After having argued in my Tuesday post that not all Episcopalians are theological innovators, imagine my anxiety while perusing read this article on the telegraph.co.uk website. “Church leaders offer communion wafer in the post” reads the headline. Communion wafers, eh? Must be a liturgical denomination — or a remarkably tacky secular entrepreneur. Hope it’s not the Anglicans or some sister freelancers across the pond!
Then there is this sentence: “The Open Episcopal Church has come up with a novel way of extending their reach into the community by offering to send people their communion wafers in the post.”
It takes a moment before I realize that I’ve never heard of this judicatory before. Apparently attracted by the novelty of it all more than by any desire to explain the concept of eucharist by Fed-Ex, the writer doesn’t bother to tell us anything about the denomination.
But one interesting rabbit trail stood out immediately: the Telegraph.co.uk website apparently took the story from one by Riazat Butt of The Guardian — are the media so short on staff that they have to cadge each others stories? Or is The Guardian’s open platform system, which allows shared content, the reason The Telegraph felt it could use material from the rival outlet?
Thankfully, Religion News Service’s Daniel Burke does offer a link in this post to the denominational website. Burke also notes that the denomination is part of the organization of Independent Catholic Churches Worldwide — and is not to be muddled up with the Episcopal Church. Whew!
But it’s an interesting organization. The Open Episcopal Church is a member of the World Council of Churches. It has women bishops, and posts links to the Apostles and Nicene Creed on its website. Archbishop Jonathan Blake apparently officiated at reality TV star Jade Goody’s wedding before her untimely death from cancer.
What’s missing in these articles is much more interesting than what was actually included. Wouldn’t the history and doctrine of this tiny denomination be worth at least a mention? How about reaction to the “host in the post” outreach from some clergy and professors of theology? What about some context as to how shut-ins usually receive the Eucharist in other judicatories? Is the outreach to those who have left the church paired with any kind of pastoral ministry or evangelism?
Perhaps we’ve got to wait until some other, larger denomination starts this practice until we get some less than superficial journalism about what’s got to be a highly controversial innovation — personally, I’m happy to wait.