Friday, 30 July 2010

Gizza Job

I am writing this post as a rather more thought out response (from me) to one listed on Uberblogger Lesley's Blog concerning the issue of lay presidency. This is the debate that surrounds the possibility of members of laity presding at the Eucharist in the way that a priest does, that they bless the oblata as a priest does. 

I attended to the issue of blurring the edges of priestly identity once before here, and this debate seems to be the accelerant on that glowing ember. I am going to call it as I see it as I have no other way.

The Church of England ordains priests, both men and women, after a full and lengthy period of calling, discernment, training, prayer and ordination. While the Holy Orders are lives in their own right, they too are jobs that have responsibilities, and quite properly, rights/propriety. Other vocations are the same, teachers, police, medics etc - whose discerned entry into their chosen lives affords them a given training and therefore the right/propriety to claim an ability to perform some action or another. Add to that fact that all Christians have to accept the distinct possibility that the Spirit is at play in there somewhere in the discernment of vocations to ordained Orders. At their ordination, deacons and priests are entrusted with specific roles that correlate with their Holy Orders, and they are charged to undertake to meet those obligations in their daily lives. All ordinands warmly agree in front of the gathered throng at the cathedral, recieve the power of the Spirit and go home - different, changed. 

Also in our world of the church, we have the uncomfortable imbalance that seems purposefully determined to dismantle the historic, overlook the formulary and re-invent priesthood into oblivion. I fear that in a decade or so,  churches will be largely evangelical non-sacramental chapels for preachers to preach and for praise to be loud. I sense breadth being lost and inside that decade there may not be parishes or communities for priests (or Christians) with a sacramental spirituality to worship, or minister. This isn't an evangelical bashing either, because those of a more catholic disposition are too busy fighting about lace and ladies, or so it seems. I daren't use the term 'traditionalist' of myself, because it would now paint me as something I most certainly am not. 

So, while catholic priests fight about what they consider is important (to the exclusion of all else it seems), the non-sacramentalists enjoy their ascendency, and ordained sacramental ministers become rarer than an England World Cup win, debates about how we can scrap priesthood for ts spare parts flourish.

In a world where Christianity is marginalised, we need to sharpen the edges of roles, not blend them one into another. There are millions of Christians, all of whom are called to that life by God. What the church could more profitably do with its time is to help Christians recognise and discern what their calling is, rather than diminish the roles of other specific and identified callings. The church needs priests and it needs pastors as it needs preachers as it needs clergy as it needs laity as it needs sacramentalists as it needs evanglicals. If we celebrate and work towards a full outworking of that, and not do the 'nice' thing of saying 'if you want to preside you can 'cos you asked' and reduce a distinct Order as a catchall for everying the laity can do - then the world will look upon us with different eyes.

...and my ordination will remian more than just a pretty liturgy for the pointlessly trained!


  1. No time to write an essay in reply - but as an evangelical anglican with a high view of the sacraments, I agree with you. The Church of England has an imperfect but tried and tested system for authorising lay people to preside at the Eucharist. It's called ordination. There's an interesting discussion on this topic on Bosco Peter's blog here

  2. Thanks for this N; a very helpful post from who is so much more articulate!



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