The Lord's Table -- Who Shall Preside?
By far, most Christian traditions assume that the Lord's Supper/Eucharist/Holy Communion will be celebrated by ordained clergy. The Disciples of Christ stand apart from this tradition, for historically it has been Elders who have served at the table. Now this tradition dates from a period in which Disciples anti-clericalism sought to separate out the table from the preaching. Additionally there was the matter of the scarcity of preachers. Since every congregation had elders, at the very least they could come to the Table. Thus, the tradition of elders presiding at the table began. More recently -- in the last 40 years as the Disciples became more involved both in the ecumenical movement and in liturgical renewal, ordained clergy began to move to the table. The normal pattern today is for the ordained minister to offer the Words of Institution while the Elder(s) offers a prayer or prayers for the elements. However, most Disciple churches have no qualms about having an Elder offer the Words of Institution. It is argued that this represents our belief in the priesthood of all believers.
By and large I affirm this principle, but I wonder if we've thought this out very well. If all of our ecumenical partners have ordained clergy celebrating the Eucharist, why are we so different? What is the theological rationale for this? Rather than offer an answer to the question, I'll raise it for discussion.