Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Treating Friends Like Enemies

Matt Kennedy has written an excellent piece on Stand Firm entitled, "Treating Friends Like Enemies," dealing with the Australian Diocese of Sydney's move to allow deacons and lay people to preside at the Eucharist. I have written about Sydney's move twice previously.

Matt disagrees with this move, as do I, and he gives three reasons for his disagreement:
First: There are many Anglicans, and I am one of them, who reject the Anglo Catholic understanding of the priesthood while recognizing that presiding over the Eucharist is an act of headship and as such ought to be reserved for the ordained leadership of a local congregation. I will not argue that case here but I want simply to point out that the Communion standard is no more an implicit endorsement of the Anglo Catholic sacerdotal position than it is an endorsement of the evangelical headship argument. The reason the Communion standard has survived so long is precisely because it can be legitimately embraced by both evangelicals and Anglo Catholics in very good conscience.

Second: Because that is true, what Sydney may perceive to be a grand act against sacerdotalism also stands as a divisive act against fellow evangelicals.

Third: Sydney’s stance toward Anglo Catholicism as represented by the move toward lay or diaconal and lay presidency is the kind of stance generally taken toward an enemies rather than friends.

I appreciate Matt's contribution to this issue and agree with his piece to a large degree. But I posted a comment on Stand Firm taking issue with Matt's representation of Anglo-Catholicism. Here is what I had to say:


I am somewhat late (perhaps too late) in weighing in on this piece. But thank you for making this contribution to the discussion of lay presidency. Your three reasons are on target and well said. But I would like to raise a few points concerning your characterization of Anglo-Catholics and Anglo-Catholic positions.

When you say, "There are many Anglicans, and I am one of them, who reject the Anglo Catholic understanding of the priesthood," you leave your readers to assume they know what you mean by an "Anglo Catholic understanding of the priesthood" or to deduce it as they continue reading. Subsequently, you refer to "an Anglo Catholic sacerdotal understanding of the priesthood," which elaborates but doesn't clarify.

A sacerdotal priesthood can mean three things:

1. A sacrificing priesthood, as in the Old Testament or in pagan religions that still sacrifice live animals. Obviously this does not apply to the New Testament presbyterate. A priest in the Eucharist re-presents the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ; he is not re-sacrificing Christ.

Or, to cite a dictionary definition, it can mean one of two other things:

2. Relating to priests or the priesthood; priestly.
3. Relating to a doctrine that ascribes spiritual or supernatural powers to ordained priests.

Well, #2 seems a bit redundant, but might, in fact, be apt: Sydney evangelicals do seem to object to a priestly priesthood, and Anglo-Catholics favor a priesthood that looks like one. But that seems to be bit trivial for such a profound difference of opinion.

Which leaves us with #3, that there is a spiritual or supernatural power that pertains to the ordained priesthood. I think (and I believe most Anglo-Catholics would agree) that spiritual authority is more accurate than "power." But is it not also true that the lowest low-churchman who sets apart a presbyter for ordained ministry believes that a spiritual authority has been conferred on that individual by virtue of ordination?

Another way to put it is to say that Anglo-Catholics believe that when we lay hands on something or someone and pray, God actually does something. When we pray "that we receiving these thy creatures of bread and wine, according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ's holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood" (1662 BCP) we believe that "the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ." (Article XXVIII. And, no, I am not talking about Transubstantiation, which is spoken against in the same Article.) We believe that that which was previously bread and wine is now, for us, the body and blood of Christ. "The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith."

Likewise, when the Bishop and assembled presbyters pray over a candidate for ordination, "RECEIVE the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" we believe that the Holy Spirit actually empowers the individual for a new ministry of Word and Sacraments. The Bishop then says, "TAKE thou Authority to preach the Word of God, and to minister the holy Sacraments in the Congregation, where thou shalt be lawfully appointed thereunto." (1662 BCP)

So the Church authorizes and the Holy Spirit empowers an individual to undertake the ministry of a priest in response to the Bishop's laying on hands and the Church's prayers. Do Evangelicals not believe this as well? Is the individual who has been prayed for effectually and set apart in this manner not spiritually changed? I would submit that the reason the Communion standard has survived so long and can be legitimately embraced by both evangelicals and Anglo Catholics is because it embraces a difference in emphasis and not in substance.

I am very concerned when you say that "Regular participation in a validly celebrated Eucharist with validly consecrated elements is necessary, Anglo Catholics believe, for the salvation of souls." Most Anglo-Catholics would not want to be perceived as belittling the Eucharist by taking issue with that statement. But, as a theological proposition, it is not strictly true. The thief on the Cross is an obvious biblical exception. The Ethiopian eunuch was obviously saved, though there is no mention of his partaking of the Eucharist. So, to be theologically accurate, no Anglo-Catholic I know would say that partaking of the Eucharist is essential to salvation. But it is an essential part of the Christian life, in that no real Christian would choose to live a life that neglects the Eucharist. After all, our Lord instituted it and commanded that we partake of it. So Anglo-Catholics believe the Eucharist is an essential part of the Christian life and that the ordained elders (presbyters/priests) should preside. Wouldn't most Evangelicals agree with that?

The matter gets complicated further when Carl says and you agree that "The Anglo Catholic understanding of the priesthood is, I believe, in error because it is, as you say, 'a works based gospel.'" Whoa! Hold on! That's a dangerous allegation. But I am certain that that assumption underlies the problem that Sydney Evangelicals think they have with Anglo-Catholics.

The beautiful thing about the Prayer Book is that it sums up a theology that we all confess every time we celebrate the Eucharist. We pray "that by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in his blood, we and all thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion." Is that not the basis of salvation for all of us?

Evangelicals tend to look at the disciplines that an Anglo-Catholic considers an important part of the Christian life and say, "they think they are earning their salvation." Anglo-Catholics look at an Evangelical and Reformed proclamation of sola fide and say that it is "cheap grace" or that it breeds a lax Christianity. It is, once again, a difference in emphases (and the source of a great misunderstanding). We do not have different Gospels!

Matt, I do not know if you have ever read Archbishop Michael Ramsey's The Gospel and the Catholic Church? A new edition has been released recently. I highly recommend it. As I have said elsewhere, I wish Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics could come to a true understanding of each other's positions, actually discuss their differences, and achieve a rapprochement. The division has continued too long, and our witness is suffering because of it. The Sydney move toward lay presidency is just the latest manifestation.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Hilarion Addresses Nicean Club at Lambeth Palace

Address by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations to the Annual Nicean Club Dinner (Lambeth Palace, 9 September 2010

The Metropolitan had much to say about western innovations in faith and order and the threat to Christian unity.

From here, where there is much more:
We are also extremely concerned and disappointed by other processes that are manifesting themselves in churches of the Anglican Communion. Some Protestant and Anglican churches have repudiated basic Christian moral values by giving a public blessing to same-sex unions and ordaining homosexuals as priests and bishops. Many Protestant and Anglican communities refuse to preach Christian moral values in secular society and prefer to adjust to worldly standards.

Our Church must sever its relations with those churches and communities that trample on the principles of Christian ethics and traditional morals. Here we uphold a firm stand based on Holy Scripture.

In 2003, the Russian Orthodox Church had to suspend contact with the Episcopal Church in the USA due to the fact that this Church consecrated a self-acclaimed homosexual, Jim Robertson, as bishop. The Department for External Church Relations made a special statement deploring this fact as anti-Christian and blasphemous. Moreover, the Holy Synod of our Church decided to suspend the work of the Joint Coordinating Committee for Cooperation between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Episcopal Church in the USA, which had worked very successfully for many years. The situation was aggravated when a woman bishop was installed as head of the Episcopal Church in the USA in 2006 and a lesbian was placed on the bishop’s chair of Los Angeles in 2010.

Similar reasons were behind the rupture of our relations with the Church of Sweden in 2005 when this Church made a decision to bless same-sex “marriages”. And recently the lesbian Eva Brunne has become the “bishop” of Stockholm.

What can these churches say to their faithful and to secular society? What kind of light do they shine upon the world (cf. Mt. 5:14)? What is their ‘salt’? I am afraid the words of Christ can be applied to them: If the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men (Mt. 5:13).

Read it all.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What to do on 9/11: Instead of burning the Koran, tell the world about Muslim persecution of Christians

H/T = Virtue Online

From here:
The news has been full of groups of idiotic evangelical Protestant groups who want to commemorate the anniversary of the mass murder of 9/11 by burning copies of the Koran. This is a really dumb idea. First of all, burning the Koran will ignite fury in parts of the Muslim world and will lead to Americans being targeted for murder. Also, Christians living in Muslim countries will be endangered by the actions of this fringe of American Christians.

Secondly, burning the Koran will only fuel the propaganda that Islam is a victimised, endangered religion - a faith that struck out at America on September 11 in self-defence. If you want to create fertile ground for more radical Islamists, more suicide bombers and more terrorism, this is a good way to do it.


Christians and Muslims need to talk. And the first item on the agenda ought to be the treatment of Christians in majority Muslim nations. As a Christian, I cannot believe that Christ would approve of deliberately insulting and angering others to the point of violence. But He would approve of Christians standing up for the basic human rights of their oppressed brothers and sisters.

Read it all.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

A further word on Lay Presidency


In 2008, after I made the comment on Stand Firm that I reprinted in my previous post, "What should We Think of Lay Presidency?" Prof. Stephen Noll (a long time friend and former colleague) called my attention to the book, The Lord’s Supper in Human Hands: Who Should Administer?, authored by Peter G. Bolt and Mark D. Thompson (who teach at Moore College, Sydney) and Robert Tong (an attorney and Chancellor for the Diocese of Sydney), together with contributions from Sydney Regional Bishop Glenn Davies and the Rev. Dr. John W. Woodhouse (the Principal of Moore College).

Regarding this book, Prof. Noll made this comment:
I am working on a review of this book, but I do want here to note that it seems to put forth different and possibly contradictory arguments for the new practice. The first argument, forwarded primarily by Dr. Woodhouse, is that it is an evangelical mandate. He writes: “We cannot be content with practices which obscure or distort the gospel” (p. 7), and he then lists 5 distortions:

1. That exclusive clergy presidency suggests a “power” which a lay person cannot have;
2. That higher qualifications are required for presiding than preaching (the comparison with lay preaching is a recurrent theme);
3. That the validity of the sacrament depends on the person presiding;
4. That ordination has more to do with the Sacrament than preaching (see #2);
5. That a priest is essential to the Lord’s Supper and no other practice.

This then leads him to identify the traditional practice with the BCP’s warning against “things that at first were of godly intent and purpose devised, and yet at length turned to vanity and superstition.”

So the argument would seem to go like this:
• Evangelical Christians must uphold the gospel.
• There is no basis in Scripture for priest-only administration of Communion
• There are historical developments in the idea of priestly power that raise the Sacrament over the Word.
• Therefore it is a gospel mandate to change the practice.

The itemization of the points led me to offer this response:

1. That exclusive clergy presidency suggests a “power” which a lay person cannot have;

No, clergy presidency suggests a function to which a lay person is not called.

2. That higher qualifications are required for presiding than preaching (the comparison with lay preaching is a recurrent theme);

In Acts, Stephen and Phillip (both deacons) were obviously preachers; and Phillip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch—whether it was a case of necessity, or whether deacons routinely baptized, we are not told. However, there is no scriptural evidence for diaconal or lay presidency at the Lord’s Supper. And the early Fathers, who were in the best position to observe how the Scriptures were applied in the matter of eucharistic presidency, always considered it reserved to the presbyterate.

3. That the validity of the sacrament depends on the person presiding;

The validity of the sacrament depends on the authority of the person presiding, which is made clear in the Preface to the 1662 Ordinal:
IT is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles’ time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church; Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which Offices were evermore had in such reverend Estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same; and also by publick Prayer, with Imposition of Hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful Authority. And therefore, to the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed in the Church of England, no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, in the Church of England, or suffered to execute any of the said Functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereunto, according to the Form hereafter following, or hath had Episcopal Consecration, or Ordination.

4. That ordination has more to do with the Sacrament than preaching (see #2);

Our Anglican forebears were almost equally restrictive regarding preaching as they were the sacraments. Only clergy were to preach. It was to be done primarily by presbyters and only secondarily by deacons who had been licensed by the bishop. The fact that laypeople may be articulate teachers and speakers on many occasions and at many types of Christian gatherings does not mean that they should assume the function of the preacher in congregational worship. If someone shows that kind of calling to the task of preaching, the Church should ordain him. But (speaking hypothetically), if ordination did have more to do with the sacrament than with preaching, so what? It would be a matter of a calling to a function rather than elevation to a position of power.

In Article XXXVI. Of Consecration of Bishops and Ministers, the writers seem to have anticipated the concern that ordination created a special priestly caste:
The Book of Consecration of Bishops, and Ordering of Priests and Deacons… doth contain all things necessary to such Consecration and Ordering; neither hath it any thing that, of itself, is superstitious and ungodly.

In other words, one need not worry that the making of bishops, priests, and deacons is, in and of itself, a cause of superstition or ungodliness—though it often seems to me that members of the Sydney diocese view it as precisely that.

5. That a priest is essential to the Lord’s Supper and no other practice.

A physician is essential to the practice of medicine, and an electrician is essential to wiring a house. Both are pretty much interchangeable with any other human being, other than when they are exercising their respective callings. It is a matter of function. But what if priests (due to their being set apart for a particular function in the church) were more essential to the sacraments than any other function? So what? This seems to spring more from a superstitious aversion to clergy and sacraments than anything that is grounded in Scripture, Anglican tradition, or even sound reason.

What did Sydney do?

From the Church Times, October 24, 2008:
SYDNEY DIOCESAN SYNOD has affirmed that deacons — including women deacons — may preside at holy communion.

In a motion moved by a Sydney regional bishop, Dr Glenn Davies, the synod accepted arguments that there was no legal impediment to deacons’ presiding, given that, under a 1985 General Synod canon, deacons are authorised to assist the priest in the administration of the sacraments.

With respect to the Bishop, to "assist the priest in the administration of the sacraments" is not the same as administering the sacraments. (The Sydney folks use the term "adminster" to mean what Anglicans elsewhere mean when they say that a person "presides" or "celebrates" the Holy Communion or the Eucharist.) This manipulation of language to move the deacon from assisting the priest in the administration of the sacraments into administering them himself (or herself) borders on the disingenuous.

I trust that, if the Bishop ever has to have an operation, he would not want the nurses who usually assist the surgeon in the performance of the operation to perform the procedure on their own. To this the Sydney apologist will counter that I am saying that the presbyter has some education or superior ability to preside at the Eucharist that a deacon or lay person does not have. Yes, the presbyter has training, a depth of spiritual formation, and an authority given in ordination when he is set apart for the ministry of word and sacrament.

The report from the Church Times continues:
Another Sydney regional bishop, the Rt Revd Peter Tasker, supported an attempt to remove general af­firma­tion of lay and diaconal presid­ency from the motion out of concern for a potential adverse GAFCON re­sponse, but the amendment was lost.

Yes, the concern for orthodox unity and the future of the GAFCON movement is very real.
The motion was seconded by the Archdeacon for Women’s Ministry, the Ven. Narelle Jarrett, who wel­comed the opportunity the motion gave for women deacons to preside at services for women and children, as, for example, in “a girls’ school or a women’s prison”.

The idea of women clergy celebrating exclusively female Eucharists is a familiar one to Anglicans in the UK and North America. Trust me, Sydney, you don't want to go there. There is an iconography to the Lord's Supper, no matter how bare a sign a low churchman wants to make it. Eucharistic presidency is making a statement about the nature of God, whether you want to believe it or not. In this regard, I recommend William Oddie's book, What Will Happen to God?: Feminism and the Reconstruction of Christian Belief.

The Church Times continues:
The Dean of Sydney, the Very Revd Phillip Jensen, argued that allowing deacons to preside would turn the diaconate into “a real diaconate”. “We don’t want to specialise the presbyters in administering the Lord’s Supper . . . but we want them to specialise in their incumbency.”

While I would like to be respectful, honesty compels me to say that that statement (if reported accurately) is vacuous beyond belief. It is sloganeering and not theology. To say that presiding would turn the diaconate into "a real diaconate" presupposes that you know what "a real diaconate" looks like. And the only basis for a Christian knowing what the diaconate looks like is Scripture and Church history, neither of which offers a single example of a deacon ever presiding at the Eucharist.

The motion was passed un­amended, and, the Sydney diocesan website reported, “overwhelmingly”. It read:

Synod —

(a) accepts the report concerning legal barriers to lay and diaconal administration of the Lord’s Supper which was submitted to the 3rd session of the 47th Synod, and

(b) affirms again its conviction that lay and diaconal administration of the Lord’s Supper is consistent with the teaching of Scripture, and

(c) affirms that the Lord’s Supper in this diocese may be administered by persons other than presbyters, and requests the Diocesan Secretary to send a copy of The Lord’s Supper in Human Hands to all bishops who attended the GAFCON.

Now take that second point: "that lay and diaconal administration of the Lord’s Supper is consistent with the teaching of Scripture..."

How is it that Sydney can make such a bold declaration that this is the case and that Sydney apologists can claim that lay presidency is a "gospel imperative" when our Anglican forebears were so clear? Go back and read the words from the Ordinal again: "It is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors..."

The matter is due to come before the Diocese of Sydney convention again next month. As I wrote two years ago, I agree that we need to dialogue very earnestly with our brothers and sisters in Sydney about this. And I pray that they do not do something unilaterally that jeopardizes the unity of orthodox Anglicanism, when this unity has never been more important.