Early Communion

June 26th, 2013 Post by

FirstCommunionBIGHolyComI assume that is is because that most of our parishes have recently celebrated the rite of Confirmation that the BJS editors asked for piece dealing with Holy Communion, in particular early communion. For with Confirmation comes a whole new group of our brothers and sisters in Christ who receive with us the blessed gift of our Lord, the Lord’s Supper – a joyous occasion, indeed!. On Confirmation Day most of our newly confirmed members received for the first time the Lord’s body and blood given and shed for them for the forgiveness of sin.

My question is, why’d they wait so long?

It is no question that our synod has had the general idea that Confirmation Day is also First Communion Day, though until recently the words “First Communion” weren’t used and probably labeled as “too Catholic”. But this is, in fact, what Confirmation Day was. It was the first time many, many of our brothers and sisters received the Lord’s body and blood. For several generations now, Confirmation Day has been First Communion Day.

But there has come recently a movement – if you will – within our synod that has questioned whether or not Confirmation Day should also be First Communion Day, or whether First Communion should come before Confirmation. This movement has gained quite a lot of steam, as is evident by our current agenda – a book detailing and governing many rites, rituals, and ceremonies for our church – which has a rite entitled, “First Communion Prior to Confirmation,” thereby making the possibility official in our synod. Still, there is much debate and resistance in terms of actually giving communion to those who are not yet confirmed.

Let’s cut to the chase. While the debate has many tangents and side-tracks, the chief topic of debate is whether or not and when a person can examine him or herself and so eat and drink of the Lord’s body and blood faithfully, avoiding doing so to their judgment. It is thought by many that Confirmation is a safe-guard against eating and drinking unfaithfully or to one’s judgment. That while we cannot force a person to believe, we can do our best to give them the tools so that should they choose to listen they will participate to their benefit and not to their judgment. This is a good thought.

What’s troubling, though, is that Confirmation is given this role. We all know that Confirmation is not a sacrament (cf. Ap XIII, 6). It does not give grace to the confirmed. In fact, Confirmation is all law. It demands a great deal of the confirmed, including promising to remain true to our altar and confession even upon pain of death! (A demand we make of our 8th graders who can’t even drive themselves to church.) There is no mercy and grace, no forgiveness or promise of life in Confirmation. So why is the law the gateway to that which does have life, mercy, grace, and forgiveness? Do we honestly believe that in order to receive what our Lord wants to give us we must first jump through hoops made by man, found nowhere in the Bible? Or is this what our Lord condemns saying, “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (Mark 7:7)

But I’m not here arguing for or against Confirmation. I actually believe it has its place. But that place is not as a watchdog for who can and cannot receive that which the Lord desires to give His people, no matter their age. The reason people should receive that which the Lord desires to give them is because the Lord desires to give it to them and they want to receive it.

But what about St. Paul and his “let a person a examine himself”? Shouldn’t a person be able to examine himself and so eat of the body and drink of the blood? Yes, he should. But what does he examine himself with? Is it not with the words of Jesus that this bread and cup are given to us for the forgiveness of sins? We are sinful and unclean, must we become pure and holy before we eat and drink of that which promises purity and holiness? And if so, doesn’t our baptism qualify as that which makes us pure and holy, clothing us with Christ?

The context of 1 Corinthians 11:27 (et. al.) does not speak to when a person can be given the Lord’s Supper. First of all, the apostle says that a person examines himself. Not that a person is examined by others. Secondly, the context is the abuse of the Sacrament, not the joyful reception of it. To use 1 Corinthians 11:27 (et. al.) as a watchdog for the Sacrament turns that which is meant to bring peace and comfort into that which brings fear and trepidation. How many do we know who have not received the very body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and all the comfort it would bring because they thought they weren’t ready for it? Meaning their heart wasn’t in the right place. To be sure! If we think that we prepare ourselves then our heart is very much in the wrong place. For fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training, but they do not make for faithful reception. St. Paul is not laying down a restriction to those who come for what the Lord gives to His people, but is warning would-be dissenters that their dissension and hatred of their brothers and sisters will cause them to come under judgment.

Who receives the Sacrament worthily? The person that has faith in these words: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” In other words, it is the words of Jesus that create faith and the hunger for what He gives, His body and blood. Just as if I were to say to my child, “Here, this is our dinner, it will satisfy your hunger.” The child does not hesitate and say to himself, “Yes, but am I coming because I am hungry?” Of course! He is hungry and so he wants the food. So the sinner is hungry for righteousness and forgiveness and here our Lord says, “Here, here is food for the soul, giving forgiveness and righteousness in my name because it is my body and blood that you eat and drink.” If we come for any other reason than the reason our Lord gives then we have made a law of grace.

But there’s another thing that people consider. What then is the proper age that a person can receive the Sacrament? I submit to you that it is not an age, but a confession and desire. We do not give the Sacrament to those who do not desire it, no matter their age. But neither do we ask them if they are being honest with us when they tell us they want it, lest we be found judging the hearts of others. Let the words of Jesus create the hunger in our children, and let the faith His words create be the reason we joyfully eat and drink with them, not despising the Church of God but rather proclaiming with them the death and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. If they are young, so be it, rejoice all the more that He has chosen to reveal such things to little children. For as Luther says, “Since the children are baptized and received into the Christian Church, they should also enjoy the communion of the Sacrament, in order that they may serve us and be useful to us. they must all certainly help us to believe, love, pray, and fight against the devil.” (Large Catechism, V, 87)

I want to end there, but I am sure there is yet another thought going around. Does this mean infant communion? And also, what does a person need to know? I think these questions, just like making Confirmation a Communion watchdog, miss the point and cause undo stress. Luther did not condemn as heresy giving infants the Sacrament. But neither did he suggest it. The Lord’s Supper is given to the people of God for their benefit, life, salvation, to participate in Christ (1 Corinthians 10:16), and to be united to His body (1 Corinthians 10:17). If this is our starting point then we are not likely to go wrong. Those who commune infants should do so because those infants are baptized into Christ and are brought to Him by their parents and guardians, and not in fear. On the other hand, unlike Baptism, which gives the Holy Spirit and His gifts because of the promise and command of Christ, Holy Communion is given to those who have faith in these words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” The sacraments are not the same, and are not given for the same purpose (though generally so, yes, they give the grace and favor of God).

In closing, then, who receives the Sacrament of the Altar ought to be open to those who confess the faith born of the words (which, by the way, is what our confessions say in the Large Catechism and other places). And those who confess this faith ought show a desire to live in the kingdom of righteousness, not as having been made perfect or attaining perfection, but as those confessing their sins and desiring to be better than they are (something our Lord does in us by His word, not something we do of ourselves by our efforts).

Okay, I feel like this post is far from done and has opened new questions, but perhaps it will spark godly conversation among the people of God. In short, Confirmation is nowhere said to be the gateway to the Sacrament, and treating it as such defiles both the Sacrament and the faith of the communicants. Age should not be as much a factor – or a factor at all – as much as the desire of the person born of the words of our Lord.

I will happily entertain questions and comments, perhaps with a follow up post on infant communion or on what Confirmation really is (or should be), and maybe closed communion since some of what I’ve said may be taken as tacit approval of that abominable practice called “open communion”, which it is not. So…until then:

Peace be with you all.


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  1. Mac
    June 26th, 2013 at 08:40 | #1

    I recently heard on Law & Gospel radio that the early church would only commune those that were baptized into the faith. Wouldn’t Baptism, then, serve as a prerequisite to Holy Communion?

    In other words, what do Holy Scripture and our Lutheran Confessions say regarding the administration of the Sacrament of Holy Communion for non-baptized Christians? For example, a 50 year old that has attended the Divine Service for 5+ years and has been through an Adult Confirmation course, but is not baptized–are they to be communed?

    Please help me understand this better. ~Soli Deo Gloria!~

  2. June 26th, 2013 at 08:43 | #2

    How do we expect young people to fight the good fight (Ephesians 6:19-11) if we withhold the body and blood of Christ until they have passed 14 summers? If we truly believed what Scripture says about the end times, we would not hesitate to offer the Sacrament to elementary aged children. By God’s grace, I have done so since 1986 and have seen young people maintain their faithful participation in congregational life throughout their high school years and beyond. Thanks for this excellent post!

  3. June 26th, 2013 at 09:02 | #3

    @Mac #1
    Mac, I would heartily agree with Law & Gospel radio. The Lord’s Supper is for the baptized, period. But more than that, it is for those who avail themselves to it. So if a person is baptized but despises the Sacrament by his continual and habitual absence from it, then it is not for him. He is one who does not repent of his sin and does not desire to do better. But even for such a one as this man, there is forgiveness. If he comes to the pastor in the middle of the week and confesses his sin and asks for forgiveness, the pastor absolves him and (as many rites of private confession have) says to him, “Come soon to the Holy Supper.” (The pastor should also let the elders or deacons and others know, perhaps even announcing the man’s repentance and coming again to the congregation. Though all of that would be guided by meekness and love, treating the weak with mercy.)

    The Scriptures speak differently than we do about who can and cannot commune because they speak of the gathering (going to church) differently than we commonly do. We speak of it as an event that happens during the week to which people sometimes come and sometimes don’t, and in which things happen. The Scriptures speak of it as the life of the baptized. According to the Scriptures – I would argue – the gathering (what we call going to church) isn’t a part of our life in Christ, it is our life in Christ. Not because we earn righteousness by going, but because that is where – the only where – Jesus has promised to meet us. Although doctrine alone comes from Scripture, our life in Christ does not consist of Scripture alone.

    Our Confessions assume that those who are receiving the Lord’s Supper are those who frequent the mass (which is what they call it), and have been examined and absolved (private confession) by their pastor (at least once). They assume this because such a person wants what Christ offers.

    So to your example, that 50 year old man, having heard the word of God and wanting forgiveness, should be baptized. Then, having been baptized, he would be welcomed to the Lord’s Table. We do well to remember, though, that admitting a person to the Lord’s Table is not a one-time event. It happens whenever a person comes to the altar. Each time is different. This is partly why our current practice of Confirmation is so harmful. It assumes that once accepted, always accepted.

  4. Carl Vehse
    June 26th, 2013 at 09:22 | #4

    The notion of the so-called “early communion” (and here the euphemistic “early” implies any pre-confirmation age down to being toilet-trained) is simply incompatible (take your pick anywhere between ironic and hypocritical) with the Lutheran doctrinal position of closed communion (even without the “d”).

    And with four mentions of “infant communion” (paedocommunion) already in the article, can the promotion of “prenatal communion” be far behind?

    Is this kind of Eastern Church stuff being hawked at the seminaries?!?

  5. Rev. McCall
    June 26th, 2013 at 09:37 | #5

    I disagree with the main premise. I have always held that waiting until after confirmation for communion is done for the unity of faith. This is the main purpose for confirmation. Desiring the sacrament, examining oneself, and so on are all important and good as well and should be done. If they are the main issues though, then why not commune all those who come desiring the sacrament who have examined themselves, even if they are of other denominations and maybe even other faiths? Therein lies my point. We do not do that because gathering around the body and blood of Christ is a statement of unity in the faith. I believe this is also the third point in Paul’s argument in Corinthians. Examine yourselves, yes. Desire the sacrament, yes. Be in unity of faith, YES! (and that is why we look to Corinthians for support for closed communion) We then confirm so that these new communicant members are confessing the same faith as the rest who gather with them at the table (especially important for the pastor whose task it is to administer the sacrament). Sadly most confirmation kids do not understand their faith and have not been taught it at all prior to confirmation. Hey, thats the pastors job right? (that was sarcasm) I have had confirmation kids who came in not knowing who Adam and Eve were. I have had confirmation kids come in with unbiblical views on the Trinity, communion, and even Jesus Christ. If communion also is a profession of faith made by those gathered around the body and blood I have feel it is better to first teach and instruct those who wish to commune before communing them so that they actually know what they are confessing. Then when they confirm the faith given them in Baptism they join with all the saints in that same confession of faith around the sacrament.

  6. Rev. McCall
    June 26th, 2013 at 09:42 | #6

    @Carl Vehse #4
    Given that the only criteria to commune expressed in this article seemed to be “desire” and “ability to examine oneself” I thought it was actually, in a back door way, allowing for open communion as well.

  7. Carl Vehse
    June 26th, 2013 at 09:59 | #7

    The (seminary or other) promoters of “early communion” may deny they are advocating open communion, but the very concept of “early communion” does leave the door ajar.

  8. helen
    June 26th, 2013 at 10:04 | #8

    @Carl Vehse #4
    The notion of the so-called “early communion” (and here the euphemistic “early” implies any age down to being toilet-trained) is simply incompatible (take your pick anywhere between ironic and hypocritical) with the Lutheran doctrinal position of closed communion (even without the “d”).

    “WNDITWB”, Carl Vehse?
    Do Scripture or the Confessions specify 13-14 as the age for communion?
    Did they wait that long in Luther’s time?
    Since he said any seven year old knew what the church was, perhaps the seven year old was taught a good bit more than that; maybe even enough to examine himself, be absolved and take the Sacrament. Children weren’t always considered babies so late in life as they are now.

    What did Jesus say about little children? [the word includes infants]
    “Let them come to Me, for of such is the Kingdom of God.”

    But if anyone suggested infant communion here, I missed it. The Pastor who communes “early” mentioned elementary school age. Considering the ideas put out in elementary school these days we really should teach our children the basics of the faith before they go there! Children memorize more easily and believe more readily. The parents first and then the church should be taking advantage of that fact.

  9. Rev. Weinkauf
    June 26th, 2013 at 10:18 | #9

    Thank you Pastor Lovett. 2 thoughts…
    Also noteworthy as all our congregations and pastors have all unconditionally subscribed to the BOC, the closing paragraphs of the Large Catechism on the Sacrament is very helpful. Luther exhorts that “young people” should receive the Sacrament. With his context and practice we know this is 7-10 yr. old children. Interesting that among the historical Lutherans, and historical Church up until the 1800s, if you looked and saw a 7-10 yr. old not receiving the Lord’s Supper, you would wonder why the parents failed teaching them. Early Communion is nothing other than a return to the historical practice of the Church.

    Our Synodically approved LSB Agenda has the Rite of First Communion in support of this practice.

  10. Carl Vehse
    June 26th, 2013 at 10:19 | #10

    @helen #8: Do Scripture or the Confessions specify 13-14 as the age for communion?

    No, but this is not the issue being discussed.

    Did they wait that long in Luther’s time?

    I don’t know, but this is not the issue being discussed.

    Since he said any seven year old knew what the church was, perhaps the seven year old was taught a good bit more than that; maybe even enough to examine himself, be absolved and take the Sacrament. Children weren’t always considered babies so late in life as they are now.

    “Perhaps… maybe… weren’t always…” That is not going to support a doctrine of early communion. Note that Luther did not say that any seven year old who knew what the church was could then have communion.

    What did Jesus say about little children? [the word includes infants]
    “Let them come to Me, for of such is the Kingdom of God.”

    Through baptism, the little children have come to Jesus. Again, one cannot stretch this to mean that paedocommunion or early communion is required for a little child to come to Jesus.

    But if anyone suggested infant communion here, I missed it.

    Reread the sympathetic mentions in the fourth-to-the-last paragraph.

  11. Carl Vehse
    June 26th, 2013 at 10:33 | #11

    The Lutheran confessional doctrine and practice of the Lord’s Supper does not set a specific age requirement for communicants. However the Lutheran confessional doctrine and practice does specify who may receive our Lord’s body and blood to their benefit.

    The notion of “early communion” is contradictory to that Lutheran confessional doctrine and practice, specifically to the Lutheran understanding of closed communion.

  12. Rev. Weinkauf
    June 26th, 2013 at 11:02 | #12

    @Carl Vehse #11
    Please help me find this anywhere in Scripture, the Confessions or another other theological source? Can we withhold the Sacrament solely based on age or maturity? No! Absolutely not! Once instructed and examined by the pastor and the communicate can examine themselves, the gift is given. And that can be a 7, 10 year old child. Perhaps Luther was unfamiliar with Lutheran confessional practice and doctrine?

  13. benjohnson
    June 26th, 2013 at 11:34 | #13

    Frankly, I can’t think anyone more worthy to receive Jesus than a recently baptized child.

    The idea that an intellectual assent is needed is preposterous from my viewpoint, as it’s my own intellect that schemes, rebels, and doubts.

    @Carl Vehse – I certainly understand that any sort of change is usually a harold of disaster, for often this is correct. I’m not sure if I can offer any comfort, as I think you’re probably right in that *some* proponents of infant communion *do* have a lessing of the standards in heart rather than a desire to share the Gospel.

  14. Brian Thomas
    June 26th, 2013 at 11:36 | #14

    We have done 1st Holy Communion prior to confirmation for many years and the Eastern church has nothing to do with it. In consultation with our parents and their approval with children who are not only old enough to read and memorize, but actually “desire” to commune with their Lord, we hold an 8 week class taught using Scripture and the Luther’s Small Catechism. If we truly believe that we are recieivng forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, why wouldn’t we want our precious children to recieve it; and moreover, why wouldn’t they want it themselves? Or…to put it another way: What harm is done by having young brothers and sisters in Christ recieving Christ’s body and blood “in faith” for their forgiveness?

    With that said, confirmation for us does not begin at 13 or 14. We have a Sunday School program called the Augsburg Academy that begins at Kindergarten age where they get two years with our deaconess using “My First Catechism” followed by two years each in the Old Testament and New Testament reinforcing the catechism, memory work, parental involvement, liturgy, etc. So by the time the young boy or girl reaches me as their pastor (typically in 6th grade) for confirmation catechesis, I am merely summarizing and putting it all together for them in age-appropriate way adding some apologetics because of the world we live in. The rite of confirmation in this sense is not celebrating two years of study, but a life of faith that began in the waters of Holy Baptism and will continue for the rest of their life as a disciple of Jesus (God willing), and regular reception of the Lord’s Supper is a very important part of that equation as they learned a long time ago.

  15. Carl H
    June 26th, 2013 at 11:36 | #15

    What will happen when a child communing early moves with his family to a church that has not adopted that practice?

  16. NeeNee
    June 26th, 2013 at 11:37 | #16

    Given the maturity level of our children today, I concur with Carl Vehse on this. If you are a parent, you can see how much kids have changed over the decades. It’s sad & disgusting how society has prematurely aged our children physically. Girls, especially, have wardrobe offerings in department stores that mirror those of adults. And from kindergarten on, little girls are pre-occupied with their hair/having fingernails polished/finding clothes that the Disney channel girls are wearing. Heck, many middle school girls look better than I did as a senior in high school!

    Having said all this, the mental & emotional maturity of children is BELOW that of children in the 1950’s/1960’s when I was growing up. Kids today are more impulsive and most have the attention span of gnats. Many are what my dad used to call “shallow.”

    A large number of children who magically appear for confirmation instruction have NEVER been to Sunday School! They are ignorant of who God is, much less the familiar Bible studies I grew up with. And the vast majority of Sunday Schools today do not require any type of Scripture memorization or lessons to be done at home like my generation did. My earliest memories of Sunday School are having to memorize our “Bible words”. By 3rd grade, we were given the small paper version of Luther’s catechism. In addition to the Bible verse, a Commandment or snippet of the Creed was assigned. Now, there were a few of the rowdier boys who obviously never put much effort into this, so they would feverishly work on the Bible verse a few minutes before classes started!

    Fast forward to the 1970’s & 1980’s . . . at a different LCMS church we joined there were absolutely no requirements for Sunday School children, other than to show up on Sundays. No lesson to be done at home, no Bible verse to learn prior to class. My daughter had one teacher who had the class memorize the books of the Bible and a few Bible verses. Otherwise, nada. When I expressed my disappointment at this trend, I was told to enroll my children at the parish’s Day School if that’s what I wanted for my children.

    Hue and cry from today’s parents is to lay off the memorization because “it’s too hard” and “they don’t have time to do it.” But the hundreds of Bible passages I learned as a child are safely hidden away in my heart and mind, and they are such a comfort! They also can be used as a witness to others.

    Over the years I have observed many mid-week confirmation classes—sixth through eighth grade. Discipline is difficult, and some classes have elders sitting in on confirmation sessions. The vast majority of children today (and even those who show up for the 6th-8th confirmation classes) definitely should not be given early communion. Their understanding is limited, mainly because their concentration skills are lacking. So why would we think we should be giving our Lord’s very Body and Blood to those who cannot actually comprehend or appreciate what this mystery is all about?? Scripture is quite clear about self-examination and not allowing some to eat and drink to their damnation.

    As a parent of three adult children of varying ages (currently 45, 41 and 35), I can honestly say that much as we supplemented their confirmation studies at home, they would not have been prepared to commune at say, age 11. I will never forget my oldest asking me to please sit in on her class because the lack of discipline made the experience a free for all. Burned into my brain is the 7th grade class bad boy who was asked to name the three members of the Trinity: he cockily blurted out “Big Daddy, Junior and Spook!” Majority of the class laughed out loud, while just a few looked down in embarassment.

    Sorry for the long rant, I’ve been wanting to get this off my chest for years! In a nutshell, this early communion issue boils down to a lack of maturity in the 10-13 year-old world today. We don’t want our kids smoking, drinking or having sex at that age. Communing at the Lord’s Altar unprepared or with lack of understanding is no different.

  17. Quasicelsus
    June 26th, 2013 at 11:59 | #17

    This conversation might benefit from some definition of terms. It sounds like some are using early communion to be relative to the age, while others seem to emphasize the time meaning relative to baptism or confession of faith. I don’t want to presume on anybody, so I will offer this.

    It would appear that the confessions are clear about communion being for those who are able to discern (ie. understand the real presence, recognize their sin, seek forgiveness, etc) *edit – the etc was to signify that their beliefs must be in concord with the BOC

    This is different from baptism.

    It sounds like, and I may be wrong, that there’s some disagreement on the age. Also, I’m hearing that it’s not only a matter of intellectual assent (discernment), as well as responsibility.

    that being said, I have anecdotes about children who were able to understand real presence, etc. – or at least articulate these things and confess their belief.

    More can be said towards specifics of what the “minimum requirements” are. I like the SC as a good and helpful indicator of that. The responsibility of the vow would be another fun discussion. I know children that I would not be able to consider “ready” to make such an adult vow.

  18. Rev. Weinkauf
    June 26th, 2013 at 12:19 | #18

    @NeeNee #16
    If a level of maturity (as you state) or something of the intellect is needed to receive the Lord’s Supper, my 42 year old sister would never receive it. I know brothers and sisters in Christ who will never have the maturity of a 12 year old and it is very sad that any would believe the Sacrament should be withheld from these dear souls.

    Or do we make up different rules for different people? Do we set and use laws of man and the wisdom of man’s reason, apart from clear Scripture and our Confessions, to arbitarily set an age when some are/are not ready or a test of maturity or test of the intellect -of who comes to the Supper? Lord have mercy upon us.

  19. June 26th, 2013 at 12:22 | #19

    I believe what is one of the issues is the catholicity and uniformity of practice. This really is not much different from your discussions on contemporary and traditional worship.

    In Steadfast, the tone is pushing to uniformity of liturgy, for many reasons; same would go here.

    It may be permissible by Scripture to allow early communion, but what happens when we go from Church to Church? It puts the pastor and the Church goer in perhaps a compromising position.

  20. Quasicelsus
    June 26th, 2013 at 12:25 | #20

    @Rev. Weinkauf #18

    i think this has been my frustration with confirmation classes. I don’t want to tangent from the topic too greatly, but i’ve always wanted the hausvater to instruct the child on the SC under the supervision of the pastor, and when then person is ready – as determined by the pastor, they may be confirmed. i don’t think it’s the only way to do it, and i’m willing to be critiqued on the thought.

  21. Robert Hoffman
    June 26th, 2013 at 12:25 | #21

    @Carl H #15

    The child’s parents should speak with the Pastor in the congregation and if the pastor is satisfied, after checking with the child’s former pastor and checking the child’s understanding, they should be admitted to the Lord’s table.

  22. Quasicelsus
    June 26th, 2013 at 12:31 | #22

    @Robert Hoffman #21

    This is kind of my thought process for #20

  23. June 26th, 2013 at 12:37 | #23

    @Carl Vehse #4
    Infant Communion disappeared in the west during the 13th century for the same reason the blood was not given to parishioners which occurred during the same period of time.

  24. June 26th, 2013 at 12:39 | #24

    @Robert Hoffman #21
    Once again, according to this, catholicity and uniformity is challenged. I cannot go to the other pastor during the divine service, I must either make a decision to allow, or not (my pastoral discretion even as I practice close communion). Then offense would many times occur because I refused them from communing.

    A comparison is like our drivers license. We allow drivers to drive in Illinois at 16 with proper classes, etc. Then all of Illinois agrees that this driver is good to go, in fact, all the country will accept this.

  25. June 26th, 2013 at 12:52 | #25

    I am curious, no time to read up on all things of late, but is BJS (from the authors note) forwarding some resolutions to push for early communion? Why the sudden interest?

  26. Carl Vehse
    June 26th, 2013 at 12:56 | #26

    @Rev. Weinkauf #12 : “Please help me find this anywhere in Scripture, the Confessions or another other theological source?”

    1 Corinthians 11:27 ff and SD.VII.68. Also LC.V. 85 indicates that children are “to be brought up in the Christian doctrine and understanding” to “have then learn what they ought to know” so that they “should also enjoy this communion of the Sacrament.”

    Closed communion involves a profession of confessional unity in faith. Those who are members of a different (or no) confession are not to be communed. All communicant members of a Missouri Synod Lutheran congregation are required to have previously confessed their unconditional acceptance of the doctrine of the Lutheran Church (i.e., taken from Holy Scripture and exposited in the Lutheran Confessions) to be faithful and true. (Whether LCMS pastors uphold this requirement is another matter.)

    For further reading on concerning the Scriptural and Confessional position of closed communion:
    Admission to the Lord’s Supper: Basics of Biblical and Confessional Teaching (CTCR, November 1999).
    Straight Talk about Closed Communion” by Pr. William P. Terjesen.

  27. Peggy Pedersen
    June 26th, 2013 at 12:59 | #27

    I favour early communion BUT if you are going to say the person must first be confirmed, then be consistent and hold to closed communion and not keep out young people who believe and understand communion as the Real Presence as well as the necessity of examination of conscience and desire for forgiveness and simultaneously allow folks you’ve never met and you don’t have any idea of their confession, just because they are somebody’s cousin or you don’t want to embarrass them (never mind offending Christ). I do think we have to confess that the Supper is needful for our Christian life, in which case why wait until you are 14, (I’ve heard pastors say it “isn’t necessary”), but Christ said “take all of you” and “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”

  28. Robert Hoffman
    June 26th, 2013 at 13:24 | #28

    First off, keep in mind that I am coming at this question from the standpoint of a layperson with 11 years of teaching Sunday school (mostly 7-8th grade) and 6 years of service as an elder. (Yes, this is my asking for pre-forgiveness and apology wrapped up in a tasty burrito.)

    In my capacity as a Sunday school teacher to our junior high kids that are enrolled in confirmation classes, I have always seen it as my role to assist the pastor in augmenting the lessons he’s teaching in confirmation. Even still, I have seen multiple children that scarecly attend Divine Worship and never attend Sunday school commune following their confirmation and then completely disappear, nevermore to be seen in church. I have also seen children entering the 7th grade that have an excellent grasp of the Bible and the sacraments and a firm handle on the small catechism. I would personally feel much more comfortable communing with the younger child (provided they received specific instruction in The Lord’s Supper.) These two examples are true and specific people, not hypothetical situations. Due to these situtations, I have also questioned the “age of accountability” in being invited to the Lord’s Supper.

    In my own case, I was confirmed as an adult and had a very patient pastor who spent untold hours answering all of my “doubting Thomas” type questions and painstakingly addressing all of my hypothetical scenarios during my confirmation classes. Once we had covered The Lord’s Supper in the catechism, I desired the sacrament and its gifts and came to the Lord’s table the next Sunday without consulting with the pastor. He communed me without a pause.

    Another example, which I am guessing is going to receive considerable resistance here is the case of my nephew. He is being raised Roman Catholic and had his First Communion in the second grade after 18 months of weekly classes. He truly and honestly knew the RC teaching of the sacrament and believed it and desired the sacrament by the time he went to the altar. He was, and is an exceptional thinker and student. In his younger sister’s case, with the same training, I feel she was less prepared than he was–even though she is as wonderful as he. It’s a matter of discernment upon the part of the Pastor.

    In many different ways, I don’t see unity in our existing system. What I do see is a very low level of catechisis in the younger generations. Our pastors are not underscoring the importance of fathers (and in homes without fathers–mothers) teaching the Small Catechism in the home and failing to reinforce the lessons taught in confirmation. This being the truth, leads me to surmise a law answer of putting an age of accountability on the problem of lack of catechisis. I see it as a minimum standard or a bar that must be leaped over in order to feel good about inviting a child to the Lord’s Supper.

    In this question, I must broaden the scope of the question to you pastors. If you gave a quiz to your congregations on the Sacrament among communing members, how many of them would you guess would fail? If you took that step, would you then bar them from the Lord’s Table until they had proper understanding? Do you feel children younger that 13/14 incapable of understanding the sacrament if you personally guided them through the lesson? How many children have you confirmed out of social promotion or pressure from parents because they spent a requisite number of hours in your confirmation class that you know really aren’t ready for communion?

    In essence, I see this “age of accountability” (and I am purposely using the evangelical term even though I know it isn’t one we use) as a law answer to a gospel problem. I view it almost the same as when my son gets a trophy for every sports team he participates in. Do I believe confirmation is a good thing? Absolutely. I also believe with the proper guidance of those called as under-shepherds, younger children could absolutely rightly commune. It would simply take a bit of work upon the part of the shepherd and he would need to set expectations with both parents and students that simply because you go through my first communion class doesn’t mean you will automatically be invited to the Lord’s Supper.

    On another note, but in the same vein, I left my old congregation and joined a neighboring congregation primarily due to a newly called PLI pastor who doesn’t believe in adult confirmation and holds 2 4-hour “essentials” classes (with dinner included) before inviting people to the Lord’s Supper. He also told me that he’s “not worried that the children (in his confirmation classes) have ‘head knowledge’ of the Small Catechism–but have ‘heart knowledge’ of its basic concepts.

    When I arrived in my new congregation, to my horror, they had grape juice in some of the “jesus jiggers”. After a year in the congregation, I was invited to serve as an elder. (I had on several occaisions expressed a concern about grape juice to the pastor, prior to this.) Once in service as an elder, I officially addressed the situation with the Pastor and the board of elders with the CTCR ruling on it in hand and we removed the grape juice. (This was a tough thing as it had been in place since before the pastor had been called–I think around 30 years.) I was pretty pleased with this decision by the pastor and just before adult Bible study, I mentioned it to a retired pastor in our congregation who leads our Bible study. He gave me a surprising answer: “I don’t really have a problem with grape juice.” I paused for a moment and responded to him “It’s the Lord’s Supper, isn’t it? Who are we to be adding items to the menu?” It was his turn to pause before responding “You know, I have never thought of it that way.”

  29. NeeNee
    June 26th, 2013 at 13:27 | #29

    I am just a layman. But also a parent. Harking back to the days when my children were 11, 12 and 13 perhaps my oldest at that age could have qualified to commune, where understanding and self-examination were concerned. The other two? Not so much.
    Thought processes mature at different levels in different children, I get that. Which reminds me of the secular academic practice of deciding which children at which age take algebra and which stay in general math. Oldest took algebra in 8th grade, and geometry as a freshman. Middle child did algebra as a freshman and flunked out, and was placed in pre-algebra. Her sophomore year she did just fine with regular algebra. I think there’s a parallel here.

    At a neighboring LCMS parish, this practice seems to be going forward. From what I’ve read on their website, early communion is being implemented mainly to solve the problem of children forsaking church after they’re confirmed. The idea is that communing early will strengthen their faith to not fall away in worship. I gathered that this practice will ultimately be decided on a case by case basis, with parents making the decision. Again, remembering the immaturity of junior high kids, can you picture the razzing some kids will take if their parents say no to this? “Hey, Jason. What’s the matter? Why don’t you get to go up to communion?” Also what happens when the early communers go as a group to the parochial school’s church down the road that don’t commune that age?

    Before confirmation & communion, children are living in the realm of their baptismal grace. Yes, parents should be teaching them about forgiveness of sins and Christ’s death on the cross as payment for sins. And also about looking forward to the day when as mature Christians they will be able to take communion to strengthen & grow their faith on a weekly basis. I go back again to my first post above that the majority of today’s parents are simply not giving their children the very basics of faith. Jumping from practically no foundation & exposure to church, to being able to have communion is a huge leap. Better we should focus more on “meatier” Sunday School lessons and being on top of inactive parents who are neglecting their children’s spiritual welfare.

  30. Robert Hoffman
    June 26th, 2013 at 13:29 | #30

    @Carl Vehse #26
    If we adhere strictly to this policies and guidelines, should you be communing with your PLI missional brothers? I know I had a very hard time with that question when my shepherd was a PLI guy. The vacancy pastor before him allowed essentially open communion. My only comfort was that it is the Lord’s supper, its gifts wholly and utterly not dependent upon the sinner serving.

  31. Robert Hoffman
    June 26th, 2013 at 13:45 | #31

    rev. david l. prentice jr. :I believe what is one of the issues is the catholicity and uniformity of practice. This really is not much different from your discussions on contemporary and traditional worship.
    In Steadfast, the tone is pushing to uniformity of liturgy, for many reasons; same would go here.
    It may be permissible by Scripture to allow early communion, but what happens when we go from Church to Church? It puts the pastor and the Church goer in perhaps a compromising position.

    Pastor Prentice,

    Thank you for your thoughtful questions. In my earlier posts the one thing I failed to address is “walking together” I am a believer in this and that if pastors are deviating from our synodical positions, whether right or wrong, they are not “walking together” which is a serious problem in our church. The missionals are especially guilty of this. They utilize pastor discretion to do basically anything they want that fits in their “Present Future” outlook. Are pastors that implement an early communion practice guilty of the same thing? Some would say yes, others no. I firmly believe that “some” children are capable of rightfully communing early. I believe this position to be Biblical. I also have to admit that it is not a synodical position. I would like to see an official CTCR statement concerning this that every congregation would recognize and follow. If you don’t have an early communion class–fine. But if a “graduate” of early communion comes to your church, using your discernment, you commune the child as you would any other visitor.

  32. Carl Vehse
    June 26th, 2013 at 13:47 | #32

    If a careless or faithless LCMS pastor admits people of a non-Lutheran or faithless confession to the Lord’s Supper, it is they who will suffer and the pastor who will have to account to God.

    Lutherans who commune at that Lord’s Supper receive the blessings and promises of Christ’s body and blood.

    A pastor at an LCMS Lutheran church is under no Scriptural, confessional, or synodical obligation to commune a pre-confirmation child who previously had partaken in the so-called “early communion” at some other church in the Missouri Synod.

  33. helen
    June 26th, 2013 at 13:55 | #33

    @Carl Vehse #10
    @helen #8: Do Scripture or the Confessions specify 13-14 as the age for communion?

    No, but this is not the issue being discussed.

    Did they wait that long in Luther’s time?

    I don’t know, but this is not the issue being discussed.

    Since he said any seven year old knew what the church was, perhaps the seven year old was taught a good bit more than that; maybe even enough to examine himself, be absolved and take the Sacrament. Children weren’t always considered babies so late in life as they are now.

    “Perhaps… maybe… weren’t always…” That is not going to support a doctrine of early communion. Note that Luther did not say that any seven year old who knew what the church was could then have communion.

    Rick,
    If you are going to say “That’s too early for communion” you have to justify current practice… why 13-14? In the congregation I grew up in, it was simple: after the students completed 8th grade, they spent a year in classes with the Pastor and were thereafter confirmed. [Only 5-6 years earlier they spent the morning learning German and the afternoons learning their catechisms in German.]

    When almost all teenagers went to high school, they began to protest taking the whole year out and being older than the rest of their class. So the practice changed: two years on Saturdays were substituted.

    But those two years could easily have begun sooner and you might have more of the students attention if they did. [I’m not even hinting at infant communion!] However, something in the vicinity of 4th-6th grade could be considered. [If parents and SS would teach the Small Catechism from the time children were able to read, they would have it in their heads and the Pastor would be discussing the Catechism with people who had some knowledge of it.]

    [The Pastor who says that his confirmands don’t know who Adam and Eve were, or other elementary things, should have the parents in a parallel class, with the Sunday School teachers who haven’t done much either!]

    BTW, why wouldn’t the age Luther expected for communion/confirmation be a topic in this discussion?
    If it was earlier, as one post suggested, then there is Lutheran precedent. I was saying “perhaps” because I don’t know. The more educated in Reformation history should be able to tell me!

  34. Carl Vehse
    June 26th, 2013 at 14:31 | #34

    @helen #33 : If you are going to say “That’s too early for communion” you have to justify current practice… why 13-14?

    But I haven’t said that or anything like it. What I have said is that the so-called “early communion,” i.e., communion given to a pre-confirmation person (whatever age), is contrary to the Lutheran doctrinal position of closed communion.

    As for teenage catechumens who never learned who Adam and Eve were, why were they confirmed?

    BTW, one MAJOR SCANDAL in the Missouri Synod is the way many so-called “Adult Confirmation Classes” are taught in a 3 to 6-hour (including time for coffee breaks, lunch, bathroom breaks, and gabbing) session.

  35. Guillaume
    June 26th, 2013 at 14:54 | #35

    There can be no such thing as early communion. You are confirming someone in the faith when you commune them or you are not communing them. They are expressing a unity in the faith when they commune. Age has nothing to do with it. If they can’t confess the unity of faith then they shouldn’t be communing. If they can’t tell you what it is that they are receiving and why they want to receive it they shouldn’t be communing.

    How much does one need to know to be “confirmed” or “communed?” Easy peasy. They should be able to answer Luther’s 20 questions satisfactory.

    We can confirm or commune a lot earlier than we do.

    But to a different question, I would think that a thorough going through the explanation of the Small Catechism and acceptance of it ought to be a prerequisite for being a voting member of the congregation.

  36. Quasicelsus
    June 26th, 2013 at 15:55 | #36

    ***disclaimer – i’m only providing this as an example of the various movements in synod, as it pertains to the discussion.***

    do stick around for the whole thing. The LSB part may be of interest to some.

    http://www.lutheranlogomaniac.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/2009confirmation.pdf

  37. Carl Vehse
    June 26th, 2013 at 16:04 | #37

    Confirmation and First Communion in the Lutheran Church (p. 5):

    Should confirmation and first communion be separated? Why or Why Not?

    I have come to the conclusion that they should be separated for this reason: there is great teaching benefit in having a specific period of instruction in the middle school years (confirmation instruction historically), but there are many good theological reasons for communing children at a younger age. I am suggesting roughly 7-9 years old for first communion.

    It’s fun to make up your own theology.

  38. Rev. McCall
    June 26th, 2013 at 16:53 | #38

    @Carl Vehse #34
    I’m guessing that is meant for me (the Adam and Eve part). I did not say that I confirmed kids who didn’t know who Adam and Eve were. What I said was that I have had kids come into confirmation (meaning the beginning of instruction) not knowing who Adam and Eve were. After the first confirmation class (when I realized they did not know even Biblical basics) classes were lengthened by at least a year just to teach such things. By the time they were confirmed they knew who Adam and Eve were as well as much, much more!

  39. Carl Vehse
    June 26th, 2013 at 17:13 | #39

    @Rev. McCall #38 By the time they were confirmed they knew who Adam and Eve were as well as much, much more!

    Excellent!

  40. Rev. McCall
    June 26th, 2013 at 17:18 | #40

    @Guillaume #35
    Your point can’t be repeated enough. By communing someone you are publicly CONFIRMING that their faith is the same faith held by those also communing at the rail with them. To then have a Rite of Confirmation at some later point would be redundant and rather ridiculous since you had already publicly confirmed their faith when you allowed them to partake of the sacrament.

    Carl is spot on. Early communion prior to confirmation is contrary to our doctrine of closed communion.

    From the 1943 Small Catechism:
    328. Whom do we admit to the Lord’s Table?
    We admit to the Lord’s Table those who have received sufficient instruction and have given an account of their faith.

    329. What custom do we, therefore, observe?
    We observe the custom of confirmation.

    330. What is confirmation?
    Confirmation is the rite by which a baptized person renews his baptismal vow, publicly confesses his faith, and is received into communicant membership by the congregation.

  41. Rev. Weinkauf
    June 26th, 2013 at 18:08 | #41

    @Carl Vehse #26
    We are in agreement on the doctrine and practice of closed communion.

    What I am unclear is regarding how you can state:
    “The notion of “early communion” is contradictory to that Lutheran confessional doctrine and practice” and “What I have said is that the so-called “early communion,” i.e., communion given to a pre-confirmation person (whatever age), is contrary to the Lutheran doctrinal position of closed communion.”

    That is unfounded. Luther’s children and those children of our Lutheran fathers are communing before age 12 yet you say this is contrary to Lutheran doctrine and practice? Scripture tell us who is worthy and the Confessions state “young children” (which historically would be as young as 7 yrs. old) need to receive the Sacrament. If we SOLELY use Scripture and then Confessions, yes, a 7-10 year old under the right circumstances could be rightly, doctrinally admitted to the Supper.

    Is the point (which you would support) to not call it “Early Communion” and simply Confirm those after examination and the child could be as young as 7 years old?

  42. Matthew Mills
    June 26th, 2013 at 18:55 | #42

    @Carl Vehse #34
    Are you saying that Luther’s practice (first communion before confirmation) was “contrary to the Lutheran doctrinal position of closed communion?” because that seems problematic.

  43. Carl Vehse
    June 26th, 2013 at 19:07 | #43

    Post #4 referred to “the euphemistic ‘early’ implies any pre-confirmation age down to being toilet-trained” and noted that early communion is incompatible with the Lutheran doctrinal position of closed communion

    Post #11 stated, “The Lutheran confessional doctrine and practice of the Lord’s Supper does not set a specific age requirement for communicants.”

    Post #26 stated, “All communicant members of a Missouri Synod Lutheran congregation are required to have previously confessed their unconditional acceptance of the doctrine of the Lutheran Church (i.e., taken from Holy Scripture and exposited in the Lutheran Confessions) to be faithful and true.”

    Post #32 stated, “A pastor at an LCMS Lutheran church is under no Scriptural, confessional, or synodical obligation to commune a pre-confirmation child who previously had partaken in the so-called ‘early communion’ at some other church in the Missouri Synod.”

    Post #34 restated, “What I have said is that the so-called “early communion,” i.e., communion given to a pre-confirmation person (whatever age), is contrary to the Lutheran doctrinal position of closed communion.”

    @Rev. Weinkauf #41 : “Is the point (which you would support) to not call it “Early Communion” and simply Confirm those after examination and the child could be as young as 7 years old?”

    My point would be to follow the answers @Rev. McCall #40 provided to Questions 328, 329, and 330 in the Explanation to Luther’s Small Catechism (CPH, 1943, pp. 205-6).

    The age at which such catechesis and confirmation occur is not doctrinally restricted to a specific number. However, for the edification of the Church, and specifically within the churches belonging to the Missouri Synod, some typical age in common may be established. Again, communing children or adults before they have given, in their confirmation, public witness to their confession is contrary to the Lutheran doctrine of closed communion.

  44. Gary Hall
    June 26th, 2013 at 20:14 | #44

    I might do early communion if I was confident the parents would model closed communion. Which in our current state of practice would be unlikely. I would have to be in a congregation that has been firmly entrenched in the practice of closed communion.

  45. Auggie Stein
    June 26th, 2013 at 23:07 | #45

    1. Luther’s preface to Small Catechism requires six chief parts to be learned for (1) admission and (2) personal examination. No simple little instruction.
    2. Chemnitz is pretty detailed on Confirmation rite as church family affair to welcome souls to Communion. He is ignored by majority who claim all rites are pietistic. Check out Loci vol. 2.
    3. Luther signed onto two Confirmation rites — Admission through pastor acting in behalf of congregation (Melanchton) and public rite (Buegehagen).
    In short, as long as the office of keys is in place, pre-confirmation Communion does not really exist because the CONFIRM takes place one way or another. Instead, pre-confirmation communion is one type of confirmation with another type practiced later. Does that make sense?

  46. Jack
    June 27th, 2013 at 04:24 | #46

    Why should there be a problem when a family with an “early communion” child is going on vacation and will be visiting an LCMS congregation in another town?

    Why should the congregation being visited be faced with the challenge ten minutes before the beginning of its service, or worse yet, as the pastor comes to this child at the rail?

    The Synod’s website lists the phone numbers for each member congregation. The parent should call ahead, learn that congregation’s practice and decide whether to attend there, following its practice, even if it means that their child is unable to attend Communion. Show some respect for the flock that you are going to visit. That Shepherd must deal, first with the flock to which he is called. Why, exactly should he commune a nine year old from another flock when that is not the practice of the flock that he serves?

  47. Carl Vehse
    June 27th, 2013 at 07:33 | #47

    @Auggie Stein #45: “In short, as long as the office of keys is in place, pre-confirmation Communion does not really exist because the CONFIRM takes place one way or another. Instead, pre-confirmation communion is one type of confirmation with another type practiced later. Does that make sense?”

    Not to me. Your approach is analogous to saying a student practicing medicine without a license doesn’t really occur because in the act of practicing medicine the licensing takes place one way or another. Instead a medical student practicing a medical operation on a patient is one type of licensing to be a doctor with a more complete license to practice medicine granted after the student graduates from medical school.

    Or analogous to a couple who are not married to each other engaging in sexual intercourse because such a relationship is being sort of being married in one way or the other. Instead pre-marriage sexual intercourse is one type of marriage with another more formal type practiced later.

  48. Carl Vehse
    June 27th, 2013 at 08:49 | #48

    Or analogous to being told by the pilot, as your plane is taxiing to the runway, that he hasn’t graduated from pilot school yet, but that he really isn’t an unlicensed pilot because by flying the plane he would be considered as being a licensed pilot in one way or another. Thus his piloting that plane is one type of licensing with another type of pilot training and licensing to be done later, provided he doesn’t crash the plane he’s getting ready to fly now.

  49. Beloved in Christ
    June 27th, 2013 at 09:04 | #49

    @ Carl. Please re-read what was written. The reformers tackled an issue and allowed for freedom for the office of the keys (pastorally and corporately) to admit souls to the table. The office works through the minister in both circumstances. There is no lesser or greater.

  50. Joe Olson
    June 27th, 2013 at 09:25 | #50

    The problem with your position Carl is that you are making two invalid assumptions:

    1. that a public confession of the Lutheran faith can only come in confirmation.

    2. that what is taught in confirmation classes is the same as what is required of admission to the table.

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