A number of important comments on the Sydney lay / diaconal presidency have been made below in response to my last post, and I'd like to elevate some of the discussion to this level.
The role of a presbyter is in his or her eldership. It does not consist in his or her authority to 'celebrate' the Eucharist. The scripture does not require any presidency at or celebration of the Eucharist but, rather, that it be done decently and in order, with understanding and faith.
To allow other believers (deacon or otherwise) to break the Eucharistic bread does not deny to presbyters their role as elders, teachers and shepherds of God's people.
and I responded,
What you say presents an interesting theory, but it runs counter to the Ordinal, which is rather specific about the role of the Presbyter in presiding at the ministration of the sacraments. You are quite right about the Scripture, however, being silent on the subject. It would be more helpful in your cause if you could point to any biblical text which showed any lay person or deacon presiding at the breaking of the bread. I am not aware of any such passage in Scripture, which usually portrays this action being led by Jesus or Paul. And Paul's description of the irregularities at the Corinthian love-feasts would appear to argue against the possible disorder caused by letting just anyone take charge.
I have, by the way, no objection, as it is allowed in the Ordinal, to see deacons and lay persons assist in the celebration -- but assisting is not presiding, and the Synod's reading of its own regulations does not meet the standard of interpreting the language as written.
Finally, another aspect of the problem is the attempt to divide leadership in the worshiping assembly from leadership in the role as teacher and pastor. This hardly seems wise, even if possible, and I think leads to the very kinds of disruptions that undermine decency and good order.
Obadiah Slope posted this comment:
In your last comment to Canberra-Brian (I think), you raise the issue of dividing leadership in the worshiping assembly from leadership in the role as teacher and pastor.
This is the heart of the argument FOR lay administration by its supporters in Sydney. They want each of the clergy in the congregation to be able to lead in communion, and preaching.
One solution would be to priest each of them, as you would in TEC.
In Sydney, the model will be one priest and several deacons (in a large parish), all preaching and leading in communion.
The difference is largely about nomenclature IMHO.
I'm grateful for Obadiah's comment, but I'm afraid I still don't understand the rationale. I've also been forced to reexamine the Scriptural side of the discussion, and want to add a bit more there.
The fundamental problem, it seems to me, is the failure to accept the biblical basis for leadership in terms of both office and order -- bishops and elders are called to a ministry of leadership, pastorship, teaching and in the ministration of the sacraments. There is no indication of diaconal or lay presidency at the eucharist in Scripture, as far as I can see; and as I noted earlier, the disorders of Corinth seem to argue for greater regulation, not less.
Deacons are called to another ministry entirely, as the Ordinal makes clear. But this goes not just for the Ordinal but the Scripture; even in the pastoral epistles there is a clear distinction between those who are called to lead and those called to other ministries. Or if I'm missing something, where is it?
Sydney's action seems to be based on a quibblesome reading of a canon, concerning deacons assisting in ministration of the sacraments, and the provision for deacons to administer baptism.
Equating baptism and eucharist is a strange thing to do; though both are sacraments, baptism is essentially personal (though it involves the congregation) while the eucharist is by definition communal (though it involves the individual). The ministrations themselves differ profoundly. As I've noted, in our tradition lay persons can administer emergency baptism. The Roman Catholics go further and allow emergency baptism by a non-Christian, but they don't allow a non-Roman Christian even to receive communion (with rare exceptions), much less celebrate it. So the Sydney position seems to have elevated a Red Herring to the level of doctrine.
Further, and equally problematic, is the historical dimension: having a single presbyter surrounded by deacons would be all well and good -- so long as the deacons didn't preside at worship. The biblical analogy for this model was to Priests and Levites -- and remember what happened when some uppity Levites got the idea to usurp the priesthood! Moreover, being quite biblical on this, even preaching is not properly a diaconal ministry -- note the explicit commission of the deacons in Acts 6:2. The actual model Obadiah describes is more like the Metropolitan church in which the bishop is surrounded by a college of presbyters -- but that's just the point, they are presbyters, not deacons.
So yes, in one way it is a problem of nomenclature -- but as such, why not then simply take the logical step and make anyone who presides at the liturgy a presbyter? Sydney seems to have some desire to separate the historic (and biblical) connection between office and order, and seems to be caught in a device of their own invention if the necessity is to comply with an idea that only the incumbent can be a priest.
Tobias Haller BSG