actually you can pick up 2nd hand commentaties on the Articles very cheaply..I have GT /Bicknell/ Kidd/Boultbee/ Harold Browne( one of the more interesting for its time),Forbes etc..........i see you could get Griffith Thomas for under a fiver on amazon.
    Though I still think Lay celebration wont be getting much of an airing in "official" channels given what else is on the C of E's plate at the moment.

    Perry Butler Canterbury

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  37. Sigh! What's wrong with just ordaining these people if they are leading anyway? (you could always ordain them first and train them afterwards). Lay presidency is quite simply unacceptable and if you want it there are plenty of other churches that do that sort of thing.

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  38. In some ways, Sue, I agree with you - why not just ordain everyone and have done?

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