December 2, 2020

Let’s Discuss…Open or Closed Communion?

Comments now closed.

One of the differences between Christian groups with respect to the Lord’s Supper involves who is invited to participate in the meal.

I have experienced many different practices in this regard.

  • I have attended churches in which communion is completely open. “Everyone in this room is welcome to the Lord’s Table,” is the invitation. Of course, those in the room are those who have been participating in a service in which the living God has been praised, confession of sins made, the Gospel heard, and the Creed confessed.
  • More commonly, communion is offered to believers, defined as “those who have placed their faith in Christ,” or “accepted Christ as their personal Savior.” The qualification is that one has had a conversion experience. Those who have not are invited to reflect on the meaning portrayed through the elements, and sometimes an invitation is given for them to trust Christ as well.
  • In many traditions, it is baptized Christians who are invited to partake. Baptism is the sign that one is part of God’s family and has entered the community that shares at the Table. In some cases it is required that the baptism should have occurred within that particular church or tradition.
  • Roman Catholicism and other traditions require that one be a member of that particular church in order to share in the elements of the Supper. A variant of this approach is that a denomination may have agreement with others that their members can take communion in one another’s churches.
  • In addition, in the Catholic church and in other congregations there may be spiritual guidelines for Christians receiving the elements, such as having been to confession, being in a state of grace, holding to a proper view of what communion means, and not being under church discipline. In free churches, the appeal may be from a passage like 1Cor. 11, where Paul calls those celebrating the feast to “examine themselves.” This is often presented that those coming to the Lord’s Table should be in a state of good fellowship with God and not having unconfessed sin in one’s life.

I would like to have a discussion about open and closed communion today.

Please share your experience, perspectives, and feelings about the way Christians practice this important part of worship. Let us know how Communion (Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, the Lord’s Table, whatever you call it) is practiced in your tradition and congregation.


  1. The very first Lord’s Supper/Eucharist/Communion was a ritual meal (either a Passover Supper or a preparatory meal, depending on which Gospel account you read and how you interpret it…) that included only those particularly chosen Friends of Jesus’: The Twelve.

    The original Meal on which this particular meal is based was also a rather closed meal, given by God to His Chosen people at a specific time and a specific (redemptive) purpose; note that the Chosen did have the ability (and consequent responsibility!) to choose to prepare and eat this meal.

    Since the First Lord’s Supper, much has happened in redemptive history: the Cross, the Resurrection, the Day of Pentecost. But it has always been a “closed” Meal insofar that throughout 2000 years of Church History, the Church has carefully kept the rubrics of the Eucharist whilst guarding, in love and humility, all comers to the Table. In the face of charges of “cannibalism”, and the persecution that came as a result of this and other such charges against us in our very early history, the Church has consistently taught what are the earmarks of true communion: the partaking of the Christ into ourselves, making us one with Him/Him one with us…”receive the Body of Christ, taste the fountain of immortality”-the hymn we sing, each and every Sunday during Liturgy.

    In Jesus being Truly God and Truly Man, united with us, we, through this Eucharistic Meal, have a foretaste of what it is to be united with Him…therefore, it is not for those who do not belong, through Baptism, to the Church. Conversely, it is not denied those who truly do. Even the babe-in-arms is communed…to do any less is to “ex-commune-icate” a member of Christ’s Body, and for no other reason than because others have placed a certain intellectual or rational pre-requisite upon this most important mystery/sacrament.

    BTW: I’m Eastern Orthodox by way of Rome and Geneva. ;D I don’t begin to understand all the facets of the Eucharist: what it means, what it does, what it entails…but I am learning. For me, it is so much more than symbol or remembrance. it is a personal, intimate encounter with the Divine. It is a suspension of the dimension of time, as I, for a brief moment, am fully present and begin to encounter that, indeed, I taste and see that the Lord is good… Good for my soul, good for my heart, good for my body. The fasting that precedes this meal (and the gentle tummy-growling) reminds me to hunger and thirst for Him, and Him alone; that Jesus knew this same hunger and thirst and submitted Himself to God’s Will for my sake.

    Afterwards, during Fellowship Hour, as we all share a meal together (and the first cup of morning coffee! ;p ), we laugh and eat and chat and enjoy the company of Family…joined together in the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit…

    It has been this way always. Why change it?

    • Though at least in my neck of the OCA, I’d like to point out that the Antidoron is shared freely with other christians and unprepared orthodox. So coming from a remembrance-only background I wasn’t missing anything, I was getting just as much communion as I had at any church I’d been to. The words of institution are said, and bread and wine is imbibed solemnly. In fact, for the first few weeks the reader specifically brought me antidoron at the priest’s direction, to make sure I knew I was welcome to partake, and I’ve seen others bring it to visitors as well.

      I’m a catechumen now and very much looking forward to the Eucharist, but I’m glad that there is this form of communion as well.

    • So if you are a hyper Calvinist does communion become a “predestined mean?”

  2. Here we go – this is a big can ‘o worms in my church tradition (LCMS). The official church position is “close” communion rather than “closed.” Don’t ask me to define what that means, I’ve never really understood it other than the powers that be didn’t want a hard black-and-white rule so made it a bit gray. Each congregation handles it a bit differently, but here is what it says in our bulletin:

    “As Lutheran Christians we believe that we receive Christ’s true body and blood as we eat the bread and drink the wine. Thus, as you come to the Lord’s Supper you are affirming with each communicant that you believe that Jesus is our Savior and Lord, that you believe His Body and Blood are really present (not symbolically represented), and that you desire to serve Him as a dynamic disciple in the fellowship of the Church. This precious meal is given to all baptized Christians who are capable of examining themselves as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:23-29. I believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son and my personal Savior. I believe that I am a sinful human being without hope of eternal life except for God’s mercy in Christ. I believe that Christ is personally present in the Sacrament and through His Body and Blood, He forgives all my sins and remembers them no more. I confess my sins to God and repent of them by asking for His forgiveness. I ask for the power of the Holy Spirit to live a God-pleasing life. If you answer yes with each of the above statements you are truly worthy and well prepared, and are welcome to participate with us in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.”

    This does not leave out non-members or even those of other faith traditions. It does exclude the unbaptized and those who do not agree with our statement. However, we also have a doctrine in our church body that allows for the excommunication of those living in unrepentant sin, divided into the minor ban and the major (I think that’s what it’s called) ban. The minor ban is used often to bring someone to repentance, where they are refused the Lord’s supper until they repent (turn away from) their sin. The major ban is used when someone blatantly denies their sinfulness even after being confronted by the church and willfully continues in it, causing total exclusion from the life of the church. In order to “lift” these bans the individual must repent of their sins, in some churches publicly but most often in terms of private confession and absolution with the pastor, and turn away from the sinful behavior. Most often this has been used in cases of sexual sin, i.e., living together without marriage, having an affair, etc. I have rarely seen these happen but am aware of past cases in churches I’ve been part of.

    What all of this boils down to is that our faith tradition takes the scripture in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29 very seriously: “So a person who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in a way that is not worthy of it will be guilty of sinning against the body and the blood of the Lord. Look into your own hearts before you eat the bread and drink the cup, because all who eat the bread and drink the cup without recognizing the body eat and drink judgment against themselves.”

    I’m curious to read what others will share, I’ve been LCMS my whole life, so I don’t know tons about other traditions.

    • You could print the bulletin statements in 100 LCMS churches and they would all be different, and most of them wrong, as your bulletin insert is not LCMS doctrine. Only those in fellowship with the LCMS should commune, and LCMS pastors can give special exceptions, for example, a person who believes lutheran doctrine, but has no LCMS church by them, or other special reason.

      Here is an excellent primer on LCMS’s views:

      A few points from the paper:
      Every man is obligated to recognize the true visible church, and, if he has the opportunity to
      join it.

      The main purpose of the Holy Sacrament is to be a tool and a means through which the promises
      of grace are offered, communicated, and appropriated, as with a seal, guarantee, and pledge
      through which these promises are confirmed. However, within this major purpose, as a secondary
      goal, the Sacrament is to be a distinguishing sign of confession and a bond of fellowship in worship.
      Therefore Communion fellowship is Church fellowship.

      Holy Communion was not instituted to make people Christians. It was instituted to strengthen
      the faith of those who already are true Christians. Therefore Communion should be administered to
      no one who has been revealed as a false Christian.

      In Holy Communion the Body and Blood of Christ is actually present, distributed and received
      by every communicant. Therefore Communion can not be administered to anyone who does not
      confess a belief in this mystery without grievous sin.

      • Reverend Fisk at worldview everlasting has done a lot of video clips explaining the LCMS position. It kinda actually makes sense when you listen to him, if you can keep up.
        Here’s one that deals with the topic:

      • Doesn’t this necessarily imply therefore that only LCMS churches are the only “true visible church”?

        • Most LCMS churches don’t practice closed communion. And it’s probably true that in no church is the Gospel perfectly preached or the sacraments perfectly administered.

          But yes, Lutheran churches are the only ones that preach justification by faith alone and administer baptism as a means of grace and communion as physicall eating Christ’s body and blood to remember his work on the cross and receive forgiveness of sins.

          That offends Reformed church bodies, but they all reject the sacraments. You can’t be the true visible church without the sacraments as Christ instituted.

          • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says

            The Lutheran understanding of Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist is very different from the Catholic and Orthodox positions, as the essence of the Bread and Wine remain in the Lutheran understanding.

          • Well then if LCMS churches are the only true representation of the Visible church then I guess that makes sense why they wouldn’t share communion. And therefore if LCMS members are the only true members of the visible church, then yes why would they allow non-true-Christians to share in the body and blood of Christ?

            I just don’t agree that the Book of Concord is the best representation of what the scripture teaches. Therefore I do not agree that the LCMS church is the true visible church, and therefore I don’t agree with their view on closed communion.

      • If there are all these churches making all these wrong statements about communion, how can you know which is right? What’s right for you isn’t right for some of the following statements. Who is the central authority?

        • Scripture. Different pastors phrase doctrine differently, some better than others. Just like Catholics posting on blogs do better than others in describing their understanding of the magisterium.

  3. at this time+place along my faith journey, i would not wish to offend any faith expression that has closed communion by not respecting their beliefs+practices if i was in attendance. i would not insist their view one that is insular or insensitive to others.

    but then i would not be part of a faith community that insisted on a closed communion posture. just my own perspective right now…

    i think the issue with many Christians moving from one faith expression to another makes for a more eclectic group at any one service. and it is really the faith+conviction of the individual whether they wish to participate in communion or not that seems to be the critical issue. so letting those in attendance deal with the matters of conscience examination before partaking in the cup & the bread better representative of what being part of the ‘communion of saints’ consideration is rather than it being limited to only those of a particular sheep pen…

    • Josh in FW says

      My particular church home welcomes all who “place their faith in Jesus Christ” to the table. I still think it is best to remind the congregation of the solemnity of Communion and let the individuals self examine and self regulate, but I have gained a great deal of respect for those who practice a “closed” communion due in no small part to what I’ve learned about the other Christian traditions through this blog.

    • I grew up Catholic Joe. And the way the Catholic church handled communion really pissed me off. It was a closed isolated event. I saw this as being more of a privilege of “being in the club” than anything else. It actually reminded me of how Catholics can deny grace just as much as fundegelicals. Let me tell you one story how….

      When I was growing up my second cousin married and the mariage did not work out and ended as a divorce. As a result my second cousin WAS DENIED receiving communion due to “her state of sin…” (WTF?!? 😯 ) and went to church off and on for the next 3 decades with this policy in place. Now I ask you…by having this policy in place and holding this sin against her for so long is that any different than what some of the fundegelicals do?
      I mean I know Catholicism is admired and looked on fondly here at this blog. And there are many things that I respect it for, but in this area I don’t respect the Catholic chruch becuase I really believe that they have ^&%$ed it up.

      I ifnd it especially angering that the Catholic church which would have rules in place and deny communion and grace to individuals like my second cousin, is the same church that hid, protected, and gave shelter to pedophile priests while attacking the victims.

      I mean come on!! 🙁

      • Eagle, In Catholic teaching your cousin was still married. We don’t have divorce. if she got civilly remarried she was in objective sin of adultery. There are ways to regularize her situation.
        She could and should go to mass weekly and receive a spiritual communion if she cannot partake of the Body & Blood. You still get “Grace” as you put it (not the way anyone I know who teaches would phrase it.)

        Also, throwing in the pedophile priests is garbage on the lawn. It has nothing to do with the issue at hand.
        Those few priests who abused children and, mostly, teenage boys are in grave sin. Covering up for them is deeply sinful as well. They are being dealt with, unlike many other places, say the public schools. You sound like you are mad at the Church but it seems you are mad at God.

        • Eagle & AnneG:

          the manner which any faith tradition approaches communion must also be granted grace even when disagreement exists…

          Eagle: i was raised RC. my mother the unfortunate victim of divorce due to my father’s singular decision. the former Archbishop of Los Angeles the Monsignor of the parish/cathedral we attended at that time. my mother counseled with him & never found acceptance or affirmation from the official church position she sought…

          the awkward doctrinal stance the RC had to dance around to remain religiously correct, left no grace, understanding, sympathy or support from the very religion she remained devoted to all the years of her life…

          i have experienced the religious bullshit in the name of God to know what wack truly is. this is just the most glaring example i have seen first hand. religious bullshit is simply that: BS. doesn’t matter which faith expression it is dispensed from… 🙁

  4. I a little new at confessional Lutheranism, so I wouldn’t say my opinion is a fair representation of my tradition. It seems to me, however, while I wouldn’t say those not practicing closed communion are in abject heresy, what they are doing is passing up the strongest opportunity for pastoral ministry and shepherding that they have. Spiritual guidance is more than telling people what makes them feel good. At some point, we all need someone who steps into our lives and says, “what you are doing is both wrong and harmful.” With closed communion, the pastor has the opportunity to do this with every one of his parishioners on a weekly basis. It would be a lie to tell a church member living in open and unrepentant sin that the benefits of Christ are all freely given to him. Denying the eucharist to such a person gives the same picture of the gospel that receiving it does, or at least the flip side of it. The gospel does make certain demands of us, namely, to believe and be baptized. Unrepentant sin is the fruit of unbelief, and needs to be called what it is, not ignored to save face. In the words of Bonhoeffer, “Only he who believes obeys, and only he who obeys believes.”
    So I guess I’m in favor of it, because it seems like a supremely beneficial practice. But I’m not exactly ready to go to the mattresses over it until I learn a bit more.

    • If one does not recognize the physical presence of the body and blood, the closed communion described in 1 corinthians 11 doesn’t make much sense.

      I would not expect those outside of the Lutheran, Catholic, and Orthodox churches to practice closed communion.

      • I disagree with your assumption. Whether it is the body and blood or not doesn’t answer the question of who we share it with. If it did, would not the churches you listed have communion together? Why shouldn’t a Lutheran share communion with an Anglican? Unless one church would make the argument that the other is not a Church and its members are not Christian, why shouldn’t they share the body and blood of Christ?

        • Anglicans reject the real presence in the 39 articles. “The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner.”

          Catholics and Orthodox reject justification through faith.

          • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says

            That Article is specifically rejecting Transubstantiation rather than advocating a Zwinglian approach to the Lord’s Supper. In fact, other Articles reject a purely symbolic approach to the Sacraments. The main point of the way the Articles approach Sacramental Theology is the necessity of faith for the efficaciousness of the Sacraments. Other than that, they don’t affirm much specifically, though they do reject various extremes in Sacramental Theology.

            It should also be pointed out that modern Anglicans are far from unified when it comes to how much of the Articles they accept as binding.

          • Catholics do not reject justification through faith.

            But faith without love is dead. Faith must be informed by agape (Gal. 5:6). Do you believe that faith can justify if you have not love?

          • Devin, through faith alone? or are you using a different definition of faith? Lutherans agree that faith without love is not faith; love is part of faith. Faith is fear, love, and trust in Christ as savior. But faith is what receives grace, which is the SOURCE of good works. Good works do not bring faith or grace, it’s the result.

        • And Lutherans are very careful and have consistently taught that one can be a Christian outside of Lutheranism. In the end, very many non-lutherans ultimately put their trust in Christ, and are saved by such faith. The problem is mistaken doctrines tend to get in the way of faith and tempt Christians to trust in something other than Christ’s work ont he cross.

          • so while they (non-LCMS) are real Christians, who have really been saved by Christ, and really are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and real have been regenerated, and really will be in God’s Kingdom forever… they should partake in the blood that was shed for them nor the body that was broken for them?

          • *should not

      • Margaret Catherine says

        At Franciscan University, this was/is a standard Saturday afternoon practice. Bread, wine, and the reading of Sunday’s Gospel along with time for prayer intentions. As a preparation and chance for reflection with people of like spirituality, it was very good.

        • Margaret Catherine says

          Whoops. This is what happens when you work with a keyboard that has a short in it…comments absolutely out of place. This and the above can be deleted.

  5. I attended a baptist church in college that I later found out was part of the “landmark” baptist tradition. This particular church had an entirely closed communion (4 times a year), which was limited only to baptized members of that particular independent baptist church. I’m a little embarrassed looking back to have been a member of a church with that theology, but had many good friends there at the time, and given the infrequency of communion this doctrine didn’t come up very much. The church ended up splitting when a new pastor moved towards “close” communion and suggested that members of other baptist churches could participate in communion!

    I have a huge preference for open communion now, and attend a church with open communion every Sunday. I don’t think that my family could go to a church with a closed communion policy. We actually visited a LCMS church in the town we live in now upon moving here, and the pastor met us at the door to the sanctuary and told us that although his church practiced closed communion, we could participate as long as we believed in consubstantiation. I’m not sure what exactly I believe on that issue, was a bit offended that that was the first thing the pastor thought it important to say after “hello,” and we didn’t go back!

    • Wow, he got it wrong twice. First, Lutherans don’t believe consubstantiation, and second, non-Lutherans are supposed to leave their other churches and be instructed as members before communing. Exceptions to this in the pastor’s discretion are meant to be exceptional.

      • Luther’s position, whether you call it “sacramental union” or “consubstantiation,” was that Christ is present with the bread and wine, but that they are not substantially changed into Christ’s Body and Blood.

    • Well that Baptist church treated communion like the Catholics do by excluding non-members. That’s a crime in my book. Who gets to figure out and determine who is good enough in these situations? Is that what Christianity is about? Why does Christianity have to have arcane and diviise policies that drive people away from Christinaity and God? I can’t figure this out….. (sigh…)

  6. Richard Hershberger says

    My (ELCA) church invites all baptized Christians to communion in the bulletin. This is actually a bit more open than I would choose, were it entirely up to me. I would include a brief statement inviting all those who believe in the “real presence” of Christ is the bread and wine. I am not particularly concerned about Those People slipping through, but think that we should establish what page we are on and any visitors can decide for themselves if they like that page, too.

    I fairly frequently attend Episcopal and Roman Catholic services. I routinely take communion at the former, never at the latter. I had a Catholic wedding. During the discussions ahead of time the priest raised the possibility of doing a mass and getting a dispensation for me to take the eucharist. Most of our guests would not have been welcome to join us, so I was not the least bit tempted. I never had to consider what I thought of the idea for myself. I now find myself occasionally attending a United Methodist church. They do communion once a month. I haven’t happened to hit one of those weeks, so I haven’t had to decide what I think about this.

    • So your requirement is baptism– by water, or can a person “just” profess to be a follower of Christ? i realise this question may sound strange and puts me at odds with both Quakers (my background) and other faith traditions– so let me explain. i grew up Quaker, i’ve never had (or felt the need for) a water baptism. i do choose to participate in Communion. i’ve had other Quakers not understand why i would choose to partake in communion just as much as i’ve had people of other faith traditions not understand why i would choose not to partake in baptism. i partake in communion because i’ve felt lead to do by the Spirit; i’ve yet to feel such a call for baptism. i think my real question is, is it baptism, or profession that matters more?

      • Richard Hershberger says

        I’ve been thinking about how to reply to this. I don’t have a wholly satisfactory answer. The pragmatic response is that we don’t check IDs at the door. If you are moved to take communion, we won’t mind. But I am befuddled by your situation. Baptism is the means by which one joins the community of Christ. Professing to be a follower of Christ but not wanting to be baptized is like wanting to be married to somebody but not wanting to have a wedding. I certainly can understand not wanting a big frilly wedding. (I am a guy, after all.) But this isn’t the same as forgoing the exchange of vows. So your situation seems a bit like being a common law Christian.

        • You make a good point, Richard. The Lord’s Supper is not a standalone issue. It is related to our entire ecclesiology

        • I grew up Quaker- we do not practice the outward sacraments of baptism and communion. I began to partake in communion after taken part in other faith traditions- I’ve found that the elements give me a focus, so that I might better center myself on the Spirit (a Quaker practice). Since baptism isn’t a requirement to join a Quaker community, and I seek to act as the Spirit leads, I have not chosen to have a water baptism. Given my background, I would say profession, not baptism is the means in which one joins the community, but I understand that but all Christians feel that way–however, I an no common law Christian. I am a Christian

          • Just to clarify– in my earlier comment– it should read:
            “I understand that not all Christians feel that way– however, I am no common law Christian. I am a Christian.”

            Silly Swype keyboard, ha

        • i’d also like to point out that it’s the vows (profession) that make the marriage, not the ceremony (baptism)– so your metaphor falls apart.

  7. Tribalism. If somehow I was to deny the body and blood of Christ to my father-in-law (a pastor in a different tradition than my own) would I not be saying “you don’t have Christ in you, therefore how can I give the body and blood of Christ to you?” Clearly he has received grace and forgiveness for he is both repentant and faithful inasmuch as a sinner saved by grace can be. How then can I deny my father-in-law a place at the Lord’s table with me? Stipulations like baptism, profession of faith, not living in open sin, etc., I get and would agree with, but purely rejecting a Christian because he is not my type of Christian seems to be a sin against our Lord’s prayer

    “Father may they be one as you and I are one”

    But I do have a question! What about children? At what age and why do we admit children to the Lord’s table?

    • “But I do have a question! What about children? At what age and why do we admit children to the Lord’s table?”

      My children will not take communion till they are baptized. Our church does give a “Children’s meal” of grapes & crackers at a different table.

      • Isaac (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says

        If it’s not Communion, what is the “Children’s meal,” then? I.e. what is its purpose?

        • To allow the children to be part of the service.

          • Richard Hershberger says

            It is typical in churches which practice infant baptism and frequent communion with the congregants coming forward to receive it for the children to come forward with their parents and receive a blessing from the minister. The age at which they start taking communion varies. As I recall, my first communion was in my early teens.

            (Amusing anecdote: a younger relative of mine took an anonymous survey while in high school on the topic of teen alcohol use. Among the questions were whether she drank alcohol, and how frequently. She was vastly amused to truthfully put down that she consumed alcohol weekly: perhaps a thimble full of wine, but the survey didn’t ask the amount… Something to think about when reading the results of such things.)

            In any case, your church’s practice of the “Children’s meal” illustrates as well as anything I can imagine the variety of doctrines of communion. We Lutherans regard it as a sacrament: a sacred act, divinely instituted. The sacrament of communion is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ Himself. The bread and wine are given and shed for us, for the remission of sins. The idea of having a faux play communion off to one side is unthinkable. I suspect that your church is in a tradition that regards communion as merely a commemoration, so having a junior version is unproblematic.

          • Richard I think you are “over imaging” what I’m talking about.
            & while we are at it, when was a “children’s blessing” devinely instituted???

            The “children’s meal” is just a table set off to the side. We usually talk to the children about how important they are to us & how Jesus said “let the children come to me”. It is not a Faux play communion. It is just a way that the children can feel like they belong.

            as far as sacraments, sacred acts, divinely instituted, etc… – Jesus said take & eat, not take & understand. I know Jesus is with us in a special way in communion. I do not see it as just a commermoration. But I don’t believe dogmatizing it makes it more special.

          • One more Mike says

            “Childrens meal” kind of sounds like the antidoron mentioned above, but for children, not “other christians and unprepared orthodox”. And just as patronizing.

          • Richard Hershberger says

            I didn’t say that the blessing is divinely instituted. It is not a sacrament, and was explicitly contrasted with taking communion. It is something else, but which engages the child.

            As for the “children’s meal”, I was quite serious when I say that it isn’t a problem, in some doctrines of communion. My point was how very far apart this is from the understanding of any church with a doctrine of real presence. They are so far apart that I tend to see them as entirely different phenomena.

            As for children taking communion and the role of understanding, I have no strong opinion on the age to begin, and who really understands the ineffable? I have had an Episcopal priest ask me at the altar rail if my three-year old daughter next to me took communion.

            But what you describe is something different. You are clear that it is not in fact communion, but it follows the form of communion. My daughter does something similar with her tea set, following the form of a tea party. You object to the characterization of “faux play communion” but I don’t see how this is inaccurate. Would you object to my characterizing what my daughter does as a “faux play tea party”?

        • Because in politically correct Christianity, there is no greater sin than to ostracize someone.

          • & you like ostracizing???? who is politically correct???? what????

          • I just think there is something more important going on durring communion that just making everybody present feel warm and fuzzy inside by telling them we’re all the same when many who are present are not baptized believers. If the church doesn’t make clear to them that they do not have a part in Christ, that is very dishonest, imo. Since when did affirming people at all costs become more important that preaching the necessity of Christ?

    • I’m with you, Pastor Brendan. I think it shows a lack of grace on our part if we deny communion to somebody who doesn’t belong to our church or denomination. And especially so if that’s one of the first things stated–or stated at all–to newcomers. Even if closed communion be the policy, better to let the visitor decide. God can deal with that if we’re wrong.

      As for children, our pastor often says that all who love the Lord Jesus Christ are welcome to partake, and he never mentions ages. We had communion yesterday, and as a deacon I’m usually one of the servers. I would say that just about every small child who has the plates passed before them takes the wine and matzo. It’s up to the parents to decide, but very few hold their kids back, and it’s amusing to watch the kids figure out which cup has the most juice before they finally choose one.

      One of our deacons has small boys, and he makes a point to serve them himself, reminding them of what it’s about and asking them if they understand. It’s a nice custom and only holds up the serving a few seconds, but I wonder how much the boys do understand. I mean, we adults don’t really get the mystery.

      Speaking of mystery, though, our (Baptist) church holds to the “remembrance” interpretation of the communion, so how much mystery is in that? We do, however, keep it very traditional and solemn, with gentle music playing on the piano or with other special music.

      • Agreed. Unless we have proof that someone does NOT belong to Christ (and where would we get that?), how can we justify denying someone His Body and Blood? He doesn’t seem to deny it to anyone — including Judas. (None of the Gospels are clear on whether Judas took off before or after the institution of the Lord’s Supper, far as I can tell.)

      • Ted,

        What about pastoral responsibility for the flock? This meal has the power to condemn if participated in wrongly. As those who incur a stricter judgement, does it really make sense to ‘throw the gates open’ to anyone, including those whom you don’t know, especially in light of the practice of the early church?

        Also in the remembrance view of communion, how is it possible to eat and drink to judgement, if it is a memorial symbol?

        • Patrick, your word choice may be unintended. How can a meal have the power to condemn? The meal isn’t God, unless you believe in transubstantiation.

          In my pastor’s case, he apparently leaves responsibility to the parents.

          And I don’t think God himself would condemn for “wrongly” partaking, if done innocently. It’s just a meal, done in remembrance of Christ’s death until he comes again. At least in our church.

          But I do think there should be more to it than remembrance only. There’s no mystery in that.

          Either way though, God in his grace would not set us up only to condemn us with a meal meant in his honor, if it were taken in honor of him, however imperfectly.

          I see what you’re saying about eating and drinking to judgment (from 1 Corinthians 11) but it may be related to the 3rd Commandment, not taking the Lord’s name in vain. Does that commandment mean, as observant Jews believe, that we should not utter God’s name at all? I think he gives us more latitude than that.

        • Is the Pastor “God”? Does the pastor “know” the heart of every member of the congregation enough to say…”No communion for you!!!!” (Think of the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld as I type this!! 😛 ) Is that any different than what the fundagelicals do?

          • In 1Cor Paul clearly states that that some became sick and some died by eating and drinking in an unworthy manner. As a pastor and shepherd that will give an account to God for the souls under his care, isn’t it the pastor’s responsibility to guard his flock and those visiting from participating in the Supper in an unworthy manner? In what universe does it even make sense to throw open the Lord’s Supper to visitors and strangers, some of whom may be living in unrepentant and public sin?

            Eagle, you ask ‘Does the pastor “know” the heart of every member of the congregation enough to say…”No communion for you!!!!” ‘

            He knows (or should know) who in his flock is properly instructed and who is living in open and flagrant sin. He may not ‘know their hearts’ in their entirety, but this in no way negates his responsibility to exercise his pastoral discretion to the best of his ability.

            This line of reasoning is typical in this culture. The ‘taking communion is my right, dammit !’ is a reflection of the entitlement mentality that we are steeped in from childhood. Communion is a privilege, not a right.

            This entitlement mentality is very disrespectful of the doctrine and polity of our brothers and sisters in Christ. People coming into our congregation and disregarding our doctrine and pastoral practice , (or if I entered a Baptist church and communed anyway even though I have serious doctrinal disagreement with the Baptist view of the Supper) in effect are saying “I don’t give a crap about what you believe, your doctrine is wrong anyway, so I am going to commune.”

            Maybe we should think of others first and not get our shorts in a wad worrying about our own needs and show a little respect when it comes to the Lord’s Supper and how others choose to handle it pastorally. After all, isn’t that what Paul warns us about in the first place?

  8. To me the important question is what Paul means by eating and drinking communion “in an unworthy manner” (1 Cor 11:27). The only requirement that Paul lays down is recognizing the presence of Christ in the elements. He doesn’t say anything about baptism, membership in the church, having asked forgiveness for any known sin, etc. (Not that those aren’t all good things!)

    Plus, although it is based on the Last Supper, communion is also an echo of the table fellowship that Jesus constantly shared with absolutely everyone. What he was doing at the Last Supper was only the final one of those events, most of which were very much “open table.” Following the example of Jesus ought to mean welcoming everyone. And even the Last Supper included one enemy of Jesus.

    If it were up to me, I would introduce communion by saying something to the effect of, “Here we follow the example of Jesus, whose table was open to all. We believe that we encounter Jesus in this bread and wine, and if you want to receive the life of Jesus through this meal, we invite you to join us. But don’t feel obligated to take part if you aren’t seeking Jesus.”

    • Quixotequest says

      I agree with you that interpreting “unworthy manner” is where we get practice loaded up with expectations. However, I think there are a number of things that can inform “worthiness” in 1 Cor 11:

      1. Avoiding unworthiness is why we ought to examine ourselves (v.28) before eating Communion. This would seem to permit some freedom and variation progressing from self-aware confession to oneself and to God, and to also allow for confessional denominational tradition.

      2. Recognize the body of the Lord (v.29). Greek: diakrin?n – to properly investigate and discern. This would also seem to permit some freedom of interpretation from considering deeply the communion on a symbolic level and/or to include discerning the elements at the literal transubstantiated body of Christ.

      3. Judgement is at risk, which can lead to weakness, sickness and possibly death (v.29-30). This adds a soberness to the ritual/sacrament that would seem to me only to rule out non-discerning open communion insofar as participants are not supported or taught to be prepared in spirit, heart and mind when partaking.

      4. Any judgment we receive from God (v.32) for lack of preparedness in spirit, heart and mind is ultimately discipline to separate us from the the judgment of the world. It seems to me this is a compassionate discipline, therefore, while soberness toward Communion is called for, I disagree that poor preparation for Communion would be to eat and drink damnation (KJV) in a hellfire way, but judgment (Greek: krima – judgement, verdict, condemnation) in a stoppage/blockage/impedance sense. This is still a difficult passage to grapple with as dying as possible judgment/discipline is shocking to many people’s sense of appropriately scaled loving discipline.

    • The only requirement that Paul lays down is recognizing the presence of Christ in the elements.

      Within the context of all of 1 Corinthians and Paul’s use of “body,” it could be that Paul is urging the gathered believers to recognize the fact that they are of Christ’s one body and members of one another, for in 11:29 he does not say “not discerning the body and blood” but only “not discerning the body.” And it was their elitism and ill treatment of the weaker or poorer or less comely members of the body that Paul was confronting the Corinthians about.

    • Paul is addressing the Church in Corinth. Believers, not pagans or anybody else. The letters were directed to the Church he founded, so, baptised believers and catechumens.

  9. What is offensive to me as a Lutheran, and should also be to Catholics and Orthodox, is those who reject the physical presence claiming it’s an insignificant matter, or who reject and destroy God’s gift of forgiveness in the sacrament. The centrality of blood, passover, sacrifice, and God’s human incarnation in Christ in Scripture all speak to the importance of the sacrament.

    If you belong to a church that teaches against Christ’s physical body and blood given as a gift for rememberance of his sacrifice and forgiveness, how could we commune together at the same table when this is such a central issue?

    Here’s what Calvin says about the sacrament:

    Article 17. The Sacraments Do Not Confer Grace.

    By this doctrine is overthrown that fiction of the sophists which teaches that the sacraments confer grace on all who do not interpose the obstacle of mortal sin. …

    Article 21. No Local Presence Must Be Imagined.

    We must guard particularly against the idea of any local presence. For while the signs are present in this world, are seen by the eyes and handled by the hands, Christ, regarded as man, must be sought nowhere else than in Heaven, and not otherwise than with the mind and eye of faith. Wherefore it is a perverse and impious superstition to inclose him under the elements of this world.

    Article 22. Explanation of the Words “This Is My Body.”

    Those who insist that the formal words of the Supper, “This is my body; this is my blood,” are to be taken in what they call the precisely literal sense, we repudiate as preposterous interpreters. For we hold it out of controversy that they are to be taken figuratively, the bread and wine receiving the name of that which they signify. Nor should it be thought a new or unwonted thing to transfer the name of things figured by metonomy [modern spelling: metonymy] to the sign, as similar modes of expression occur throughout the Scriptures, and we by so saying assert nothing but what is found in the most ancient and most approved writers of the Church.

    Read it all; it’s completely wrong and unsupportable from Scripture. The churches that believe this with Calvin, but want to impose literal 7 day creation story as more important and central to Christianity, are completely off the reservation.

    • boaz,

      You have to realize that Luther paved this road of sacrament rejection himself, and the later Reformers and Protestants rode down it and took it to the logical extreme. Luther rejected the sacrament of anointing of the sick (in spite of the biblical evidence for it), marriage as a sacrament (in spite of the one flesh union God seals), Holy Orders as a sacrament that configures the priest in a special way to Christ the High Priest, as well as sacramental Confession, etc.

      So after emptying five of the seven sacraments of their grace, it is not surprising that the other Reformers went the rest of the way and emptied the last two.

      • Catholic apologists love to blame Luther for everything. Luther was just the first reformer to avoid being burned by Rome, unlike Hus, Wycliffe, Savaranola, and the Waldensians. That doesn’t make him responsible for every other reformer’s mistakes. There’s no path of argument from “let’s strongly uphold Baptism and Communion as taught since the early church fathers” to “they are just symbols and the church has been wrong for 1500 years.”

        Lutherans don’t really have a set number. Some say confession is a sacrament, and there are three. But its important to recognize that Communion and Baptism are the primary sacrements. Scripture does not say faith is increased or grace is conveyed in the other sacraments, though they are fine practices and should be upheld. Lutherans can accept them in that way, sort of like the Orthodox do, as things that the church does. Blessing houses.

        • woops, last sentence: “Blessing houses, the liturgy, and other ceremonies and blessings the church does are also good and worthy things.”

  10. Jack Heron says

    To open a related issue, what are people’s opinions on celebrating the Last Supper in non-sacramental ways? I was a guest once of some people who broke bread, passed wine and read out the relevant parts of the Bible after a meal together – not as a replacement for Eucharist, because they went to that as well and did not regard their personal celebration as having the sacramental nature present in their church Communion, but as an occasion for a more personal reflection on the Supper. Obviously churches tend to have pretty strict views on who can and cannot perform the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, but what about performing a memorial of the Lord’s Supper without claiming yours is a sacrament?

    • Seems like we should try to be less like the Cornithians.

    • Margaret Catherine says

      At Franciscan University, this was/is a standard Saturday afternoon practice. Bread, wine, and the reading of Sunday’s Gospel along with time for prayer intentions. As a preparation and chance for reflection with people of like spirituality, it was very good.

  11. I’m a United Methodist and, unlike some UM churches, we swing the doors wide open for communion every week. Everyone’s invited…young, old, baptized, unbaptized, sinner, saint, member, visitor. We do the whole liturgy every week. I often say “This is Christ’s free gift to you whether you’ve been here for 60 years (our organist) or 60 minutes.” We serve by intinction and serve good bread. When kids come forward they often ask for “a big piece” and I occasionally say, “If we all knew we needed a big piece of Jesus the world would be a better place.”

    Communion is formative for us. We use it as a theological stepping stone to ministries of outreach and giving.

    It’s also a celebration for us. We enjoy that time together. It’s a party every week with a mix of denominations and nondenominations present. Said one of our more conservative evangelical folks, he views it as a little foretaste of the Kingdom of God.

    A few years ago, during a visioning process, we asked folks in the congregation to come up with two things they think are most important about our faith community. Most everyone put the following: the presence of children and family AND Holy Communion.

    I like Michael Z’s comment above about telling people that it’s open to all but to not feel obligated if folks aren’t seeking Jesus. I could do better in the explanation.

    I know this style isn’t for everyone and, frankly, might not work in many other UM churches. But it seems to work here and helps define this congregation in powerful ways.

  12. In our church we say our communion is open to all “followers of Jesus”.
    We do teach that it should be baptism – communion – but we won’t reject someone.

    How would you refuse someone without ruining the service for everyone????

    My children will not take communion till they are baptized. Our church does give a “Children’s meal” of grapes & crackers at a different table.

    I am a open communion advocate.

  13. Quixotequest says

    In our non-D church Communion is always preceded by a brief contextualization of symbol and Christ-centeredness, and all who have put their faith in Christ are invited to participate whether a member of the congregation or not. However, we only celebrate Communion on the first Sunday — with which I disagree.

    Our pastors have told me because our church is in Utah they want to avoid the appearance and formality that Communion is a required necessity for being right with Christ and continued forgiveness (a’la Mormon priesthood view). On the other hand to formalize that it only be a once a month event I think they establish a formality of counter-formality which works against what they claim is the goal. I think celebrational soberness, lavishness in joy and frequency, and Christ-centered welcomeness should overcome any fear to it being perceived as _the_ means for obtaining salvational Grace.

    And once, at a “Worship Night” (music-only service) they served a Hawaiian Punch with the crackers/wafers. I don’t see a scriptural necessity for transubstantiation belief but conversely, using fruit punch seemed to diminish the import of meditating on the symbolism by using a new flavor that (at least for me) drew my awareness away from the moment by its out-of-placeness. Glad I haven’t seen that since.

  14. I’m on the outside looking in, so to speak, which is a bit strange, given that I have been a Christian for nearly thirty years.

    My tribe, the Salvation Army, doesn’t observe or baptism. We did in our early days, but this same question came up—how do we decide who can participate, and who can’t? Or, more importantly at the time, who can preside over the sacraments?

    So much time was spent arguing over these matters we had to take a different option: abandon the practice and get on with remembering Jesus and following his less controversial commands.

    The question of whether this was the best course of action has been raised a few times over the years, but I think most of us Salvationists are comfortable with the decision.

  15. Open Communion

  16. My church is not communion-centric, which shows in our practice. We have it once a month, it’s open (we recognize it’s for the body of Christ, yet not for us to police), it’s symbolic (hence the grape juice), and we slack on the self-examination beforehand, because the entire Christian life should be that of self-examination, and not just before taking the elements.

    Generally we recognize Christ’s real presence in the elements. We’re Pentecostal, so we recognize the Holy Spirit’s real presence in our worship, which I admit takes away a little from the special emphasis on the real presence in communion. Again, the entire Christian life should be that of practicing God’s presence, not just noticing it in the elements.

    But not to say that communion-centric Christians don’t practice self-examination or God’s presence. I’m just explaining our own particular emphasis.

  17. Eh, i’m Quaker, so… no communion. Is that an option? Or rather, not a communion y’all would recognize as communion. We believe that any meal may (and should) be in communion with God, and we believe that our silent worship is a form of communion with God. Communion is open, i would think, then, as anyone may participate as we all have that of God (the Inner Light) within us.

    • Salvation Army here… and yes, I agree entirely. We recognise the presence of Jesus whenever we gather together.

      We also speak of the sacramental life, which encompasses all we do. In fact, we should be as sacraments to each other and to those who are yet to meet Jesus.

      One of my favourite hymns:

      My life must be Christ’s broken bread,
      my love his outpoured wine,
      a cup o’er-filled, a table spread
      beneath his name and sign,
      that other souls, refreshed and fed,
      may taste his life through mine.

      My all is in the Master’s hands,
      for him to bless and break;
      Beyond the brook, the winepress stands,
      and there my way I take,
      resolved the whole of love’s demands
      to give for his dear sake.

      Lord, let me share this grace of thine
      wherewith thou did’st sustain
      the wonder of the fruitful vine,
      the gift of buried grain.
      Who dies with thee, O Word divine,
      shall rise and live again.

      Albert Osborne

    • I’ve always liked the Quaker idea of having Sacraments in everyday life. I still see benefit in baptism, & communion, but I love the Quaker spirit of communion.

  18. Our Lutheran community practices “open” communion. We announce that the Lord’s Supper is for all baptized Christians who believe Christ to be present in the meal.

    If they come up. Then they come up and receive it.

    As someone mentioned earlier, God can handle any problems with any particular person.

    We understand why some want to limit this meal to persons in agreement on doctrine or who are members of the congregation only…but we have decided to err on the side of God’s gracious love for sinners.

    • We may not agree on much Steve– but on this, we do– if only we were all to “err on the side of God’s gracious love for sinners”? 🙂

    • David Cornwell says

      “…but we have decided to err on the side of God’s gracious love for sinners.”

      Yes, to err on the side of God’s amazing grace.

    • What about unbaptised believers?

      Salvationists (and possibly Quakers, you’ll have to ask ally c) are generally comfortable taking communion if it is offered to them when they visit other churches. Neither denomination practices baptism. Would they be denied?

      • Eh, with Quakers it tends to depend on the Quaker– as i’ve said, i’m comfortable with communion, but i know other Quakers who will not partake even as a visitor at another church.

  19. Actually what is said is “truly present in the meal”

    • I struggle to grasp what is ment by “truly present in the meal”. I am not at all satisfied with the memorial only view of my tradition. The best I can come up with at this point is that the symbol is not the reality but the symbol is as the reality. One writer I read explained Calvin’s view as being that the gap between heaven and earth is bridged in the communion and it is not that Christ is ubiqitly everywhere the sacrament is served, but that there is no longer a gap between where He is there physically on His throne and where the sacrament is being observed, I’ve worded this poorly. Exodus 24 gives the best picture of what I am trying to explain, and others may argue if that was really Calvin’s view of not. I also agree the Supper rightly understood is a declaration of the forgiveness of sins and should convey to the true believer the grace of assurence. So in what camp does that put me?

      • ….and I have not even addresssed closed or open communion….. I prefer a more open approach to communion. I’d rather err on the side of generosity…. That said, if I was to visit a church with a closed communon tradition, I would respect that….

    • The Billy Goat,

      We don’t know how He is present in it, but we trust that He is.

      He never commanded us to do anything where He wouldn’t be present in it, for us. And when He said, “This IS my body…this IS my blood…” we understand IS to be…that He IS there…somehow.

  20. I believe “closed” communion requires men make “God decisions” in a moments time. Not a good idea.

  21. I have never been a member of a church that didn’t have open communion. I’ve been to a few churches as a guest where they did have closed communion. They were both Eastern Orthodox, actually. My wife and I have actually contemplated converting, but, honestly, this is probably one of the biggest things that I have trouble agreeing with. I just seems to me that to deny full communion to people who are Christians baptized in another church just leads to a mindset of spiritual arrogance. “We may consider you Christians, but you’re clearly not the right type of Christian to share this with us”.

    • My parents want me to be Catholic and for me the way the Catholic church handles communion is a big turn off and is one of the things that angers me about Catholicism. Wouldn’t God want anyone to come and spend time with him? Is the Catholic church by being so strict about this issue any differnet than the Pharises by emphasizing law and regulation?

      • The whole Catholic thing about closed Communion wouldn’t bother me so much (it does) if it weren’t for the fact that Catholics I observe go to one of two extremes on the issue. The vast majority treat it like it’s no big deal – I’ve visited parishes where people literally have their coats on, take Communion, and head straight on out the door without bothering to go back to their pew. At one parish I visited for a little while, I was often just about the only person left in the last ten pews by the time Mass ended. At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve met a handful of “strict” Catholics, some of whom become unnerved by the thought of ANY non-Catholic taking Communion, no matter how deep their faith in God.

        At my grandfather’s funeral, my aunt’s ex-husband took Communion, despite the fact that he was twice divorced, and at the time was living with a girlfriend whom he had no intention of marrying. Yet because he still called himself a Catholic, no one made a big deal about it. Whereas my devout Protestant mother was barred from taking Communion at her father’s funeral. (She did take it at her mother’s, however.)

  22. One more Mike says

    1 Corinthians 11:27-29 (NAS)
    27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be (A)guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a man must (B)examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.

    There’s not jack in that quotation about “the denomination will decide who’s worthy”; it’s up to the individual to determine their own worthiness. You really have to exercise some bruising mental gymnastics to interpret that otherwise and there’s some masterful efforts to do that going on in this thread. I’m not convinced. I think closed, close (?) communion is just another way to exclude “outsiders” from the fellowship.

    I don’t think “it’s just a symbol” either, I believe in the real presence, even though I spent over 40 years in the ICC & SBC; “…this is my body, this is my blood…”; there’s no real good way around the real presence either. Too many evangelical churches rush through communion like they’re ashamed of it, or are afraid they’ll appear “too catholic” if they center their services around the lord’s supper.

    I know we can’t all get along, where’s the fun in that, but if you close your communion, you close your doors to me and others like me.

    • Mike,

      The future reality of thousands of splinterings from the Church wasn’t in view when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians. So there’s an assumption that one is in full communion with the churches.

      • One more Mike says

        The church was apparently already splintering when this was written, thus we have 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians,, so that assumption doesn’t hold up. And if it did, what difference does it make? One can “assume” that Paul would want all christians to be in full communion with each other, whatever “splinter” they fellowshipped with, as long as they were followers of Christ. I think “full communion” means something different to each of us.

        • They weren’t really “splinters”. These letters were written to different Churches in different locations. Read St Ignatius of Antioch on his way to martyrdom in Rome in the Coliseum. He writes and visits some of these Churches as well as writing to some of their bishops (Polycarp, for instance.)
          He’s not talking about a protestant church where there are multiple choices, but to the One Church in all these different areas.

  23. Ralph Waldo Emerson got kicked out of his Unitarian ministry for refusing to hold communion. He concluded that it was unnecessary, and compared Christ’s command to observe it with his command to wash one another’s feet. (Which some churches do, I realize.)

  24. We’re members of a UMC congregation that, like Jim’s church, “swings the doors wide open” for communion, although we have it only once a month. My experience over time has been that many churches do the same, even where their official tradition may not encourage it. That’s a good thing. I recently heard an interview with retired Fordham professor Merold Westphal who lamented his inability to share communion with his Catholic colleagues. Like Prof. Westphal, I’ve known many Catholics, including clergy, who advocated openness. But at least for now I agree with Prof. Westphal that I should respect the official policies on this of any church I’m visiting. Maybe some day soon those policies will change. I certainly pray they will.

  25. I’m Catholic. I don’t mind the closed to non-christians. I think they would generally understand and respect that. Closed to non-catholic christians bugs the heck out of me. These are my brothers and sisters in the communal body of Christ. That is not rhetoric, that is effectual and real. It is hurtful to the body to seperate its members at the table of the Lord in this way. Make me the Pope; go ahead. I’ll change this thing tomorrow.

    • I do like what it says in the Missal in the Catholic churches I’ve been in: “We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us ‘that they may all be one’ (John 17:21).

      I appreciate that there is a recognition of our divisions and at least an expression of the desire for ultimate reconciliation. I also appreciate that this is connected by them with the Lord’s Table.

    • Margaret Catherine says

      It is hurtful – but the separation is already there, closed communion just reflects the existing reality.

    • Chris..and the Catholic chruch’s policy can keep wondering agnostics like myself to keep wondering becuase this becomes so divisive.

  26. It depends on what the Last Supper/Lord’s Supper is. Is it a continuation of Jesus’ fellowship meals with sinners and tax collectors, inviting the participants to experience and enter into the Kingdom of God? Is it a memorial/celebratory meal for those who are in covenant with Him, perhaps like Israel’s feasts before ???’? The different accounts – i.e., is His blood poured out for many, or for the “you” gathered at the Last Supper – seem to allow for both possibilities, and Mark implies that others besides Jesus and the 12 were present when he has Jesus say that His betrayer would be “one of the twelve.”

  27. I hold fast to what I was taught- close communion. That is, one should only commune with those one is in fellowship with. Not just on the matter of the doctrine of the Eucharist, but on the full range of all Christian doctrine. There are exceptions, obviously, but that is what they are- exceptions.

    Why do I hold to this? Because I believe doctrine matters. If a person who holds to a memorial view were to come to the altar of one who believes in the Real Presence, to partake at that altar says, “We are in agreement.” Essentially, that person is saying that “I believe what you believe”. However, how can this be? For one obviously hold to the memorial view, the other does not. This either means, “I have come to believe what you believe”, or “It does not matter”.

    Some find it harsh. I certainly do. But, at least to me, what I have said makes sense. To partake of Holy Communion is just that- to commune, to be in communion. You cannot commune with those whom you are not in communion with.

    Beyond that, I could cite other reasons- Scripture, history, etc. However, those have (I think) been already fairly covered well enough in this discussion.

    • We believe in one God,

      the Father, the Almighty
      maker of heaven and earth,
      of all that is seen and unseen.

      We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,

      the only Son of God,
      eternally begotten of the Father,
      God from God, Light from Light,
      true God from true God,
      begotten, not made,
      one in Being with the Father.
      Through him all things were made.
      For us men and for our salvation

      he came down from heaven

      by the power of the Holy Spirit

      he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

      For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;

      he suffered, died, and was buried.

      On the third day he rose again

      in fulfillment of the Scriptures;

      he ascended into heaven

      and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

      He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,

      and his kingdom will have no end.

      We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of Life,

      who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
      With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
      He has spoken through the Prophets.
      We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
      We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
      We look for the resurrection of the dead,

      and the life of the world to come. Amen.

      Good enough for you? It is for me.

      • As an additional note. Even the present Pope is not afraid to drop “and the son” when meeting with the Orthodox.

        • Dear Michael,
          Not so long ago I believed that all those who confess the Nicene Creed should be allowed to share in open communion, but I guess I have to ask myself whether we should interpret this Creed in the way that supports our own views – whatever they may be – or whether we should try to understand how this Creed was viewed by those who formulated it and what the „one holy catholic and apostolic Church“ meant for the Church Fathers at that time. In my opinion many modern interpretentions of the Creed would be completele unacceptable for them and acttually going in the opposite direction because I think the Creed was meant to protect the Church from splintering into individual fractions.

        • Best comment of the day to you, Michael….The clause means little to nothing to me. I know there’s a Trinity, mysterious and holy…I don’t care which part came forth from which…

      • @Michael Bell-

        I am glad that we can together confess the Creed. However, that still does not deal with the issue of what one believes about Holy Communion. We need to understand that the Creed was forged with specific issues in mind, and it does not include every facet of Christian teaching. And so while it may be the minimum, just because we can together confess the Creed does not address our views of the Eucharist.

        And unless we confess the same doctrine concerning the Lord’s Supper, I fail to see how we can partake together at the Altar.

        Also, please no that this isn’t directed at you in particular, but is a general statement. If I came across as singling you out, my apologies.

    • I was raised in an ELCA Lutheran church, where communion was open to those who believe in real presence. To me, that’s always seemed to be a reasonable qualifier, but I’ve read quite a bit about other Lutheran denominations that have the same qualifier as you mentioned: agreement on doctrine.

      And here’s the thing: as far as that concerns the nature of communion, I can agree with that. But on other issues, I don’t see the scriptural support. You mentioned “the full range of all Christian doctrine” – that’s very, very extensive. Don’t get me wrong; if your belief is that this agreement on all doctrine is necessary, that’s what you believe… but I don’t understand it.

  28. My pastor reminds us (now and then) that “there are sheep that are not of this fold”.

    We are not the only ones in Christ, in spite of our disagreements in certain aspects of the faith.

    • One more Mike says

      And …they’ll come from the east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven…

  29. Donegal Misfortune says

    So after having read several closed vs open communion and who is allowed and who is not, what I want to know is what happens is someone takes it? They walk into the church and having not been noticed (maybe) He or She just takes it. They are a Christian and have been for several years but is going out and looking for another church or MAYBE he is just wanting to hang out with fellow Christians, which I often get hammered for…why would you want to go to so-and-so this Sunday?…WELL MAYBE I REALIZE that my little group of believers are NOT THE ONLY ONES ON THE PLANET…Shesh…one would think that all hell is about to break loose on the earth if someone says they want to go visit another church. The way I see it, I live with my family but on occasion I go visit my extended family…why can’t it be the same for my spiritual family? Anyway I digress….so back to my question. What happens if I take it anyway.?

    • What if you are on vacation? You’re in another state or country?

      Do you need to go without the body and blood of Christ Jesus until you get home?


      If you take it anyway, then you are still receiving the body and blood of Jesus…and receiving His love ad forgiveness.

      Although you may incur the wrath of man.

  30. One more point. Maybe this is the view from where I stand…but as I scope out the Christian landscape and look at everything there is one practice and policy that emanates from Christianity that someone on the outside like me picks up. It’s this point…in a very loud and clear voice.

    You want grace….but we’re not going to give it to you. There’s something that you’ve done that quite simply makes you not good enough to receive grace. Therefore…while you ache for it, we are not going to give it to you. We’ll dangle it in front of you in a carrot and stick approach but you’re not going to get it.

    Can’t you guys see this or see it from an outside perspective? The fundys do this and do it rampantly. They play your sexual sins against you for years. Got pregnant out of wedlock? Oops…you’re screwed for life. An alcoholic you say…you’ll get grace when you clean up your act! On and on it goes….

    Now the way the Catholics get in this game and do the same thing is by denying communion to people that have made major mistakes. The Catholics do the same thing that many fundys do. They hold up communion, make it half the mass expereince. They worship it and then they deny it to so many people becuase “they are not in a state of grace” due to their divorce and remarriage; drifting in and out of homosexuality; had an abortion as a scared to teenager and then you find yoruself at odds with the chruch becuase your preghnancy is a still birth and the doctor is recommending an abortion; but up comes the Catholic chruch with what they say.

    In this area the Catholics deny grace as well.

    • Margaret Catherine says

      The grace needed first there is the grace of Confession, of being forgiven and knowing oneself to be forgiven.

    • Eagle, with all due respect this is nonsense. If you’ve made a major mistake all you need to do is to repent and go to confession, which is the formal repentence and absolution.. But you can’t deliberately put yourself out of communion with the Church, persist in what you know to be wrong and then expect to receive Holy Communion as of right.

    • Eagle, it’s not considered a sin to remove the remains of miscarried child from the mother. My wife had two miscarriages and required a D&C (a therapuetic abortion) both times. The Catholic Church did not consider it sinful since the children were already dead. To leave a dead child in the mother’s uterus is extremely dangerous. Unfortunately it did happen to wife (we had over eight months from hell with majo, life changing experiences every two or three weeks). The 5 month old baby died in November on the same day as my wife’s sister’s funeral. Three months latter my wife woke up in horrible pain due to the necrotic tissue that had never been removed. It’s considered a forgivable sin to abort a living child, but it is not sinful to remove the tissue of a dead child.

  31. Time for this Liturgical Gansta to weigh in on this topic…

    As a United Methodist, I grew up with open communion. As a United Methodist pastor, I would not refuse communion to anyone. United Methodist believe that communion was institute by Christ and is a holy mystery. Being a Holy Mystery means that within our human limitations, we can not fully understand the significance or what actually happens in the moment.

    John Wesley taught that we should examine ourselves and prepare ourselves for the receiving of communion. (Also note that we receive communion, we do not take communion. We receive because it is a gift to us from God.) Wesley taught that we must prepare ourselves for communion by examining ourselves before we receive communion as evidenced by repenting of our sins, believing in the promises of God, walking in God’s way, being in charity with all, but most importantly by preparing ourselves with prayer. However, Mr. Wesley also taught that we should not turn anyone away from the table, even those who have not prepared themselves for the moment of receiving communion.

    Holy communion is a moment in which we might be transformed. To deny someone to gather around God’s table is to deny someone the grace of God through Jesus Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit. In Wesley’s sermon, The Duty of Constant Communion, Mr. Wesley is defending the idea that we should be partaking of communion as often as possible, not just once or twice a year or even just once a month. He says that if we consider the Lord’s Supper to be a command of Christ then we should receive it as often as we can; that it is an act of mercy upon us by God; and that there are essentially no excuses for anyone to not partake of communion as often as it is offered. Mr. Wesley goes on to say that “unworthiness is no excuse; because though in one sense we are all unworthy, yet none of us need be afraid of being unworthy in St. Paul’s sense, of “eating and drinking unworthily.”
    Secondly, that not having time enough for preparation can be no excuse.” Mr. Wesley was serious about his communion and received communion himself every day. And to others, he essentially says, NO EXCUSES ALLOWED. He didn’t want to hear any excuse anyone had. He clearly lets us know that there is absolutely no excuse for not participating in this act of grace and mercy, in this sacrament instituted by Christ himself.

    Wesley understood that it wasn’t about what we are doing within ourselves, but instead is all about what God is doing in us in the moment of communion. It is essenially our opportunity to gather around God’s family table and receive a transforming gift from God.

    Within the United Methodist Church, our table is the table of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Christ invites all to his table, those who have prepared and have allowed him to wash away their sins, and those who carry the stains of sin on them, those who have spent time in prayer, and those who have no faith in prayer. Christ invites everyone to his table because he knows that lives can be healed and transformed around God’s table.

    In regards to children, communion is open to them as well, no matter what their age. Jesus rebuked his disciples and said, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs” (Mark 10:14) We believe that Christ would not turn a child away from communion. There are some who say that children don’t understand what it means. I would say, “Do you fully understand the mystery of communion?” If asked this questions, a person would have to honestly answer No.

    Think about who was sitting around the table when the Last Supper was shared. The betrayer, the denyer, the doubter, and other sinners. We know the disciples were far from perfect. If Jesus allowed them to sit at the table with him, how could we have the power to deny anyone the transforming mystery of Holy Communion!

    Anyway, all that to say, “Open, definitely Open!”

    • When I was protestant I, too, was perplexed at the “closed” communion until I examined my beliefs more thoroughly. Now on the Rome’s side of the Tiber, it amazes me how many non- and anti-Catholics on this blog and elsewhere argue that Catholic communion needs to be open to all. It seems to me that if one does not believe the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, why desire to participate in it? Catholics are not excluding them from the Eucharist. It is they, or their forebears deciding before them, that Christ’s body and blood are not present. That act and belief self-excludes non-Catholic believers from the sacrament at Catholic Mass. Why argue that Catholic communion should be open to those who do not believe it and disagree with it?

      Communion for me was one of the “last cards to fall” before my conversion. It was at a mass when my heart and head were changed. I listened closely to the priest’s prayer at the consecration that God would change the bread and wine to the body and blood. I realized then my short-coming: Who was I to say God was going to deny that prayer?


      • Tom,

        We Lutherans believe that the bread and the wine become the body and blood of Christ. (how this happens, we do not claim to know)

        But yet we are denied the Lord’s Supper in the Roman Catholic Church.

        However, we do open our communion rails to them. (in our Lutheran congregation).

        • In receiving communion in the Catholic Church, you are not just receiving the body and blood of Jesus you are l also saying you are in union with the Church: the Pope, Bishops and all Catholics. Believing and receiving the Real Presence is part but not all you are in union with If you were to receive Eucharist in the Catholic Church would you really mean that you are in union with the faith as transmitted by the Pope and bishops in union with him?

          I realize that there are many, many Catholics who are not in theological union with the Pope and Bishops, but those Catholics are still part of the family. The Church is extremely hesitant to kick someone out once they are part of the family. You may not like your brothers and sisters–but they’re still your brothers and sisters. There’s an old saying: the gift once given cannot be returned. It refers to Holy Orders–once a priest always a priest. The same is true with being a Catholic–it leaves an indelible mark on your soul. Catholics are just kind of stuck with each other.

          • Thanks, Rick.

          • And I’ll be the one to kick the sleeping elephant in the room. For those not in full communion with the Catholic church, it is just as Rick stated so well. The Eucharist is the living Body of Christ as evidenced withing the RC church and its thelolgy. To recieve when you do NOT believe this and accept “the whole enchalada” that IS the Catholic Church is a form of lying. You either are fully a member of the “family” or not. If NOT, that is fine, come visit and learn if you want to, but the Table of Christ is a members-only deal. To do otherwise is to pick and chose in a manner not offered or healthy…it would be like saying “I’ll take the sex part of marriage and the tax deduction, but I don’t care to share my salary or stick around if the other person gets sick or old.”

            And (ducking for cover) we do not believe that what other churches do with wine or juice, crackers or bread, or anything else, IS COMMUNION. A nice little gesture, but not the Living Presence that can only take place by the involvement of a fully ordained Priest.

          • And (ducking for cover) we do not believe that what other churches do with wine or juice, crackers or bread, or anything else, IS COMMUNION. A nice little gesture, but not the Living Presence that can only take place by the involvement of a fully ordained Priest.

            Which is why many of us who have experienced the power and presence of Christ – including His transforming and convicting and judging and healing power – in our gathered body as we’ve taken the communion bread and wine/grape juice while rejecting the belief in or practice of the necessity of a priest to pronounce a hoc est or the need for the bread and wine to be or become anything do not consider the RCC to have a monopoly or even the correct teaching and practice on when and where and how Christians can commune with Christ.

    • Thanks for the comment, Angie. I hear there’s a small movement afoot in the UMC, headed back toward a weekly (if not more frequent) Eucharist. I hope that day comes soon!

      • I think that it’s more than a small movement Lee. One of the 2 churches that I serve celebrates weekly in the evening service. Although the congregation is smaller than in the morning service, they look forward to this time together and have taken the liturgy to heart, memorizing the responses. You cannot imagine what a joy it is for us to share the liturgy without me having to look at the tops of their heads. 🙂

  32. I think it is very important to look at what people believe before assuming that taking a stance of closed communion means that that church or individual are spiritually arrogant, or believe that outsiders are unworthy of the grace of God, are not Christians, or do not have Christ in them.

    I’m in the process of converting to Orthodoxy, who hold closed communion as almost tauntological: “Why would you want to commune with us if you aren’t willing to be in communion with us?” It is not a statement on the spiritual state of the non-Orthodox Christian—in fact, the Orthodox are very loathe to make a judgement on the eternal destination of any individual, even non-Christians (though, obviously, we believe those recognized as saints to be with Christ). We are not God, and the God we worship is much more merciful than any of us can imagine. However, just as loving each other doesn’t mean a couple should go off and have sex without formal recognition of “oneness”, individuals shouldn’t go off and partake in communion without formal recognition of “oneness” with the Church just because they’ve accepted Christ (whatever that means in your tradition). Communion is more than an act between you and God—it is recognization of your oneness with the Body of Christ as manifested in the Church. So if you want to commune with someone, be in communion with them, otherwise you aren’t really taking it very seriously.

    On a relevent side note, all exclusion from communion in Orthodoxy is done with the hope of eventually being reconciled with the individual excluded (to my knowledge, anyway). This means that no one is permenently excluded from communion based on acts they have committed, if they are penitent and take the necessary actions to come back into full communion. That people will need extra grace and loving kindness from time to time is rather well understood. =)

  33. In looking up “antidoron” which Tokahfang mentioned yesterday, I ran across a letter from St. Augustine about receving Communion and the entire letter is very interesting. I think I would have liked Augustine very much.

    Anyway, he says in regards to a question about how often to receive Communion, “But the question which you propose is not decided either by Scripture or by universal practice. It must therefore be referred to the third class—as pertaining, namely, to things which are different in different places and countries. Let every man, therefore, conform himself to the usage prevailing in the Church to which he may come. For none of these methods is contrary to the Christian faith or the interests of morality, as favoured by the adoption of one custom more than the other.”

    Now, we know he was not talking about the Church as it exists now (he was writing around 400 AD) and there was a bit more uniformity in terms of what Communion was all about, but he still did not want divisiveness to exist due to different practices among the Christians throughout the world.

    You can do a search on “St. Augustine letter 54” to find his letter. It is also found within the New Advent website.

  34. Some may find it a bit hard to take seriously the insistence on “the Real Presence” in the elements, or the claim that the elements are or become the Real body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ, and that those who reject or don’t recognize or affirm these things when they partake are judged and disciplined by God, when one sees few, if any, instances of such people thereby or therefore becoming weak and sick and dying.

  35. Margaret Catherine says

    Eric, true; some may. Some may also try handling snakes bare-handed, and drinking deadly poison, and then find it hard to take the Gospel seriously when that does make them weak or sick or dead.

  36. Josephthediviner says

    I do partake of the elements when presented in whatever church I am in attendance, however I truly believe that there is only one proper time to “celebrate communion” and that is at the Passover meal I am not trying to convert everyone back to judasim however I might argue that to follow Christ we probably have grown too far away and have lost too much of what founds and grounds our faith.

    Maybe sometimes we become churchians instead of Christians, we tend to follow the traditions of our church’s instead of the example and teaching of Jesus, partly the different times and cultures are to blame but all too often the blame must be fixed on the modern church and it’s poorly educated ministers.

    Hey you asked. Shalom Jim.

  37. After having followed this blog for a couple of weeks (as well as reading most of the archives), I am surprised and rather disappointed to see so many posts denigrating those who practice closed communion as arrogant, patronizing, and Pharisaical. There seems to be an uncharacteristic lack of interest in understanding why those who practice closed communion do so.

    • It seems to me that many who hold a closed communion view have had full freedom in this discussion to give their reasons, and that they have done so.

      • I don’t deny that they have had such freedom, and I am not sure how one could conclude from my post that I thought they were denied the freedom to discuss. As I said, my disappointment is with the certain comments that are dismissive and demeaning toward the practitioners of closed communion.

        My previous experience reading this blog left me with the expectation most of the posts would be of the form ‘This is what we do, and this is why it is a good idea.’ I expected follow-ups to be of the type ‘Huh. I think your theology/ecclesiology/sacramentology is flawed, but at least I now understand what you are doing.’ Criticism, if it followed my expectations, would come in the form ‘This is what we do/did, and are/were we ever wrong.’

        If I may harp on one comment as an example, the dismissing the practices of a children’s meal and antidoron as patronizing rather than trying to understand them as efforts of inclusion saddens me. I don’t agree with either practice, put I don’t see it as unreasonable to accept the explanations of those who do follow those practices at face value.

        • I have often found In the ebb and flow of conversation, people often express strong opinions and criticism and it gets more moderate as we listen and talk to each other. I am not afraid of strong or even harsh criticism as long as we keep talking and listening.

        • I’d agree that there has been a little more heat in this conversation than most. That can be instructive and helpful though. We don’t all agree here and sometimes it’s good to realize our points of genuine disagreement.

          Since my post below I’ve thought a bit more about it and I think that perhaps the Protestant belief in the priesthood of all believers may be playing a rather large role here. Protestants can get _very_ upset about any person or institution getting between us and God.

  38. Here’s are some good arguments for ‘closed communion’ by a pastor that practices ‘open communion’:

    And then why he (we) choose to have ‘open communion’.

    It’s well worth the listen.

  39. Well, I’m a little late to this party but I wanted to try to share a story that one of my Bible profs told us that forever changed how I think about communion. I’m afraid I don’t recall all the details, but I should be able to get the gist of it:

    He was visiting at a church in his younger days and when they began communion (Most likely a pass-the-plate chicklet and grape juice style) and he did his typical bow the head and “commune” with God with his meditative shields up. Then the most aggravating thing happened: someone in the congregation started spontaneously singing! He of course tried to ignore this as an attack against his personal communion with God, but (if I recall correctly) others in the congregation went ahead and joined in. At some point (I’m not sure if it was there in the pew or not) he realized that communion wasn’t just him communing with God, but he was also supposed to be communing with the rest of the congregation. In a nutshell, he decided that communion was supposed to be communal.

    This is something that has really stuck with me and I don’t think I’ve thought about communion the same way since that day. There is of course an individual level to communion, but I’ve come to agree with that professor that the individual aspects have way overshadowed the group nature of it. For my professor and for me this also challenges just how solemn communion should be, which is an equally fascinating subject. I think the whole self-examination thing gets far too over-emphasized. My self-examination consists of “Yep, I’m still a sinner in need of grace and completely un-worthy of it, but God’s a nut and still want’s me.” I don’t believe there’s a person alive who doesn’t have several sinful habits that they are pretty aware of and have absolutely no intention of changing.

    There is a slight correlation in that those who practice closed communion tend to be more group-focused because if you want to commune with the group you have to join the group, which does make some sense. Of course you can also just say your group is sinners in need of grace an have it open to all and sundry.

    I’m pretty easy-going in regards to communion. I prefer open communion by the tincture method (because there’s more interaction with others), but I respect the reasoning behind other approaches. Of course, I have a rather non-sacramental view of things, so I don’t get bent out of shape if I don’t get to participate as long as people are polite about it, which most of them usually are. I’m odd though anyway, I really think communion was intended to be more about meals than part of some non-meal services and Jesus used bread and wine because that’s what they were having for the passover meal. If you’re in the deep south having a potluck with sweet tea and fried chicken then I believe you can memorialize/be blessed or God can substantiate using that sweet tea and fried chicken just as well as bread and wine. On the other hand I can certainly understand the view that communion was essentially a modification to the passover meal which would certainly make the bread and wine much more important.

    There is something that a few people have said in defense of closed communion that does bother me a bit. There have been a few variants but they all amount to “We believe communion is X. You don’t believe that so why would you want to participate?” For me the primary reason to have communion is “Jesus said to do this in remembrance of him, so I do”. I don’t feel that I need to agree with you on any of the details of who it’s for or what does or doesn’t happen in order for me to obey him. I can accept that you don’t consider me a member of your group, but telling me I shouldn’t want to participate because we have some disagreements rubs me the wrong way.

    • Ken:

      You might enjoy reading John Mark Hicks’ paper on the Lord’s Supper:

      as well as his book Come to the Table: Revisioning the Lord’s Supper:
      Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (May 1, 2008)
      Language: English
      ISBN-10: 0971428972
      ISBN-13: 978-0971428973

    • I can see how it must look to you, but to Catholics, it is a VERY. BIG. DEAL.

      The Eucharist and communion are the focus of the Mass, and it is a family meal that is only open, well, to family. If you do not believe the same thing as the rest of the folks in the pews, you are welcome for 95% of the hour….but not for the reception of what we see as the Real Presence of Christ. Even our kids and converts have to make the journey to an understanding of what communion MEANS before they are invited to approach the Table.

      • I would not call a tiny wafer and a sip of wine “a family meal.” Which is one reason why I think the sacramental and sacerdotal concept and practice of the Eucharist has misunderstood and misappropriated and misrepresented Jesus’ zikkaron. If the Lord’s Table is based on anything in the Scriptures, it most likely has its OT counterpart in the festival meals before YHWH. It is an experience and foretaste of the Kingdom Feast.

        • Wafer and wine as a family meal… IS what WE call “The family meal”, the Eucharist. It’s fine if you don’t share this belief, but the largest Christian denomination in the world DOES!

          • I know. But I and many others respectfully demur. And the majority of people in the world don’t share that belief.

          • I may not be Catholic, but I also express that when we gather around the table to receive The Lord’s Supper that it is like a family mean. In fact, one of my sermons emphasizes that it is a family meal in which we join with other Christians around the world, not just United Methodist. I talk about how when families gather around the table at a big meal, you can find all types of people there with great diversities, but at the family table, healing happens where there have previously been rifts. When the family of God gather around his table, we find that healing happens as well in many different ways. Our relationship with God is restored. Our relationship with Christ is strengthened. Our relationship with other Christians can be restored as well. We can be restored and transformed through the Holy Mystery of communion.

            One thing I think we are missing in all of the discussions is that while our beliefs around communion may vary (closed/open, transubstatiation/non-transubstantiation and more), we do all agree as Christians that Holy Communion is a sacrament that was divinely instituted by Jesus himself. It is a practice that has continued throughout the centuries. We can discuss, argue, agree, disagree, but in the end, we recognize that communion is a sacrament that is not to be taken lightly. It is more than just a little piece of bread or a wafer and a sip of juice or wine. It is our way of participating in our faith through a sacrament that Christ began. It is our way of being one with Christ and one with all Christians throughout the world. It is our way of being in constant communion with God our Creator, Jesus Christ our Redeemer, the Holy Spirit our Sustainer and all of the saints (not just those recognized by any particular denomination but all Christians throughout history) who have gone before us.

          • that should have read, “family meal” not “family mean”

          • One thing I think we are missing in all of the discussions is that while our beliefs around communion may vary (closed/open, transubstatiation/non-transubstantiation and more), we do all agree as Christians that Holy Communion is a sacrament that was divinely instituted by Jesus himself. It is a practice that has continued throughout the centuries. We can discuss, argue, agree, disagree, but in the end, we recognize that communion is a sacrament that is not to be taken lightly. It is more than just a little piece of bread or a wafer and a sip of juice or wine. It is our way of participating in our faith through a sacrament that Christ began. It is our way of being one with Christ and one with all Christians throughout the world. It is our way of being in constant communion with God our Creator, Jesus Christ our Redeemer, the Holy Spirit our Sustainer and all of the saints (not just those recognized by any particular denomination but all Christians throughout history) who have gone before us..

            I suspect that not all Christians would agree with what you say all Christians agree upon and agree about and recognize re: communion.

          • Eric…the majority of people in the world are not Christians at all. And the majority of Christians world-wide ARE Catholic, so I’m afraid I’ll have to disagree with you, as your numbers do not add up.

            That MANY people disagree…..of course, or there would not be the rift amongst Christ’s people.

          • I know the majority of the world’s people aren’t Christian. That was part of my point. That the majority or largest denomination(s) of Christians assert or affirm or teach a belief in the Real Presence and a change/transubstantiation in the bread and wine during the Eucharistic Liturgy may be a fact, but it being a fact is not a convincing or compelling reason to agree with them. Lots of people believe lots of things.

      • I have no problem with that! What gets me upset is people telling me that I shouldn’t WANT to participate. Telling me that you understand I do want to participate but you limit it to members only is perfectly fine. I just get upset when people presume to tell me what I want because they assume I don’t understand how differently we view things. I’m not really sure why that bothers me so much. Furthermore on the very few occasions I’ve been to a Catholic mass I felt that my presence was welcome and appreciated even though I could not fully participate.

        Like a lot of people here I’m far more upset by the fact that you sometimes cut your own members out. I think that comes from my deep-seated Protestant belief in the priesthood of all believers. We don’t like anybody intervening between us and God. That’s one of the very few differences between us that I think is truly significant.

        • Ken, I hear you, but if someone who IS Catholic and feels “cut off” cannot or will not reconcile with the teachings of the Church, they are free to find another church…and many do. I do agree that most Protestant’s….and ESPECIALLY those who are also American….seem to feel that “no one has a right to tell someone else what to do.” I agree….to a point.

          Please accept this gentle reminder that no one is held hostage at gunpoint to the Catholic faith. Just as many would like to be “pro-choice Catholics” or “actively homosexual Catholics” and similar ideas, the Church makes it clear that these divise postions negate the “Catholic” part. If one wants to ignore Church teaching…..there is free will and lots and lots of other denominations and religions. BUT….if one wants to BE Catholic, there is doctrine to follow. You can’t have it both ways. One of the things I LOVE about my Church is that there is no pretending to change or be modern or not offend anyone. The Faith is what it is.

    • Kerri in AK says

      “Yep, I’m still a sinner in need of grace and completely un-worthy of it, but God’s a nut and still want’s me.”

      Ken – Best. Quote. Ever. Similar to this quote from Will Campbell:

      “We’re all bastards, but God loves us anyway.”

      (I believe he was asked to explain Christianity in 10 words or less)

      Thanks. Will be sharing this.

  40. I’ve participated in the Lord’s Supper or Eucharist in a variety of different ways and in a variety of different church settings — and I found every single one of the them to be a spiritually meaningful experience.
    Is there some unwritten rule in Christianity that I have to choose one specific communion tradition and reject all others?

  41. S.J. Gonzalez says

    I go to a PCA (Presbyterian Church of America) church and we practice a very open communion. The old associate pastor used to say “This is not open to Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, or Anglicans. This open to Christians, to those who see Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior”. I love that. He’s not asking that we believe in some view of the atonement or in some view election , he invites all Christians, baptized and unbaptized.

    Likewise an Episcopalian college chapel I like to frequent has a similar policy. It’s in their missal. My only fear is that they make us drink from one wine cup, and, well I don’t wanna get sick.

    A cute story, I visited the Episcopal cathedral in my city (my city being Miami) for one of the daily masses. A rather impassioned black woman was preaching some sort of homily, I couldn’t remember what it was on. When she started serving communion (consecrated by the bishop no less!) she started to drop some wafers. I was highly offended since I hope a very high view of the Eucharist.

    Saying that. She asked whether I was a Christian or not and I said yes. I felt strange taking communion from a woman since I hold to a soft complementarianism. But I was very happy to feel as if I were part of a family bigger then my ideas, and to take communion with people I have never met but that I knew where my brothers and sisters in Christ.

    So yes, open communion! The Kingdom of God is bigger then any church institution…

    … and, at least among Protestants, I don’t understand the concept of closed communion. We should be working towards unity in faith as found in the Apostles’ Creed. I under why the Orthodox and Romans do it. But I don’t understand Protestant reasoning other then “we’re the true church” which in that case I start to get scared.

    As an aside, I’ve always read Calvin as one of the first ecumenicists. He said that there is “a church in Rome” and he still saw the sacraments of baptism and communion there as valid. It is more generous then what I have experienced among my more radical, Protestant friends. The churches that have followed in his name sake (well, the CRC and Presbyterian churches and their offshoots) are usually pretty open with communion as well.

    Another comment. I suppose then, the Presbyterians and United Methodists have the same view of communion. Oh the irony.

  42. Donegal Misfortune says

    How is it when you take part in communion, you aren’t just doing what the Lord commands with what He says about it…there must also be this doggerel that you must “accept” when taking it? So, when someone prays for me, should I eschew the gesture since I may not come into full acceptance of what this person believes or teaches? about when someone gives me relief from a burden, shall I not accept it if I do not agree with them on certain points of doctrine?

  43. This is going to come off far too strong, but I’ll give it a try. I look at partaking in the Eucharist (the Wedding Feast of the Lamb) as the supreme act of worship in which we can engage. No form of worship is higher. In a similar way, sex can be seen as the supreme act of love between a man and a woman. If sex between a man an a woman lacks full committment and total self giving, it is less than complete union.

    The Catholic Church views the Church as the bride and Jesus as the groom. Eucharist is an act of intimacy (union/communion) between the groom and the bride. No act is more intimate. The “act” is between the Church as a whole and Jesus; but it mysteriously includes the soul of the individual Christian (the bride) and the Jesus (the bridegroom). If the act of Eucharist lacks full committment and total self giving, it is less than complete union.

    The Catholic Church sees praying with someone and sharing the Eucharist with someone as very different actions–as different from each other as is holding hands and making love.

    • Donegal Misfortune says

      The Wedding Feast of the Lamb = Communion… I don’t know why I have NEVER seen this connection.

      I am sitting here in awe and re-reading Rev. 19….wow

      • Donegal Misfortune says

        That is actually one of the building blocks of preterism I could not find a fit for and now it makes since.

      • Donegal, you may be interesting in reading Scott Hahn’s book, The Lamb’s Supper: The Mass as Heaven on Earth. Part of what he writes regarding a point in the Mass is, “In less than a minute, the phrase ‘Lamb of God’ had rung out four times. From long years of studying the Bible, I immediately knew where I was. I was in the Book of Revelation, where Jesus is called the Lamb no less than twenty-eight times in twenty-two chapters. I was at the marriage feast that John describes at the end of that very last book of the Bible. I was before the throne of heaven, where Jesus is hailed forever as the Lamb. I wasn’t ready for this, though–I was at Mass.”

        For anyone who doesn’t know, Hahn was a Protestant minister and later became Catholic. You can do a search on “Scott Hahn conversion story” to see how that happened. I didn’t realize that he majored in philosophy, Theology in Scripture and Economics in college and then got his Master’s degree in Theology at the top of his class at Gordon-Conwell seminary. It was kind of a long article and I am tired, so that’s about as far as I got, other than a quick skimming. I did read the book I mentioned, though, and one other book by him as well.


    Here is a link to an article by Ted Sri explaining some of the upcoming changes to the Roman Missal. In this article he mentions that before the Eucharist there will be a far clearer reference to the Book of Revelation, the Eucharist, and the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

    • Rick, I am fine with some of the changes, but I really wish they had left the Apostles Creed alone!