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Australian church court bans diaconal presidency at the Eucharist: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 20, 2010 p 6. August 20, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Canon Law, Church of England Newspaper, Ecclesiology.
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Dr. Peter Jensen, Archbishop of Sydney

First published in The Church of England Newspaper

The Anglican Church of Australia’s highest church court has thrown out the legal principle behind its 2007 decision to allow the ordination of women bishops.  In an Aug 10 decision concerning the Diocese of Sydney and diaconal presidency at the Eucharist, the Appellate Tribunal held that it is not the language of a canon, but the legislative intent in its creation that provides its meaning.

In its 2007 ruling the court came to an opposite conclusion, finding that while women bishops were not contemplated in the drafting of the canons governing the episcopate, its language could be construed to allow the innovation.

A spokesman for the Diocese of Sydney declined to comment on last week’s ruling, stating “the advisory opinion of the Tribunal will doubtless receive attention at the Diocesan Synod to be held in October.”

The ruling on lay and diaconal presidency at the Eucharist came in response to a petition filed by opponents of the Oct 21, 2008 resolution adopted by the Sydney Synod that stated “lay and diaconal administration of the Lord’s Supper is consistent with the teaching of Scripture” and affirmed that the “Lord’s Supper in this diocese may be administered by persons other than presbyters.”

The synod resolution followed a 1997 ruling by the Appellate Tribunal that held that deacons or lay people could administer Holy Communion so long as General Synod authorized the practice.  Some parishes in Sydney had authorized deacons to administer the Eucharist in the absence of a priest, but lay presidency has not been permitted in the diocese.

The Sydney Synod believed that three revisions to the Ordination Service for Deacons Canon passed by General Synod in 1985 “radically” reformed the Ordinal to allow diaconal presidency.  Under the new rite, deacons were charged to be “faithful in prayer, and take your place with bishop, priest and people in public worship and at the administration of the sacraments.”

In his question to the diaconal candidates for ordination, the bishop under the revised Ordinal asked, “Will you take your part in reading the Holy Scriptures in the church, in teaching the doctrine of Christ, and in administering the sacraments?”  And in his authorization of the new deacon the bishop stated “receive this sign of your authority to proclaim God’s word and to assist in the administration of his holy sacraments.”

These three portions of the 1985 ordination service “expressly authorizes the deacon to assist the priest in the administration of the sacraments,” a report accepted by the 2008 Sydney Synod held, adding that the word “assistance equally applies to Holy Communion as it applies to baptism; and there is no dispute that a deacon can administer baptism in its entirety.”

The authors of the Sydney report, led by the Bishop of North Sydney Dr. Glenn Davies, conceded that it may not have been the intention of the 1985 Ordinal to authorize diaconal presidency, but the principle that authorial intent does not bind interpretation of the canons had been set by the Appellate Tribunal the year before.

In a split 4-3 decision released on Sept 28, 2007 the Appellate Tribunal found the language of the Law of the Church of England Clarification Canon 1992 did not require a bishop to be male in order to meet the definition of ‘canonical fitness’ for the Episcopal ministry.  While the canon may not have contemplated women bishops, grammar allowed the canon to be construed to permit it, the court held.

Objections to the 2008 Sydney vote were submitted to the Appellate Tribunal in 2009 by 25 members of General Synod led by Dr. Muriel Porter of the Diocese of Melbourne.  In its opinion, the court said the objections to the Sydney vote arose from the view that the “1985 Canon and the service for making deacons contained in it, the deacon’s role is clearly to take his or her place in the administration and to assist the priest in the administration.”

The Diocese of Sydney did not participate in the Tribunal’s proceedings, while Bishop Davies appeared in a personal capacity to defend his committee paper on diaconal presidency and the 1985 Ordinal only.

The court by a vote of 6 to 1 rejected Bishop Davies argument, finding a distinction with the phrase “assist in” found in the canon, and the concept “assist by.”  As a deacon may only “assist in” it was “logically correct” to argue that a priest was necessarily present when a deacon could “assist in” administering the Eucharist.

Archbishop Phillip Aspinall wrote that he believed that Bishop Davies’ view that words “are to be given their plain and ordinary meaning” must be modified by context.

The archbishop argued that “there is a context that impacts upon the meaning of the words in the 1985 service, namely the BCP ordinal and the longstanding norms and practices governing the manner in which a deacon assists the priest in ministering the sacraments. That context impliedly limits the meaning of the words in the 1985 service and does not permit them to be construed in the manner submitted by Dr Davies.”

The effect of the Tribunal’s decision will be to halt the administration by deacons of the Eucharist in the Anglican Church of Australia, pending a canon authorizing the practice adopted by General Synod.

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Comments

1. Ven Dr I. U. Ibeme - November 3, 2010

The ruling against diaconal presidency at the Eucharist is in perfect agreement with the Apostolic tradition.

They Apostles borrowed the designation Deacon/Deaconess (i.e. Servant or Waiter Rom_16:1 f; 1Ti_3:8 ff) for the lay men and women officers who were elected by the local churches (Act_6:1-6; 1Co_16:3-4; 2Co_8:19-20) to serve tables for the saints as the treasuries of the Church could afford.

After the death of the Apostles, the Bishops and Presbyters began to recruit some of the male Deacons into the Presbytery. Later the male Diaconate assumed pre-presbyterial curacy status as part of the Clergy appointed by the Bishop and the Presbytery, and was no longer elected by the congregation. This is how Deacons began to be ‘made’ by ordination rather than by election (hence the ‘clericalization’ of Church leadership).

The female Diaconate (the celibate deaconess ministry for virgins and widows) who catered for female catechumens especially during baptism, continued to a lesser extent in the Church, till about the 11th century, when it was overtaken or swallowed up by the conventual nuns.

Reversal of this ‘clericalization’ of Church leadership began during the synodical movement after the Reformation, which reincorporated the laity (first lay men and later lay women too) into Church leadership.

To be sure, today’s move to bring women into the Presbyterate and the Episcopate is a cultural innovation, which is entirely revolutionary with no scriptural or historical authority whatsoever.

On the ministry of women in the Church which is collateral to this, I have this study to offer.

In the apostolic Church as recorded in the Scriptures, though women ministered in several prominent roles as Deaconesses, Helps, Prophetesses, Matrons, Financers, and Hosts, they were neither ordained nor in anyway expected to be ordained as oversight Presbyters. This divine wisdom and rule should not be challenged or changed but upheld.

The Apostle Paul admonished that it is disgraceful for women to ask contentious questions and argue with opinionated assertions during fellowship/service (1Co_14:33-35). Women should desist from issuing authoritative directives and instructions (1Co_14:34; 1Ti_2:12) and from raising argumentative contentions in the Church (1Co_14:35; 1Ti_2:11). Such personal assertiveness toward or over men in the congregation should be eschewed. St Paul’s ‘not to speak’ and ‘keep silence’ and ‘not exercise authority over men’ in the Church here (1Co_14:34; 1Ti_2:11-12) indicates that women should not be ordained into priestly overseer office nor assume presbyterial authority IN THE CHURCH. Therefore, this does not mean muteness or dumbness but ‘courteousness’, ‘submission’ and ‘obedience’; which equally applied to non-leading male members. Notice that this does NOT extend outside the Church.

Again, this could NOT have abrogated other utterance or spoken ministrations enjoined and permitted for women in other portions of Scripture such as:
(1) prophesying, praying, tongues-interpretation and even singing (in public before all) Luk_2:36-38; Act_21:9; 1Co_11:3-12; Eph_5:18-21; Exo_15:20-21; Jdg_4:4-9, and
(2) teaching and even questioning (before women in public but before men in private and at home Act_18:26; 1Co_14:35; Tit_2:3-4; Pro_31:1-2), and
(3) other spiritual ministrations and helps (Act_16:14-15; 1Ti_5:10).
(4) Also their ‘subjection to authority’ does not exclude official delegation (Rom_16:1-4).
One proviso is that such women should minister IN CHURCH with veils on their heads: not for submission to men or culture as is often mistakenly believed, but for dignity before the Church and for authority before the Angels (1Co_11:5-6, 1Co_11:10). Why the Angels? Angelic company (not demons) is always in attendance with God at any true Church assembly where God is present (Heb_12:12-14; 1Ti_5:21). Angels are God’s liturgical (worship ministry or homage service) spirits (Heb_1:14).

In the secular society, OUTSIDE THE CHURCH, where the sacerdotal Priesthood and Presbyterate are not in charge, though women may be socially disadvantaged (1Pe_3:7), yet they are not forbidden from temporal prominence and authority over men. Like the men, they could come to ruling power by circumstance (Debora, Jdg_4:4-6; Jdg_5:6-9), by force (Athaliah, 2Kin 11; 2Chr 22-23), by political manoeuvre (Esther, Est_8:1-14), by popular acclaim and personal merit (Esther, Est_2:15-18), by prowess (Jael, Jdg_4:9; Jdg_4:17-22) or by royal birth. There were the Queen of Sheba (2Kin 10; 2Chr 9; Mat_12:42) and Candace the Queen of Ethiopia served by eunuchs (Act_8:27), who were well spoken of by the Scriptures.

2. CHAPLAIN - November 8, 2010

In the apostolic Church as recorded in the Scriptures, though women ministered in several prominent roles as Deaconesses, Helps, Prophetesses, Matrons, Financiers, and Hosts, they were neither ordained nor in anyway expected to be ordained as oversight Presbyters. Spiritual GIFTS are variously given to all males and females alike as ABILITY for ministry and ministrations among the saints. Apostolic and presbyterial OFFICES are reserved for a few as positions of AUTHORITY for oversight presidency over the saints – all such ecclesiastical authorities in the Scriptures were held by males only. This divine wisdom and rule should not be challenged or changed but upheld.

3. CHAPLAIN - November 19, 2011

In the apostolic Church as recorded in the Scriptures, though women ministered in several prominent roles as Deaconesses, Helps, Prophetesses, Theologians, Matrons, Financiers, and Hosts, they were neither ordained nor in anyway expected to be ordained as oversight Presbyters. Spiritual GIFTS are variously given to all males and females alike as ABILITY for ministry and ministrations among the saints. Apostolic and presbyterial OFFICES are reserved for a few as positions of AUTHORITY for oversight and priestly presidency over the saints – all such ecclesiastical authorities in the Scriptures were held by males only. This divine wisdom and rule should not be challenged or changed but upheld.

The Apostle Paul admonished that it is disgraceful for women to ask contentious questions and argue with opinionated assertions during fellowship/service (1Co_14:33-35). Women should desist from issuing authoritative directives and instructions (1Co_14:34; 1Ti_2:12) and from raising argumentative contentions in the Church (1Co_14:35; 1Ti_2:11). Such personal assertiveness toward or over men in the congregation should be eschewed. St Paul’s ‘not to speak’ and ‘keep silence’ and ‘not exercise authority over men’ in the Church here (1Co_14:34; 1Ti_2:11-12) indicates that women should not be ordained into priestly overseer office nor assume presbyterial authority IN THE CHURCH. Therefore, this does not mean muteness or dumbness but ‘courteousness’, ‘submission’ and ‘obedience’; which equally applied to non-leading male members. Notice that this does NOT extend outside the Church.

Again, this could NOT have abrogated other utterance or spoken ministrations enjoined and permitted for women in other portions of Scripture such as:
(1) prophesying, praying, tongues-interpretation and even singing (in public before all) Luk_2:36-38; Act_21:9; 1Co_11:3-12; Eph_5:18-21; Exo_15:20-21; Jdg_4:4-9, and
(2) teaching and even questioning (before women in the Church assembly, but before men in private and at home/school Act_18:26; 1Co_14:35; Tit_2:3-4; Pro_31:1-2), and
(3) other spiritual ministrations and helps (Act_16:14-15; 1Ti_5:10).
(4) Also their ‘subjection to authority’ does not exclude official delegation (Rom_16:1-4); even protesting maladministration and voting for lay Church leaders of their choice (Act 6:1-6).
One proviso is that such women should minister IN CHURCH with veils on their heads: not for submission to men or culture as is often mistakenly believed, but for dignity before the Church and for authority before the Angels (1Co_11:5-6, 1Co_11:10). Why the Angels? Angelic company is always in attendance with God at any true Church assembly where God is present (Heb_12:12-14; 1Ti_5:21). Angels are God’s liturgical (worship ministry or homage service) spirits (Heb_1:14).
(See http://www.scribd.com/doc/28479877/SHOULD-WOMEN-USE-WORSHIP-VEIL-IN-THE-CHURCH for more details on the Worship Veil).

In the secular society, OUTSIDE THE CHURCH, where the sacerdotal Priesthood and Presbyterate are not in charge, though women may be socially disadvantaged (1Pe_3:7), yet they are not forbidden from temporal prominence and authority over men. Like the men, they could come to ruling power by circumstance (Debora, Jdg_4:4-6; Jdg_5:6-9), by force (Athaliah, 2Kin 11; 2Chr 22-23), by political manoeuvre (Esther, Est_8:1-14), by popular acclaim and personal merit (Esther, Est_2:15-18), by prowess (Jael, Jdg_4:9; Jdg_4:17-22) or by royal birth. There were the Queen of Sheba (2Kin 10; 2Chr 9; Mat_12:42) and Candace the Queen of Ethiopia served by eunuchs (Act_8:27), who were well spoken of by the Scriptures. Priscilla (first female seminary theology professor) provided academy theological update training for Apollos outside the Church assembly BUT REMAINED UNDER THE OVERSIGHT MINISTRY OF APOLLOS IN THE CHURCH (Act_18:24-28).

Christian women should therefore, contribute their spiritual gifts/abilities in Church and could be licensed, commissioned, elected, delegated, appointed, into various roles, responsibilities and ministries as applicable to all laymen who are equally Spirit-baptised INTO CHRIST (Joh_7:37-39; 1Co_12:12-14; Eph_2:19-22), but to operate with their veil of authority in the Angelic culture of the Church assembly (1Co_11:5-6; 1Co_11:10). However, they should NOT assert themselves over men or be ORDAINED into priestly authority or oversight presbyterate presidency over men in the Angelic Assembly of God’s Church (1Co_14:34-35; 1Ti_2:11-12; 1Ti_5:21; Heb_1:14; Heb_12:22-24). Amongst fellow women in the Church, amongst their children and dependants in their homes, and in socio-political circles outside the Church, Christian women could oversee and preside at any level. (Tit_2:3-4; Pro_31:1-2; Jdg_4:4-9).


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