Radical change needed on Lord’s Supper to save declining church

Archbishop Jensen defends Sydney's support for lay administration of Holy Communion

Archbishop Jensen has strongly defended Sydney Diocese's support for lay people to administer Holy Communion, saying much greater flexibility in ministry is needed to take the gospel to a largely un-churched, multicultural Australia.

Speaking at the Anglican Church's General Synod meeting in Fremantle this afternoon, Dr Jensen said lay administration was a key element needed to help Sydney Diocese reach it's goal of seeing 10 per cent of Sydney-siders in Bible-based churches.

"The clear desire of the Synod of the Diocese of Sydney for lay administration provokes puzzlement, dismay and rejection in some other parts of the Anglican Communion," he said. "However, this development is pastorally important, and will become far more so as the Mission to which the Sydney Diocese has committed itself becomes a reality.

"The Mission requires a substantial multiplication of ministries, leading we hope, to a multiplication of congregations," he said. "We may have an "ethnic' or indigenous congregation looked after by a pastor. It is often impossible for the pastor to receive the same training we require of a priest."

"As our urban ministry develops we want to maintain durability and flexibility. Our priests are " and we want them to continue to be " carefully selected and highly trained clergy. On the other hand, we need flexibility; we need to have clergy who are not going to have the same training and whose responsibilities are commensurately less. We are experiencing a major shift from "parish' to "congregation', with the rector responsible for the "whole', but others responsible for the particular congregations."

Dr Jensen presented the "yes' case for lay administration of Holy Communion, while the Rev Dr Andrew McGowan of Trinity College Melbourne, presented the "no' case.

Dr McGowan said he could not dismiss Dr Jensen’s argument about mission.

“The Archbishop envisages a world in which ‘the normal Sunday morning communion celebration is almost irrelevant’, but where plentiful celebrations of the Lord’s Supper might take place in smaller settings such as hospitals, schools and nursing homes, where authorised lay ministers can celebrate the sacrament according to pastoral need,” he said.

While he said he did not doubt the integrity of this argument, Dr McGowan said he found the emphasis on mission in Dr Jensen’s speech ‘curious’.

“The proliferation of local celebrations envisaged in Dr Jensen’s reflections might happen,” he said, “but it is far from clear why we should imagine that ministers and communities in the Sydney Diocese who have not hitherto been accustomed either to using the Holy Communion as a central aspect of their pastoral ministry, or to viewing it as an essential expression of Christian community, would suddenly do so simply because they have been authorised.”

The issue of lay administration was first raised in Sydney synod in 1970.

CONTACT: Jeremy Halcrow 0408 426 381

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