Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Communion Without Baptism

Whenever we go to visit my parents we drive past The Church in the Now. I'll usually make some comment about it and Sally and I will laugh. We've never been to it, entered its doors or even spoken to anyone that belongs to it. Other than the purple colour scheme what sparks the laugh is the name.

We are commanded to live for the day. Jesus was most clear about that. But we are also commanded not to be worldly. There is a tension between living in the present and living in this world. I strongly suspect that the Church in the Now is trying to live in the present. At least, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt on that.

The Episcopal Church is apparently in the grips of a prophetic moment. Just like Orwell's animals, it appears that some Canons of the Church are more equal than others. The Denis Canon (the one about all property belonging to the denomination) is rock solid, always to be enforced and firmly grounded upon Hooker's three legged stool of reason, scripture and tradition.

The other canons apparently are more flexible. Especially Canon 17, section 7, which states “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.”

I've never made it a secret that I am a Catholic. I'm also an Anglican. But my theology is and was Catholic. Which means that the meaning I get from church, worship and all that other churchy stuff is derived from the Sacraments. Ultimately my faith is sacramental in origin.

Some people have argued in favour of open communion. The Episcopal Church has a variant of this wherein Communion is restricted to all baptized persons. This is the original, primitive theology of the church. For the Methodists, it's a matter of doctrine that they have Open Communion, by which they mean anyone may participate, baptized or not. When I was first married I attended a Methodist Church, but I never participated in their 'communion' (Scare quotes intentional) as such participation would bruise my conscience and sear my soul.

As should be obvious, I'm not in favour of Communion without Baptism. From the very beginnings of Christianity, the Church has practised 'Closed Communion'. In the second century AD Justin Martyr laid down the requirements for participating in the Lord's Supper ("No one may share in the eucharist except those who believe in the truth of our teachings and have been washed in the bath which confers forgiveness of sins and rebirth, and who live according to Christ's commands" ). This is a recapitulation of the Didache (From the end of the first century AD). Paul said something rather similar in First Corinthians 11:27-28. Church doctrine has not changed on this subject since those early days.

Until now. The commentary aggravated me and I went snooping around. Sure enough, there are Episcopal Churches that proclaim their profane practises to the world. Including the one nearest to us.

For those interested in this sort of thing, here are some arguments in favour of the abominable, profane, irreligious and blasphemous practise of communion without baptism. Here's a lengthy one against.

Hat tip: Christopher Johnson.

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