Q&A — In Search of the Perfect Communion Statement

The following question came in using our Ask a Pastor button to the right. Click the button to submit your own questions for our pastors to answer.

I am curious to know what those here think. The item below is the statement regarding the practice of receiving Holy Communion at an LCMS congregation near me. I do not usually attend Divine Service at this congregation; I am a member of a different LCMS parish. At times it was expedient for me to attend at this congregation. Last time I was there this was the statement printed. I did not approach to receive the Sacrament based on this statement as it seems (to me) to imply an open communion. As I said, I’d like to know comments of others.
Thank you.
Peace of Christ be with you.

Regarding Holy Communion
Today we celebrate Holy Communion as instituted by Jesus the night before He died for our sins. We believe that the very Body and Blood of Jesus is given with the bread and wine in this Sacrament, for the forgiveness of sins and to strengthen our faith. Our Communion practice is in keeping with 1 Corinthians 11:26-29. Guests who share these beliefs and are repentant of their sins are invited to commune today. If you have any questions, please speak with the Pastor prior to the beginning of the service.

We thought that this presentation by Pastor Paul J Cain might lead to some discussion about communion statements, and give guidance as to what should and should not be included in same. Pastor Cain is responsible for the LHP Quarterly Blog.

 

In Search of the Perfect Communion Card Statement
Spring 2008 Wyoming District Pastoral Conference
Trinity Lutheran Church, Rock Springs, Wyoming
Rev. Paul J Cain

You’ve heard people say “I’m a card-carrying member of the LCMS!”

I thought it was an urban legend until I saw one…

 

Working toward A Perfect Statement?

  • Rather than perfect, how about a faithful one…
  • “Membership” cards, “LCMS,” are shorthand for a full examination before communing. (Some places have forgotten the practice of “announcing for Communion)
  • Unique challenges (e.g. Mormons) based upon a congregation’s location, history, context
  • Examine the statements of other sister congregations & those outside the LCMS
  • There are benefits to a common statement!

 

The CTCR recommended communion card:

Registration for Holy Communion
The Lord’s Supper is celebrated at this congregation in the confession and glad confidence that, as He says, our Lord gives into our mouths not only bread and wine but His very body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins and to strengthen our union with Him and with one another. Our Lord invites to His table those who trust His words, repent of all sin, and set aside any refusal to forgive and love as He forgives and loves us, that they may show forth His death until He comes.

The statement on the back of the card:

Because those who eat and drink our Lord’s body and blood unworthily do so to their great harm and because Holy Communion is a confession of the faith which is confessed at this altar, any who are not yet instructed, in doubt, or who hold a confession differing from that of this congregation and The Lutheran Synod–Missouri Synod, and yet desire to receive this sacrament, are asked first to speak with the pastor or an usher.

Common Wyoming District Additions to The LCMS CTCR Statement

  • We thank you for respecting our practice.
  • We welcome fellow Christians to sing, pray, and worship with us, but out of true, Biblical, Christian loving concern, we kindly ask that those who are not members of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod would not commune without first speaking with the pastor. We would not want our visitors to violate their own consciences or the public confession of faith that is made through their home Church member­ship. We would want, in obedience to God (Acts 2:42), that they first examine our teachings to determine if true fellowship exists between us.

An Expressed Concern About The LCMS CTCR Statement (on the rear of the card)

….and yet desire to receive this sacrament, are asked first to speak with the pastor or an usher.

Some have interpreted the last line to mean, “If I just speak with the pastor or an usher I will then be allowed to commune.”

 

Essential Elements in a Communion Statement

  • The Words of Christ!
  • The basic teachings of Scripture on the Supper found in the Small Catechism:
    • “This is My Body…This is My Blood” (Be more specific, rather than “Real Presence”)
    • Faith in these words: “Given and shed for your for the forgiveness of sins.”

 

Further Guidance

  • Holy Communion at this congregation is for…
    • the baptized Lutheran Christian
    • with Repentant Faith
    • who recognizes the Real Presence of Christ’s Body and Blood
    • who is in altar and pulpit fellowship with this congregation
      (Church Fellowship is Altar Fellowship)
  • Bible teaching on the Lord’s Supper
  • Unity in all teaching, not merely the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper

 

Helpful Ideas to Include:

  • Thank you for respecting our practice.
  • Speak to pastor:
    • Before service if LCMS to announce (call ahead)
    • Ask others refrain from communing, speak to pastor after
  • “If you are not a member of the congregation, you are asked to speak with the pastor or an elder or an usher before coming forward for the Sacrament.”
  • The LCMS and ELCA (or WELS, ELS, etc.) are not in fellowship with one another. (In the US, only in fellowship with the AALC (2007))
  • Pray for unity in Christ under Scripture.
  • We don’t want you to sin against your conscience.
  • Be clear. Brevity is best.

 

Other Concerns:

  • Where is this announcement located?
    Card, Pew, Bulletin (where?), Tract, Welcome Table, With an Elder or Usher?

 

Carefully Prepare:

  • Pastor (be available before service)
  • Elders
  • Ushers
  • Greeters
  • Members (when bringing family/friends)
  • Members (when visiting sister congregations)
    * A letter from you? Eucharist and Church Fellowship
    * Ask them to call ahead

 

Why Are Some Statements “Insufficient”?

  • When there is no statement at all.
    Saying nothing says a lot.
  • Some say: “Y’all come!”
    This equals “Open Communion”
  • All Lutherans OR All Baptized Christians
    Not all are in altar and pulpit fellowship
  • Four Parts: Sorry for sins, want to do better (amend sinful life), believe in Jesus as Savior, believe in the Real Presence
    (Repentance, Sanctification, and Faith are good, but it ignores agreement in all doctrinal articles)

 

A Quick Poll

[poll id=”6″]

 

A Wyoming District Communion Statement Example:

SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR In our worship today we celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion. We believe and teach the Real Presence of Christ – His body and blood in the Sacrament for our forgiveness and nurture. In the Sacrament we are joined in a very close, personal and intimate way with Christ and with one another as we receive the bread and wine, the body and blood of our Savior Jesus Christ. We believe that when a person partakes of the Sacrament he/she is also confessing his/her unreserved agreement with the doctrine and practice that is proclaimed from the altar and pulpit of which the Sacrament is administered. We therefore ask that all visitors and guests who may wish to receive the Sacrament or discuss Close Communion kindly speak to an Elder or the Pastor at a convenient time during the week.

 

Here is the entire powerpoint presentation made at the 2008 Wyoming District Pastor’s Conference:

 

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