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A minor


Tuesday, December 16, 2003

I Did Not Know That

From the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) page on Communion:

One of the issues which divides Christians concerning the Lord's Supper is the question of who has the authority to preside at the table. Generally among the churches of the world only ordained ministers are authorized to offer the prayer of thanksgiving. Even then there are such disagreements in regard to the proper ordaining of ministers that some church bodies do not recognize the ordination of others. Some Christians are instructed not to partake of the Lord's Supper from non-recognized ministers. Ministers may not be permitted to share the communion elements with members of some other branches of the church. Such is the present disarray of Christ's followers in regard to the central act of Christian worship.

Early in their history, the Disciples of Christ developed a new pattern for religious leadership in their congregations. Lay elders, members of the congregation chosen by the people themselves, were given the responsibility of presiding at the table and offering the communion prayers. Thoughtfully chosen, they are set apart for ministerial functions such as praying at the Lord's Table and pastoral care of members. Their authority to lead in the observance of the Lord's Supper remains a puzzling question to some church bodies.

To the Disciples the simple and thoughtful expressions of grateful remembrance offered by the elders each Sunday seem appropriate and satisfying. The elders are their representatives, people like themselves, who gather from a week of work to lift thankful hearts to God in remembrance of the saving work of Christ. Ties of common experience closely bind member to member, and Christ is known afresh as each week this ordinance is observed in the Christian Churches throughout the world.
I've been curious to learn more about the Disciples of Christ, especially lately as we drive by a small cathedral-shaped Christian church (on the corner of Forsythe and Loop Road, for you locals) nearly every day. I knew that they emphasize the centrality of the Lord's supper, practice weekly communion, etc, but the fact that they have lay elders presiding at the table is news to me. I wonder, though: Why did they chose lay elders and not lay deacons? Or, maybe lay deacons are involved; maybe they just don't preside. Does anyone know? (Clifton?)

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