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Are there any compelling reasons to prevent a layperson from administering the bread and wine in accordance with 1 Corinthians 11:17-34?

I ask because our little fellowship (only 25 members) is temporarily without the services of our appointed, ordained minister. He has been ill and unable to conduct any services since before Christmas. Since then we have not yet held a communion service. Given the significance and the importance of Resurrection Sunday, and that we have two retired ordained ministers (one is unable to get to church and the other is wheelchair-bound although still articulate and capable), is there any biblical or legal restriction against a baptised member of our congregation conducting communion? I can’t find any guidelines in either the Scottish Baptist Union or the Baptist Union of Great Britain rules and regulations.

What does the Bible have to say about the first century Christians who partook of the bread and the wine when they came together to remember our Lord, as he instructed, till he comes again?

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  • Could you please edit your question to include the verse?
    – Luke Hill
    Apr 12 at 14:01
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    @LukeHill Added a link to the verses in question.
    – Ken Graham
    Apr 12 at 14:21
  • Greatly appreciated.
    – Lesley
    Apr 12 at 14:22
  • Are you part of a larger church body? If so, I would advise you to ask your denomination leaders. Besides that they ought to be able to give you an answer, I would think they ought to be helping you find a replacement minister, as well, at least on a temporary basis.
    – Matthew
    Apr 12 at 14:41
  • Thank you, Matthew. The trustees in our small congregation are seeking advice from the Scottish Baptist Union who are giving practical help to our minister untill he can be declared fit to resume his duties. Meanwhile, we're muddling along as best we can, but nobody seems to know if they can take a communion service. Folks are just taking it in turns to preach. No mention of sending a temporary minister. I can ask that at church on Sunday.
    – Lesley
    Apr 12 at 15:15

2 Answers 2

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As you asked particularly about the view of the Baptist Union (Britain), I put your question to a Baptist minister who recently marked his 60th year in the ministry. I have known him and his wife since 1978 and they moved back here after his last pastorate in the south of England. He has held pastorates both in England and in Scotland. He is not computer literate and kindly drove to my house this afternoon with a hand-written reply. Therefore, I now quote his answer verbatim, only wishing I could have photographed his lovely calligraphy and meticulous layout and posted the photo. No matter. It is the answer that matters!

"The Question: Who is authorised to lead the ordinance of Holy Communion in the Gathered Church of Christians? (The term 'Gathered Church' refers to Christians in some place who are called by God into covenant together to worship God, witness to His saving grace, seeking His glory, the extension of His Kingdom, the salvation of all people through Jesus Christ).

The Answers: The Ordinance is given by Jesus Christ to His Church. It is not given to individual Christians acting outside any covenant commitment to others. The observance of this Ordinance is integrated into the life and testimony of the Church. Therefore, the one who leads the Ordinance must be a Member of that congregation, or one commissioned to do so by the Members.

Secondly: The one who leads the Ordinance must be of such standing in the Church, held in such esteem as, in so far as is possible, to represent the Lord of the Church. As our Saviour led at the institution of the Ordinance - Mt. 26:26 etc - so must One graced with likeness to our Lord lead in observance of it. The requirement most naturally will be found in an appointed Pastor, not in virtue of Ordination, but in virtue of such spiritual graces as led to that Ordination in the first place. Where there is no Pastor, there can surely be no impediment from calling some esteemed Member of the congregation to serve in this capacity.

However, as the observances of this Ordinance is integral to the life and testimony of the Church, there are pastoral implications in the leading of it. The one thus called to this duty must have interest in, concern for, and sympathy with, the spiritual needs of all who sit at that table. As the design of the Ordinance of Believer's Baptism is to give objectivity and perspective to the commencement of the life of faith, so that of this Ordinance is to give objectivity and perspective to that life of faith continuing.

The one who leads this Ordinance will be one who, in meditation upon Scripture, in doubtlessly bearing the scars of many battles with the dominion of darkness, in deep experience of communion with God, in full persuasion of God's grace to us poor, redeemed sinners, will bring to the Ordinance a light of very Heaven breaking through, and radiating every heart with heavenly love.

Guy R. Finnie" Hand-delivered letter to my home on Thursday 14th April 2022

I would add nothing further as I think Rev. Finnie's answer says all that needs to be said, conveying the solemn responsibility and privilege involved in leading this Ordinance of Jesus Christ, in the congregation of believers.

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To answer the OP, it depends on where you go to church.

If you are Catholic (or Orthodox, though the language is not identical), it would not do you any good for a "regular" believer to administer the Eucharist.

1365 Because it is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. Catechism of the Catholic Church

As a sacrifice, the Catholic Church believes only a duly ordained priest acting as Christ may offer.

1548 In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis: CCC 1548

It is the same priest, Christ Jesus, whose sacred person his minister truly represents. Now the minister, by reason of the sacerdotal consecration which he has received, is truly made like to the high priest and possesses the authority to act in the power and place of the person of Christ himself (virtute ac persona ipsius Christi).24 Christ is the source of all priesthood: the priest of the old law was a figure of Christ, and the priest of the new law acts in the person of Christ

So, the compelling reason for not offering as a lay person is it won't do you any good.

On the other hand, Protestants view the Thanksgiving as a memorial and never as a (re)sacrifice.

What does the Bible say (emphasis mine)?

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 1 Cor 11:23

Who is the "you" to whom Paul is addressing?

Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. verse 2

Brethren. Fellow believers. Followers of Christ, as Paul was.

It is far beyond the scope of the answer to go into this, but God reinstated the priesthood of believers in Christ.

So, fear not, the Lord is with y'all.

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  • Thank you for your considered response to my question. I appreciate the differences between the Catholic and Reformed Protestant Church when it comes to matters of priesthood and the administration of the Eucharist, especially with regard to sacrifice.
    – Lesley
    Apr 14 at 16:01
  • @Lesley You're welcome. Not to restate the obvious, but you asked for the Biblical reason to prevent a layperson from leading the Thanksgiving (Eucharist). There is none that I see. Even the note from the pastor in the other answer misses the point IMO. BTW, when Polycarp visited Rome, pope Anicetus conceded the Eucharist to him. There is only the later idea promulgated from Rome that the Thanksgiving was both a sacrament and a sacrifice to be offered solely by the ordained (back to the pastor's comment about who may conduct). Anyway, good luck.
    – SLM
    Apr 15 at 17:08

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