Melbourne Anglican Dr Muriel Porter, one of the 28 signatories to the tribunal’s reference, said who presided at Holy Communion was not a ”trivial in-house issue” but one ”at least as important as women’s ordination and gay clergy”.
Well, she got that right, at least.
It is somewhat ironic that among Australian Anglicans you have those in the blue corner arguing against women and homosexual priests but for lay presidency, while in the red corner you have those arguing for women and homosexual priests and against lay presidency. What any sane orthodox Anglican makes of it, I have no idea.
But perhaps the problem is best expresses by Dr Porter again, as she is reported to have gone on to say:
”Who presides at Holy Communion – the central worship service for Anglicans – is about who are the leaders in the Anglican Church, who is authorised to lead.”
The issue of presiding at the Eucharist, according to Dr Porter, is about “leadership” – that horrible modern word that can mean just about anything these days, but is certainly about power within the community. This becomes more interesting in the context of comments made by Anglican Bishop Glenn Davies of North Sydney, who said in the original article that allowing laypeople, including lay women, to preside at the Eucharist:
“gives women the full range of possibilities in ministry without being head of a parish.”
In other words, the Sydney Anglicans oppose Women’s Ordination, not because they do not believe that a woman can preside at the Eucharist, because they don’t think a woman should be (in Dr Porter’s terms) “leaders”, ie. with authority over male members of the Church.
Thus, for both the Sydney Anglicans and their opponents, Eucharistic presidency has become an issue about “leaderhip”, and about “power” in the Church. I am not saying that such ideas do not often figure in debates between Catholics on this matter. I am saying that you won’t get anywhere with this approach.
The president at the Eucharistic celebration in the Church is the ordained priestly icon of Christ. The Eucharist he offers is the sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood. Yes, this is a kind of leadership, but it is the leadership of Christ who said “Take up your cross and follow me” and “Whoever wishes to be greatest of all must be the servant of all.”