We had quite a lively discussion about the role of UMC local pastors in providing the sacraments.
Although I am a local pastor now, I have no serious objection to the Order of Elders restricting the administration of the sacraments to itself alone. It would certainly be in keeping with Methodist tradition and history.
Nonetheless, Elders should not look forward to the day when and if such legislation is passed in General Conference. From that day on, it will be the responsibility of the Order of Elders to provide the sacraments as they are needed. That means, in my little church, for example, an elder must appear at least one Sunday every month to offer the Eucharist and baptism.
Kurt Boemler was, at one time, a Lay Missioner. He functioned as a lay pastor without sacramental authority. Here, he shares horror stories of his attempts to get communion elements properly blessed by an elder, such as having to drive three hours routinely to find an elder willing to bless the elements.
That's unacceptable. If the Order of Elders is going to have the sole sacramental authority in the United Methodist Church, then it is the sole responsibility of that Order to ensure that the sacraments are available to all who seek them when they seek them. Our tradition may hold that only the ordained administer the sacraments, but it also insists that Holy Communion be taken constantly. Instead of laypeople going to great lengths to beg an elder to bless the elements, let it be the responsibility of the elder to make the three-hour drives to the congregation that needs the sacraments.
If the General Conference considers legislation that restricts sacramental authority to Elders, I have no objection so as long as that same legislation also places the responsibility of providing the sacraments entirely on the Order of Elders.
Absent such explicit responsibility on Elders, we shall see more degradation of Holy Communion as Kurt relates. His experiences include having the elements blessed retroactively, having them blessed over the telephone, and having them blessed after being left on an elder's doorstep. How, I ask, is this somehow more reverent treatment of Holy Communion than Dan Trabue's experience of laypeople leading the Eucharist? How is God honored by a blessing of this sort?
I further ask the Elders who think that only they should serve the sacraments: are you willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that everyone who wants them has access? Because if not, then we should not move forward with this proposal.
I will not insist upon sacramental authority for myself as a licensed local pastor. But I do insist upon my flock being administered the sacraments.