The Sydney Synod has approved in principle the ideas of diaconal and lay presidency at the Holy Communion, suggesting a delay in implementation for laity but a sooner licensing for deacons, including women deacons. This has created, as perhaps an unintentional consequence, some concern among the more catholic conservative allies with Sydney against the liberal-trending spectrum of the Anglican Communion.
I have no difficulty understanding the extreme protestant position on this score — it has been well spelled out in terms of the priesthood of all believers, the lack of scriptural clarity on the subject, the fact that deacons can baptize so why can’t they celebrate, and so on and so forth. I also have no difficulty understanding the practical implications, and the needs of isolated or small communities. On neither of these do I find the arguments persuasive, but I do find them comprehensible.
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.”
So the issue for me — quite apart from my opposition to the move on other grounds — is the logical inconsistency of taking steps so at odds with sources of authority that are brandished in other controversies as touchstones of stability for the emerging Anglican Communion 2.0.
Perhaps this is just the beta.
Tobias Haller BSG
Update: See further at More on Sydney