How we treat Holy Communion reflects our theology of Christ
By Douglas LeBlanc, December 09, 2008
News Item, October 21: The Diocese of Sydney's General Synod has voted again to allow laity to preside at celebrations of Holy Communion and to allow deacons (both men and women) to preside as well.
My reaction, once news of the synod's decision began circulating in U.S.--based weblogs: Wake me when the argument is over.
I have exaggerated my lack of outrage, but not outrageously. My longtime friend and colleague Terry Mattingly grew up Southern Baptist, spent more than 10 years as an Episcopalian and then became Eastern Orthodox.
He enjoys telling the story of attending Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, where robed choir members processed with reverence down the center aisle and some bowed before sitting in their pews.
Terry asked about the significance of the bowing, and the answer he heard was remarkable: That's what you're supposed to do. Despite its stained-glass windows and the liturgical calendar it observed, this church had no concept of a Communion host being the body of Christ, in some form, and therefore worthy of brief reverence by choir members.
From that experience, Terry concluded that if a Southern Baptist congregation had a higher-than-average interest in liturgical symbols, its members likely had little understanding of the doctrine behind the symbols.
I wonder if, for many Episcopalians, this could be an accurate summary of what we understand about Holy Communion.
Consider how many priests now announce, week after week, that because the Holy Table belongs to God and not to anyone else, all people -- regardless of whether they are baptized -- are welcome to partake. I note only in passing the chutzpah of presuming that God's will for the Holy Table was thwarted, rather than honored, as far back as the Didache.
Read the rest here
Lay presidency is a non-starter for me. I think it shows a lack of understanding of what the Church is and what ministry is as well, but I don’t think it’s anything but an aberration born less of theology and more of a deeply born anti-intellectualism and resentment towards clergy.
Communicating the unbaptized, on the other hand, drives me nuts. I think that the writer is spot on that it is a misunderstanding of what the Eucharist is, and isn’t. It is the feast of the Church, and membership in the Church is achieved in Baptism. The normative text here is, I think, the story of Peter when he unilaterally baptized gentiles. He didn’t say “Well now the Spirit has come on you, so you’re now Christians.” Rather he baptized them (Acts 10:48). That would indicate to me a normative practice. We also place such an emphasis upon the Rite of Baptism in the Prayer Book, to then say that it isn’t all that important because you can be a member of the Eucharistic assembly with out it is a tad backwards.
And no, I don’t see the typical Evangelical slippery slope argument in here. What I do see is a legitimate criticism of two things that the author sees as connected. We have no real theology of the Church left to us if we now toss out Baptism in favor of some vague “come one come all” argument. There is a difference between saying “this is a bad idea and has implications of though and practice which are unacceptable” and the full on fallacy form of reductio ad absurdum that is the “slippery slope.” If he had gone onto say that this could lead to everybody might as well stay home on Sunday and become atheists I’d be rolling my eyes and trying to separate the issues he presents from one another. I’d say he’s being quite on target as it where for his points, with out going to far afield.
Tip of the hat to the Rev. Mthr. Kaeton.