Habeas corpus, postmaster?


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.

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  • Jerry

    personally, I’m happy to wait.

    I’ll wait with you. Do you have any spare “communion” wafers to share with me whilst we wait? Maybe a bit of wine to go with them?

  • http://www.valdyas.org/foundobjects/index.cgi Irina

    Any reason to use a picture of an Orthodox prosphora stamp as illustration?

    • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=3978 E.E. Evans

      Irina, I in no way meant to offend. I was actually trying to contrast the theme of the story with a reverential image. I thought it was beautiful, which is why I chose it.

  • bob

    Which makes me think of an old question I can apply to the Anglican communion: “Why seek ye the living among the dead?”
    I don’t have any problem with Anglicans sending flour and water through the mail. No one from Cranmer or his teacher Zwingli to Spong, Pike or Schori would think anything of it at all. Just take it (or anything else that’s handy; Oreo, Ritz cracker, Dorito) in remembrance that….Well, whatever you want to remember, you know?

    The real message is the frequent content of “Religious” articles: “Well, why not?” which is applied to ANYTHING. Eventually the not’s get fewer and fewer and religious articles get more and more dull.

  • Julia

    How can this group not be associated with Anglicans if they call themselves Episcopal?

    The bishop has helpfully posted some videos of how to conduct your own communion service at home for various important dates in the church calendar and other special events. This one is for a street mass.


    Also check out the homepage for this ministry


    They say they are connected to the Old Catholics – some of the same folks who are participating in consecrating bishops in the Anglican church to supposedly ensure Apostolic seccession.

    The Historic Episcopacy in the Open Episcopal Church traces its origin to the Ancient Catholic Church of the Netherlands and the Archiepiscopal See of Utrecht

    source: http://www.openepiscopalchurch.org.uk/about/about.html

  • Julia

    Make that succession.

  • blestou

    Julia:How can this group not be associated with Anglicans if they call themselves Episcopal?

    In the same way that not everyone who has been “baptized” is a Baptist. “Episcopal” has/had a meaning related to a church structure prior to being used to identify American Anglicans.

  • Jimmy Mac

    With the ever-increasing shortage of Catholic priests and increasing use of non-ordained (as priests) pastoral administrator running parishes, it won’t be long until hosts are consecrated in a central location and shipped off for use in communion services.

    Jesus via UPS, anyone?

  • http://www.ecben.net Will

    Lots of people SAY they are connected with the Old Catholics. Our church got a rental request from a group calling itself simply “The Old Catholic Church” and claiming to be in communion with Utrecht. (The only such body in the US is the Polish National Catholic Church.) A web search quickly showed that they were saying one set of things to us and another to the “gay” press.

    And I think that Ultrajectine participation in Anglican consecrations would be intended to safeguard SUCCESSION, not secession.

    Just looked at the Youtube link. There’s never an inquisitor around when you need one.

  • Julia

    In the same way that not everyone who has been “baptized” is a Baptist. “Episcopal” has/had a meaning related to a church structure prior to being used to identify American Anglicans.

    But commenters on this blog keep saying that anybody who calls themselves Catholic is Catholic. Why doesn’t the same pertain to folks who call themselves Episcopal?

  • http://www.valdyas.org/foundobjects/index.cgi Irina

    I wasn’t offended, just puzzled!