No absolution in communion service

Discussion in 'Navigating Through Church Life' started by David, Sep 17, 2023.

  1. David

    David Member Anglican

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    Good afternoon all.

    Question: is it unusual, or even against Good order for a church service of communion to forsake the absolution following confession?

    I this morning visited my local church which is evangelical is order but CofE anglican. I usually go to their Wednesday BCP service which is spot on amd ordered as per the liturgy in the BCP. Today's service however was led by a lay minister whilst the vicar sat in the pews only delivering the eucharistic formula and a sermon. The lay minister lead the general confession and to my utter disappointment this was not followed by general absolution from the vicar...I spent the whole service now pondering whether or not to take communion.

    What are everyone's thoughts on this? Am I simply being a snobby high churchman?

    God bless.

    David.
     
  2. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Personally, I believe that Christ's sacrifice on the cross was fully efficacious for the forgiveness of my sins, that through faith God has granted me His saving grace, and that God has seen & heard my admission of wrongdoing and has already forgiven me (before the priest can say another word); therefore I view the pronouncement of absolution as a physical reminder of what God has done for me, rather than as the agency through which I am being forgiven. So I don't get too excited about whether the pronouncement is made, but I recognize that other parishioners may be struggling with feelings of condemnation or guilt and may truly need reassurance of God's forgiveness.

    This may be a 'low church' view, I suppose, but it's a Bible-based view IMO. I'm sure there are some forum members who take a different view, however.

    Since the vicar had handed conduct of the service over to another (which seems mighty strange, given his presence there), I wouldn't expect the vicar to take over just for the pronouncement. However, since the vicar's participation was necessary for the Eucharistic portion of the service, the entire thing seems rather bizarre to me. If he's going to be there for the Eucharist, why not stand up and say the absolution also? I think he should have done so under the circumstances. (Perhaps his mind was wandering just then??)
     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2023
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  3. David

    David Member Anglican

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    Totally agree with the last paragraph...mightily strange.

    I also wonder if it's technically incorrect according to the structure of anglican common prayer communion services.

    Myself desired the pronouncement of absolution...it wasn't even in their service leaflet for the day.

    I do have high church tendencies but am understandable of the evangelical side of the family...however isn't it an Anglican historic method to announce and proclaim forgiveness from one who is ordained?

    Kind regards

    David.
     
  4. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Did the Lay Minister pronounce the words of the absolution substituting 'us' for 'you' in every part of the absolution?

    If so the congregation was duly informed that their sins are absolved. Perhaps the priest had decided that the congregation had become too dependent upon having HIM pronounce absolution upon them all, when it is in fact God who pronounces absolution for sins, not a man, (however he may be revered by the flock he serves). HE is only a hired shepherd of the flock. The flock belongs to, and was purchased by, the blood of Christ alone.

    This is probably what you should have heard if the Communion was BCP and the liturgy of the word was conducted by a Lay Minister.

    Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all them that with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him; Have mercy upon us; pardon and deliver us from all our sins; confirm and strengthen us in all goodness; and bring us to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    Since it is God alone who absolves, and the priest is but authorised by Christ to ASSURE us of God's absolution, the above statement of theological fact should be enough to convince us all that we have God's forgiveness whenever we meet the conditions contained in it. Namely those with 'hearty repentance and true faith turn unto God for forgiveness' are, at all and any times, according to scripture, forgiven, according to the promise of God.

    Anyone who beset by doubt, believes themselves not properly forgiven, are therefore questioning God's Word and, in effect, calling God a liar, if they fail to believe the statement pronounced by the Lay Minister, but would rather hear the Priestly formula for absolution, since in the Anglican church we believe the scripture, not just the human tradition regarding the delegated authority of priests to forgive or retain sins.
    .

     
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2023
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  5. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    From David's description, I took it that the lay minister did not pronounce any words of absolution after he led the general confession.

    Interesting. But is this an actual absolution? I had been under the impression (based on past discussions here) that a lay minister is not authorized to deliver a general absolution because only a priest (or bishop, of course) is permitted do this. I don't know what other BCPs say, but the 2019 BCP specifies that even a Deacon is not allowed to pronounce an absolution after the confession.
     
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  6. David

    David Member Anglican

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    Good morning

    No, there was simply no absolution form following the confession.

    Theologically I totally agree with you that it is Christ our heavenly priest who forgives our sins and we have direct access but I also see in scripture and our Anglican church that priestly absolution is there for our forgiveness/assurance. This church service was typically low church (I normally stick to there BCP communion service which is spot on)...I cannot find any common worship forms of communion without the absolution so I'm wondering if this church has gone of list officially for a low church approach.

    Either way I took communion as the words directly prior partaking comforted me (we don't presume to come to the table...etc) but it still plays on my mind that I didn't revieve the comforting words of absolution which "fall like a dew to sooth our souls".

    Cheers.
     
  7. David

    David Member Anglican

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    Morning

    Correct. Only a correctly ordained Minister priest can utter effectual words of absolution...this is theologically based on Apostolic succession and the office of the keys.

    Cheers.
     
  8. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    The thing that would make it an 'actual' absolution, (I refer to the words I quoted from the BCP as altered by a Lay Minister with substitutions of 'us' and 'our', as opposed to an ordained minister's 'you' and 'your'), is not whether the information concerning the congregation's sins, confessed to God by them, with hearty repentance in faith, comes resulting from the pronouncement of an ordained person, but rather that the forgiveness of those sins comes from HEARTY FAITH in the God who is extending that absolution TO them.

    THUS: what makes it efficacious as an absolution, (as far as the sinners themselves are concerned), is not the church or the minister of the church or the liturgy or praxis of the church, but the will of GOD, in Christ, who is the Head of the church. Where there is for any reason, doubt in the statement made, or lack of true and hearty repentance, the absolution is invalid, as far as the unbelieving or unrepentant sinner is concerned, and THAT is what matters. Any opinions about the efficacy of the words of absolution, held by anyone other than the sinner themselves, are merely irrelevant conjecture and fruitless speculation. It's not the mere theological speculator's salvation that's being effected. It's to the sinners themselves, alone in the congregation, that it's efficacy is of paramount importance, and THAT depends entirely on THEM and how they take them to heart.

    This is what I am convinced of every time I make the statements to our congregation. I am merely telling them what God has done for them, having met God's conditions, as promised by God in the scriptures. A priest can do no MORE than that but is entitled by Christ and the church to back it up with the personal affirmation of 'you' and 'your' instead of 'us' and 'our'.

    I know a priest who sometimes even uses the 'us' and 'our' version of the absolution to emphasise the TRUTH that she ALSO is a member of God's congregation in that place and ALSO heartily seeks God's forgiveness, through repentance and faith in God's Word, which is the only way any of us may be absolved of our sins. She continues to do this occasionally in spite of attracting criticism from some of the more superstitious Anglo-'Catholic' members among us, who seem to think priests are exclusively, 'sinless men'. She also gets into trouble with some of them for receiving communion last, after the rest of the congregation has received, rather than having the privilege of being first in the queue, (presumably in their estimation, they require this to make sure the priest is 'sinless enough' in order to be able convey some of his so recently imputed holiness, to them).

    Insistence on such ritualistic traditions as the priest ALWAYS having to receive FIRST, are, in my opinon, superstions we could all well do without. They make a mockery of saving faith and the memorial fellowship meal of the body of Christ. Who is first or last in the queue matters not at all, all members of the body are equally in need and welcome to the feast.
    .
     
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  9. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Ah, but your explanation elevates substance over form, and that just won't do! :biglaugh:(kidding) ;)
     
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  10. PDL

    PDL Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I'm confused.

    What type of service was this?

    Only an ordained priest can celebrate the Eucharist and that means the entire service. I really don't understand why a layperson was leading this service.

    Lay people can lead some services, e.g. Mattins or Evensong. There are others they can't, e.g. the Eucharist.
     
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  11. David

    David Member Anglican

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    This was a holy communion service. Part led by a lay minister without absolution. Vicar did the sermon and the eucharistic aspects.
     
  12. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    All services of communion have two separate parts. The first part is the Liturgy of the word. The Litutgy of the word consists of:
    The Gathering
    The Greeting
    The Preparation
    Plus perhaps - Prayers of Penitence
    General Confession
    Absolution of one kind or another.
    The Gloria
    The Collect
    The reading(s) from scripture
    The Gospel
    The Sermon
    The Nicene Creed or an authorised alternative
    The Intercessions
    And the Peace.

    ALL of which in the Anglican Church, may be led by a Lay Minister.

    None of these functions of leadership carry with them any necessity for ordination neither do the Anglican Church require it.
    The Gospel reading may be read by any duly authorised minister of the Church, lay or ordained.

    I should know. I have done it for 20+ years.

    The second part of the communion service is always, in the Anglican church, presided over by a duly ordained minister, recognised as such by The Anglican communion.
    It comprises
    Offertory
    Preparation of the table.
    Eucharistic Prayer.
    Lords Prayer
    Possibly other prayers such as Agnus Dei
    Distribution of Communion
    Post Communion prayer
    Dismissal.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2023
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  13. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Something was wrong there then. I have never experienced a service of Holy Communion anywhere in the Church of England that did not contain a General Confession AND an absolution of some kind. Something was definitely missing from the service you attended but I doubt that you suffered and harm whatever, as a result of that.
    .
     
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  14. David

    David Member Anglican

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    Morning.

    The lay minister is most certainly not able to pronounce absolution. They may announce a declaration of forgiveness such as the collect found in the BCP 21st Sunday after trinity.

    Either way neither was used in the service I attended.

    Cheers.
     
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  15. David

    David Member Anglican

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    Indeed, I agree. Like you said I'm sure no harm per se but again...a little change in the wrong direction on the low church side of things in my opinion. Throwing away the office of the keys in loosing the congregation of their conscience/sin?
     
  16. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    Technically, you are correct. What I described the Lay Minister doing, and what I have been doing for more than 20 years, (by the substitution of certain words), was, as you pointed out, a 'declaration of forgiveness', not a personal assurance of God's forgiveness i.e. an absolution.

    However in either case, forgiveness from God is not guanteed to everyone who hears either statement, from a minister either lay or ordained, for the following reasons.

    (1) The deed(s) of the listening sinner must probably have been confessed and repented from, (Though God is sovereignly free to waive this requirement, and God in Christ clearly DID and HAS over the human race's crime of killing God.)

    "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do".

    (2) The statement must probably be apprehended and belived heartily by faith and in both cases that, at least partially, involves the sinner's faith in the speaker's relationship with God. We, as ministers of the Gospel of peace, are all, whether ordained or not, as believers, Ambassadors of the Gospel, speaking on God's behalf.

    In any case this section of the Communion service is a 'GENERAL confession' and it's intention is merely to remind the congregation of our situation vis-a-vis God, and prepare us to approach God with clean hands and a pure heart in grateful WORSHIP, not in terror of retribution.

    Serious sin should have been confessed to God either privately or in personal confession with a priest BEFORE ever attending a service of communion.
    .
     
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  17. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Just wondering if you meant to type the word, "properly," instead of, "probably"?
     
  18. David

    David Member Anglican

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    Appreciate your reply indeed.

    It's an interesting concept to note that one should confess "Serious sin either privately or in personal confession with a priest BEFORE ever attending a service of communion"...as this would suppose Priestley Absolution is a ministry (as I believe it certainly to be)...and this ministry is a gift to us in general absolution (received in the heart as you detail) during the service...

    ...which is why I was left feeling unsure after the lay led communion service I attended on Sunday (feels a life time ago now ha ha).

    I do sense in some way I've drifted into the realm of placing priestly absolution en par with assurance...but isn't it? See my other question posts which details my thoughts thus last few months.

    God bless brother. Enjoying this conversation.
     
  19. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

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    No I intended to convey the thought that God may not demand repentance before forgiveness is extended to sinners. Notice I don't say, "does not", I don't know. Grace is unmerited favour towards sinners. The judgmental steward did not repent of his debt, just pleaded time to repay and got more than he asked, yet he then refused to afford his debtor the same favour. That was regarded by his Lord as unforgivable.

    God (in Christ) prayed that his executioners should receive forgivness and 'Absolved' them of responsibility for their crime of judicial murder of an innocent man, (Christ), indeed of very GOD. There was no repentance required of them or anyone else who was an accessory to Christ's death, who also received the benefit of Christ's desire that they be forgiven. God was in Christ, so I think God is likewise disinclined to demand repentance before granting forgivness. That is the true character of God. Hearty repentance itself is an evidencial work of The Holy Spirit in the soul of the sinner. It is not something that WE sinners DO to obtain God's forgivness, it is something that God empowers us to do, by God's grace.

    So I used the word 'probably' because I am not certain that I, personally, am able to state categorically, what is in the mind of God, no one can but God.

    I was declaring, by my own faith, and what I understand scripture tells us about the nature of God, in Christ. I may be wrong. I hope not though, for my own and many others sake, for there are many sins of which we are completely unaware we are guilty of and will never therefore repent of and if God's forgivness always depends on OUR repentance of every sin, then we're all unforgiven of them, no matter what the priest or lay minister out front tries to tell us all.

    These unconscious sins, sins of omission, sins of ignorance, weakness, our own deliberate stupid fault, are the ones covered by The General Confession, preparing us to meet God in the memorial sacramental feast which commemorates and celebrates his victory over death, by once, for all, offering himself up, 'a full and perfect sacrifice for the sins, conscious or unconscious, of the whole world'.

    Anyone turning up on a Sunday, hoping to get yet another weekly dose of God's forgivness, dished out to us all by the priest, in return for their hearty repentence and stoic faith, obviously isn't yet aware of what Christ has done for them and the world or what the celebration of His Communion that week is actually all about.
    .
     
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2023
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  20. AnglicanAgnostic

    AnglicanAgnostic Well-Known Member

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    (corrected typo)
    I understand that the liturgy is that aspect of the service that the congregation participates in, and I have had an Anglican minister explain to me as such. I would have thought, readings and sermons wouldn't be considered liturgy.