Anglican Archbishop, Peter Jensen
Sydney Anglican Archbishop, Peter Jensen is facing a legal challenge over his church's decision to break with the national church and permit deacons or church elders to preside over Holy Communion.
The highest court of the Australian Anglican Church, the Appellate Tribunal, has been convened to decide on the contentious issue of whether church law allows others to preside over a duty exclusively performed by ordained priests and bishops, the Brisbane Times quotes a Sydney Morning Herald report saying.
The tribunal, headed by the Appeal Court judge and leading Sydney Anglican Peter Young, conducted a preliminary hearing on August 20 and is awaiting submissions from interested parties. Eight diocesan bishops 20 clergy and laity from 13 dioceses around the country outside of Sydney have applied for a legal ruling, the report said.
The question of who should preside over the central worship service for Anglicans has been a source of simmering tensions inside the church for more than 30 years, the report adds.
Evangelicals say there is no legal impediment to deacons or church elders performing a fuller worship role, while traditionalists argue it is an encroachment on the role and ministry of priests and bishops, and that it contravened the upheld standards of worship in the Anglican communion.
The 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."
"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," she said.
Legal challenge brewing over Holy Communion row (Brisbane Times/Sydney Morning Herald)