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Baptised children may administer holy communion

17 July 2015



Sam Atkins

No limitations: Elliot Swattridge

No limitations: Elliot Swattridge

NEW regulations that make it possible for authorisation to be given to any "regular communicant", including baptised but unconfirmed children, to administer communion, were passed by the Synod in a two-stage process.

First, on Friday afternoon, the Archbishop of Canterbury informed the Synod that the Queen had given her royal assent and licence for Draft Amending Canon No. 35, "Of the ministry of Holy Communion", to be "made, promulged and executed".

The legal instrument giving effect to the canon was read by a legal officer, before, with the assent of the Synod, it was signed by the Archbishops and the four other senior officers of Synod.

After that, the Bishop of Sodor & Man, the Rt Revd Robert Paterson, said that it was now possible to make regulations to give effect to a decision that had been agreed by the Synod when it approved a Southwell & Nottingham diocesan motion in November 2012.

The actual regulations, the Administration of Holy Communion Regulations 2015, could not be made until the amending canon had come into force, he said. The regulations were mainly unchanged from the illustrative draft that had previously been circulated as they debated the draft amending canon; with the addition of a few clauses "which have been made in response to comments made by members of Synod".

The additional clauses would allow a bishop to "impose conditions on an authorisation or to specify the circumstances in which it might be used", he said, while others would extend the regulations to "cathedrals or other non-parochial contexts such as guild churches".

Adrian Vincent (Guildford) said in theological terms the regulations were not about allowing children to administer holy communion, but those who had not been confirmed. He said that he was not comfortable in changing the traditional order of baptism, then confirmation, then the eucharist, with a new order of baptism, the eucharist, and then confirmation. "The question ‘What’s the point of confirmation?’ becomes increasingly difficult to answer."

The Revd Dr Hannah Cleugh (Durham and Newcastle Universities) asked whether the regulations could be amended to allow clergy who were university chaplains to authorise a wide range of people, including those who were unconfirmed, to administer communion.

Elliot Swattridge (Youth Council) said that neither Jesus nor the New Testament laid out any limitations on who could administer the sacrament of holy communion. "I welcome wholeheartedly the recent developments to allow communion to be participated in by a wider audience," he said.

Prebendary Stephen Lynas (Bath & Wells) cautioned against creating more paperwork when incumbents or archdeacons authorised people to administer communion.

Clive Scowen (London) gave three reasons why confirmation was still necessary: it allowed those baptised as infants to affirm publicly their commitment to Christ; it gave an opportunity for all Christians to have prayer for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit over them; and it was a form of commissioning for lay ministry.

The motion that the regulations be considered was carried.

Nicholas Harding (Southwell & Nottingham) introduced his amendment which, he said, would clarify the regulations, to ensure that they were not read in such a way that children who had not been confirmed could not assist in communion. It referred to "a child who is neither confirmed nor ready and desirous to be confirmed but is admitted to Holy Communion in accordance with the Admission of Baptised Children to Holy Communion Regulations 2006".

Bishop Paterson welcomed the amendment, as it was in sympathy with the intent of the new regulations.

The amendment was carried.

The debate was adjourned, and resumed on Sunday afternoon.

Archbishop Welby explained that the House of Bishops and the senior officers of Synod were satisfied that the requirements under Article 7 of the Synod’s constitution had been met.

Bishop Paterson said that concern had been expressed about the need for paperwork. "The regulations are deliberately not prescriptive about how records should be kept," he said. "This is up to the dioceses to decide; but there should be records about who is authorised."

He said that good safeguarding practice required proper records to be kept about who had been authorised. This would be covered in guidance issued by the House of Bishops after consultation with the safeguarding team.

There was no debate, and the Synod unanimously voted: That the Administration of Holy Communion Regulations be approved.

The Regulations come into affect on 1 October 2015.

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