Home > Liberal Lutheranism, Liberal Mainline Protestantism > Communion Without Baptism: A Perfectly Consistent Practice

Communion Without Baptism: A Perfectly Consistent Practice

May 28th, 2011
Marketing Advertising Blog — VuManhThang.Com

David Virtue, who for years has been documenting errors and problems across the worldwide Anglican communion, had an interesting article on this growing trend, which I’ve also seen popping up in ELCA congregations as well. For that matter, in those congregations that do not practice a serious approach to closed communion, I think there is little to prevent this practice, de facto, from happening. Your thoughts? Here is Mr. Virtue’s article.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy on Communion without Baptism
Date 2011/5/25 8:50:00 | Topic: Exclusives

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Policy on Communion without Baptism

By David W. Virtue
May 25, 2011

[Holy Communion] It is unofficial of course. No one is supposed to know it is going on and it is certainly not approved by the canons of The Episcopal Church – but it is happening around the country. Communion is being offered to people who are not baptized. It is known as Communion Without Baptism (CWOB).

The most blatant case was at a House of Bishops meeting in 2001 presided over by then Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold. In Arrowhead in March of that year, bishops were forced to sit through lectures by a Jewish faculty member from Griswold’s alma mater in Massachusetts on how to lead the Christian church. The man was truly offensive, according to a bishop who wrote to VOL at that time. Later, following the lecture, then Bishop of Vermont, Adelia MacLeod, dragged the speaker to the altar rail for communion.

The bishop wrote, “Others, the sicker kind, had a sick need to make up with this offensive person and actually forced him to receive Holy Communion, one dragging him on either side, managing to violate his integrity and the integrity of his religion and ours. The perpetrators were women who did not care that he was clearly not in love and charity with his neighbor and who see the sacrament as nothing more than ‘hospitality’.”

There was no apology for his behavior, no apology for the violation of the sacrament and we went on, he wrote. My story on this and other behaviors of Frank Griswold “GRISWOLD AGONISTES” appears here: (http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=3367).

A decade later, CWOB is now more blatant than ever and publicly obvious. St. Mark’s in Washington, DC, describes itself on a billboard as The Church of the Open Communion – “wherever you are on your faith journey, whatever you believe or don’t believe, baptized or not, we welcome you to join us.” http://www.stmarks.net/who-we-are/about-us/about-st-marks/

Today with a nudge-nudge, wink-wink, liberal Episcopal parishes pay lip service to baptism as a pre requisite for taking Holy Communion. In The Episcopal Church, all baptized Christians-no matter age or denomination-are welcome to “receive communion. Episcopalians invite all baptized people to receive, not because we take the Eucharist lightly, but because we take our baptism so seriously. Visitors who are not baptized Christians are welcome to come forward during the Communion to receive a blessing from the presider. Nowhere is communion offered to an unbaptized person.

Episcopal Church Canon I.17.7 however, is unambiguous. It states: “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.”

But The Episcopal Church flouts canon law on a number of issues especially and including sexuality. CWOB is just one more issue where canon law and ecclesiastical polity have been tossed out the window.

In a video put out by the Episcopal Church, The Rev. Paul Lane of St. Paul’s, Chicago, says that “everyone is welcome to eat at this table…” no mention is made of baptism as a prerequisite for partaking of the Lord’s Supper.

The video mixes worship styles in a changing culture with strong emphasis on diverse contexts. “The community is gathered around the altar. Everyone is welcome to eat at God’s table…the table is wide open. [We] welcome everyone to the table without exception,” states Lane.

In reconfiguring the church to meet the growing diversity in the Chicago neighborhood, Lane determined the cross to be offensive. “The cross is non welcoming to non-Christians so it was put at the back of the church.”

St. Jude, Wantagh, NY, is also featured by The Episcopal Church as being a healthy Episcopal congregation under the rubric, “Transforming Churches, Changing the World”. The church bills itself as “a welcoming community of faith, embracing and serving all of God’s children regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, disability or socio-economic condition.” No distinctions of behavioral practice are mentioned.

A study released in 2005 by the Diocese of Northern California estimated that a majority of dioceses have congregations that practice CWOB. Of the church’s 110 dioceses, 48 responded to the Northern California survey. 24 reported they had parishes that practice CWOB while a seven dioceses were reported to “probably allow CWOB.”

The dumbing down of doctrine to make the church more acceptable to non-Christians might have short term gains. In the long run, however it will fail. The church is supposed to be a counter culture to the world’s values. TEC’s attempt to downplay its exclusive character will only make it indistinguishable from the world.

People who have not confessed Christ as personal Savior and Lord remain in bondage to sin and therefore, in the words of St. Paul, “anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (1 Cor. 11:29) – NIV

The Rt. Rev. Dr. John Rodgers in his new book Essential Truths for Christians, A Commentary on the 39 Articles wrote of Article 28 that “to participate in unbelief, or in any other unworthy manner, is to profane the sacrament, to dishonor God and to bring judgment upon oneself. Repentant faith is essential to a right use of the sacrament because the nature of Christ’s self-giving is personal and because the Lord’s Supper is for sinner who receive unmerited grace therein.

“Jesus speaks about the importance of humble, repentant faith in connection to worship. The Apostle Paul warns us that to profane the Sacrament will bring serious consequences. It is far better to judge oneself and partake of the sacrament only in a worthy manner, in repentance and faith, than to offend the Lord,” concluded Rodgers.

The Episcopal Church’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy will prove to be yet another nail in its coffin.


This article comes from VirtueOnline


If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!
  1. wyclif
    May 28th, 2011 at 05:57 | #1

    Pastor McCain,

    As a traditional Anglican I agree with David and your conclusion. It’s just another symptom of the decline and secularisation of the Church in America. The driving force behind it seems to be a desire not to offend newcomers. It is a very mistaken and theologically disastrous and inept thing to do, and is of a piece with the failure to properly catechize youth as well as their parents.

    I would, however, disagree slightly on the premise regarding open communion. The Lord’s table does not belong to ELCA, The Episcopal Church, or my parish. That is why we welcome all baptised Christians who may be visiting from other churches or transferring from other Christian traditions. In Anglicanism, we do not adopt “the One True Church” ecclesiology, and this is the same reason why a clergyman who signs our doctrinal confession and symbols can transfer his credentials into our church without re-ordination.

  2. May 28th, 2011 at 11:28 | #2

    CWOB is one step further down the heretical road. In churches that practice open Communion they’re already practicing CWOB. When the pastor will commune anybody without knowing that person’s spiritual condition, there’s nothing to stop the unbaptized from communing – to their own judgment. Woe to the undershepherd who proceeds so carelessly.

  3. Jonathan Trost
    May 28th, 2011 at 19:23 | #3

    This unhappy article brings the term “lex orandi; lex cedendi” to mind, which I translate loosely as “As you worship (pray), so you believe.” Or, “Your worship is a reflection of your belief.”

    For many Episcopalians, I’m afraid, the Sacrament is not “the innermost sanctuary of the whole Christian worship” or “the meal of the baptized”. Denial of those realities reflect very low concepts of both Christology and ecclesiolgy.

    These denials run rampant throughout much of American Protestantism, which has aborbed many of the tenets of American civic religion, chief among which, perhaps, is being “hospitable”.

    How I remember as a young person The Exhortation spoken by the pastor before Holy Communion. It was lengthy. In part, the pastor said:

    “If any of you, then, are conscious that you are willing servants of sin, that you are without true repentance and faith, we solemnly warn and admonish you that you not presume to come to the Lord’s Table. For those doing so eat and drink judgment to themselves; not because they are sinners, but because they are impenitent; not because they are unworthy, but because they eat and drink unworthily, not discerning the presence of the Lord’s body.”

    (I miss words to that effect in the ELCA liturgy of Word and Sacrament. They were purposeful)

    I suppose that, if the Sacrament is but a mere memorial, then argument can be made for “Come one, come all!” But, if the fruits of partaking worthily are “forgiveness, life and salvation”, then it’s a disgrace to treat the Invitation as if it were one to the congregation’s neighborhood backyard hot dog roast!

    Of Anglicans I sometimes think: “much style; too little substance”.

  4. Helen
    May 28th, 2011 at 19:47 | #4

    My understanding of communion in the Reformed tradition is that it is mere bread and wine, correct? If that is what they believe, teach, and confess then they are not bringing judgment upon themselves, right? There is no judgment by God in taking bread and wine.

  5. Joanne
    May 28th, 2011 at 20:16 | #5

    Hospitality is a powerful instinct, especially for women. I believe it is the primary motivating force behind open communion in the LC-MS. Solving problems with food, as seen here in this account, is another strong feminine instinct. Women and feeding are a powerful emotional diad that can overtake an issue if boundaries are not carefully monitored and fenced.

    When you have family supper every Sunday in a room with folks present that you don’t know, you should either ask them to join you at the supper table, or arrange for them to leave before you sit down to supper. It’s the strong instinct of hospitality in simple application. Telling the strangers that they can sit there and watch you eat, but can’t have any, will usually get you a visit from the hospitality police.

    • May 29th, 2011 at 16:44 | #6

      Perhaps yet one more reason why women should not be pastors.

  6. Joe Sarnowski
    May 28th, 2011 at 22:29 | #7

    May those who partake of Holy Communion unworthily bring condemnation upon themselves and those who administer it flippantly share in that condemnation.

  7. Jami
    May 29th, 2011 at 09:57 | #8

    If I welcome visitors to a meal in my home, I fill their stomachs (and, perhaps, their hearts) for a few hours. I may solidify a friendship, and even provide a service of sorts. But the benefits of that meal will quckly fade, whereas the benefits that I gain from a meal at the Lord’s Table last much longer. Too, as a responsible hostess, I should certainly be aware if my guests may come to harm because of the food that I offer them.

  8. May 29th, 2011 at 10:33 | #9

    As someone noted, CWOB is a trend. Trends lead in all kinds of directions and end up causing all kinds of harm along the way. The true church marches on unwavering from the truth solely by the gracious work of the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God.

  9. Jonathan Trost
    May 29th, 2011 at 11:28 | #10

    Here are a few more words from the liturgy of my youth which might properly disincline some from approaching the Sacrament. The Declaration of Grace (Absolution) following the Confession exercised both components of the Office of the Keys. The pastor said:

    “Upon this humble confession which you have made, as a Minister of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by His authority, I declare unto you, who do truly repent and heartily believe in Jesus Christ, and are sincerely determined to amend your sinful life, the forgiveness of all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

    “But, be it known unto all such as are impenitent and unbelieving, that their sins are retained; and in Christ’s stead I earnestly admonish them to repent, to believe in the Gospel, and to be reconciled to God.”

    Use today of that second paragraph might serve as further discouragement to anyone’s approaching and partaking of the Sacrament unworthily. (The ELCA liturgy exercises only the first, but not the second, key. Where did the latter go?))

  10. May 29th, 2011 at 13:50 | #11

    But the presence of Christ is not determined by what Christians believe; His presence is predicated on the words of his promise spoken in the WoI. So it is not just bread and wine, even at an Anglican Lord’s Supper, or anywhere “This is my Body, etc.” is spoken. I do believe the WoI spoken by a pastor I heard at a wedding this summer (“This represents my body”) is an example of, as you say, “no judgement by God in taking bread and wine” ;-)

  11. Diane Hammond
    May 29th, 2011 at 18:02 | #12

    My husband and I have just come back from a tour in Germany of the Luther and J.S. Bach sites. On May 15, we were privileged to attend Gottesdienst at St. ThomasKirche in Leipzig. St. Thomas is the church where J.S.Bach worked and played the organ for many years. The bulletin we received upon entering the church was mostly in German but some parts were in English. Of course, the service was in German but we were able to follow the liturgy and sing the hymns. Before the service started, we noticed Holy Communion was set up on the altar. Not knowing if St. ThomasKirche was in fellowship with the LCMS, we asked one of our tour leaders, a LCMS pastor, about communion. He said we would not be attending. That was fine with us. After the sermon there was a hymn, offering, another hymn, a prayer, confession and then the Lord’s Prayer, announcements and closing hymn and benediction. Here comes the interesting part. The congregation was then seated and the organist played an organ postlude-J.S.Bach Praludium G-Dur BWV541/1. This was the point at which we left. In the bulletin it was quite clear that the next part of the service was Holy Communion at the Chancel. I’d say about two thirds of the congregation got up and left and the rest stayed for communion. We took this very specific break in the service as their tradition for closed communion which I think dates back to the way the early Christians did their worship. Hope this wasn’t too far afield of the original topic.

  12. George
    May 29th, 2011 at 18:59 | #13

    I remember teaching a religion class (5-6 grade, if I remember correctly) on vicarage. I was explaining the doctrine of communion and related it to baptism noting that the fact that only circumcised men (or women of their families) were allowed to eat the passover was related to baptism preceding communion… at which point a (non-Lutheran) student raised her hand and said at her church you had to be 12 to be baptized but infants communed. Somewhat shocked I realized that at her non-denominational church there was a profound lack of understanding of the new birth and the communion in Christ’s body and blood.

  13. Guillaume
    May 30th, 2011 at 08:44 | #14

    @Helen–the Anglican/Episcopal faith is a mixed bag. You will find congregations and pastors confessing at the altar anything from Baptist to Roman Catholic theology concerning the Lord’s Supper. Apparently the author somewhere along the lines of Lutheran/RC understanding of what is given.

  14. Helen
    May 30th, 2011 at 08:57 | #15

    Yes, I know that’s true, it’s the words of Christ that make the sacrament what it is, the true body and blood of Christ. What I’ve always wondered is do Paul’s words to the Christians at Corinth re: taking it to your judgment therefore apply to all who are in the Reformed camp?

  15. Mrs. Hume
    May 30th, 2011 at 13:00 | #16

    My in-laws are Nazarenes and they have their unbaptised children take communion. The children are 6 and 8.

  16. May 30th, 2011 at 20:45 | #17

    I would say emphatically “no”. The “unworthy partaker” is not defined in scripture as one who misunderstands the WoI. One would expect that all reformed churches would not fence their LS tables, but ironically that was not my experience at all in my former continental reformed church. They fence their LS table as well as any of the early Christian churches. But in the end, it always baffled me that they would fence so rigorously so that the communicants wouldn’t defile the body and blood of Christ while also maintaining that only the worthy eaters “ascended in faith to heaven in order to there partake”. If only the worthy actually partake “by faith in heaven” how can you fence the LS table AND deny that the unworthy don’t partake of Christ’s [mystical] flesh and blood? Confusing….

  17. May 30th, 2011 at 20:49 | #18

    Sorry. “…AND deny that the worthy partake….”

  18. May 30th, 2011 at 20:50 | #19

    Ack…. “…AND deny that the UNWORTHY partake…..”

  19. Christine
    May 31st, 2011 at 08:36 | #20

    It’s the strong instinct of hospitality in simple application. Telling the strangers that they can sit there and watch you eat, but can’t have any, will usually get you a visit from the hospitality police.

    That is why the ancient church dismissed the catechumens before the liturgy of the Eucharist, which was given only to those who had been baptized and instructed.

    We are not speaking about mere earthly “food” here, but the Presence of the Risen Christ, to whom all power in heaven and on earth has been given. Not something to trifle with, nor is there a common understanding among all denominations about the nature of Holy Communion.


    • May 31st, 2011 at 09:44 | #21

      Of course, the Lord’s Supper has nothing to do with “hospitality.”

  20. Helen
    May 31st, 2011 at 11:56 | #22

    Mark #17,
    Yes, confusing indeed! It would so much simpler if all Christians would just accept Christ’s words at face value, but, alas, sin has even spoiled the reception of this great gift of our risen and ascended Lord.

  21. Sojourner
    May 31st, 2011 at 15:50 | #23

    I think if there were a way to get totally honest, candid responses from within the LC-MS there would be a surprising number of congregations who are not only sympathetic to but practice open communion, which as another respondent pointed out, is kissing cousins with CWOB. Lord have mercy. Where is the oversight?

  22. Jonathan Trost
    May 31st, 2011 at 16:30 | #24

    Unhappily in some churches, some pastors and some in their flock takes certain words of Jesus, such as appear in St. Matthew’s Gospel at 11:28 and in 19:14, and misuse and misapply them.

    “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

    Because the word “all” is in that verse, they think that the Invitation to the Sacrament of the Altar should be to “all here present”, regardless of their not having been baptized.

    And, in 19:14 “…Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belong the Kingdom of God.” This, they’d say, should allow any child to come to the altar to partake of the Sacrament.

    Both abuses are simple examples of bad biblical theology, and of “inclusivity” and “each to his own” gone amuck.

    The last verse in the OT Book of Judges comes to mind. “And in those days, there was (were) no king (kings) in Israel, and every man did what was appropriate in his own sight.”

    Something similar can be said of parts of the church today. It might read: “And in this day, there is no authority in the church, and each pastor does what is appropriate in his own sight.”

    Where every pastor is allowed to “do his own thing” and remain rostered,
    the church has more than just “a problem”. It has as many problems as it has such pastors

  23. Joanne
    June 1st, 2011 at 14:51 | #25

    No it doesn’t, as you say. However, crowd control at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig might. That situation is remarkably similar to that faced by many of the 4th and 5th century large city churches in the Eastern Roman Empire, crowd control and lots of tourists (pilgrims). There were also large numbers of Hellenes and Arians about, who had to be kept away from the mysteries. Also, large numbers of Hellenes and barbarians were presenting at the church doors for conversion, many with dubious reasons. They learned a little, but didn’t yet have the Spirit. How do we order the church to appear hospitable and welcoming and yet maintain the order of the core? I believe, that over the centuries, the church has found many ways to do that. Just remember that strong instinct, the one that might cause hospitable folk to sing along in big churches in Germany. @ptmccain

Comments are closed.