I feel very unqualified to comment as a lay person with little to no training but the recent decision of the Synod of the Diocese of Sydney to allow deacons and lay people to preside at Holy Communion is causing much comment especially at Thinking Anglicans. I have been reading and feel I must put my thoughts into words even if not very clear.
To me it is just more proof that the Diocese is not 'Anglican" but that is something I concluded many years ago. There are many Anglican parishes within the diocese but the current hierarchy has moved away from any semblance of Anglican belief.
Just last week when I was in Manly I passed the "Anglican" church. The board showed Sunday services. 8am was advertised as a Traditional service. What does that mean? Probably Holy Communion but you cannot be sure. I think many of these 'traditional services' are just being kept for the old folks and the young presbyters (that is what they call priests, I have even seen pastor used) cannot wait for the time when they can get rid of such services. The other services in most of these churches are given various names, often Family service (are gays welcome???), and are more like the Baptist church down the road. I reported last week that some Sydney Evangelicals think 'Holy Communion' interrupts the preaching.
There is no way I would attend a Eucharist celebrated by a lay person in an Anglican church. I am willing to participate in a service of Holy Communion in the Uniting Church led by my lay friend who has been licensed in that church. But I do not consider it to be the Eucharist just a Remembrance of the Last Supper and my attendance would just be a sharing in Christian fellowship. If I was marooned on a desert island or (God forbid) we were invaded and Christian services were banned, it would be a different situation.
I am not so sure about deacons presiding. A deacon has been ordained although I realise not as a priest. I have often written about Sue who is a deacon but cannot (being female) become a priest here in Sydney. She could not administer the Eucharist to Mum in her last days but did anoint her with holy oil from Jerusalem. Apparently, under the new arrangements, she can preside at the Eucharist but only in the presence of women and children. This, of course, follows the belief of some of these Sydney types that women should not speak in the presence of men. Some churches do not even allow women to read the lessons. Would Sue now be able to give Mum communion at her bedside but only with my sister present? The thought of that happening brings me to tears of anger. I am sure Sue would not have allowed that and what the diocese didn't know would not have mattered.
The commentators have brought up the situation of parishes which are widely dispersed or dioceses with shortages of priests. These situations do not apply to Sydney which covers a small, densely settled, largely metropolitan area. Anyway I believe dioceses with such problems can ordain priests who have not had a full training and who have other income and are restricted in moving to full incumbency of a parish.
I believe the motion in Sydney has two reasons.
One is to give a sop to the women who want to become priests. Sydney's opposition to women priests is based on the notion of 'headship' ie that a woman should not be a leader of men rather than on any priestly theology.
While I often comment on their homophobic policies because they affect me personally, it is their sexist policies that make me most angry. Their exclusion of homosexuals shows their lack of compassion and understanding but their exclusion of women in this day and age, I consider a sin of male pride and a ridiculous view of scripture which they only follow when it suits them. I do not see them insisting on women wearing hats these days. (I Cor. 11:13)
The second reason is their 'low' view of Holy Communion. To them its importance is far below that of preaching. Sadly I find most evangelical preaching boring as after 60 years, I have heard it all before. On the other hand, since moving to a liberal Anglo- catholic parish, most sermons are thought provoking and they are biblical but not pure bible studies. I travel 4 hours most Sundays in order to partake in the Eucharist as well as to worship. I would be quite happy to receive my teaching at home from reading in books or online as I also do.
Even as a young person in a time when the idea of a woman priest was no more than an occasional theoretical discussion and I had no understanding of my homosexuality, I was an Evangelical but an Anglican. I was taught and believed that something special and mystical happened when the priest consecrated the bread and wine and God became present in some more important way. Last week in the studies preparing for Easter, we discussed that in Sydney both Evangelical and Anglo-catholic churches do not allow children to receive communion before confirmation. I was not aware this was also a difference between Sydney and the rest of Australia. When one person said "but children do not understand what is happening", the priest (from Adelaide) said "do you understand, I don't". No I do not understand what is happening and am glad a senior priest does not either. Another reason to look forward to when we 'will know fully'.
I guess the only satisfaction to gain from the passing of this motion at Synod is the problem it is causing for GAFCON and FOCA. I am not the only person who has claimed that, despite them saying otherwise, the only thing the extreme Evangelicals and the extreme Anglo-Catholics have in common is their sexism and homophobia.
As stated I am opposed to them on both causes and if squabbling over their views of the Eucharist brings them to tears and schism, bring it on.
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