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Sydney archbishop-elect to continue ban on diaconal celebration of the Eucharist: The Church of England Newspaper, August 23, 2013 p 6. August 27, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Australia, Church of England Newspaper.
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Glenn DaviesThe archbishop-elect of Sydney, the Rt. Rev. Glenn Davies will not authorize diaconal administration of Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper.

In response to a query from The Church of England Newspaper, Dr. Davies stated “As Archbishop, I am not intending to change the policy of my predecessor, i.e. that presidency by deacons or lay leaders could not be authorised by a General Synod canon.”

Diaconal and lay presidency at the Eucharist has enjoyed strong support from the evangelical diocese for over 30 years – and sparked vociferous opposition from Anglo-Catholic and liberals as well as non-Sydney Evangelicals in Australia. In 1983 the Sydney Diocesan Synod chartered a committee to undertaken a theological and scriptural review of the issue. A report prepared by a committee led by Bishop Paul Barnett in 1993 concluded there “are no sound doctrinal objections to, and there are significant doctrinal reasons for, lay presidency at the Lord’s Supper.  There are also sound reasons based on our received Anglican order for allowing lay presidency.”

The Barnett committee concluded that “prohibition of lay presidency at the Lord’s Supper does not seem justifiable theologically.”

The issue was brought before the Appellate Tribunal of the Anglican Church of Australia which in 1997 held the requirement of priestly presidency at the Eucharist was canonical, not doctrinal and ruled deacons or lay people could administer Holy Communion so long as General Synod authorized the practice.

On 19 Oct 1999 Sydney adopted an Ordinance permitting diaconal and lay presidency at the Eucharist, by a vote of 122 to 66 amongst the clergy, and 224 to 128 amongst the laity. However, the following day the Primate Archbishop Keith Rayner, urged Sydney Archbishop Harry Goodhew to withhold his assent. He argued the vote represented a “fundamental break with catholic order” which would place the diocese at odds with the “constitution and canons of our church.”

On 10 Nov 1999 Archbishop Goodhew withheld his, stating it would have pastoral and ecumenical ramifications for Sydney and the wider Anglican Communion.

Following his election as Archbishop in 2001, Dr. Peter Jensen said, “Lay administration, should it be legal, would be a contribution to the common task of bringing the gospel to Australia,” adding that “it is strange not to allow for this ministry in an ordered way.” Unlike the Church of England, the Episcopal Church and other churches that have reintroduced the permanent diaconate, in Sydney deacons and priests obtain the same level of theological qualification. Approximately one third of the ordained clergy in Sydney are deacons and are assigned to posts held by curates and assistants in other dioceses.

At the October 2008 synod Bishop Davies moved Resolution 7.2 which stated “lay and diaconal administration of the Lord’s Supper is consistent with the teaching of Scripture”. The resolution asked Synod to affirm that the “Lord’s Supper in this diocese may be administered by persons other than presbyters.” The resolution was adopted.

Opponents of diaconal presidency brought a complaint to the Appellate Tribunal, asking the court to rule whether, as Sydney believed, the national church’s 1985 Ordination for Deacons Canon permitted diaconal administration of the Eucharist. On 10 Aug 2010 the Tribunal ruled the original intent of the authors of the canon was not to permit diaconal celebration. The ruling was widely criticized as being based on political considerations rather than canon law or doctrine, as the Tribunal had earlier rejected the theory of original intent. While the authors of the Canon on the appointment of assistant bishops may not have understood their new law to have permitted women bishops, the Tribunal argued it could be interpreted that way under the rules of grammar. However rules of grammar and logic were not applicable to the diaconal presidency issue, the Tribunal held.

Sydney endorsed diaconal presidency again on 15 Oct 2010, adopting a resolution proposed by Dr. Davies that said while it noted the “advisory opinion of the Appellate Tribunal”, synod nonetheless reaffirmed its 2008 declaration that “lay and diaconal administration of the Lord’s Supper is consistent with the teaching of Scripture,” and that it “affirms that the Lord’s Supper in this diocese may be administered by persons other than presbyters.”

Though it has been endorsed by synod four times, Dr. Davies told CEN he was not licence diaconal or lay presidency at the Eucharist.

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