(CEN) US backing for communion without baptism

The Episcopal Church’s national office has given a backhanded blessing to the practice of allowing those not baptized to receive Holy Communion””a practice forbidden by canon law.

Supporters of Communion without Baptism (CWOB) have argued that relaxing the church’s Eucharistic discipline will serve as a recruiting tool for those outside the faith. However, traditionalists have rejected the practice as uncanonical and contrary to church teaching.

Last month the Episcopal Church Office of Congregational Vitality posted a video to the national church’s website highlighting the ministry of parish of St Paul & the Redeemer in Chicago. The congregation “exemplifies transformative work,” the Rev. Bob Honeychurch, the Episcopal Church’s officer for congregational vitality, said, adding that the parish “sees its primary point of contact with the wider community through its Sunday morning experience. The worship becomes its witness to the world.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Baptism, Episcopal Church (TEC), Eucharist, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology, TEC Parishes, Theology

25 comments on “(CEN) US backing for communion without baptism

  1. Ad Orientem says:

    I can’t think of any comment on this that I could post, without getting banned.

  2. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) says:

    Canons? We don’t need no stinkin’ canons…

  3. Ian+ says:

    It makes me wonder whether we’re sinking further into agnosticism. Quite simply, the Eucharist is supernatural food for a supernatural Body= the Body/Flesh and Blood of Christ nourishing the Body of Christ. Unless one has been incorporated into that supernatural Body and thus had one’s spiritual eyes opened to supernatural realities by the Holy Spirit, one is not fit to partake of that supernatural food. So if you don’t believe any of that thoroughly biblical stuff, then why not make it available to anybody and everybody?

  4. Vatican Watcher says:

    I like that idea that it will be a recruiting tool. Except for the fact that if you don’t have to join to receive communion, what’s the point of joining?

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  6. Nikolaus says:

    [i]”The Episcopal Church’s national office has given a backhanded blessing to [fill in the blank].”[/i]

    It’s pretty much SOP around there.

  7. mannainthewilderness says:

    I dunno, there is a sense where those eating and drinking in an unworthy fashion are eating and drinking judgment upon themselves. I just wonder: are there really that many unbaptized who want to receive the Eucharist?

  8. Cennydd13 says:

    1. Me neither!

  9. Ratramnus says:

    It’s worth noting that this has always been Methodist practice, dating back to the Wesleys and derived from a high church understanding that the sacrament is effective in itself and that a sincere unbaptized person with an open heart risks less damnation than a baptized sinner.

  10. Cranmerian says:

    #9, yes and it’s also worth noting that communion of the unbaptized has been against catholic practice since The Didache (c. 100 AD).

  11. Ratramnus says:

    #10, your statement assumes a unity of practice in the church based on what has been selected by some people for many reasons down through centuries and now looks like doctrine. Where do we distinguish between a necessarily selective view of tradition and the Bishop of Rome?

    Cranmerians asks what Scripture says. When someone kneels at the altar,they do not ask for a baptismal certificate. Christianity in practice in 100 AD was not what Christianity in practice is in 21st C America or was in 18th c England. The first was a small elite and the latter two cry out to all of humanity.

  12. nwlayman says:

    A little short sighted maybe? If you can commune without baptism, you can also celebrate the “eucharist” without ordination! Ooooops, think of the paychecks that will disappear. You can also not-ordain as a non-bishop. Actually I think the Romans already said that about Anglicans quite a while ago. Now they seem to be agreeing wholeheartedly, all the while welcoming Muslims in to preach in the cathedrals. Sort of pulling the plug on oneself. Next question, who exactly would *want* to commune, without baptism, in a place that doesn’t teach the faith? Like asking how many Labrador Retrievers want to edit an edition of Shakespeare.

  13. farstrider+ says:

    #8, Methodists may “derive” it from a high church understanding of the sacraments, but high church Anglicans (with the exception of high church liberals) would never knowingly offer the Eucharist to an unbaptized person.

    You write that “a sincere unbaptized person with an open heart risks less damnation than a baptized sinner.”

    I’m not sure I see the logical progression in this statement.

    1. The body and blood of Christ were given to those who are united with Christ in baptism.

    2. As Christians, we are warned not to receive the sacraments lightly or to “sin against the body and blood” of Christ.

    3. If an unbelieving/apostate/reprobate baptized person receives wrongly, they face judgment.

    4. Therefore we should let unbaptized people who have “open hearts” receive the sacraments even though they haven’t been joined to Christ?

  14. Mark Baddeley says:

    I think for me the issue that strikes me first is consistency.

    TEC is pushing this ‘baptismal covenant’ idea that says that if a person is baptized they should have access to all other ‘sacraments’ (where ordination is considered a sacrament).

    And yet at the same time are also pushing to say that access to the other big sacrament does not require baptism.

    One or the other I could see as a theological development even if I disagreed with it. Both simultaneously in TEC, with the first group implacably hostile to the second, I could see as a theological move. But both at the same time and apparently from the same people?

    That just begins to look like theological language being used to justify a certain vision of justice – of not excluding anybody for any reason. If that’s the real reason, just say so, feel free to do it in polysyllabic words and complex sentences with multiple clauses all in the passive voice. But just state the real reason for the two developments.

  15. Br. Michael says:

    Of the many distressing things about this is the cynical and hypocritical selective enforcement of the Canons. Indeed in their zeal to go after the orthodox they even made up Canons. Now faced with clear and unambiguous violations they simply ignore them.

  16. Br. Michael says:

    And we can move ahead with lay presidency. This would work rather well. People who pretend to be Christians can receive from people who pretend to be priests.

  17. Pb says:

    I seems like we have enough pagans in TEC now.

  18. sophy0075 says:

    Why not just dispense with communions and baptisms and just hold get togethers at the golf course? There are probably more prayers on the putting green already.

  19. Pb says:

    The rest of the story can be found in Sr. Ann Field’s wonderful book From Darkness to Light. This is a reconstruction of how one became Christian in the early church. The orthodox faith was taught by bishops. Proper instruction was seen as essential to the Christian life.

  20. tjmcmahon says:

    Yes, since when is this news? CWOB is practiced in the majority of TEC dioceses- ranging from those where the bishop just looks the other way to those like N Mich where it is diocesan policy (along with Buddhist prayer rugs in the sanctuary, the Koran epistles and making the Nicene Creed “optional”) In the old days, the occasional priest had his license pulled and was sent off to a more liberal diocese so as to save the bishop the embarrassment of defrocking him, but I doubt there are many dioceses left, other than SC, where there would be any discipline at all. All the bishops who openly promote it went to Lambeth and are in full communion with Rowan. To openly oppose CWOB is nowadays a strike against you on the KJS deposometer.

  21. Ryan Danker says:

    To #8: The common United Methodist practice of “Open Table” is derived from a modern interpretation of Wesley’s understanding of the Sacrament as a “converting ordinance.” Unfortunately, this modern reading does not take into account the context in which Wesley was speaking. The percentage of unbaptized in 18th century England was so minimal as to make it unnecessary for him to explain further. Wesley was a High Churchman when it came to the Sacraments. Modern United Methodists have tried to make his “converting ordinance” an excuse to “be nice”. It’s a sign of modern American Methodism’s truncated view of tradition and its lack of historical memory. Wesley’s assumption was that a baptized person needed to be brought to a living faith, i.e. converted. Amazingly enough, the actual UM doctrine on this matter states that Methodist pastors are to strongly encourage all non-baptized persons seeking Holy Communion to be baptized as soon as possible. Such niceties of doctrine rarely make church bulletins or announcements, however. None of this should be blamed on Mr. Wesley.

    Of course, with the UM use of “licensed” and “local preachers”, they’ve essentially sanctioned lay persons to celebrate the Sacraments. TEC should beware taking cues from the UMC on anything related to sacramental theology.

  22. tjmcmahon says:

    Of course, with the UM use of “licensed” and “local preachers”,
    they’ve essentially sanctioned lay persons to celebrate the Sacraments.
    TEC should beware taking cues from the UMC on anything related to
    sacramental theology.

    Too late, I am afraid, the horses have already left the barn on that one. TEC and the UMC are pursuing a full communion relationship- presumably to be “consummated” at the next GC, and indeed already practice one for all intents and purposes. Full communion by definition is mutual recognition and adoption of sacramental practices (or lack thereof).

  23. Lutheran-MS says:

    It will be nothing more than crackers and wine to those who are not baptized.

  24. Todd Granger says:

    Thank you, thank you, Ryan D, for setting the record (or at least this thread) straight on the Wesleyan understanding of Holy Communion as a “converting ordinance”. That John Wesley is routinely trotted out by the defenders of administering communion to the unbaptized is yet another demonstration of the utter disregard for (or ignorance of) historical context so common to Americans (or perhaps, to moderns – and post-moderns – of any nation).

  25. deaconjohn25 says:

    Yes! Making such a change will be a great recruiting tool—for the Orthodox and Catholic Churches–like so many of the other changes.