We have spent many kilobytes on this blog arguing about the necessity (or otherwise) of ordination by a bishop in the apostolic succession for a valid priesthood. What we haven’t talked about is: Does it even matter?
I mean, what point is there in arguing over whether or not the priesthood/ministry of any particular ecclesial communion is valid, if that communion does not consider the validity of the other sacraments to depend upon such a valid priesthood/ministry?
For Catholics, the question of valid orders is essential because the validity of most of the sacraments (ie. Eucharist, Absolution, Confirmation, Anointing the Sick and, of course, ordination itself) depends upon the validity of priestly orders. Hence the very nature of any given communion as “Church” depends upon the validity of priestly orders.
But for (eg.) Lutherans, the validity of pretty well each of these sacraments is considered to be solely dependant upon three factors:
1) the Word of God
2) whether the sacrament is administered according to Christ’s institution (the interpretation of which never seems to include validly ordained ministers)
3) reception of the Sacrament in faith (although strictly speaking, Lutherans deem this necessary only for the efficacy of the sacrament not for its validity).
I do not know of any protestant theologian who would hold that the validity of the sacraments depends upon the validity of the orders of the minister administering them.
Hence, many protestants–even Lutherans–can make allowance for lay consecration of the Eucharist, even if they insist that (for the sake of good order) only ordained ministers should normally do so.
Therefore, here is the issue for discussion:
A key difference between Catholic/Orthodox Churches and Protestant churches is that Catholic/Orthodox Churches would never regard a “eucharist” confected by a lay person as valid; Protestants would and do.