Do We Really Practice Closed Communion in the LCMS, by Pr. Klemet Preus

September 29th, 2008 Post by

(Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of five posts by Pastor Preus on  Holy Communion.)

 

In May of 2007, a graduate of the Ft. Wayne seminary named Clint Stark produced a paper based on a questionnaire which he had sent to all pastors and seminary students in the LCMS. The questionnaire sought to ascertain the worship practices of the pastors of the synod including their practice of admitting people to the altar. Almost half (46.2 % or 3000 respondents) of those polled actually responded. This is a remarkably large number and provides data which have a high degree of accuracy. This is what Rev. Stark found.          

 

In the question about admittance to the Lord’s Supper Rev. Stark gave five options to the question: “Who do you admit to the Lord’s Supper?” These options were: “Baptized Christians, Lutherans, Only members of the LCMS and her sister synods in good standing, Those who confess the real presence, Anyone sincerely desiring to commune.”

 

Now such polls inevitably evoke protests from all quarters because the person writing the questions has not nuanced them so precisely as to capture the subtleties of 6000 different practices in the synod which correspond to the 6000 pastors of the church. But let’s just forgive Brother Stark if he had to limit the number of responses to five rather than 6000. What he discovered is that 50.2% of the pastors in the synod actually restrict communion to those with whom we are in fellowship. And over a third (35.53%) of the pastors apparently give communion to anyone who believes in the real presence. Setting aside for the sake of discussion that the confessions of the church do not use the expression “real presence” and that it seems to be of Reformed origins let’s just analyze the responses.

 

First, no other option of the five received even 10% of the vote. So the two dominant practices of our synod are: 1) communing only those in fellowship with us and 2) communing anyone who accepts the real presence.    


Second, we are hopelessly divided on the issue. Someone from the ELCA would presumably believe in the real presence. So would most Roman Catholics. Even Calvinists accept the real presence of Christ’s spiritual body and blood in the sacrament. So, many people are admitted to the altar at one LCMS church who are not at others.

 

Third, this is a practice where emotions run high and there is lots of discussion often angry. We really should try to agree.

 

Fourth, while Rev. Stark concedes that none of the options on the questionnaire is precisely the synod’s position, it seems obvious to me that admitting “only members of the LCMS and her sister synods in good standing” does reflect the historic view of the synod much more closely than any of the other options. It also seems quite obvious to me, regardless of my own personal views, that giving to all who believe in the real presence is not the official practice of the synod.    

 

Other data from the survey are worthy of comment. In the following districts less than 25% of the pastors actually practice closed communion which is the official position of our synod. Atlantic (23.33%), CNH 25.42%), Florida Georgia (20.83%), New Jersey (23.08%), Northwest (21.28%), Southeastern (20%), PSW (19.39%). These are all districts on the coasts. Now let’s be honest. The district presidents of these districts are supposed to carry out the will of the synod in their district. They are the ecclesiastical supervisors. Here is a divisive issue where vast numbers of their pastors simply don’t do what is the will of the synod and the DPS seem to be doing nothing at all. What kind of oversight is that? At the same time we should also recognize that these errant DPS did not get us into this sad state of affairs. What has happened over the decades is a type of civil disobedience in which pastors know our practice but simply do otherwise realizing that no one will actually do anything about it except perhaps some radical conservatives whining a bit.      

 

Given the size of the group which defies the synod’s position it seems that we are well beyond the point of enforcing policy unless we are willing to accept the consequence which would inevitably occur – division. Perhaps these DPS realize this. I could suggest that we dialog but it seems to me that we have done that for the last half century. I could also suggest that we decide what our position is and simply expect people to follow it. But we have tried that almost a dozen times as well.  

 

I will tell you what will not work. It will not work for leaders of the church to pretend that we are a united synod. People have strong views on the subject. Mutually exclusive and widely diverse opinions and practices are prevalent in our church body. We cannot expect peace unless someone figures out how to bring us together.

 

Those districts with the highest number of pastors who practice closed communion are Central Illinois (78.26%), Iowa East (85%), Montana (92.86%), North Dakota (83.33%), and Wyoming (84.85%).

 

Next time: The importance of Closed Communion.


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  1. September 29th, 2008 at 08:10 | #1

    Being from the WY District, I am surprised that only 84% practice closed communion. My believe was all of our churches in District practiced this way.

  2. Elnathan
    September 29th, 2008 at 08:50 | #2

    President Keischnick argued, before his election in Christian News, that the term “close” was preferable. As I understand it he continues to opt for “close.” However there are several relatively recent documents in the LCMS archives on line that use the term “close(d).” Interestingly enough, which ever term is used the LCMS does practice a form of closed communion by its own definition. Would that all of our pastors did the same for it is certainly clear enough

    “The official position of the Synod is that not only are members of other Lutheran churches with whom we are in altar and pulpit fellowship invited to commune with us, but also that in certain extraordinary cases of pastoral care and in emergencies members of churches not in fellowship with us may be given Communion.” http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=422

    It seems to me that as always “the devil is in the details.” What exactly does “extraordinary cases of pastoral care” mean? For many, it would seem, it was expressed that way to suggest that it would be a once in a life time event. For others, it means whenever someone with whom we are not in fellowship comes to the altar they are to be communed since their mere presence is an indication of some “extraordinary” situation.

    To clarify the situation a bit we might study and adopt the practice of the early church. Ehlert has an excellent book out on the subject (Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries) that, I think, the Seminaries use. While it is not an easy read, it is certainly within the scope of most devotees of this site. The early church practice, as I understand it, would be to baptize and confirmed one who was in a life threatening illness. If they should recover, although they WERE communed, they henceforth would not be again communed until they completed catechesis.

    As a pastor, I think that the greatest help to me in my early years would have been folk encouraging me to practice closed communion in Voters Assemblies and other public forums and NOT bringing their estranged parent or child to the altar who was no longer Lutheran, but a member of some methabaptacostal entity because they want the family together.

  3. September 29th, 2008 at 09:15 | #3

    Interesting.

    And we are considered the “dissidents.”

    Chesterton once said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

    Faithful doctrinal oversight works every time it is tried. Either it succeeds in calling the erring brother to repent, or it succeeds in bringing him under discipline; but either way it works.

    Apparently, most of our DPs aren’t even trying.

    Are these the same DPs urging us to “walk together”?

    TW

  4. Dave
    September 29th, 2008 at 10:30 | #4

    Being a layman in this journey, I can honestly say there is much “confusion” to what is “close” or “close(d)” in this in this day and age. If you practice “close” communion as it was thirty years ago, you are told it is “open” because of the limited choices you are given. The special situations are to be never used except in an emergency, while no consideration is given to the “objectionable” communicant that has been just “passed” at the rail, or left believing that he/she is unworthy. It is not always such a black and white decision as many seem to make it. What of the recently married Lutheran husband who attends his wife’s LCMS church regularly, but has not made the decision to leave his father’s church which is not in fellowship with the LCMS. What of the wife who was a member of the LCMS, but for reasons relating to a good marriage and parenting has joined another Lutheran church and now finds herself excluded from the rail of her parents church. Should she “dissent” against her husbands choice till it causes disunity? What of ….. and the list goes on and on. The tension remains, and a decision to be “closed” is the easy way out for a pastor to not have to deal with these special situations. The pastor who “gives in” to these situations is labeled a liberal and told he practices “open” communion. It is not as “black and white” as we often portray it. The Baptist, Methodist, or Catholic guest is a “no-brainer”, but what of the conservative Lutheran guest who is searching for a new church? The tension remains !!!!!

  5. Lutheran with heartburn
    September 29th, 2008 at 10:50 | #5

    Isn’t it sad that so many Lutheran pastors and church leaders practice or allow open communion under the guise of being loving and sensitive? Since when is it loving to give something to people which could be to their own harm if they are unprepared to receive it under the one true faith in Christ?

  6. rev. eckert
    September 29th, 2008 at 12:54 | #6

    Dave wrote: “The tension remains, and a decision to be “closed” is the easy way out for a pastor to not have to deal with these special situations.”

    I’m not sure in what way it could possibly be called the “easy way out.” Facing the ridicule and condemnation of those who prefer openness is not easy. Being called unloving and judgmental is not easy. Having people leave your church because you did not commune their relative is not easy.

    Just because a Pastor refuses to commune someone does not mean that he will thereafter refuse to deal with the situation and try to draw that person into fellowship through proper instruction. And I might add, taking the extra time to carefully instruct a person in the true faith is not easy either.

    Yes, there is a certain tension that exists. But the solution is not simply to give in to it. That IS the easy way out.

  7. GZ
    September 29th, 2008 at 13:30 | #7

    “What of ….. and the list goes on and on.”

    Indeed.

    What of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us, and who will come again to judge both the quick and the dead? How will those who allowed others to drink to their judgment be dealt with? How will those who comforted laity with lies that it is okay to not be in full agreement with the apostolic teachings of the one holy christian church be dealt with? Indeed, what of Christ? Whom shall I fear, love, and trust?

  8. Rev James Kusko
    September 29th, 2008 at 16:44 | #8

    Dave #4

    The admittance to the Lord’s table is closed to those who do not share our same confession. Being “worthy” is only part of the equation. Those from other “Lutheran” bodies that do not share our confession are in that matter no different than the Baptists, Methodist, or Catholics whom you claim are “no brainers.”

    I have a “conservative” non-member who regularly attends our church who understands that he cannot commune with us, I believe because of his affiliation with another Lutheran body. While he has attended for years, whatever has kept him from making the change and joining us is about to end. I expect him to join and commune. But until then, he understands, and I would not suggest that he do otherwise.

  9. September 29th, 2008 at 18:02 | #9

    Dave wrote:

    “The tension remains, and a decision to be “closed” is the easy way out for a pastor to not have to deal with these special situations. The pastor who “gives in” to these situations is labeled a liberal and told he practices “open” communion. It is not as “black and white” as we often portray it.”

    Everyone realizes that there will be pastoral exceptions. That is not the issue.

    Pastor Preus’ post highlights the dirty little secret that the exception has become the rule. Moreover, the exception has become an excuse to ignore biblical communion fellowship.

    I would think that if a prospective communicant were really a “conservative Lutheran guest who is searching for a new church,” they would agree with closed communion, and want to see it practiced in any church they were considering.

    Also, the debate over the terms “close” of “closed” seems to be a red herring.

    Whatever you call it, the question is: Would your practice permit someone of a heterodox public confession, or with a unbiblical understanding of “real presence” to commune to their judgment?

    TW

  10. Matthew Mills
    September 29th, 2008 at 18:29 | #10

    Pastors,
    Please help me out here. Can any of you give me an example or two of an “extraordinary case of pastoral care” or “emergency” that would lead you to commune someone with whom you were not in altar and pulpit fellowship? Emergency baptism I understand (and it has a long consistent history behind it), but who can explain “emergency communion” to me?
    Perplexed,
    -Matt Mills

  11. Heartbroken
    September 29th, 2008 at 18:29 | #11

    Pastor Preus,

    I recently came across an article in a back issue of Christian News that I found interesting.
    I was wondering if you would be so kind as to write about it in one of the next posts in this 5-part series?

    It went back to the Jewish practice of Passover, and explained that they drank from 3 cups during the meal celebration. It explained how Jesus himself dismissed Judas, an unbeliever, by telling him to go and do what he was about to do [betray Christ] quickly. This occured before the drinking of the final cup of the meal.

    The conclusion from this was that Jesus himself at the very first Holy Communion practiced “closed” communion.

    I would greatly appreciate your insight into this.

  12. Matthew Johnson
    September 29th, 2008 at 18:48 | #12

    In my estimation “cases of emergency” do not happen within the four walls of the sanctuary; they may happen on a person’s deathbed or on the field of battle, but not within the Divine Service.

    “Cases of pastoral discretion” also need to be handled by remembering that the pastor must be concerned for his own members first and foremost…would he want them going to any altar and communing there? Communion fellowship implies mutuality, doesn’t it? So, if a Roman Catholic (who should believe in the “Real Presence”) comes and is allowed to commune at an LCMS congregation, should that same pastor take his board of elders and commune at a Roman mass?

  13. September 29th, 2008 at 23:38 | #13

    All the staunch conservative talk about closed communion seems to fall right out the window with Eutychus when “confessional” pastors and professors travel to visit Lutherans in third world countries whom THEY identify as being “confessional”. In numerous cases, even though those Lutherans are not in altar and pulpit fellowship with the LCMS these men preach and celebrate the sacrament, having determined by their own judgment that those Lutherans were solid enough in their confession.

    Similarly, I have seen so-called confessional Lutheran pastors (and seminaries) commune Lutherans from church bodies with whom we have not corporately or formally established church fellowship — and invite them to preach and teach in their congregations.

    That “selective fellowship” door swings both ways. Some of us, apparently, are able to declare foreign nationals as being “confessional Lutherans” admitting them to the Lord’s Table without any formal or corporate recognition. These men ought not talk out of both corners of their mouths.

  14. JD
    September 30th, 2008 at 08:11 | #14

    I’d be curious if anyone has a single Bible verse to back up their points?!? That is something that seems to be severely lacking on this website.

  15. September 30th, 2008 at 10:51 | #15

    JD,

    You wrote:

    “I’d be curious if anyone has a single Bible verse to back up their points?!? That is something that seems to be severely lacking on this website.”

    Part of the reason no one has cited any bible passages on this thread is because Closed Communion is a settled question among Lutherans (even though many Lutherans refuse to recognize this).

    Indeed, Closed Communion is a settled question for the majority of the Christian Church. It has been the practice of the Church from the beginning. The term itself comes from the dismissal of the unbelievers and the uninstructed from the worship service and the closing of the doors before the Lord’s Supper.

    Since Closed Communion is a settled question, discussions of it don’t always include the biblical foundation, especially among those who claim to believe and practice it.

    Nonetheless, here are several bible passages that have been been the foundation for the Church’s historic and consistent practice of Closed Communion:

    1 Corinthians 10: 15-22
    I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?

    1 Corinthians 11: 27-30
    Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.

    Romans 16:17
    I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.

    2 John 10-11
    If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

    TW

  16. JD
    September 30th, 2008 at 11:23 | #16

    Seems rather a stretch to say that anyone who does not agree 100% with the doctrine of the church should not commune.

    By using these verses do you mean to imply that communion at a Baptist church is the communion of Demons?

    One Holy and Apostolic Church… does not equate to only the Lutheran’s does it!!

  17. September 30th, 2008 at 12:13 | #17

    JD,

    Who said that “anyone who does not agree 100% with the doctrine of the church should not commune”?

    Who said that one holy and Apostolic Church “equates to only the Lutheran’s does it”?

    Of the Baptists’ supper, I would say exactly what Paul says of the Corinthians’ supper: “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.” (1 Corinthians 11:20)

    What would you call it when Christians gather ostensibly to eat the Lord’s Supper, but openly deny the Lord’s Words and Scripture’s teaching about the Supper?

    You asked for bible passages; I gave them to you. It seems your argument is with the passages.

    TW

  18. rev. eckert
    September 30th, 2008 at 12:40 | #18

    Matt Mills #10 wrote:
    Pastors,
    Please help me out here. Can any of you give me an example or two of an “extraordinary case of pastoral care” or “emergency” that would lead you to commune someone with whom you were not in altar and pulpit fellowship? Emergency baptism I understand (and it has a long consistent history behind it), but who can explain “emergency communion” to me?

    Matt:
    Good questions. There really is no such thing as “emergency Communion” since the Supper is not necessary for salvation in the same sense that Baptism is.

    One example I have heard (but never experienced myself – I am yet to find an example of an exceptional circumstance in 12 years of the ministry) is a person who has undergone instruction, and is ready to be accepted into fellowship, yet suddenly takes ill and is on his deathbed. The only thing really preventing him is that he has not made it to the church to give a public confession of the faith. On his deathbed he requests the Eucharist. He is not technically in fellowship. Yet the Pastor may choose to make an exception in that case. This would still not be an “emergency Communion” – yet still, I think, a valid exception.

    Other similar exceptions may exist.

    Hope this is helpful.

  19. Matthew Mills
    September 30th, 2008 at 13:38 | #19

    Pastor Eckert,
    I thought it was likely to be more profound than a desire not to offend Sally’s ELCA Niece. Though it’s obviously too late, perhaps this would be a good place to sneak in Luther’s “exceptions make bad laws” comment.
    Thanks,
    -Matt Mills

  20. Steve
    September 30th, 2008 at 16:56 | #20

    As per close(d) communion being a “settled” issue for Lutherans …
    In the parish I struggled with our particular definition of this settled issue of “close(d) communion” as restricting anyone formally outside our own church body. I was taught to restrict someone from the ELCA church down the road whom I know and whose confession I know to be sound but happens to belong to the other church for family considerations, but at the same time welcome a fellow LCMS member who comes home for Christmas and hasn’t been seen for a year…. but because he’s LCMS, I should be satisfied communing him/her. I restricted the ELCA member, and welcomed the LCMS member, as I was taught, but I’m not sure I should have been satisfied with either decision. I’ve often thought that our own particular expression of close(d) communion is stretching the Scriptural passages a bit since denominations did not exist at the time Paul wrote these words in I Corinthians nor did they exist until the time after the Reformation. Pre denominations beliefs were, at times, quite divergent, yet because there was only one church, all communed. For example, the church hadn’t really even tried to define the “real presence” prior to the Fourth Lateran Council, and given the discussion which ensued it is quite obvious that there were multiple opinions on the subject. Nonetheless, all were part of the one church and all communed. (Has anyone done any research to know if Luther, for instance, communed or communed with individuals with which he disagreed theologically? Do we have examples of him making similar “hard” decsions about not communing certain individuals?) There were no denominations with which to easily point to disagreement at the time, so by what standards was close(d) communion carried out pre denominational splits? Just seems to me that we’ve taken it a bit far for the purpose of being able to make an easy practical decision: LCMS? Yes. Anyone outside? No. I think a more responsible practice is what we used to do… announce for communion and visit with the pastor so he has the chance to truly preside over the sacrament with a fair degree of knowledge as to the individual’s confession and belief. In my mind this is truly pastoral and gives value to the individual’s spiritual condition beyond a signature on a piece of paper.
    Finally, a question; Do we truly believe that when we commune we join with all the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven and (presumably) all others who commune on this earth thru, by and with the body and blood of Christ? And is this ‘communion’ restricted only to LCMS lutherans? And if not, why do we confess it, but refuse to show it at the table? An honest question I’m not sure I’ve seen addressed.

  21. September 30th, 2008 at 18:12 | #21

    Steve:

    I suggest you do a little more research.

    The early Church was actually far more restrictive in its communion fellowship than even Lutherans are today. You had to be examined by the priest or bishop. The uninstructed weren’t even allowed to stay and observe the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

    The teaching of the real presence was firmly in place with Christ’s Words “This is my body… this is the blood of the new covenant” and Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 10 & 11 (about 1,200 years before the 4th Lateran Council).

    Luther wouldn’t even shake Zwingli’s hand and let the entire Marburg Colloquy fail over the their disagreement over the meaning of “This is my body.” I doubt they were communing together.

    The Lutheran teaching and practice of closed communion doesn’t restrict fellowship to LCMS Lutherans.

    TW

  22. Matthew Mills
    September 30th, 2008 at 18:20 | #22

    At Marburg in 1529 (after failing to come to an agreement on the real presence) Luther told Zwingli “We are not of the same spirit” and wouldn’t shake his hand. I’m pretty sure they didn’t commune.

  23. Matthew Mills
    September 30th, 2008 at 18:22 | #23

    Whoops, I should refresh first and then comment.

  24. Anonymous
    September 30th, 2008 at 18:33 | #24

    Rev. Wilken,

    So it’s okay for ELCA Lutherans to commune with WELS Lutherans to commune with LCMS Lutherans, provided the LCMS pastor examined all of them? What will the examination consist of? OR am I completely misreading you?

  25. September 30th, 2008 at 20:14 | #25

    Anonymous,

    Yes, you are misreading me.

    TW

  26. Steve
    September 30th, 2008 at 21:00 | #26

    Thanks for the obvious, extreme, straw man Zwingli at Marberg example. I was looking for something a little more challenging.
    How would communion fellowship have been practiced with someone whose ideas (when exhibited today) would result in a different confession of faith (later Melancthon theology for instance… or ?? ) Or better yet, how was it handled with those who may have had some sympathy with Zwingli, but nonetheless came to the rail on Sunday and no one knew the wiser because there was only one church (No Baptist logo on their forehead yet). Although the early church was more restrictive I doubt that Luther’s church was. If it was half the pastors shouldn’t have communed given Luther’s indictment over their pathetic knowledge of theology. I just think the practice of closed communion has been more diverse and complicated than it is sometimes made out to be.
    As for our closed communion practice, I was taught that it does extend beyond LCMS but only to those we are also in fellowship with???… which is a pretty short list in the US. Now back to my last question…when we are confessing that during the supper we join the angels, archangels and all the company of heaven (and presumably) those connected here on earth by Christ’s body and blood, are we referring only to LCMS lutherans and those we are in fellowship with? If not…… why then would we, through our current closed communion practice, separate what Christ has already brought together? It’s an honest question. I’m not trying to be difficult.
    For the record I agree with closed communion…the church has always had it and always should. But the church hasn’t always put it into practice the same way. Sometimes I think there has to be a better way than to hand out a free “go to communion” card simply because one is LCMS (or one of those we are in fellowship with). It seems to be a minimally responsible way to carry out such an important part of pastoral practice.

  27. September 30th, 2008 at 22:13 | #27

    Steve:

    What “more responsible” way would you suggest we observe and maintain communion fellowship?

    Be specific. How could the LCMS’s communion practice be made more faithful to Scripture’s teachings regarding the Lord’s Supper, fellowship and church discipline?

    TW

  28. Steve
    September 30th, 2008 at 22:47 | #28

    I mentioned in my earlier post that the practice of “announcing” to the pastor prior to receiving the Lord’s supper was a good practice we used to have in the LCMS which allowed the pastor more responsible, personal oversight…
    The allowance for pastors to provide “exceptions” for individuals he is familiar with from outside the officially recognized church fellowship bodies is also worthwhile, but very often criticized….
    I have some other musings…. but I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers, that’s why I’m asking questions. I am truly seeking knowledge…. but seeming to get more challenges and defensive responses than answers…
    I’ve asked one theological question regarding our pracice … twice now…that no one seems to want to answer. ???

    “Now back to my last question…when we are confessing that during the supper we join the angels, archangels and all the company of heaven (and presumably) those connected here on earth by Christ’s body and blood, are we referring only to LCMS lutherans and those we are in fellowship with? If not…… why then would we, through our current closed communion practice, separate what Christ has already brought together?”

  29. September 30th, 2008 at 23:50 | #29

    Steve:

    You asked, “why then would we, through our current closed communion practice, separate what Christ has already brought together?”

    What are you suggesting? That we commune every one who calls themselves Christian?

    TW

  30. SteadfastLutherans
    October 1st, 2008 at 07:14 | #30

    Steve #28,

    In addition to the rhetorical question of Pastor Wilken, also consider that your last point has a simple answer. In heaven here is no false doctrine, and so yes, we are in fellowship with the heavenly host.

    Pastor Rossow

  31. Steve
    October 1st, 2008 at 09:49 | #31

    TW:
    No.

    Pr. Rossow;
    Yes, I understand that the church triumphant is a given… however I have been taught that this connection or communion is also present with the church on earth since it is Christ’s body and blood that causes or effects the communion. In other words, it is my understanding that thru Christ’s body and blood we are connected to others also sharing Christ’s body and blood (whether we like it or not)since his body and blood are present and is not divided. Yes? or ?

  32. SteadfastLutherans
    October 1st, 2008 at 12:53 | #32

    Steve,

    Thanks for the clarification. Good question. Here is a point of comparison that may help.

    I am a sinner. As you have said, you commune with me via our common partaking of the Lord’s body and blood. However, that does not excuse you to commit the sins I have committed because we have communed together.

    Likewise, Bob the conservative Episcopalian communes and truly receives the body and blood of Christ but he still holds a heterodox view of justification. You and I have communed with him by our common partaking of the Lord’s body and blood but that does not excuse us to hold his heterodox teaching or to welcome him to our table.

    We must still separate false teaching from true even though there is joint communing albeit at different tables. No matter how we look at it, Christ is not the author of false teaching and we are to mark it and separate from it with vigilance.

    Pastor Rossow

  33. Dave
    October 1st, 2008 at 14:08 | #33

    Now we are starting to make sense of close(d) communion! To “mark” as erring compared to “eating and drinking to their judgement” are a long way apart. Thanks for all the good discussion.

    Dave

  34. October 1st, 2008 at 14:11 | #34

    I would like to ask a more basic question – what exactly is closed vs. open communion? I thought I knew, but recently had a discussion with a pastor that surprised me with an answer I didn’t expect. The definition was basically this: “We have a communion statement in our service bulletin, that is closed communion. Open communion is not having a statement and anyone is free to commune.”

    I thought it revolved more around the pastor, in the congregations stead, made the determination on whether or not the communicant could commune with the congregation, out of a concern for common doctrine and compassion for the communicants spiritual well being. Thus the decision was not with the communicant, but with the congregation – via the pastor – in the interest of good order.

  35. Steve
    October 1st, 2008 at 14:17 | #35

    Pr. Rossow,
    Thanks so much for the informative and respectful answer to my question. I appreciate it very much and it has given me much to chew on.
    For whatever it’s worth … from my end, this type of respectful discussion goes a lot further with me than responses that are either condescending and sarcastic, or answer an honest question with another question… Thanks Pr. Rossow.

  36. SteadfastLutherans
    October 1st, 2008 at 14:17 | #36

    Ron,

    Good question. Your hunch is correct. Communion statements are good but they are no substitute for one on one communication between pastor and communicant.

    Wish I had time to write more. Keep up the good steadfast work in the northland there “eh?”

    Pastor Rossosw

  37. October 1st, 2008 at 14:30 | #37

    I’m not quite that far north! ;-)

    This pastor (not our head pastor) did say that the pastor discussing with the communicant was preferable, but not necessary for your practice to be called closed. Does a simple statement (even the one recommended by the LCMS) in the bulletin make it closed?

  38. SteadfastLutherans
    October 1st, 2008 at 15:14 | #38

    Ron,

    I would day no. Closed communion is the practice of not communing those outside of the true confession of the faith. The bulletin announcment is a tactic but is not the thing itself. Is it a sufficient tactic? Not really, but it is a helpful one.

    I guess you have to at least be north of the twin cities to be considered up north. I should know better since I grew up about 90 minutes south of you across the border in Iowa.

    Pastor Rossow

  39. Martin Luther
    October 4th, 2008 at 11:52 | #39

    He is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words, “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

    not being lutheran…or confessional…or members…or conservative…or whatever term of division you want to use to keep people away from the table

  40. rev. eckert
    October 4th, 2008 at 18:33 | #40

    The question of whether a person is “worthy and well-prepared” is an entirely different question than the question of who should be admitted to the the Table.

    Any careful reading to what was written before should reveal that abundantly.

  41. Martin Luther
    October 6th, 2008 at 11:57 | #41

    Methinks that he who is worthy and well prepared is exactly the question of who should be allowed/admitted to the Table.

  42. October 6th, 2008 at 21:04 | #42

    Methinks no one is worthy and well prepared. I know I never feel worthy, and even if I did I wouldn’t be. Fortunately God took care of that for me.

  43. rev. eckert
    October 7th, 2008 at 10:02 | #43

    “Methinks that he who is worthy and well prepared is exactly the question of who should be allowed/admitted to the Table.”

    Are there any reasons for this assertion? Or are we all to be persuaded by human opinion? “Methinks” is simply an expression of opinion, binding on no one.

    “Martin,” if you think you have a valid point, show why the argumentation given by Pastor Preus is incorrect. But logically speaking, the Catechism quote you give does not address the issue (admission to the Scrament) at all – does not even mention it. The burden of proof is on you to show that the only consideration for admission is worthiness. In light of such Scriptures as Romans 16:17, I don’t see how that is possible.

    The real Martin disagreed with you, so please do not act as if his Catechism supports a position that contradicts him.

  44. Dan Ditto
    January 3rd, 2012 at 16:18 | #44

    You guys ever read that Christ guy?

    This Young Pastor (not a member of the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church to my knowledge) communed with everybody at this last supper event (he threw it without Synod permission). He communed with everybody there, INCLUDING JUDAS! He didn’t ask for any credentials or throw anybody out! To top this outrage, he told everybody in the room (all were rummored to be non ordained Jews, serving in Pasoral Offices) to do this often in remeberance of me).

    Where doe this guy get off! First he gives all the Pharasies a hard time about the tastles they need to wear to seperate themselves from the humans that were conceived in sin and not perfect like us, and WE FORGIVE HIM.

    Then he tells us that a Widow’s mite is as good of a donation as a bunch of nice clean gold fresh from the Temple Money changers, if nothing else he is a lousy Church administrator, how did this guy ever get through St. Louis Seminary.

    This guy may be the worst Pastor, since Martin Luther, a young Pastor who believed that this Jesus’s Sacrafice was done for the BENEFIT OF SINNERS!!!

    These two seem to imply that sinners can go to communion, because this Christ guys says that if they believe, his sacrafice will forgive their sin, even unworthy sinners, just like honored Pastors. It seems that these two think everybody belongs to Christ.

    Makes ones head almost explode, GRACE that’s the whole religion, Lutheranism, Christianity, in one beautiful undeserved, unearned word. Nobody in the history of communion including Adolf Hitler ever died of taking communion (in fact it’s probably the other way aroud), it has been beneficial and the prescription for Sin, since at least the reformation. So how many sinners asking to Commune did we turn away with the blessing of a man? How many friends did your congragants bring to Crists table to be publicly told they are unworthy by you and that they shouldn’t do this often in rememberance of him?? As the kids say OMG, probably better to be thrown into the sea with a millston around your neck.

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