Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Some notes on lay presidency v clerical presidency

It has been interesting to follow comments to my post a few days ago drawing attention to a post or two on lay presidency at the Ugley Vicar. I am not particularly persuaded by some comments so here I take the opportunity to share a few thoughts of my own.

(1) The way we order our ministry within different churches is impossible to align precisely with Scripture because Scripture is unclear on the matter of any preferred order for ministry. Just before anyone challenges me on the previous sentence, please be prepared to tell me about how the order of widows works in your church.

(2) Consequently the way we order our ministry is likely to be informed by a mixture of tradition (the way things have been done) and of theology (the way we think things ought to be done in respect of sound theological principles). That tradition may be very longstanding (so Roman, Eastern, Lutheran and Anglican churches) or it may be more recent (so Presbyterian, Pentecostal and Plymouth Brethren), and in all cases (that I am aware of) some connection is made with Scripture as support for the tradition (and some may go so far as to assert a total scriptural justification for the tradition).

(3) Given the sheer longevity of the ordering of ministry involving bishops, presbyters (priests, understood as a synonym for presbyter, being a contraction of that word), and deacons, it is reasonable to argue that this is the preeminent ordering of ministry within the breadth and length of Christianity. By 'preminent' I do not mean that this ordering may not be questioned, have alternatives put up for consideration, nor that it has suffered no variations through the years that might be appropriately revised or renewed (e.g. (and without particularly wanting myself to discuss this matter), it is, as I understand things, something of a travesty of the original establishment of the diaconate that deaconing for some churches is now simply a year or so as an apprentice presbyter). But the fact of the matter is that most Christians through most of time, including our generation, have lived out their corporate experience of Christianity within the ordering of ministry marked by bishops, presbyters and deacons. This should in my view weigh a bit more heavily on the minds of some Protestants than it does. It is also a reason why as a Protestant, evangelical Christian myself, unpersuaded by all the claims of the Bishop of Rome, and suspicious of the cultural and theological bondage of Eastern Christianity to certain points in times past, I find it congenial to remain and, indeed, promote Anglican Christianity.

(4) Consequently the most reasonable starting point for considering the possibility that the eucharist might be presided over by a non-ordered person (i.e. 'lay presidency') is not that the churches have misunderstood the leading of God in the ordering of ministry re the orders of bishop, presbyter and deacon (though some misunderstanding may have crept in, e.g. where celibacy is insisted upon) but that the right and proper enthusiasm of the local church to celebrate the eucharist together weekly might be impeded by a shortage of bishops and presbyters. This indeed, as I understand our own Kiwi Anglican discussions of lay presidency, has been the reasonable starting point.

(5) An adjunct point is that it is somewhat churlish to implicitly if not explicitly criticise desire for weekly communion as a sort of Johnny-come-lately phenomonen driven forward by obsessive 'parish communion' type Anglicans. The desire for weekly remembrance of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the Lord's day through the sharing in eucharistic celebration is entirely consonant with Scripture. If some Anglicans in some century or another did not have this desire, well, good on them, but that is no basis for not doing our best to ensure the weekly celebration of the eucharist.

(6) So, what to do about a shortage of presbyters and/or bishops? There are, as canvassed below in comments to the previous post on lay presidency, three logical options:
- license lay presidents,
- ordain more priests (and/or bishops, but perhaps all here are united in thinking that fewer rather than more bishops is a good idea!), or
- develop extension of communion from one place with presbyter to another without presbyter.

(7) Speaking to the first option I have generally found in listening in to Anglican conversations about lay presidency that we never talk about an open lay presidency (say, like the Plymouth Brethren) but always about a select lay presidency. That is, we mean that a lay president would be educated, trained, mature, respected by the congregation, enjoying the confidence of diocese and parish. I find it difficult at this point to distinguish the suitably qualified hypothetical Anglican lay president from the real possibility of such a person being ordained to be a presbyter for the congregation concerned.

(8) As Bosco Peters points out, we have a history in Kiwiland of ordaining 'more priests' but sometimes in such a way that some very significant questions are raised about training and education of the 'more priests.' Nevertheless we have experience of some superb 'local priests' being ordained, trained and educated well (which need not mean to a Master's level). My solution to the lack of priests? Ordain more (but train, educate and support them).

(9) Yet a real question will remain for some congregations about where their presbyter would come from because, frankly, that person is not currently in the midst of the congregation. Well, extended communion is a fine option, and which is in various places well used (and, in our church, provided for liturgically in our NZPB).

To sum up: there is, on closer inspection, no need for lay presidency.

That's quite a bold conclusion :)

45 comments:

Tim Chesterton said...

To sum up: there is, on closer inspection, no need for lay presidency.

That's quite a bold conclusion :)


Hah! I think you've just closed the discussion, Peter!

Fair enough! I never really expected to carry the day!

By the way, you have the toughest word verification I have ever come across. I have yet to get your scrambled words right the first time - sometimes it takes me three or four tries. Must be a way to screen out pesky Anabaptists...

liturgy said...

Amen!

Christ is risen!

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks, Bosco. Hi, Tim, Of course discussion can continue!

The word verification (as far as I can tell from commenting on other Blogger sites) is pretty standard these days on Blogger so I imagine robots had triumphed over the previous system.

Father Ron Smith said...

re word verification: it's quite a bonus not to have to wear spectacles!

Too much study can weaken the eyesight!

Kurt said...

Agreed. No need for lay presidency. I also agree that we should ordain more priests if that is necessary. There’s nothing wrong with having more non-stipendiary clergy. In fact, perhaps one day that will be the norm for small parishes, particularly small, rural parishes.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Father Ron Smith said...

As a Franciscan Brother in Brisbane in the late 1970's, I met up with a former 'Bishop of the Arctic', who spoke to our Community of the way in which the scattered communities of the Province were equipped with priestly ministry.

This was by way of a project called TEAM - 'Teach Each A Ministry' wherein a local person was chosen by the locals in each community to be ordained as their priest-in-situ. Other ministries were also raised up to support this primary ministry in the community.

The Bishop was in Australia to talk with the Australian Bishops about this system, which was working well in the environment of the Arctic.

Anonymous said...

By the same token, there is "no need" for lay preaching either - simply ordain preachers! You write:

"I find it difficult at this point to distinguish the suitably qualified hypothetical Anglican lay president from the real possibility of such a person being ordained to be a presbyter for the congregation concerned."

Substitute "lay president" with "lay preacher" and you will see what I mean. It is far harder - and much rarer - to be an able preacher than to lead prayers reverently. So why does Anglicanism allow one and not the other? Does it consider the sacrament superior to preaching?

Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin,
You are being mischievous in the sense that you know full well that lay presidency is the overturning of millennia old tradition about presbyteral (and episcopal) presidency at the eucharist and I am defending that tradition by pointing out a weakness in the argument for overturning it.

You are also being mischievous in asserting that presidency at the eucharist is merely 'leading prayers reverently'. You know full well that the role includes that but is not confined to that as it also involves leadership of the community now focused within the community meal, representation of the bishop (as figure of unity in each diocese), and, to one degree or another, representating Christ's own presidency of the eucharist.

Questions properly arise re the basis for having lay preachers and it is not mischievous to raise questions about that. In respect of that I suggest two possibilities worth exploring: first that those who preach should be ordered in the same way as those who preside (i.e. abolish lay preaching as the appropriate conclusion to not supporting lay presidency); secondly that preaching does not require ordering in the same way as presiding. I see no necessary connection between such thinking and determining that 'word' is thereby inferior to 'sacrament'.

Father Ron Smith said...

"So why does Anglicanism allow one and not the other? Does it consider the sacrament superior to preaching?
- Anonymous Martin -

Obviously Martin is not a priest, or he would not need to ask this silly question. The Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood is at the very centre of Anglican Worship. Worship is more important than preaching. This is why Jesus made sure that the Eucharist became the New Testament replacement for the O.T. sacrificial system. This is the only mandatory act of worship in the Anglican Church - for good reason - with which every priest ought to have been acquainted before his/her bishop lays hands upon them.

Preaching is not Worship!

Anonymous said...

Peter, I'm not being in the slightest 'mischievous' and I would call you out for an ad hominem if you didn't (rightly) have full powers of censorship over your own blog! :)

I do not see how a visiting presbyter has 'leadership of the community', and nobody has ever thought this of visiting clergy leading communion services in churches during interregnums. And if it is about representing bishops, don't readers also hold an episcopal license and supposedly act 'in persona episcopi'? (Though I find this whole neo-Irenaean/Cyprianic theology of vicarious orders - 'Your ministry and mine' - frankly dubious and certainly not grounded in the BCP.)
There is nothing 'mere' about 'leading prayers reverently', but preaching well is much harder and a rarer gift.
As for millennia of tradition: I certainly respect that (as far as a classical Augustinian evangelical can) but I can't see how those who claim to be patristic-catholic type Anglicans (as I imagine - mistakenly? - Bosco is) can also support unilateral innovations like women's ordination - and certainly not by invoking Roman Catholic theology! That is very plainly a break with catholic order and nothing can conceal that fact. Male leadership of churches was practically universal for 1900 years. Why does this have no force with you?
Unless one is a traditional catholic (and supporters of WO are not this), opposition to 'lay presidency' (also not a biblical phrase) while allowing lay preaching can only be on grounds of emotion ('it feels funny') or expediency ('it would upset some people, don't rock the boat').
I do not understand your assertion (for which you offer no justification) that "preaching does not require ordering in the same way as presiding" - or rather, I would say it requires FAR more 'ordering'! Anglican celebrants of Holy Communion have to keep to the legal words of the service. Preachers, OTOH, can hold forth with any ignorant or heretical nonsense!
Martin

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
This argument seems a bit divorced from reality to me...many parishes are struggling to afford their existing priests, and have no plans to increase their ordained staff. Increasing staff should be about the full range of ministries involved in making and growing disciples, not just providing the sacraments.
One interesting model you may not be aware of occurs in the diocese of Tasmania. They ordain suitably qualified lay people as "Enablers" - essentially priests for a specific parish. This enables them to celebrate commumnion and preach in their parish ONLY. They also ordain people as deacons in their final year of theological study so they emerge as priests rather than deacons. I admit this will be controversial to some, but this was how they chose to address a shortage of clergy across their parishes.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew,
I do not share your ecclesiology! We are not in the business of "providing sacraments", we are in the business of leading and ministering to communities of faith, the entry to which is baptism and nurturing of which is holy communion.

As for Tasmania's enablers, that seems to support my point: ordain more priests! (Then have arguments about how restricted geographically their ministry should be ...).

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin,
I do not share your ecclesiology also. Presbyters form a college around their bishop, they spread out in the diocese to represent the bishop's leadership (in a manner different to a lay minister licensed by the bishop to perform certain tasks which fall short of full leadership responsibility for the community of faith). Whether the presbyter is permanently appointed as vicar or temporarily present as supply, the role is leadership of the community.

Sacramental leadership is not about whether the skill and effort is as hard as that required for preaching but about the confidence placed in the leader by both bishop/diocese and by the local parish.

As an Anglican I/we have the advantage of belonging to a church which both values tradition and is unafraid to evolve it when reasonable to do so. It is reasonable to evolve the tradition of clerical leadership to involve both women and men.

What I have tried to say in this post is that there is not a pressing reason to evolve the tradition of bishops and presbyters presiding at the eucharist to include lay presidents.

Anonymous said...

"Sacramental leadership is not about whether the skill and effort is as hard as that required for preaching but about the confidence placed in the leader by both bishop/diocese and by the local parish."
I don't know what your 'ecclesiology' is, Peter, and you offer a false dilemma here. You place 'confidence' - but more importantly, authority - in gifted persons called to a work. Evangelical Anglicans since Hooker at least (and probably earlier) have thought of bishops as senior presbyters, not the fons et origo of ministry (which is the ascended Christ). Visiting clergy are not 'leaders' of those communities - they don't get involved in anything beyond the service they are asked to lead.
If it is 'reasonable to evolve clerical leadership' (as you magisterially state), then it is 'reasonable to evolve' in thinking about leading worship (as Anglicanism did when it introduced the office of Reader and later allowed lay preaching).
The medieval schoolmen believed that priests had the power 'to confect God' on the altar, and I suspect a shadow of that thinking is still with us, in talk of 'validity'.
Martin

carl jacobs said...

Peter Carrell said...

You know full well that the role includes that but is not confined to that as it also involves leadership of the community now focused within the community meal, representation of the bishop (as figure of unity in each diocese), and, to one degree or another, representing Christ's own presidency of the eucharist.

Did I not say it in the first thread? Did not say that it would quickly become apparent (as it always does) that opponents of lay presidency are zealous to guard the authority of clergy? As in "There is a straight line from lay presidency to chaos and anarchy! Once tell them the masses they don't need a vicar for communion, and they will run riot!" You only have to start investigating the alleged consequences of lay presidency to see this is true. And what exactly are those consequences? Other than violating tradition, I mean?

If a man (ordained or not) preaches heresy, he can lead people on the wide road to ruin. Ah, but if an unordained man leads communion, he doesn't properly represent the authority of the bishop. Which then is the greater offense?

carl

Tim Chesterton said...

I've chosen not to continue to participate in this discussion up til now, because it seems clear to me that no one is going to be convinced by it, one way or the other. To me, the arguments in favour of lay presidency seem very strong. As a fairly traditional evangelical I don't share Peter's view of presbyters as essentially a college gathered around their bishop; I see Christian ministry as having been much more fluid than that in NT times and immediately after as well. And I certainly don't share Father Ron's Anglo-Catholic vision (which he appears to think characterizes the whole of Anglicanism) than preaching is somehow separate from, and inferior to, 'worship' (Psalm 95 includes not also praise and thanksgiving but also 'today if ye would hear his voice...').

As for the Diocese of the Arctic, I don't know who it was who was talking in Australia about local ordination but there has certainly been some of that since I left the Diocese in 1991. However, the locally ordained people are still working as if they were full-time stipendiary priests - i.e. the only ordained celebrant in their parishes (which are often two or three communities hundreds of miles apart with no roads in between). The essential problem continues: isolated communities being led in worship week by week by catechists and lay-readers, with occasional celebrations of Holy Communion led by a visiting priest.

The NT pattern seems quite clear to me: 'And after they had appointed elders for them in each church...' That 'church' in the NT usage (when it doesn't mean the universal church) means a single congregation is clear by the fact that Paul refers to 'the church that meets in so and so's house'. So the presbyters work as a team in each congregation. The modern reality, where we have a single presbyter driving around presiding over Eucharists in what is sometimes an eight or nine point parish (which is in big trouble when he or she goes on holiday!) could not be further removed from this.

In support of Martin's point about preaching, I note that the pastoral epistles, in their injunctions to elders, have a great deal to say about godly character and ability to preach, but absolutely nothing about presiding at the Eucharist. If presiding at the Eucharist is the pinnacle of priestly ministry, this seems a trifle strange!

To me, these arguments seem conclusive, but experience teaches that others will not find them so! I continue to pray for Anglicanism to be delivered from its clericalism and to become a truly inclusive tradition that encourages the ministries of all Christian people.

OK, back to my preparation for Sunday preaching now!

Anonymous said...

I'm happy to concur with Tim and pleased that he mentions the Pastorals. Personally, I've never been convinced that more communion services would revive the Anglican Communion, as the Parish Communion movement seemed to believe. The needs of the day, especially in a post-Christendom world, are a good deal more complex than that.
And is it really sensible to be driving around multiple parishes on a Sunday? Some good use of the internet (streaming sermons, for example) is one possibility.
Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Commenters,

I feel the need to refute some comments here which seem to imply a strange version of ecclesiology being advocated by me!
- heresy is a very serious offence and is not being advocated here by implication: a lay preacher should be licensed (or otherwise authorised), precisely to safeguard against heresy;
- I do not think I have said there would be chaos if we had lay presidents, what I am saying is that our polity as Anglicans would not be in keeping with the tradition we have abided by these 2000 years or so (while also allowing for evolution such as gender-wise so that women as well as men might be presbyters and bishops);
- to be clear: if all laity might be president then the polity of the church is "Plymouth Brethrenism", something I am deeply respectful and appreciative of, but were the Anglican church to move in that direction could we please also change our name to reflect our polity!
- if only some laity might be president (selection criteria apply etc), what is the difficulty in ordaining these splendid people?, and if there is more than one person per parish, so much the better re collegiality;
- nor am I advocating for 'clericalism' if by that is meant something nasty or dastardly about power preservation etc, but I am freely advocating for transparent authority and power structures in the church, which is the great blessing of ordination: we know who is in charge. Take, for instance, those isolated parishes in the great outback and wildernesses of Australia and Canada: lay presidency there would not mean anyone could preside (at least I assume not) but would mean that someone was designated to take leadership initiative in eucharistic ministry: is this person to be clearly identified and visible in their leadership or somewhat shadowy and quiet, hard to work out as the person really in charge? Transparency means the former and ordination (among other things) is the sealing of that transparency as the church sets aside, designates and authorise that person for their ministry of leadership.

So, how about answering this question: why do you who advocate for lay presidency on the basis of focusing on Scripture alone and simultaneously setting aside Anglicanism's long polity on the matter of presbyteral and episcopal presidency not belong to the Plymouth Brethren?

Anonymous said...

"why do you who advocate for lay presidency on the basis of focusing on Scripture alone and simultaneously setting aside Anglicanism's long polity on the matter of presbyteral and episcopal presidency not belong to the Plymouth Brethren?"

I can only speak for myself. Because I don't think anyone should be preaching on his/her own impulse. Because I like charismatic-style worship. Because Darbyism bores the socks off me.

There are alternatives to the Brethren, y'know!

Martin

Tim Chesterton said...

So, how about answering this question: why do you who advocate for lay presidency on the basis of focusing on Scripture alone and simultaneously setting aside Anglicanism's long polity on the matter of presbyteral and episcopal presidency not belong to the Plymouth Brethren?

Well, Peter, that argument has been used before. Why don't Anglicans who want blessing of gay marriages and gay ordinations join the Metropolitan Community Church? Simple answer - because they value other things about their Anglican heritage and want to help it evolve in what they see as a direction that is more faithful to the will of Christ.

Also, for your information, there are many more denominations than the PBs that allow lay-presidency. It was a sticky point in our 'full communion' negotiations with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada that, in certain circumstances, they allow it. The Methodist church in England allows it, as does the United Methodist Church in the USA. Also numerous evangelical denominations such as the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and Anabaptist denominations such as the Mennonites.

I am not a member of the Plymouth Brethren, because there are many. many things about being an Anglican that I appreciate. I do not feel that this precludes me working to change things I disagree with - as proponents of ordination of women have done. Likewise, in the 19th century, Tractarians felt free to propose major changes in the Church of England's ethos and self-understanding while still calling themselves Anglicans; you would not, I presume, say to Father Ron 'If you want to call yourself Father and call it the Mass, why don't you become a Roman Catholic' - although many, many people in nineteenth century England would have said exactly that.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Tim
I do not put calling oneself 'Father' and naming the Holy Communion service 'Mass' in the same league as advocating for lay presidency, so no, I am not going to ask why Fr Ron isn't a Roman Catholic. I do still want to ask him some other questions, as other commenters here do, such as by what authority he knows that the Spirit is speaking to him, but that question can be asked within Anglicanism!

Tim Chesterton said...

I do not put calling oneself 'Father' and naming the Holy Communion service 'Mass' in the same league as advocating for lay presidency

I'm sure you don't, Peter - as C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity, one of the differences between Christians is the importance they attach to their specific differences. 'That's not important, is it?' 'Important? Why, it's fundamental!'

But as you know from Anglican history, taking a prayer book that was created with the specific intent of excluding any idea of the sacrifice of the Mass, the corporeal presence of Christ in the elements, purgatory, prayers for the dead, and many other similar things - and then stretching it to include all of that - was once seen as such a drastic change to the ethos of Anglicanism that people were sent to prison for it!

I also note that you (and I) do not see the ordination of women as a drastic change to catholic order in Anglicanism, but that the majority of the Christian world (i.e. RCs and Orthodox) strongly disagree with us on this.

Peter Carrell said...

Yes, Tim, some changes to Anglican polity and/or ethos have been important enough to put people in prison ... but the case you are thinking about was well over one hundred years ago and Anglo-Catholicism is firmly embedded in our global Anglican life. Time to get used to its being part and parcel of post-Reformation Anglicanism?

Yes, one day we may say the same about lay presidency, but there might have to be some good arguments (i.e. arguments which sweep up a lot of adherents) as well as some determined actions by a large swelling movement of Anglicans ...

Rosemary said...

Most, if not all of the folk discussing this issue appear to be clerical, so I’ll just add the perspective of a laywoman. I like to share the Lord’s Supper about once a month, I do NOT like to have it every week, then it becomes something unspecial. Those are personal preferences. I don’t mind who serves me during my reception of the Lord’s Supper, because it’s not the person serving who is feeding me, but I suppose that is obvious. Is there not a rubric somewhere stating that the ‘sinfulness’ of the person presiding has no effect on the reception?

Joshua Bovis said...

Ron,

Respectfully,

Worship is more important than preaching. This is why Jesus made sure that the Eucharist became the New Testament replacement for the O.T. sacrificial system. This is the only mandatory act of worship in the Anglican Church - for good reason - with which every priest ought to have been acquainted before his/her bishop lays hands upon them.

While I believe that the Eucharist is extremely important and is more than just having "crackers & juice & thinking about Jesus", I must disagree with you about worship (and I assume you mean the Eucharist) is more important than preaching.

God has created us to obtain knowledge through the senses (sight, hearing, and touch).The Word therefore, is adapted to the ear, the sacrament to the eye and the other senses. Which is why the Eucharist is such a powerful sacrament!!! It involves, sight, touch and taste.

But apart from the Word of God, the Eucharist is in my view not complete without the Word of God. The preaching of the Word of God unlocks the meaning of the Eucharist which is why I think the Word can exist and is complete without the Sacraments, the sacraments are never complete without the Word. For it is the truth which is addressed to the ear which interprets the sign and so makes it intelligible. To put it simply, the Word must explain the sign in order to give understanding of the promise it confirms.

I think the rubrics of the BCP, the ordinal and the Articles make this quite clear.

Father Ron Smith said...

Joshua, also respectuflly;

In the Scriptures we read this: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us"

The Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist has become identified with 'the Word made flesh' - who still 'dwells among us' in both Scripture and the Eucharist - which word, as I'm sure you'll be aware - incorporates the notion of evoking a 'Thanksgiving' that indicates an act of worship (of Christ present).

God's Word, did not remain between the leaves of a book - holy as it might be - but has 'become flesh' in the Eucharist by divine fiat: "This IS my Body; this IS my blood, whenever you do this, you do it to re-member me until I come again".

The Sacrament is explained for us in words of Scripture. But Christ is the object of our worship; not The Book. The Word becomes flesh, again, in the Eucharist - Anamnesis.

Unlike Rosemary, I find my supreme comfort in taking part in the celebration of the Eucharist. The presence of Christ therein is my guarantee of God's Triune presence, through the action of the Holy Spirit - the 'Go-Between God' of Bishop John Taylor's writings. It is in this context that I feel closest to the Incarnate God.

Shawn said...

"The Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood is at the very centre of Anglican Worship."

Well, yes and no. For much of its history this was not the case. Low churches with infrequent celebration of the eucharist were the norm in the Communion until the late 19th and 20th centuries.

Interestingly enough, as Anglican worship has steadily become more Catholic, respect for the authority of Scripture has declined, and heresy has grown.

Joshua Bovis said...

Ron,

I appreciate your response (and the tone in which it was given).

If I may respond in kind?

The Sacrament is explained for us in words of Scripture. But Christ is the object of our worship; not The Book.

Of course. I love Jesus! I worship Jesus! I don't worship the Bible. The reason I treasure the Scriptures is because I love Jesus.

In my previous post I cannot see how I have said (or even implied) that I worship the Book. As you said yourself, "The Sacrement is explained for us in words of Scripture". And since all of Scripture is Christocentric, surely the preaching of the Scriptures makes the Eucharist even more meaningful?

I am not in any way suggesting a dichotomy, as an Anglican Priest I am a minister of Word and Sacrament, my point was not that the Eucharist is not important, or special or extremely moving. But that because the Word unlocks the meaning of it, for this reason the Word has primacy. Please don't see me denigrating the Eucharist.

I too take extreme comfort in taking part in the Eucharist and I love taking it weekly. In fact when I take it I feel like my heart is going to burst, but as an Anglican we are not aloud to show such emotion are we? ;)

Thankyou again for responding so graciously Ron.

liturgy said...

Easter Season greetings

This thread is one of those examples of more heat being generated than light.

And my name gets bandied about conjecturally – surely the same points could be made by commentors without conjecturally adding my name to them? Is this just baiting for a response? Have you stopped beating your wife yet?!

Certainly there is a lot of nonsense being spouted here. Do a search for “the power 'to confect God' on the altar” – clearly a popular topic, with the shadow of that thinking being still with us. Not!

“The corporeal presence of Christ in the elements” – what is being meant by that? The belief held so strongly by the founder of the Reformation?!

I certainly believe in the Presence of the Risen Christ at the Eucharist, in the community of the baptised, in the proclamation of the scriptures. I can make little sense of people’s obsession with a real absence: Christ is present everywhere except in the bread and the wine! A memorial service in your head to a dead Jesus.

I can make little sense of the dualistic separation of word and sacrament. Or the suggestion that the Word can exist and is complete without the Sacraments – Jesus certainly doesn’t appear to think so.

Or the nonsense that as Anglican worship has steadily become more Catholic, respect for the authority of Scripture has declined, and heresy has grown. Anglican worship, in this country in any case, is not steadily becoming “more Catholic” – if anything, it is steadily becoming more chaotic. There is absolutely no assurance whatsoever what you will find in a randomly chosen service in this province. To our evangelising detriment IMO.

Our English reformers sought a weekly eucharist set in a framework of systematic reading of the scriptures by all. Those few of us of catholic bent participate in communities that read three lessons and proclaim the psalm at Sunday eucharists systematically and in union with the wider church (common prayer), and place that in a discipline we encourage for all of daily systematic praying the scriptures. In contrast, others abandon the readings we have carefully agreed to, reduce the readings, choose our own, do not allow the scriptures to speak for themselves, or dip for bible verses that support the particular theme they happen to be preaching on.

In this country the drive for “lay presidency” has absolutely nothing to do with a shortage of priests and is ideologically-driven revisionism of the Spirit’s clear teaching since the early church. To follow my earlier analogy: why not add the Book of Mormon to the canon of scripture?!

Christ is risen

Bosco

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Bosco, Thank you for saying better than I could myself many things which undergird, agree with and complement what I am trying to say here.

For overseas readers I would offer one small clarification (if not slight disagreement) with one part of what Bosco says: I think there is an increasing tendency across our church towards increasing vestments, candles and what have you, a Catholic style tendency even if not an increase in Catholic substance in our church. In blunt terms, more people wear chasubles than used to.

However Bosco is quite right: no matter how much more uniform clergy (and lay assistants) may be becoming in wearing more and more vestments, our liturgical scene is chaotic. Which does raise interesting questions about why we clergy seem more knowledgeable about our outer garments than about the inner dynamics of our liturgies!

liturgy said...

Thanks for your affirmation, Peter. Much appreciated.

For our overseas readers I might add to your point that the number of chasubles in the country is increasing (I wonder if it is a steeper curve than the total number of priests? Or less steep), the number of priests presiding in “street clothes” is also increasing. So I would not phrase this, as you do, in terms of increasing uniformity – but rather, again, in increasing chaos. [Nor am I so sure that clergy seem more knowledgeable about our outer garments].

Bosco

Shawn said...

Bosco,

"I can make little sense of people’s obsession with a real absence: Christ is present everywhere except in the bread and the wine! A memorial service in your head to a dead Jesus."

I do not know of any Anglican Evangelical who believes this, so I'm curious as to where you get the idea from.

The question is not whether Christ is present, but in what way. Calvin himself taught that Christ was truly present.

But I do not think this means we need to accept any form of corporeal transubstantiation, which is contrary to the Thirty Nine Articles.

"Or the nonsense that as Anglican worship has steadily become more Catholic, respect for the authority of Scripture has declined, and heresy has grown."

I was speaking of the Communion as a whole and over the last hundred years or so. But even here in NZ there seems to be a disturbing corelation between High Church liturgy and liberalism, so I stand by my claim. I find it nonsense that people who insist on liturgical fundamentalism will happily ignore the Bibles teaching on homosexuality.

If this is not a case of having warped priorities I don't know what is!

"if anything, it is steadily becoming more chaotic. There is absolutely no assurance whatsoever what you will find in a randomly chosen service in this province."

So what?

Liturgy is fine for those that want it, but your assumption seems to be that we should all abide by it. I do not see why. We are Reformed, not Roman Catholics. Liturgy is not essential to true worship and for glorifying God, and may in fact be a hindrance to it as our approach to God becomes chained and limited by a lurtigical fundamentalism that can easily become a way of keeping God from working and moving amongst His people.

Moreover, missionaly speaking, what works in reality? Most liturgical churches in Auckland are small and dying. Those Churches that are large and growing are all low church and charismatic. St Chads, St Georges, and especially St Pauls are all very large, thriving and growing churches reaching families and young people. In most liturgical churches, especially those that are faux Rman Catholic, you are lucky to see anyone without grey hair.

We should not hold on to our man made traditions when they are not mandated by Scripture, and they are clearly no longer working.

"To follow my earlier analogy: why not add the Book of Mormon to the canon of scripture?!"

Well according to your own argument, why not? Your already wanting to add to Scripture, by including the "early church". But which early church? 100 A.D. 200? 1000?

Rather than add anything to scripture at all, whether the Book of Mormon of subjectively chosen bits of history, it is surely better and safer to stick to Scripture alone.

And just to be clear, I am not in favour of lay presidency in the AC.

liturgy said...

Dear Shawn

I wonder why you are addressing solely me, and not Peter and me – when he has indicated his agreement with me; particularly as he is also the blog-owner?

I also do not think we need to accept any form of corporeal transubstantiation. I do not have the slightest idea why you are insinuating that I do think this – where are you getting your crazy ideas?! I do not even know what you understand by “any form of corporeal transubstantiation”. I am not even aware of any person or contemporary scholar who holds to these Aristotelian categories!

Could you please actually name a single member of our province who “insists on liturgical fundamentalism” so that we can check out whether this individual “happily ignores the Bibles teaching on homosexuality”. It seems a very, very strange correlation for you to have even thought of making. Perverse!

“Liturgy is fine for those that want it, but your assumption seems to be that we should all abide by it.” My “assumption” is that those of us who have publicly vowed and signed to abide by agreed common prayer actually do so. It’s called integrity, transparency, and honesty.

“Liturgy is not essential to true worship… Most liturgical churches in Auckland are small and dying…” Can you please define how you use “liturgy” and “liturgical” – I define “liturgy” as “Christian worship”. What you call “low church and charismatic” still worship, still have liturgy – the liturgy may consist of a bracket of songs followed by preaching and an altar call etc. It is still liturgy. It may be a better liturgy, more appropriate liturgy, whatever.

There is no essential correlation between adhering to agreed common prayer and aging and diminishing congregations. Nationally and internationally a brief glance at Roman Catholicism or Taize should cure you of that prejudice.

Finally, can I again reinforce that you actually please try and read what I write and stop projecting your own prejudices onto me (for which apparently Peter is unsuitable!) The reason I adhere to the canon, without the Book of Mormon, is that I receive the canon of scriptures from the early church. Where is the authority-source for your canon of the scriptures?

Christ is risen!

Bosco

Father Ron Smith said...

Quote from the Scriptures:

"Samuel ministered unto the Lord, girded with a linen ephod." (and that wasn't even at the Eucharist!)

I wonder, does any non-catholic know what an ephod is?

Peter Carrell said...

Ron, Shawn and Bosco,

Do we know whether today's ephods are proximate to yesterday's ones?

Shawn: I take it that when some evangelicals assiduously use language such as 'tokens' and 'emblems' there is a presumption that Christ is not present in, over, or under the bread and the wine, and thus it is a fair question of evangelicals as to why Christ wouldn't be present in the bread and the wine if we are believing that Christ is present within our worship gathering. Speaking only for myself, I feel there is much to keep learning and reflecting on because of that word "is" in our Lord's words re bread/body and wine/blood (as translated into English).

Bosco: I think Shawn makes a fair point about the correlation between liturgical fundamentalism and theological or ethical liberalism but, if I may Shawn, I would express it a little differently, in such a way that we are not looking for elusive liturgical fundamentalists. Here is my expression: I find it somewhat ironic in the life of the modern church, with particular but not exclusive reference to the Anglican Communion, that I can take part in services where the form and content of the liturgy follow ancient patterns and stick to tried and true traditional words but the teaching in the sermon (and/or the clergy letter in the bulletin) can envisage not following ancient patterns in ethics and theology and seems unable to stick to tried and true traditional teaching of doctrine.

Now my point would then be that we might reflect together as modern Christians on such things. Might there be more flexibility in liturgical practice, should there be tighter adherence to common doctrine, what does it mean to engage our world in its post-modern phase when we have our roots in ancient times, on what basis do we keep some of what we inherit "as is" and change other parts. Those sort of questions ... which I think are pretty serious in their significance for our mission.

liturgy said...

With respect, Peter, I don’t find your phrasing of this even a dynamic-equivalent translation of Shawn’s.

As you know, I am totally prepared to engage with the sort of dialogue you are describing. Might I add, that yours is not my experience. My experience is that those who are committed to common prayer tend to have that very much the shaping and framing of tried and true traditional teaching of doctrine. Lex orandi, lex credendi. Even lex vivendi. Prayer shapes believing…

It appears to me more in quadrants: those who do or don’t hold to the core of common prayer down one side; those who do or don’t hold to the core of doctrine along the other.

It is equally ironic that one can take part in services where the form and content of the liturgy have no recognisable connection with historical Christianity, but the teaching in the sermon (and/or the clergy letter in the bulletin) are dominated with very selective quoting from old responses to now-hardly-relevant issues.

Tradition means handing on. We do need to learn, as we hand on our faith, what is the living faith of those who have gone before us – alive in our new context.

As to there being more flexibility in liturgical practice… I find it difficult to imagine, in our province, what more flexibility could possibly look like?!!! I shudder to ask for examples of what you are imagining…

Christ is risen

Bosco

Anonymous said...

"I do not even know what you understand by “any form of corporeal transubstantiation”. I am not even aware of any person or contemporary scholar who holds to these Aristotelian categories!"

But I've known numerous Roman Catholics in my life who do believe this, and not a few Anglicans who believe that the bread "is" (in some quite elusive way that is never explained) the body of Christ. This is denied by the 39 Articles. I have always understood the bread and wine to sacramentally represent the body and blood of Christ (not to become it) and therefore to be treated with great reverence and to be received with faith. Canmer, following Cranmer, said the body of Christ is received 'after an heavenly manner'. The medievals did believe that priests (and priests alone) had the power to transubstaniate, 'to confect the Eucharist' or 'the body of God' (communicatio idiomatum).
If I can gloss Shawn's point, I suspect he is saying that a liturgical conservative (appearing) ritualism (more grounded in Anglo-Catholic practice than the BCP), such as we see in Tec, today goes hand in hand with theological liberalism, even heresy, and anyone observing Tec would be hard-pressed to deny this. But even here the language has changed: God the Father has been subtly censored out - definitely not Anglican, but rather modern feminism.

As for 'excessive flexibility' in NZ Anglicanism, I think I would agree with Bosco. Some of the 'eucharistic prayers' - especially those that de-gender God - are terrible and sub-Cranmerian.
Christian worship that has little or no room for the Lord's Prayer, the Apostles' Creed, the Gloria, the Comfortable Words, the Psalms or the Aaronic blessing is thin gruel indeed. There should be more Scripture in Anglican worship, not less. Have a look at the new resources from Sydney diocese to see how the Cranmerian tradition has been repristinated for today.
Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Carl and other commenters,

Below I publish your latest comment, but with some significant editorial comment. I ask all to take note of this example of how comments about issues which are fine and reasonable comments to make in discussion of ideas and presuppositions veer into ad hominem attacks on the spiritual integrity of another commenter. Since the ad hominem comment (in my view) is not extremely offensive I publish it here (but with my comments) because I need to illustrate the point I am trying to make.

Peter Carrell said...

ANNOTATED COMMENT FROM CARL

Liturgy

What you call “low church and charismatic” still worship, still have liturgy

What you say is true, but it is pedantic to the point of evasion. The usage of 'liturgical' vs 'non-liturgical' to describe different kinds of churches is a common and well-understood colloquialism.

I define “liturgy” as “Christian worship”.

Liturgy provides form and structure for worship. Any liturgy can be a vehicle for true worship, but liturgy cannot substitute for true worship. Saying the right words at the right time is not important. Accurately reciting the Nicene Creed is not important. Believing the truths found within the Nicene Creed is important.

It is equally ironic that one can take part in services where the form and content of the liturgy have no recognisable connection with historical Christianity, but the teaching in the sermon ... are dominated with very selective quoting from old responses to now-hardly-relevant issues.

It is not ironic at all. The content and form of liturgy is not normative. It does not bind the conscience. The Scripture (which mysteriously enough contains no liturgy) however does bind the conscience. It is only your subjective judgment that allows you to discern "selective quoting from old responses to now-hardly-relevant issues." According to who then? By what authority do you make this statement?

ANNOTATED COMMENT: Carl, When you then write, "This is the language of one who wants to silence the Scripture in certain places so that new authorities may be raised up in its place." you have made an attack on the integrity of another commenter here. It is an attack because you have moved from issues or assessment of a generalized group (e.g. "liberals") to a singular "you", and you have made a presumptive attack on that person's integrity by telling us that this commenter wants to "silence the Scripture". My suggested alternative is that you could have said something such as "This is language which concerns me as I worry that it opens the way for Scripture to be silenced and new authorities raised up in its place." When we write like that we personalise our concerns to ourselves and not to others, and we name an issue we are concerned about and not a disgraceful action we think another person is going to do. END OF ANNOTATION

As churches empty themselves of discernible doctrinal content, they reduce the words in their Prayer Books to dessicated forms and empty shells. Any theology can be poured into its newly voided rituals and repetitions. What then coherently defines this organization called a church? In the absence of content, there remains only form. "We may not all mean the same thing, but we all use the same words." What is the value of repeating words without meaning? Isn't that what the pagans did?

It surprises me not at all the liberals are so dedicated to the external forms of worship. They say to themselves the equivalent of "The Temple of the Lord! The Temple of the Lord! We have the Temple of the Lord!" It is not the architecture that makes the temple, but the spirit and truth expressed within it.

carl

liturgy said...

Thanks, Peter, for your increasing care about ad hominems.

Carl, there is so much to respond to, I again don’t know where to start.

Being careful in how we use words, including “liturgy” is not “pedantic to the point of evasion” – it is part of the value of intelligent reflection and avoids inaccurate generalisations.

“The Scripture …mysteriously enough contains no liturgy”. Seriously?!! The scriptures, as I read them, ooze with liturgy. Book after book give instructions for worship, a whole book is given to the songs we sing – including instructions, there are commands what to do when we meet for worship, Jesus teaches how to pray, gives example, commands us to “say this”, “do this”, there are descriptions of meeting for worship, descriptions of the heavenly worship. You make an absolutely astonishing, astonishing claim!

“The content and form of liturgy is not normative.” Again, an astonishing claim (see the paragraph above). Jesus teaches us to take bread, take wine, give thanks, break, share; “say this”; wash feet; sing psalms; preach; pray; …

As to some of your other points – no one I know, and certainly not me!!!, is advocating the value of gathering to recite empty, meaningless words merely for the sake of it. What would possibly be the value of that?!!! Why would you even suggest that I might be interested in wasting my time with that?!!!

But I think it is extreme arrogance to judge what is happening in a person’s heart and soul at liturgy, however subjectively barren it may appear to someone else at the time.

As to different people interpreting the jewel of God’s revelation from different sides at different times – that is one of the values of good liturgy and well-used symbolism; not something to deprecate.

Christ is risen

Bosco

Father Ron Smith said...

" I have always understood the bread and wine to sacramentally represent the body and blood of Christ (not to become it)" - Martin -


As Peter indicated earlier; the words of Christ - as revealed through Scripture - were: "This IS my Body, this IS my blood.

Jesus not say "This represents my Body, this represents my Blood".

Don't you think that Jesus (through the Holy Spirit) would have been quite clear to say what he really meant - or did he leave it to you, Martin, to interpret?

Peter Carrell said...

Shawn, I am printing your comment with some editing. I appreciate that you are explaining why you hold some views you do, and you are responding to a question asking you to name names etc, but it all runs the risk of counter-comment etc which will keep things highly personalised in a way that, it seems to me, is bound to become ad hominem etc. So I need to steer this conversation back on track to ideas.

Your comment with editing:

"Bosco,

"I wonder why you are addressing solely me, and not Peter and me – when he has indicated his agreement with me"

You responded to my post, not Peter.

"I also do not think we need to accept any form of corporeal transubstantiation. I do not have the slightest idea why you are insinuating that I do think this"

You made the accusation that Evangelicals adopt a "real absense" approach to the Eucharist. I was making the point that there are different ways to understand real presence and using transubstantion as one pole of that understanding. But I was not in fact insinuating that you believe it. My apologies for the confusion.

"Could you please actually name a single member of our province who “insists on liturgical fundamentalism” so that we can check out whether this individual “happily ignores the Bibles teaching on homosexuality”.

[A name or three is offered].
I have in fact repeatedly met people in the Anglican Church who oppose contemporary non-liturgical worship, insist on liturgical worship, and support same sex blessings.

So my view on this is founded upon years of experiance in talking to people about this issues.

I get my "crazy ideas" from people like you and Ron and many, many others I have met.

Plus your apparent insistence that all parishes follow the prayer book liturgy in their worship is to me an example of liturgical fundamentalism.

"There is no essential correlation between adhering to agreed common prayer and aging and diminishing congregations. Nationally and internationally a brief glance at Roman Catholicism or Taize should cure you of that prejudice."

There is within the Anglican Church within the West, and certainly within NZ.

"Finally, can I again reinforce that you actually please try and read what I write and stop projecting your own prejudices onto me "

I don't think I have actually done that, and I have heard you speak and preach on a number of occaisions. So I am basing what I say on what I have heard you say.

If however I have got anything wrong, my apologies.

"Where is the authority-source for your canon of the scriptures?"

The Holy Spirit. I have no disagreement that the Spirit worked through the "early church", but it is the Spirit that is the sole authority and witness to the canon, nature and authority of Scripture.
"

Anonymous said...

I really don't know how to (or much wish to) debate with biblical literalists and fundamentalists who think that when Jesus said 'I AM the gate' or 'I AM the true vine" he had turned into a gate or a plant. Not to mention those people who have cut off their hand, plucked out their eye, and hate their parents. If only the Lord had been quite clear to say what he really mant!
Evidently some people can't get their heads around metaphor, let alone the more exotic reaches of semiotics of language.
But Article XXVIII is pretty clear and succinct.
Martin

liturgy said...

Shawn writes,

“Plus your apparent insistence that all parishes follow the prayer book liturgy in their worship is to me an example of liturgical fundamentalism.”

Leaving aside that this appears to be a very strange and broad definition of any type of fundamentalism, let alone “liturgical fundamentalism”, the issue to me is that it again presents your prejudices about me, rather than pointing to anything I am actually saying. You are writing about how things appear to you – not about what I actually hold.

There is plenty of my material available in print – so if there is anything pertinent to this thread that I have actually written, rather than through the filters of what you think I have been saying when you listened to me, let’s have it. With the added proviso that I am perfectly comfortable about changing my mind and acknowledging that I am wrong. That’s why I take part in discussions.

Blessings

Bosco

Shawn said...

Bosco,

Again, my apologies if I have misunderstood anything you have said, and if I have gotten anything wrong. (I'm still not sure that I have, but I will make a point of reading what you have written elsewhere to be sur. I am used to debating on political blogs, which tend to be 'point for point' debates, but this does not work so well on a theological blog, and I am endeavouring to take Peter's advice and teaching (to all of us) on board concerning how to respond to other's posts.