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This page last updated 24 November 2008
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Letters to AO

EVERY WEEK WE PUBLISH a selection of letters we receive in response to something you've read at Anglicans Online. Stop by and have a look at what other AO readers are thinking.

Alas, we cannot publish every letter we receive. And we won't publish letters that are anonymous, hateful, illiterate, or otherwise in our judgment do not benefit the readers of Anglicans Online. We usually do not publish letters written in response to other letters. We edit letters to conform with standard AO house style for punctuation, but we do not change, for example, American spelling to conform to Canadian orthography. On occasion we'll gently edit letters that are too verbose in their original form. Email addresses are included when the authors give permission to do so.

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Letters from 17 to 23 November 2008

Like all letters to the editor everywhere, these letters are the opinions of the writers and not Anglicans Online. We publish letters that we think will be of interest to our readers, whether we agree with them or not. If you'd like to write a letter of your own, click here.

Lay administration (letters about this letter)

Helen-Louise Boling is right. "Administration" of the elements (eg by deacons or lay-people) should mean distribution in contrast to celebration (by a priest). Sydney claims diaconal celebration is already legal and needs no ordinance because a General Synod canon law already allows diaconal "administration" which the Diocese has perversely interpreted as celebration.

Our Synod (Sydney not the New South Wales) has again moved motions in support of diaconal and lay celebration but motions are not binding. The Archbishop, however, supports the motions but has stated that he "will not licence a lay person AT THIS TIME (italics please)" to celebrate Communion - perhaps because Sydney's place in Gafcon would thereby be threatened. Already, however, representatives of the "open Evangelical" body,Fulcrum, and of the US Prayer Book Society have called for Sydney to leave Gafcon because of its support of departure in this respect from Anglican church principles! In practice, unofficially, "diaconal and lay administration", ie.celebration, is quite common - certainly in this parish but on non-licensed premises (buildings not licensed for worship, houses, and hospitals).

The Revd Dr John Bunyan
St John the Baptist's Parish Church, Canberra, ACT
Campbelltown, NSW, AUSTRALIA
17 November 2008

I refer to Helen's letter of last week. I am a minister in Sydney Diocese and read your letter today on Anglicans Online. Some clarification may help:

  1. The action refers to leading the communion service, not just distributing the elements.
  2. It is in the DIOCESE of SYDNEY – and not the state of New South Wales. (Sydney is one of 5 or so Diocese in the state of New South Wales).
  3. The Diocese has been discussing this for 30+ years, so it is not new.
  4. No law or canon was changed at the synod, but a resolution was passed that the synod already considers is legal for deacons to assist the minister, by leading the communion.

I explained it to my congregation in our Sunday NEWS sheet this way: (I tried to be non-technical)

"Wind the clock back at church some 50 years, and the minister did everything in the service but take up the offertory! He would lead the service, read the lessons, lead the prayers, preach, lead the Lord’s Supper and if he had a good voice, give a lead in the singing as well! Ministry by people other than clergy was pretty much limited to teaching Sunday school and Scripture in schools.

Over the years, we have grown in our understanding of God’s Word and seen that we have all been given gifts for ministry and that the role of ministers is to equip people for their ministry. So now, all of us are involved in ministry! And what great blessing has come! We have been able to significantly multiply ministry! E.g., typically, churches had one Bible study—led by the minister. At St Andrew’s we now we have over 20 with over 250 people involved! When we gather on a Sunday, there is tremendous blessing in having various others involved according to their gifts—reading the Scriptures, leading in prayer, leading the service etc. How good it was to have Leigh Hatcher preach recently! And all of us have an understanding that we are to minister to one another.

However, the one area of ministry that has not been exercised by people other than clergy is the Lord’s Supper. (Perhaps you hadn’t noticed that I am usually the only person that leads that part of the service!) That is because it was considered ‘illegal’ in terms of church rules. Certainly the Bible is silent about who may lead the Lord’s Supper—except that it occurred in people’s homes and was presumably led by the head of the family—in much the same way as they had led in the Passover remembrance. (And it is certainly not because the Anglican church teaches that there is something happening in the Supper that only an ordained minister can bring about. That is actually what Archbishop Cranmer in 1552 was fighting against, which cost him his life!)

The result? Our practice has not matched our theology. More than that, the fact that only clergy have led the Lord’s Supper has actually taught or enforced an incorrect understanding of the Supper. For over 30 years now, Sydney Diocese has endeavoured to address this anomaly. Initially, the legal minds sought to change the official church rules (canons). But on further research, no real legal barriers were actually found! It has been more by tradition than actual rule.

As a result, synod expressed its opinion this week that there are no theological or legal barriers to people other than senior ministers leading the Supper. How good to be in a Diocese that seeks to be faithful to the Scriptures and bring practice in line with theology."

Your readers may be interested in viewing argument for deacons leading the communion as set out here; also I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

The Rev Mark Calder
St Andrew's Roseville
Roseville, Sydney, AUSTRALIA
17 November 2008

Another take on personalization at the rail

I missed your letter about names at Communion so had to read it after reading the letters written in response. My own response comes in the form of two stories.

In 1988 I happened to be in London's Southwark Cathedral when Archbishop Desmond Tutu was celebrating (it was Lambeth Conference time). Many of us had South African connections - some were exiles. I was blown away and immensely touched when the Archbishop went along the Communion rail giving the sacrament. At a guess he probably knew at least 60% of the people by name, including mine. I have never forgotten that!

The second relates to a sermon I preached on Baptism and the giving of a Christian name. I commented on how sad I found it that so many people in church insisted on calling people Mr X or Miss Y rather than use Christian names. A ninety-three year old spinster spoke to me at the door after the service. " I was brought up to call the doctor Dr and the priest Mr or Fr and have done that all my life. But what you said makes sense, and from now on I shall call you Frank. You know my name!" I did, and she did. Blanche died a few weeks later. It was a happy and joyous funeral.

Frank Nelson
Wellington Cathedral of St Paul
Wellington, NEW ZEALAND
20 November 2008

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