Sunday, March 1, 2009

A couple of Episcopal insiders come out against "open communion"

h/t Celtic Anglican.

Episcopal Church leaders bellow that "Everything is allowed if you are baptized!" But in the neurotic Episcopal game of "can you top this?", many clergy now assert that baptism is not a necessary precondition for receiving Holy Communion.

In a refreshing change of pace, two Episcopalian insiders have come out against this "open communion" schtick.

One is Bishop Christopher Epting, the Ecumenical Officer of the denomination. (Frankly, I've had some harsh things to say about his performance in other aspects of church life, but on this he's correct.) It is significant that a guy tasked with building interdenominational and interfaith relationships is taking this traditional position.

The other is Dr. Louis Weil, an influential worship authority in Episcopal seminaries who seems to have the ear of denominational leaders most of the time. Another significant and pleasantly surprising voice for the traditional position.

The Bible and Church tradition teach Christians to approach the sacrament reverently, penitently and in full awareness of its meaning. This is spelled out in I Corinthians 11:23-32. The Canon Law of the Episcopal Church is specific: "No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church" (I.17.7).

"Open communion" (aka "communion of the un-baptized") is one of those stupid ideas by people who think that churches grow by throwing out their core values and central practices. "Golly gee, there are so many people who would join us if we just threw communion wafers at them like guitar picks at a concert." This is the same failed strategy around most Episcopal innovations - "If we just have gay bishops, then all the LGBT/secular/young/pick-your-niche-group folks will come flooding into our churches." And of course just the opposite goes on. The niche groups never come in and the existing members walk out.

And I could go on for days about the arrogance and duplicity of ignoring centuries of Christian faith and practice, not to mention a clear Canon of the denomination. But neurotic Episcopal "can you top this?" speaks for itself.

So I'm glad that Bp. Epting and Dr. Weil came out against communion of the un-baptized. The whole post is at Bp. Epting's blog.


Perpetua said...

Hi Fr. Timothy,

I actually know a Jewish man who was given Holy Communion by Dr. Louis Weil. This Jewish man described the event to me, which was in a private home. The Jewish man said that Dr. Weil knew he was Jewish and not baptized. So, whatever Dr. Weil may be saying publicly, in private he had practiced communion of the unbaptized.

robroy said...

"The price we are paying today in the shape of the collapse of the organized church is only the inevitable consequence of our policy at making grace available at too low a price. We gave away the word and sacraments wholesale, and absolved a whole nation unasked and without condition…We poured forth unending streams of grace. But the call to follow Jesus in the narrow way was hardly ever heard." Bonhoeffer

TLF+ said...

Perpetua - dare we hope that someone in TEC actually repented? But in an elitist denomination, it is entirely possible that he holds out one standard for the masses (pardon the pun) and another for the illuminati. I'm still glad he came out against it in a public setting.

robroy - wow. That's so on target. Bonhoeffer is certainly one to whom we can point when folks ask, "Are there still prophets today?"

The Archer of the Forest said...

Bishop Epting is hard to gauge sometimes. He has basically moved into the Cathedral in Omaha, under the 4 new 815 mission outpost scheme (or whatever its called.) He presented a little bit at the Nebraska annual council last year about the Interfaith Initiative in Omaha. I remember it was a really peculiar presentation. But then he preached at one of the daily Eucharists, and it was a really good, solid sermon.

We had to read a good bit of Weil's stuff when I was in seminary. As I recall it was a bunch of liturgical fluff. I think his books are in a box downstairs that's labeled "Seminary Castoffs." It surprises me he's not openly in favor of "Communion of the unbaptized." He's in favor of just about everything else in that vein of thought.

Anonymous said...

Just so you know...Louis Weil is an ordained priest, so his title is Rev. Dr. Louis Weil...Louis has received communion during Roman Catholic Masses and has distributed communion to those of the Jewish AND Muslim faiths...Finally, Louis has authored several draft liturgies for use in the blessing of same-sex unions. Thought you should know...

TLF+ said...

Thanks, Archer & Anonymous.

I don't intend to canonize Bp. Epting or the Rev. Dr. Weil - I'm just glad that they've come 'round to rejecting open communion.

Of course it is going to go on all over TEC. The same people who appeal to "our unique polity" and answer everything with the bad end of Canon Law simply ignore the Canons when their feeeeeeeelings tell them to.