Monday, May 23, 2011

What would you say?

Am sitting on a Non-confirmist question from a Non-conformist about eucharistic presidency - repeated mention of 'Non-conformist' to make it clear that I am not wading into intra-Anglican debate about lay presidency.

Why do we insist that only priests and bishops may preside? Does this square with Scripture?

I am not without ideas myself about how to respond. But thoughts from you would be appreciated.

17 comments:

liturgy said...

Greetings Peter

All that your questioner and question highlight is the inadequacy of sola scriptura both in theory and in practice. Ask your questioner why they regard the letter of James to be inspired but not the Didache. Whatever the answer to that – that’s your answer to your presiding question.

Christ is risen!

Bosco

Father Ron Smith said...

This is where the word 'Tradition' acts as part of the Orthodox Christian heritage. One might expect a 'Non-Conformist' not to conform.

Hermano David | Brother Dah • veed said...

Because Christians with Bishops believe that our bishops are the successors to the Apostles, the president of whom was given the keys to the Kindom of Heaven, such that what the church determines for itself on earth is accepted in Heaven and what the church decides against for itself is also accepted in Heaven.

That said, the Church and its bishops have determined that only Bishops, and in the stead of the bishop, priest shall administer the Sacrament of Holy Communion. have determined

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for comments so far. I am heading in similar directions (though had not thought of looking up the Didache). I would not go quite so far as to say that what the church decides God agrees with :)

liturgy said...

Peter, just to clarify - yes, reading the Didache and other early church documents will help - but that was not my point. My point was that something other than scripture needs to be invoked IMO. Your questioner does that (probably unreflectingly) in their choice of what they regard as inspired.

Blessings

Bosco

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
Scripture is entirely silent on this issue, so there is no Scriptural basis you can provide.

On the contrary, the NT practice seems to be that Christians share the Lord's Supper together in a house, with no concept of anyone "presiding" at all - be they bishop, priest or otherwise. When Paul gets stuck into the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11) for their abuses of the Lord's Supper, he encourages them to remember Jesus' instructions, examine themselves, and show more consideration for their brothers and sisters, ie the responsibility is on each person present rather than a church leader or elder.

In some ways, the insistence on a priest or bishop can lead to theological confusion, e.g. the priest or bishop does something magical or spiritual to the bread and wine that a deacon or lay person can't do. Or alternately, we diminish Jesus, the Great High Priest, who has offered the once and for all sacrifice for sin in his body.

My argument would be on the grounds of church order, ie we need to ensure it is celebrated with a proper remembrance of the Lord Jesus, and within the context of a church fellowship.

Peter Carrell said...

But, Andrew, tradition is not silent on the matter! A tradition Anglican Reformers happily did not overturn.

Andrew Reid said...

http://geoconger.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/us-backing-for-communion-without-baptism-the-church-of-england-newspaper-may-20-2011/

On a related issue, I look forward to all those who pillory Sydney for its advocacy of diaconal presidency to put the boots in to TEC for advocating communion without baptism.

Paul Powers said...

It may be useful to remember that Anglicans and "non-conformists" (do people in NZ actually self-identify as such?) often have a different understanding of Holy Communion. I believe most Anglicans believe in some form of real presence (without necessarily accepting specific explanations of the mechanics, like transsubtantiation) or at the very least believe in some sort of receptionism. In other Protestant denominations, at least in the U.S., people see holy communion as nothing more than a commemerative act.

Peter Carrell said...

That would be mean then, Andrew? :)

I try to be consistent!

(Seriously, I sense that some member of the Communion are well aware of the issue diaconal presidency poses re consistency as baptism before communion and blessing of same sex relationships are pushed, and thus take a friendly line re Sydney ... let each member church do what is right in its own eyes ...)

liturgy said...

Taking Andrew Reid’s point and continuing my trajectory: just as in the early church there were a variety of documents only some of which were canonised, hence, in parallel, there appears to have been a variety of ways of organising the community, only some of which were canonised.

It seems fair to suggest that the church at Corinth was without leadership/eldership at the time of Paul’s writing, possibly even “experimentally” intentionally by Paul. The letters also make fairly clear that this community was not a roaring success!!! (as even Andrew Reid highlights). It is then not surprising, to me, that, not much later, by the time of the first epistle of Clement to that community in Corinth these are established and he asserts the apostolic authority of the bishops/presbyters as rulers of the church.

Blessings

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

In other words, Bosco, read what the Corinthians did but do not do what they did!

liturgy said...

I would cautiously say yes to that response, Peter. I guess, similarly, I do not see the eucharist without the meal between bread and wine to be invalidated by the pattern still explicitly in the Corinthian community at the time of Paul’s writing of having the meal between the bread and wine.

Anonymous said...

"he asserts the apostolic authority of the bishops/presbyters as rulers of the church"
- are you saying that "bishops" and "presbyters" (to use those calques) are the same thing? Then you would agree with Lightfoot on "The Apostolic Ministry". Not much grist for monepiscopacy here!Roger Beckwith's argument in 'Elders in Every City' is worth a good perusal.

Peter "Palaiologos"

liturgy said...

Peter "Palaiologos", the attempt to make "bishops" equal "presbyters" everywhere in the earliest church continues to fall into the trap of being unable to see there were a variety of leadership models being “experimented” with – in parallel to there having been a variety of “canons” being “experimented” with in the earliest church. The church then settled on a canon, and on a model of leadership. Neither can be sourced sola scriptura.

Anonymous said...

Bosco, I think Lighfoot made a pretty convincing case that in the time of St Paul, 'episkopos' and 'presbuteros' were interchangeable terms, and it's evident from the NT that monespiscopacy did not exist then. If I read you right, you say there were "experiments" in leadership, but I don't see positive evidence that this was the case - that may be a retrospective judgment. At the other extreme we have the claim by R P C Hanson that no ministry as such existed - everything was "charismatic". That is manifestly claiming too much as well. Beckwith is an expert in the NT esp. in its Jewish setting (with the Jewish understanding of elders and teachers providing the NT backdrop) and I find his little book quite persuasive. He has a good discussion of 2nd century developments.
Peter "Palaiologos"

Anonymous said...

There is nothing about "presiding" in the NT, and a lot about teachign and discipling. Beckwith has a good section on how the early churches dealt with leadership of worship, in parallel with the synagogue model.
In the later dispute with Jews, 2nd century Christians retrojected Jewish priesthood ideas onto the Christian ministry. This involved seeing the eucharist as a "sacrifice".

Peter "Palaiologos"