Monday, November 03, 2008

GAFCON & the Bishops & Diocese of Sydney!

from Peter Toon

In great sadness and pain for the Anglican Family, I write this tractate. You may care to read the news-item at the end first:

If GAFCON truly is walking in the biblical, historic Anglican Way;

If GAFCON truly is committed to Anglican, Reformed Catholicism and not to a generic, popular Evangelicalism in Anglican style;

If GAFCON truly is committed to the full and final authority of the Holy Scriptures, and resting on them is also bound to the content and teaching of the classic FORMULARIES of the Anglican Way—The BCP, Ordinal and Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion;

If GAFCON is still really committed to the powerful dedication made in a very public way at Jerusalem in June 2008;

And if GAFCON is still critical of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his advisors for their failure to be obedient to the Gospel and its teaching of Morals;

THEN, what the Diocese of Sydney has recently re-affirmed and confirmed as its public doctrine stands in total opposition to the doctrinal and public stance of GAFCON . This innovation in doctrine by Sydney is to teach and allow persons, who are not ordained as presbyters (priests), to celebrate the Eucharist and preside at the Order of Holy Communion.

My earnest suggestion to the leadership of GAFCON is this:

After appropriate warning, the Council of Primates of GAFCON should expel the Bishops and Diocese of Sydney immediately: by this action GAFCON will maintain its committed to the biblical, classic Anglican Way and will show that it does take discipline (a mark of the true church) seriously.

If GAFCON does nothing and allows the Diocese of Sydney, with its innovatory doctrine, and pride in that innovation, to remain as a full member, then GAFCON will become, and will be seen by thousands, as merely and only an international, Evangelical Anglican Group— with no serious claims to a serious catholic ecclesiology and historic Ministry, and no real opportunity or intention to set a godly example to the whole Anglican Communion of Churches.

[See below for news of the Sydney decision, which has been on the books for several years. I have been to Sydney some five or so times and on one visit I debated at St Paul’s College, University of Sydney, this question of the identity of Celebrant at the Eucharist. My talk was printed somewhere but I cannot find it! Peter Toon, October 30, 2008.]

Sydney Diocese Approves Lay Presidency at the Eucharist

Posted on: October 28, 2008

The annual synod of the Diocese of Sydney has overwhelmingly approved a resolution restating its support for diaconal and lay presidency at Holy Communion.

No further action is required for deacons to begin celebrating the Eucharist, according to the Rt. Rev. Glenn Davies, Bishop of North Sydney and sponsor of the resolution. Writing an opinion piece for the diocesan newspaper, Bishop Davis added that even though the resolution also makes it permissible for lay persons to administer communion, they would need to be licensed by Archbishop Peter Jensen to do so in a service of public worship. Archbishop Jensen has previously said he is unwilling to do so.

During debate of the resolution on Oct. 20, a number of amendments designed to weaken its impact were proposed. Each was defeated, according to information published on the diocesan website. The Diocese of Sydney is a member of the Anglican Church of Australia.

The most serious challenge to passage of the resolution came from a priest who had attended the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) last summer and said approval could affect the diocese’s relationship with GAFCON bishops. The approved resolution includes a provision to send each GAFCON bishop a copy of a book published by the Anglican Church League explaining the theological rationale for lay presidency.



jonathan wood said...

Perhaps so. But that depends on whether historic Anglican practise has the same weight as Scripture alone, which is silent on the issue of who should administer Holy Communion....

Rebekah said...

In view of your article posted on your website, your readers may be interested in our recent publication which attempts to summarise and chronicle the 40 year long discussion of Lay and Diaconal Administration in Sydney (and indeed, elsewhere): The Lord's Supper in Human Hands. Who Should Administer?

See our website:

(PS Sydney's recent synod motion changed nothing)

Dr Peter Bolt, Editor

stephen clark said...

Well I guess now you will understand that the Diocese of Sydney's stand is not pro-Anglican but anticatholic!

Monk Michael said...

Sisters and Brothers,

I respect those who have tried to stay and "fight for" what they believed to be authentic Anglican Catholicism. However, like many others, eventually I myself left for another tradition whose continuity and consistency were less jumbled (in my case, Orthodoxy). Still, I follow news and developments in Anglicansim, ever mindful of the many blessings I received while I was a member and clergyman of the Episcopal Church.

From my perspective, this is but the latest example of the ongoing puritan/catholic tension within Anglicanism. For one party, the observation that, " silent on the issue" is a primary consideration; for the other, it affirms the inadequacy of the doctrine of "sola scriptura," and the necessity of understanding Holy Scripture from within the context of the living tradition of the Church.

The very use of the term "administration" demonstrates the vast difference in understanding regarding not only the minister of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, but about what that sacrament actually is. For the Catholic party, "administer" is not synonymous with "consecrate," or "celebrate," or "preside," but refers to the delivery of the Sacrament to the communicant. For Evangelicals in the mold of the leadership of the Diocese of Sydney, "administer" means to preside, in the name of the congregation, at the praying of the prayer of setting apart and blessing of the bread and wine. The difference in the use of the term exposes the irreconcilable difference in what the two parties believe themselves to be doing!

Even when disagreements on sexuality or core doctrine are settled (albeit by separating from those who are seen as innovators), this basic and irreconcilable dichotomy will remain -- it is part and parcel of the Elizabethan settlement and will continue to cause partisanship and schism to rise up from the very heart of Anglicanism, as it has done with great tragedy from time to time (English civil war, schism of the Reformed Episcopal Church, battles over ritual and vestments, etc).

I came to this view reluctantly, but inevitably, as I searched for a truly "reformed catholic" identity in Anglicansim and found, to my sorrow, that it was a chimera having no basis in reality: Even among those who sought it or claimed it, it meant different things.

God be with all of you and guide you.

Anonymous said...

The main problem I see is this is opening the back door to women ministers.