5/26/2011

Eucharistic Spirituality and Table Hospitality

The question of "open communion," meaning by that an invitation to ALL (without reference to status as baptized or confirmed) is being discussed in Anglicanland. 

The Anglican Church of Canada House of Bishops recently opined that there can be no open communion in the ACoC presently and they see no hope for any change in the immediate future.  Various parishes in The Episcopal Church are clear about inviting All to come to Communion, while most are more reticent.  Perhaps they remember the statement of the Inter Anglican Standing Committee on Ecumenical Relations (IASCER) in 2007, which "reminds all Anglicans that this practice is contrary to Catholic order as reflected in principles of canon law common to all the Churches of the Anglican Communion." 

At any event, there continues to be both support and opposition to this practice, and it will figure, along with lay presidency of the Eucharist, in the next round of church battles.  I am not particularly looking forward to those battles!

Simon Mein, over on Simonsurmises, has just this week written a fine essay on Eucharistic Spirituality. It is not directly about the issue of open communion, but it raises the historically radical inclusion of Jesus at table, on which our Eucharist is spiritually based. So, go read that essay. 

Simon writes, " In his practice Jesus was, in effect, giving an answer to a pressing contemporary question: “Who is a true member of the chosen People of God?” His answer was so radical that it was one of the main factors in his eventual execution as a heretic. Everyone is a member of God’s family he said, even those who are excluded by your purity laws. This is clear in Mt. 9.10f: “As he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collector and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples”.  

Remembering that those who Jesus gathered with at meal, and indeed his own immediate followers, were not exclusively persons baptized or made pure by any other means, what does Jesus at meal tell us about open communion?

4 comments:

  1. I think it was Marcus Borg who suggested that if we followed the example of Jesus' table fellowship, we would invite everyone to the feast. But, he added, our discipline about baptism might be a bit stricter.

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  2. Derek Olsen had a three part discussion of this at the Daily Episcopalian site earlier this year:

    Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

    In Part 1 he concludes "Baptism is our sacrament of inclusion, the one that joins us to the Body; Eucharist is our sacrament of intimacy which nourishes and deepens the relationship."

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  3. As I have said elsewhere, while I generally support the position that baptism should precede Eucharistic fellowship, I think that one has to allow the priest some pastoral leeway. Hard and fast rules don’t always help a seeker along in his or her path to spiritual enlightenment. Certainly if an unbaptized person presents him/herself at the altar rail for Holy Communion again and again, the Rector should have a “heart-to-heart” talk, invite the individual to seriously consider baptism, confirmation, etc., and explain what becoming a member of the Church means.

    Kurt Hill
    Brooklyn, NY

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  4. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I have some sympathy with the traditional requirement for Baptism; on the other, I know of plenty of unbaptized people who went up and took Communion.

    No lightning bolts struck and no one became ill and died, but two of them eventually converted and were baptized. They both said that the experience of the Eucharist was a major factor in their decision to join.

    The older I get, the more unwilling I am to post security and screeners at the altar rail. I don't think God needs the protection, but I think He wants the company.

    ReplyDelete

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