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Liturgical Disorder


Previous posts examine the confusion around NZ Anglican liturgical practice. That disorder extends to ordination and maybe even threatens the validity of those ordinations. This can also impact relationships not only within the Anglican Communion but also with those who, ecumenically, accept the ordinations of our church.

The last meeting of General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW) finally formally acknowledged that some of our liturgical practice has no legal foundation. [I am opposed to the proposed solution, and thankfully other people and some diocesan synods agree with me – but that is a discussion on other threads].

GSTHW has much more liturgical work to do.

In case it was unclear previously, the church has recently resolved any confusion whether bishops in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia have jus liturgicum – the right to authorise, require (or forbid) services as the bishop of an episcopal unit. They do not.

What has certainly been explicit all along is that bishops do NOT have the right to alter the ordination services agreed to by the church:

Bishops of this Church shall be liable to discipline for… refusal or neglect to use authorised Ordination Liturgies. Title D Canon II 4.3

But, in ordinations, I have either seen or people have told me about:

  • Deacons and Priests being ordained in the same service in a manner not following the requirements of the Prayer Book pages 922-923 which describe the way that those parts of ordination services are to be combined.
  • Licensed ministries being authorised, alongside deacons and priests being ordained, within the one ordination prayer (page 908).
  • Changing presiding bishop during the ordination prayer.
  • Changing language during the ordination prayer.
  • Using an ordinal not agreed to by the church.
  • Ordaining those not episcopally confirmed.
  • Words and gestures inserted into the ordination prayer (such as, “We sign you with the cross, the sign of Christ.”)
  • Not having assisting priests lay hands on the head of each candidate (page 908).
  • Having assisting priests lay hands on the ordaining bishop rather than on the head of each candidate.
  • Moving the laying on of hands to a different point in the prayer than where is indicated.
  • Omitting the laying on of hands.

I won’t allow this thread to be hijacked by those who hold to the invalidity of Anglican orders generally. I think it would need the convening of a Commission on Doctrine and Theological Questions to determine which of the above affect validity of ordination, and to determine how to proceed (eg. conditional ordination) should any of the above have occurred and affect the validity of people’s ordination.

A proper review of our liturgical mess in our province is long overdue.

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15 thoughts on “Liturgical Disorder”

  1. It is perhaps worthwhile to note the (official) reason why Rome consider Anglican orders invalid. It is not a question about modern rites. It is not a question about the Book of Common Prayer. It is a question about the ordinal accompanying, IIRC, the 1552 BCP.

    That rite was considered defective. And thus it break the line of succession. And once the orders are gone, by the traditional understanding, you can’t get them back on your own. It is a risky game to enter into.

    Whilst most of your bullet points, on their own, do not prove invalidity, the last one is a BIG problem…

    1. You will understand, Tom, why only on balance do I allow your comment through moderation (having said, “I won’t allow this thread to be hijacked by those who hold to the invalidity of Anglican orders generally”). Even if your reasoning were to be correct, we are in full communion with the Old Catholics (the validity of whose orders are undisputed) and their involvement in ordinations means that there isn’t anyone ordained who is not connected to that “lineage”.

      I think this requires more than my (or your) personal opinion – hence my suggestion this needs a Commission on Doctrine and Theological Questions. Once they agree which bullet points (or others) would be, as you say, a “big problem”, a solution to them would need to be proposed. I do not think that the last bullet point would ever occur in ordaining a bishop.


      1. I don’t want to get caught in that discussion either – I only made the point to highlight just how careful one needs to be in these matters, and how long lasting and complex the effects of what might seem an insignificant change can be.

      2. I would also propose that there are national Lutheran churches in Northern Europe who also hold valid lines of Apostolic Succession. There has been plenty of “cross pollinating” among the Lutheran & Anglican churches in the Porvoo Communion with consecrations of bishops, that added to the Old Catholic lines, one would be hard pressed today to argue null & void orders in Anglican churches.


  2. The issues you outline should rightly be of great concern for anyone and everyone connected with the Church in your Province. The repercussions of doubt concerning the validity of ordination, in particular, are not something that can be ignored, and one can only hope that those responsible can find a solution that does no further harm.

  3. Fortunately we have the doctrine of “The Church Supplies” which covers inadeqacies in sacramental practice.

    St Thomas Aquinas put it “God is not bound by his sacraments”.

    God Bless

    1. Thanks, Chris. Ecclesia supplet might be invoked by a Commission on Doctrine and Theological Questions. I, for one, would not prejudge their conclusions, although one could, presumably, submit this to such a body. Maranatha.

  4. On: “- Not having assisting priests lay hands on the head of each candidate (page 908).
    – Having assisting priests lay hands on the ordaining bishop rather than on the head of each candidate.”

    I suggest a minor revision to the rubric! It is physically impossible for more than (say) half a dozen priests to join their hands with the bishop’s hands in obedience to this rubric. Yet, in my experience, routinely 20-30 priests turn up for ordinations. Thus we have evolved (in at least two dioceses I have been part of), priests connecting with priests via hands so that (I presume, I am normally at the back of the “scrum”) the frontmost priests lay hands with the bishop on the one-being-ordained-priest her/himself. I suspect those frontmost hands are on the shoulders of the one being ordained, rather than on the hands of the bishop on the top of the head of the one being ordained … could a minor revision adjust to the reality of large turnouts of priests? I hope so.

    1. Thanks, Peter. I have been trying to not let my own position come through this list (or even which I have seen and which have been reported to me), but have tried to present the material as “objectively” as possible. But I think that rubrical revision can be fraught [we saw that in the recently-failed attempt to clarify when to celebrate baptism]. I think some hands (including the bishop’s) be on the head. I think that, in ordaining a priest, priests laying hands on the bishop, and only the bishop laying hands on the candidate is missing the point of why the priests are involved. I think what you describe is fine and we could submit to a Commission on Doctrine and Theological Questions that an expansion to your effect be put into the notes accompanying the rite ordaining to the presbyterate. Maranatha.

  5. At the ordination of three priests at St Mary’s Pro Cathedral last Saturday, the ordaining Bishop laid hands on each ordinand and then every priest present (some 40 or 50) laid hands on each candidate in turn. It didn’t take a lot of time, it was very dignified, and very moving.

    1. Thanks, Ralph. Yes, I saw the video. I understand that this is the normal RC way of ordaining – with the laying-on-of-hands done in silence. Anglicans tend to accompany the laying-on-of-hands with words (are there any Anglican rites that follow the RC approach?). Having words means that all have to do it together. Doing it in silence means that it can be as long or as short as required. Maranatha.

  6. I’m wondering what the significance of priests laying on hands at ordination is about. We don’t believe that priests/presbyters have anything that they can convey by doing so, only the bishop holds the fullness of ordination. Only the bishop may ordain deacons & priests and another bishop.

    By the recipe, 500 priests laying on hands can’t make another priest. But one bishop can.

    1. I think this is more than a short comment’s worth for a reply, Br David, but we could ask the same question about lay people present at the Eucharist… Or closer: why have other bishops present at ordaining a new bishop? Also I added “efficacious” to licit and valid – is having other priests participating fully in welcoming someone into the presbyterate a more efficacious start into that ministry? Just for starters. Then there’s the whole discussion that’s been begun here previously: are there two primary ordained ministries – oversight and service (or actually three)? Maranatha.

      1. Having pondered your reply for a few days;

        1. I guess that I am confused by your first statement regarding lay folk at Eucharist – “the Gifts of God for the People of God.” I don’t see the parallel.

        2. Regarding bishops at the ordination of a bishop, they all equally hold the same ordination authority, whereas priests hold none. I think that there are more efficacious ways for follow priests to welcome a new priest and celebrate the priest’s new ministry than to pretend and perhaps mislead that they have some ordination ability conferred by laying their hands upon the ordinand along with the bishop.

        Perhaps so that their is no confounding of the two, after and separate from the bishop ordaining the priest, the priests could gather around the new priest and give the priest a blessing for a new ministry. We know that that is an authority priests do have. You lot can pretty much bless anything that you wish; houses, animals, objets d’art, why not a new priest?

        1. I think your point could be a distraction from this thread, Br David. This thread is not debating changing the agreed ordination rite, it is highlighting that people are departing, possibly very significantly, from the agreed ordination rite. Our agreements within the Anglican Communion and ecumenically are based on the understanding that we in NZ are actually doing what we say we do. I do not see either the Roman Catholic Church, nor Anglicanism, altering the centuries-old tradition in the manner you suggest. Maranatha.

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