Who administers the Lord’s Supper?

The dispute in the Anglican Church of Australia over, “Who is permitted to preside over the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion)?” is still with us.

In 2008 the Diocese of Sydney produced, The Lord’s Supper in Human Hands, arguing for the administration of the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion) by deacons and lay persons. It has been thoroughly reviewed by the Revd Will Briggs, here.

The highest legal tribunal in the Anglican Church of Australia, the Appellate Tribunal, in 2010 decided, “No”, to the legality of the administration of Holy Communion by deacons and lay persons. It’s decision is here.

I have just received a copy of the Diocese of Sydney’s 2010 response to the Appellate Tribunal decision. The Sydney response is entitled, The Lord’s Supper in Human Hands: Epilogue and is available to download free here.

The ‘Epilogue‘ has been well reviewed by Will Briggs, here.

Will’s concluding comment in his review of the earlier (2008) Sydney book resonates with me:

So do I support lay and diaconal administration?

As a fresh expression person my answer simply is – whatever makes us free-er to be the church we are trying to be. And so at this stage:

Yes – theologically I cannot see a biblical reason why administering Communion should be restricted to priests/presbyters.
No – politically and pragmatically – it’s a secondary fight, not a primary fight. I don’t want to get caught up in the politics of semantics.

I just want to gather around the Gospel proclaimed in Word and Sacrament and see lives transformed.

There are bigger issues confronting Gospel proclamation and living in Australia and the world today. Please, let’s focus on those – together.


Who administers the Lord’s Supper? — 9 Comments

  1. I need to think long and hard about the theological issue and the decision of the Appellate Tribunal and in doing so keep in mind my own inherent suspicion of the motives of persons in Sydney Diocese in promoting a divisive issue.

    But you are right, there are many more important things for Christians to worry and pray about than lay presidency.

    Let’s get on with following the Gospel teaching.

  2. It’s not always a case of wanting to do something deliberately provocative, and IS sometimes a “Gospel Issue”.

    I also want to give priority to the bigger issues of Gospel proclamation. However, I am one who for practical reasons was given – many years ago – permission to celebrate Holy Communion as a Deacon. Subsequently, I and a number of others had the validity of our ordinations called into question because of this action.

    Whilst I agree that it is not a priority issue or a primary fight, I think it is an issue that will need to be dealt with SOME time.

  3. Bishop John

    I omitted to say welcome back. I am glad you and Gaylene had a great break.

    John Tongue is right, it is an issue we need to consider but I believe, not at this moment. There are greater priorities to deal with before we indulge ourselves in what is a very minor issue for Tasmanian Anglicans.


  4. It’s a ‘minor issue’ for those who have regular, ready access to a ‘Priest’ who can administer communion for them, maybe not such a minor issue for those who do not.

  5. Important point of clarification:

    Not sure where people get the idea that SYDNEY was asking for Lay-presidency. Just like Tasmania Sydney has a Synod and the Sydney Synod said no to Lay-Presidency.

    I believe it was those outside Sydney that put Lay-Presidency to the Tribunal.

  6. Hi Rob,
    Actually, from what I can tell, the original motion in this arc which was moved and carried by Sydney in 2008 did include lay “administration” (involving the celebration of communion, including consecration, under the “presidency” of a presbyter). See here. Sydney definitely put this on the table.

  7. Hi Will,
    Thanks for that Will. I hadn’t read that article before. I think I’ll just keep my head down 😉

  8. No, Rob, please keep on engaging. That’s how we are all learning. We are a learning community not a college of the all knowing ones! 🙂

  9. I thought that Jesus came to set us free from the law. The fact that “the highest legal tribunal in the Anglican Church of Australia, the Appellate Tribunal” even exists makes me think that Jesus has failed to set Anglicans free. Have you read “Suicidal Church”?
    If you want to see what little people can do see Dave Andrew’s website: http://www.wecan.be
    I am an ex-Anglican.

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