The next step in open communion

In an effort to be even more inclusive than they already are, a diocese in the Episcopal Church has dropped baptism as a requirement for someone to receive Holy Communion.  The measure will go before the entire church body this summer.  From a conservative Anglican site:

The latest proposed element to chip away at core Anglican beliefs is the Diocese of East Oregon’s desire to offer Holy Communion to anyone who approaches the altar rail with their hands upraised. Baptism would not be a prerequisite. The Diocese of East Oregon has made it a matter of Communion without Baptism. . . .

Since the earliest of times, it has been the understanding, tradition and practice of the entire Christian Church to see Baptism as the first sacrament to be celebrated in the life of a new Christian. Baptism, therefore, is the foundation upon which the other sacraments and rites, including Holy Communion, are based.

The Episcopal Church already has a generous policy of Open Communion. Any baptized Christian in good standing in their own denomination is welcome to receive Communion at an Episcopal Church. However, there are limitations to that Open Communion rule as outlined in the Disciplinary Rubrics of the Book of Communion Prayer.

Those rubrics include denying Communion to anyone known to live a notoriously evil life, to those who have wronged their neighbors and are a scandal to the congregation, or to those who exhibit hatred and unforgiveness towards another. The priest is solemnly admonished to speak to these persons privately and then report why Communion is being withheld to the bishop within two weeks.

Retired Eau Claire Bishop William Wantland further explained, “although TEC has, by practice, adopted an “open Communion” stance, the Church officially adopted rules that admit to Communion only those who (1) are baptized and admitted to Communion in their own Church, (2) prepared by self examination and are in love and charity toward others, (3) understand the Eucharist to be a reflection of the Heavenly Banquet to come, (4) recognize the Real Presence in the Eucharist, and (5) reception of Communion must not violate the teaching of their own Church.” Not all Christian churches have an Open Communion practice. Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, some Baptists, the Amish, a variety of Lutherans comprised of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, as well as other conservative churches reject this broadminded approach to unrestricted reception at the Lord’s Table. Although, it is noted, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is in intercommunion (concordat) with The Episcopal Church.

Now the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Oregon is bent on turning long standing theologically sound liturgical practice on its ear. On March 10, reportedly meeting online, Eastern Oregon’s Diocesan Council and Standing Committee took the bold step of re-doing two basic Anglican Sacraments – Baptism and Holy Communion — by ratifying a new resolution.

The Diocese of Eastern Oregon’s ratified Open Table Resolution reads: “Be in resolved, the House of _______ concurring, that The Episcopal Church ratify the rubrics and practice of The Book of Common Prayer to invite all, regardless of age, denomination or baptism to the altar for Holy Communion.” The Resolution also calls for the total deletion of TEC’s Canon I.17.7 which succinctly states: “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church,” as a minimum eligibility requirement for Communion. The Resolution also calls for “Canon 1.17.8 be renumbered Canon 1.17.7″ following the deletion of the currently numbered canon.

Eastern Oregon’s resolution is slated to be presented this summer at General Convention 2012 as Resolution C040. The newly filed Resolution is slotted for the legislative committee on Prayer Book, Liturgy and Church Music after which it is kicked over to the House of Bishops for its initial action. . . .

The Diocese of Eastern Oregon’s explanation for its desire to see a change in the minimum requirements for receiving Holy Communion are that The Episcopal Church has continued to move forward as a more inclusive, open and welcoming religious body and should not to be encumbered by restrictive canons in its drive to be radically hospitable, boldly ecumenical, unconditionally companionate.

“In recent decades the Episcopal Church, with prayerful consideration and deliberation, has consistently moved to being a more inclusive, open and welcoming member of Christ’s Body. Such grace is riveted on the teachings and actions of Jesus and the compassionate embrace he had for all…no matter their creed or race,” the explanation states. “We believe it essential our Liturgy reflect the unconditional hospitality our Lord employed for his mission.”

Those of you who believe in open communion, would you go this far?  Should non-Christians be given the Sacrament?  I know of a group of Episcopalians who took to the streets, giving communion to passersby on the sidewalk.  Thus they considered that they were taking Jesus and the gospel out into the world to those who needed Him.  Is that a good evangelism activity?

The thing is, Episcopalians tend to have a relatively “high” view of baptism and Holy Communion, so this shift is notable.  How about those of you who think baptism and the Lord’s supper don’t really do anything?  You think the sacraments are only symbolic, but you must think they are symbolic of something that gives them meaning.  Would you go as far as these liberal Episcopalians?

I know how we confessional Lutherans react to this sort of thing and I don’t want to necessarily stir up a big argument on this day commemorating our Lord’s institution of this on-going feast, in which (we believe) He gives us His body and blood in a tangible and personal way in the church for the remission of our sins.  Our churches get routinely bashed, including on this blog, for only  communing members and those with whom we are in theological agreement.  I’m curious about those who criticize this practice.  Are there any limits you would place on how open you are willing to be?  And if there are some basic requirements you would insist on, what’s so wrong with requiring complete agreement as confessional Lutherans do?

 

Court rules against conservative Anglicans

Despite an earlier positive ruling, a court has ruled against Falls Church and six other conservative Anglican congregations that have left the Episcopal Church over its increasingly liberal theology.  Now the congregations will have to surrender their property to the Virginia diocese of the Episcopal church.  Here is the congregation’s press release:

Seven Anglican congregations in Virginia that are parties to the church property case brought by The Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia are reviewing today’s ruling by the Fairfax County Circuit Court that the property should be turned over to the Episcopal Diocese.

The Circuit Court heard the case last spring after the Virginia Supreme Court remanded it in June 2010. The congregations previously had succeeded in their efforts on the Circuit Court level to defend the property that they bought and paid for.

“Although we are profoundly disappointed by today’s decision, we offer our gratitude to Judge Bellows for his review of this case. As we prayerfully consider our legal options, we above all remain steadfast in our effort to defend the historic Christian faith. Regardless of today’s ruling, we are confident that God is in control, and that He will continue to guide our path,” said Jim Oakes, spokesperson for the seven Anglican congregations.

The Rev. John Yates, rector of The Falls Church, a historic property involved in the case, stated, “The core issue for us is not physical property, but theological and moral truth and the intellectual integrity of faith in the modern world. Wherever we worship, we remain Anglicans because we cannot compromise our historic faith. Like our spiritual forebears in the Reformation, ‘Here we stand. So help us God. We can do no other.’”

The seven Anglican congregations are members of the newly established Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic, a member diocese within the Anglican Church in North America. Bishop John Guernsey of the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic has expressed to leaders of the seven congregations, “Our trust is in the Lord who is ever faithful. He is in control and He will enable you to carry forward your mission for the glory of Jesus Christ and the extension of His Kingdom. Know that your brothers and sisters in Christ continue to stand with you and pray for you.”

via Press Release Jan 10, 2012 (Events & News).

The Falls Church property is huge.  I don’t know what the Episcopal Diocese can do with it.   Sell it to non-Anglicans, I suppose.

HT:  Sandy

Episcopalians vs. Anglicans

Lutheran journalist Mollie Hemingway has a fascinating piece in the Wall Street Journal about how the Episcopal Church in the USA is trying to thwart the new conservative Anglican denomination:

When the Church of the Good Shepherd in Binghamton, N.Y., left the Episcopal Church over disagreements about what the Bible says about sexuality, the congregation offered to pay for the building in which it worshiped. In return the Episcopal Church sued to seize the building, then sold it for a fraction of the price to someone who turned it into a mosque.

The congregation is one of hundreds that split or altogether left the Episcopal Church—a member of the Anglican Communion found mostly in the United States—after a decades-long dispute over adherence to scripture erupted with the consecration of a partnered gay bishop in 2003. But negotiating who gets church buildings hasn’t been easy. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said she’d rather have these properties become Baptist churches or even saloons than continue as sanctuaries for fellow Anglicans.

The Episcopalian congregations that want to break away are part of a larger movement of Anglicans world-wide who are concerned by the liberalism of the official New York-based Episcopal Church on sexuality and certain basic tenets such as Jesus’ resurrection. Of the 38 provinces in the global Anglican Communion, 22 have declared themselves in “broken” or “impaired” fellowship with the more liberal American church.

In 2009, breakaway Episcopalians in the U.S. and Canada formed the Anglican Church in North America, which now reports 100,000 members in nearly 1,000 congregations. This group has been formally recognized by some Anglican primates outside of the United States.

Bishop Jefferts Schori says this new Anglican group is encroaching on her church’s jurisdiction, and she has authorized dozens of lawsuits “to protect the assets of the Episcopal Church for the mission of the Episcopal Church.” The Episcopal Church has dedicated $22 million to legal actions against departing clergy, congregations and dioceses, according to Allan Haley, a canon lawyer who has represented a diocese in one such case.

Now the Episcopal Church has upped the ante: It has declared that if congregations break away and buy their sanctuaries, they must disaffiliate from any group that professes to be Anglican. . . .

“We can’t sell to an organization that wants to put us out of business,” said Bishop Jefferts Schori, who added that her job is to ensure that “no competing branch of the Anglican Communion impose on the mission strategy” of the Episcopal Church. Indeed she has no complaint with Muslims, Baptists or barkeepers buying Episcopal properties—only fellow Anglicans.

via Mollie Ziegler Hemingway: Twenty-First Century Excommunication – WSJ.com.

Bishop tells gay priests they have to get married

Now that New York state has legalized gay marriage, the Right Reverend Lawrence C. Provenzano, Bishop of Long Island in the Episcopalian church, is requiring homosexual priests to either get married or stop living together out of wedlock.  From his official pronouncement:

For the gay and lesbian clergy of this Diocese who are living in domestic partnerships or civil unions, I hereby grant a grace period of nine months from the effective date of the New York State Law permitting same-gender marriages for those relationships to be regularized either by the exchange of vows in marriage or the living apart of said couples.  I deem it to be honest and fair, and I do so direct and require, now that it is legal, that only married couples may live together, either in rectories or elsewhere as a clergy couple living in the midst of our faith community.

via Episcopal Diocese of Long Island.

I know this sudden concern for sexual morality is being derided by many conservatives.  But it will be telling to see if homosexuals who now have the right to get married will now take marriage seriously by opposing extra-marital sex.

Episcopalians choose a second gay bishop

The Episcopal Church in the USA, despite opposition from worldwide Anglicanism, has consecrated yet another homosexual bishop.  This one is a lesbian.

A majority of bishops and dioceses of the Episcopal Church have approved the election of the church’s second openly gay bishop, the Rev. Mary D. Glasspool, a decision likely to increase the tension with fellow Anglican churches around the world that do not approve of homosexuality. . . .

Bishop Glasspool, 56, is to be consecrated as one of two new assistant bishops, known as suffragan bishops, in Los Angeles on May 15. Both elected suffragan bishops are women — the first ever to serve in the diocese.

Both were elected at a convention of the diocese in December, but according to church rules had to win the approval of a majority of the bishops and standing committees (made up of clergy and laypeople) of the church’s 110 dioceses. Bishop Glasspool’s confirmation was never certain.

via Episcopalians Confirm Mary Glasspool as a Second Openly Gay Bishop – NYTimes.com.

So this is not just the action of one diocese. The whole church body, in effect, had to vote to approve it, and did.


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