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Sydney Synod moves to forward lay and diaconal presidency at the Lord's Supper

Posted on: October 3, 2001 2:54 PM
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By Margaret Rodgers

[Anglican Media Sydney] Sydney Synod passed resolutions on lay and diaconal administration (presidency) on Saturday 27 October. At the conclusion of the debate Archbishop Peter Jensen informed the Synod of his discussions on the issue with other Anglican leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The first resolution requested the appointment of a Committee on lay and diaconal administration "to investigate the options, if any, consistent with law, that are available." The committee is "to report to back the next ordinary session of the Synod [2002] together with any appropriate legislation."

The second resolution requested the Sydney representatives to the General Synod to "promote a bill for a canon to permit a deacon to administer Holy Communion" when General Synod next meets in 2004.

Archbishop Jensen had previously indicated, in his Presidential Address, his own support of lay and diaconal administration in his Presidential Address, while at the same time saying it must "be legal."

"The theology of lay administration is linked to lay ministry and especially lay preaching, and flows naturally and properly from the theology of the Bible and our reformed heritage as it applies to the contemporary world," the Archbishop said. "Other dioceses have developed novelties such as local priests and extended communion to help with ministry.

"Lay administration, should it be legal, would be a contribution to the common task of bringing the gospel to Australia."

North Sydney Bishop-elect, Dr Glenn Davies and the Bishop of South Sydney, Robert Forsyth combined to argue the initial resolution before the Synod. Dr Davies stressed that the matter had been before the Sydney Synod since 1977, with six (6) reports from the Diocesan Doctrine Commission and five (5) other reports from Synod Committees. He was following on Archbishop Jensen's earlier reference to his astonishment at suggestions in Australian dioceses "that we {Sydney} wish to adopt this course as a sort of adolescent pay back aimed at the National Church for ordaining women."

Bishop Forsyth said that he didn't "come with much enthusiasm for lay and diaconal administration of holy communion", but he was most concerned "that any way forward must follow a constitutionally legal way to proceed.". Anything less, Bishop Forsyth said "would be unworthy of us and massively divisive here in this diocese."

This resolution received an overwhelming affirmative vote in the Synod, though it was not unanimous. The Rev Dr James MacPherson, Rector of Granville, argued that the work of the proposed committee "may have the (unintended) effect of straining even further relationships within the Australian Church."

Ms Linda Hughes, lay representative from Mt Druitt parish, and Dr Chris Forbes brought the second motion calling for a canon for General Synod on diaconal presidency. Ms Hughes said that the Synod had always linked lay and diaconal administration and that it should consider diaconal administration in its own right.

"Diaconal administration at Holy Communion is the logical first step," Ms Hughes said. "We should have done it years ago."

This motion also received strong support from the Synod, though not without a lay representative from Christ Church St Laurence, a large Sydney city church, saying that such an act would require the calling of a worldwide ecumenical council.

After debate concluded, Archbishop Jensen informed Synod members of the discussions he had held with other diocesan bishops at the General Synod held in Brisbane last July. He said that there had been frank and courteous discussions, and that he had been able to present his opinions and hear from the other diocesans.

Dr Jensen also said that he had some initial correspondence from the Archbishop of Canterbury on the matter, and that he was glad to have commenced this dialogue.

Dr Davies' motion, was carried in the following form:

"Synod noting its own frequently expressed desire for lay and diaconal administration of Holy Communion and the Archbishop's comments that he wishes to find a constitutionally legal way to proceed, requests that the Standing Committee appoint a committee to investigate the options, if any, consistent with law, that are available and report back to the next ordinary session of the Synod together with any appropriate legislation."

Miss Hughes' motion, was carried in the following form:

"Synod requests that our representatives on General Synod, at the next session of the General Synod, promote a bill for a canon to permit a deacon to administer Holy Communion."