LATER: I now realise that my original post here worked on a mistake - that some resurrected posts from 2008 by Stand Firm were actually new posts reflecting new news. But Sydney's next synod is not till October, 2010 ... so a few changes below!
EVEN LATER: I see that Matt Kennedy has made a current post on the matter, at Stand Firm, firing a shot across Sydney's bows. I feel an imminent post coming on about why I agree with priestly (and episcopal) presidency as an evangelical!
If there is any point to this blog's existence in respect of global Anglican matters it is to work for Anglican unity, to find the things on which we are united and underline them, to discern the things which divide us and argue against them, and to plea in the spirit of the epistolic Paul for being one church in one Spirit (and that a prelude to an ecumenical unity of God's universal church).
If there is any point of despair for me, and others, it is finding Anglicans continuously and stubbornly resistant to unity, one measure of which is the persistence with which innovation is adhered to in the face of an overwhelming majority of Anglicans voicing their lack of reception for it. Thus TEC is often in the spotlight of this blog, and of many commentators around the Anglican globe. But not out of view has been the Diocese of Sydney on the specific matter of deviation from customary Anglican (and the vast majority of Christians, Roman and Eastern) presidency of the eucharist via the orders of priest and bishops. In 2008 it decided in its Synod that it approved diaconal and lay presidency at the eucharist. A decision only partially implemented by Archbishop Peter Jensen who has not authorised lay presidency, recently challenged and rebuked by a Tribunal of the Australian Anglican church, but now, in a month or so, in the latest annual synod of the Diocese, the question arises whether the 2008 decision will be confirmed. We are reminded of this by Stand Firm re-posting in the past few days some pertinent posts from 2008.
In my view this is not an Anglican innovation supported in any way by Anglican custom, tradition, theology, great figure from the past such as Cranmer or Hooker, let alone any significant theologian, diocese, or movement in the present, other than Sydney itself (though I acknowledge some talk on the internet that diaconal presidency may be occurring in one or two African churches). It is as much an innovation as the blessing of same sex relationships and the ordaining of bishops in same sex relationships. Will the Sydney Diocese be found to be as stubborn in its innovation as TEC is in its novelty? Or will it be 'suitably chastened' by the Tribunal decision? If one drove a wedge into the Anglican log, the other has potential to finish the job and split it!
What to say? A plague on both your houses? That is a tempting thing to say! Certainly in my mind an operational Anglican Covenant would have as much to say about this innovation as any other innovation under the microscope at this time. It also strikes me that a pared down Anglican Communion, without TEC or Sydney, would find unity much simpler since not only would it not be trying to square the circle being spun around innovations, it would not be dealing with stubborn Anglicans bent on determining that 'Anglican' is broad enough to cover their unusual vision of Anglican breadth.
In the meantime, of course, that paring down is not an option, and Anglicans keen on a global, united Anglican Communion are exposed in the sight of ecumenical partners without even a figleaf of unity on basic matters such as marriage and ministry orders.
Quite what God thinks of Anglican pretence to discern the will of God through listening together to the Spirit, I do not know, but I wonder if God is chuckling as we play the role of fool in the court of heaven.
Here is Matt Kennedy at Stand Firm, as recently reposted from 2008, on this decision.
In the comments to Matt's post is this comment which captures precisely one of my own objections to lay presidency:
"Several years ago, I asked a Sydney Bishop how exactly lay presidents for the Eucharist would be chosen? Would they be identified by the congregation and diocese in advance? Would they receive some sort of training to prepare them to do this? Would they be set apart and commissioned as those who were licensed to preside at the Eucharist? He answered yes to all three questions. So, I asked, then what is ordination? And how (apart from the length and depth of the training) does it differ from what you have just said you are going to do with “lay presidents”? He couldn’t answer.
The plain and simple fact is that this whole mess in Sydney stems from an anti-clericalism and a reaction against the idea of the ordained presbyterate (priesthood) that has grown to become an obsession.
At this time in the Anglican Communion, when the unity of orthodox Anglicans should be a paramount concern, Sydney’s pressing forward with this aberration in ecclesiology is inexcusable.
Although some of us who are conservatives will not draw a parallel, liberals in other provinces in Anglicanism will seize on this as being an even greater departure than their own aberrations in Anglican faith and order.
What a tragedy!
Robert S. Munday
Nashotah House "
To be fair to Sydney, we can mention a defence of the move by David Ould (though even this defence admits that it is a devisive move). Notice by the way the similarity to TEC inasmuch as the defence includes the notion that the innovators here understand true Anglicanism as opposed to its many dim-sighted supporters.
Which way will the Sydney Synod head? Deeper into the log?