Open Communion and Same-Sex Union Advocates United in Faulty Understanding of “Love”

love“Pastor, my friends are visiting over the weekend. May they take Communion?” Implicit in the request is the assumption that love does not withhold Communion from guests. This is what many faithful pastors have been told by advocates of hospitality.

Biblical revelation, the confessional witness, and historic evidence attest to the fact that Holy Communion is offered to those who are of the same confession of faith. This unity of faith is not based on a hasty exchange two minutes before the beginning of the Divine Service whereby people talk about what is in their hearts.

We never, ever, look at or judge a person’s heart. And so in our discussion we don’t ask the individual what they believe in order to commune. We ask people what pulpits and altars they have joined themselves to for regular normal spiritual nourishment. It is loving and only reasonable to assume that people attend ELCA churches because they agree with and believe what is taught at ELCA pulpits and altars; that Methodist, Baptists, Catholics, etc., also believe what their pulpits and altars proclaim—after all, why else does one become a member of a particular church? I am aware that what has just been written is an assumption but it is a charitable assumption. To commune implies that all parties believe, teach, and confess the same doctrine.

This unity in belief as a prerequisite for Communion admittance is not a Missouri Synod penchant. Doctrinal unity as a prerequisite for Communion attendance is taught from the Scriptures and in our Lutheran Confessions. Early Church Fathers taught this as well. Here is Justin Martyr of the second century (c. 100 – 165 AD) and this is what he wrote:

But we, after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, … then [is] brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, ….[1]

And this food is called among us Εὐχαριστία [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined.[2]

Observe these two questions in our Synodical Catechism which address the need and reality of doctrinal unity at the altar:

296.What is the benefit offered in this sacrament? As Christians partake of this sacrament together, they make a solemn public confession of Christ and of unity in the truth of His Gospel.

305. Who must not be given the Sacrament?  The Sacrament must not be given to the following: Those of a different confession of faith, since the Lord’s Supper is a testimony of the unity of faith.

To offer the Holy Things of God to people based solely on “love” irrespective of doctrinal definition, that is, doctrinal unity or agreement, is to irresponsibly administer the mysteries of God (1 Cor 4:1). “Love” without concrete doctrinal agreement leads to licentiousness in doctrine and, as shall be shown, morality. And this promiscuousness in doctrine and morality is led down the garden path by a “love” which serves radical individualism (which is not love at all) for it is absent of parameters and true love has parameters from God’s Word.

“Pastor, love would have you give Holy Communion to our guests.” Tis true, tis true we love people but we love them according to their station or office in life. My love for my wife expresses itself quite differently from my love for my children, which expresses itself quite differently from my love to those who hold the office of parent, friend, parishioner, neighbor, and the like. Pastors love parishioners in a different manner then the way they love non-members. Each act of “love” is guided by the office or station in life of that individual who is the object of our love.[3] Sin comes about when we violate the boundaries of our office or station in life.

We really are loving a person when we kindly, gently, and with patient explanation emphasize that in no manner are we judging a person’s salvation but from Holy Scripture a prerequisite to Holy Communion is doctrinal unity. And, with no arrogance or pride, we kindly and sadly inform the individual before us that we are not able to have communion with those whose confession of faith embraces error.

But love does not leave the situation there. In a loving spirit and gentle manner we, where possible, invite such individuals to Adult Information Classes for we desire to reach all and it is our heartfelt desire to have people commune with us. All this is motivated by love for what our Savior Jesus has said and love for our neighbor that they not hold to things contrary to what Jesus has given. After all, the God of love—Jesus—exhorts us to judge the doctrine (Mt 7:15-20) which is proclaimed from the pulpits and altars to which these individuals have joined themselves. Remember also, that contrary to the world, love does not define God instead, God defines love and he does so in his Word.

This desire to have communion fellowship based on love detached from doctrinal teaching or parameters is the very same logic and identical thinking fueling the same-sex movement within our nation. Promoters of same-sex unions also advocate a love detached from concrete parameters or doctrine which is revealed in creation and Scripture. They lead people to violate the boundaries of their station in life which was established at conception in their mother’s womb. Liberalism has the same dress irrespective of the discipline it seeks to corrupt for it is always a spirit of radical individualism and as such, rebellion before God.

Love is not sufficient to commune an individual and nor is love sufficient to marry an individual. You need concrete doctrine or definition(s) to truly love and apart from concrete definition such love is a sham and pretense. The concrete definition for marital union is that it is to be between a man and a woman.

And “since all you need is love” without any definition we are now seeing polygamy laws being jettisoned in Utah, throuple[4] nuptials in California, a woman in England who recently married herself!, and, stay tuned, in time we will see marriage between a human and their pet.

How prophetic and destructive were the “Fab Five” in 1967 when John Lennon penned his song, Love. The sentiment and attitude of these lyrics have swept throughout the Western world and is gaining converts all the time. Take a quick read:

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It’s easy …
All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

The Beatles crooned that with a spirit of “love”, “there’s nothing you can do that can’t be done” and this is being implemented in the disparate disciplines of Communion with open Communion, and same-sex unions with open definitions of marriage. Whether one is dealing with an understanding of Communion based on hospitality or same-sex unions, the logic is sadly identical. So, beware of pleas to “love” irrespective of stations as laid forth in creation and Scripture. It is a gateway which leads where the holy ought not go.

In Christ,

Pastor Weber

 

[1] “Justin Martyr,” Chapter 65. Administration of the Sacraments, New Advent: Church Fathers, <<http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0126.htm>> [Accessed October 29, 2014]

[2] “Justin Martyr,” Chapter 66. Of the Eucharist, New Advent: Church Fathers, <<http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0126.htm>> [Accessed October 29, 2014]

[3] Holger Sonntag first gave me this example speaking at the: 27th Annual Lutheran Free Conference, Saturday, October 25, 2014, Redeemer Lutheran Church, St. Cloud, MN.

[4] A marriage between three partners.

About Pastor Karl Weber

Karl has been serving St. Paul’s Richville LC and St. John’s, Ottertail, MN since Labor Day, 2004. He was raised in the Roman Church receiving his BA from Fordham University. Before going to seminary he was a computer programmer in Minneapolis. He served as a short term missionary in Guatemala and Kenya, East Africa. He spent time as a member of the ELCA and studied two years at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN pursing his M. Div. before transferring to the LCMS for theological reasons and continuing his studies at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne. He was ordained in 1991 and earned his D. Min. in May 2002 from the same institution. He has contributed study notes to The Lutheran Study Bible. He enjoys deer hunting, going to the gym, swimming, and reading. He is married to Mary and has five wonderful children.

Comments

Open Communion and Same-Sex Union Advocates United in Faulty Understanding of “Love” — 15 Comments

  1. Great stuff. I’m reading Werner Elert’s Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries, highly recommend it.

  2. Excellent article pastor Weber.

    Along with the issue of faithfulness to God and His Word is one of conscience. (For illustration purposes the following example constrained within the LCMS)

    In former times it used to be that an LCMS pastor or parishioner carried a basic assumption that if one was a member of a fellow LCMS congregation then we were in doctrinal fellowship and could therefore in good conscience partake of the Lord’s Supper at another LCMS congregations altar. It could be argued whether or not the premise for this assumption of fellowship was indeed valid or whether further questions needed to be raised. But truly fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is not ultimately dependent on synodical fellowship or perfection in unity, but in Christ Jesus alone. This makes what we as individuals and congregations publicly confess all the more important!

    Adherence and submission to the Apostolic witness and testimony is essential for true unity. As the influence of heterodox doctrine and practice invades our synod one can no longer make that general assumption even with neighboring congregations in the same town, city or district.

    This fact grieves me deeply but my hope is in God who raises the dead not in the realization of outward unity or confession but I will always pray for such. May God in Christ have mercy on us poor sinners.

    The fracturing we are witnessing goes far deeper than I think many in the pews realize. In time, and maybe sooner than any of us want, these things will result in the tearing apart of our synod and congregations at a level most of us have not seen since Seminex.

    Peace in our Resurrected Lord,
    Noye

  3. @Noye Balmer #1
    In former times it used to be that an LCMS pastor or parishioner carried a basic assumption that if one was a member of a fellow LCMS congregation then we were in doctrinal fellowship and could therefore in good conscience partake of the Lord’s Supper at another LCMS congregations altar.

    You still are in fellowship! Any church body is in fellowship with itself (unless you are in statu confessionis).

    If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. Mark 3:24

  4. Same-Sex unions violate not only the 6th Commandment, but also the
    sanctity of marriage as instituted by God. God’s plan for marriage is
    one man and one woman who commit to each other for a life-long union.
    Homosexuality is condemned in both the Old Testament and the New
    Testament. Sodomy is an abomination to the Lord.

    Same-Sex marriage advocates define marriage as a union of two
    people who love each other. This new definition is meant to include
    two gays or two lesbians. God’s institution of marriage cannot be
    changed by the cultural pressure to tolerate sinful behavior.

  5. In Bible Study just this past week, Pastor addressed this issue of “Love”. In our society now it seems like all we need is love. I got a children’s song going in my head. Hard to get it out.

    Love, love, love
    That’s what it’s all about,
    God loves us, we love each other,
    Father, mother, sister, brother,
    Everybody sing and shout!
    That’s what it’s all about.

    Who’d have guessed this children’s song would become the #1 doctrine in so many of our churches?

  6. Excellent article–really needed!

    A question: what does it mean for those LCMS members at the table when other non-members are allowed to partake of the Supper–meaning intentionally being allowed to commune despite pastor knowing they are not Lutherans? I know it’s still given to us, but does it affect those LCMS members around the non-members at the table in any way as we’re not one in faith, but we’re acting like it?

    Currently I’m in a situation in my LCMS church where the pastor is communing several ELCA members as they are now attending our church because of a blowup in their congregation. I spoke with him and the elders regarding this and the pastor made it clear that he will commune anyone who comes to the rail (even those he doesn’t know) and talk to them later, after the service. He told me it was “unloving” to withhold the sacrament from someone at the rail. I explained how his practice was damaging and how it goes against Scripture. Pastor/elders told me if I didn’t like it, to go somewhere else. The problem being, this is the most “conservative” LCMS church in the entire area. I still want to communion, but it’s uncomfortable seeing this happen every week.

    Does anyone have any advice for this sort of a situation? I was thinking of sharing this article with them, however–I have a gut feeling it won’t be welcomed as they made it very clear my comments were not appreciated and if I didn’t like how things are, I can leave. I don’t want to do more damage than good.

    Unfortunately, I’m thinking what I’m experiencing is mostly likely to be quite common in the LCMS churches today as we are in the age of “let’s just love ’em to Jesus!”—to the detriment of their soul.

    P.S. The pastor has asked the communing ELCA members to take catechism classes to become members and they’ve refused to do so. To me, they are making a mockery of Holy Communion and I’m concerned for them.

  7. @LCMS Communicant #5
    Does anyone have any advice for this sort of a situation?
    There is no other advice than to read in the Bible and follow the commands of the Lord. That’s the blessed solution. Whatever I think or any other person thinks doesn’t matter. Unfortunately the biblical teaching on fellowship which the Missouri fathers upheld is sadly obscured and forgotten today, as you can see from the answer on question #305 in the Synodical Catechism quoted in the post.

  8. @LCMS Communicant #5
    This is what I say:

    01) Does the Pastor post the Communion statement? Is it good?

    02) Yes, first time at the rail, the pastor can be “fooled”, but only once. A Pastor is in charge of the Holy Meal. Yes, the pastor may ask a question or two at the rail, and make a split second decision. You must leave it to him to decide at that moment, he does have pastoral discretion. Oh trust me, God will have a chat with him if wrong.

    03) Once the “cat is out of the bag”, either begin classes toward membership or step away.

    In you PS statement. These members are excluded and should never commune.

    How horrible for a Pastor or “so called Elder” to say, “go somewhere else.” I hope they did not say that.

    You called them on what you saw. The Pastor should respect you and do what is right. And perhaps some more astute and more grounded in good practice should consult with this pastor.

  9. @Pastor David L. Prentice Jr. #7
    How horrible for a Pastor or “so called Elder” to say, “go somewhere else.” I hope they did not say that.

    He probably did. A Pastor said it to a Bible class about 15 years ago. He announced that he intended to commune his sister and her elca pastor husband, and “Anyone who didn’t like it could find the door.” Several of us did. [It was likely not going to be limited to those two, but even if it was…]

  10. @helen #9
    Now if that did occur, that pastor should go to candidate status, and then out the door. That is shameful. I do believe pastors need a class (or perhaps listen to their Moms and Mom surrogates) on how to relate to people in a kind way.

    If my Mom was alive and she heard me say that to a parishioner, a swift (and loving) swat to the side of the head would be in order.

  11. Rev. Weber,

    Thank you for this at once timely and well-past-time article. This issue is about to come to a head where I am.

    Confession is irrelevant in the face of practice. Whatever your words say, your practice reveals your belief. In our situation the practice is “all comers”. In a very recent conversation where this was beginning to be addressed, the (defensive) question was, “Who’s responsible?” The effort was made to place the responsibility on the communicant–on the flock–in exoneration of the shepherd and elders. After all, the Bible tells each person to examine HIMSELF…

    Rev. Prentice, your advice to LCMS Communicant is well intentioned and reasonable–where the system is working. But what does one do where the structure is designed to slough off concerns, and authority–properly called and installed authority–will not hear? I know the White Horse Inn and to a lesser degree Issues, Etc. answer is find somewhere else. That is easy for a confessional pastor to say, because wherever he is, it is possible. But LCMS Communicant is not the only one in a situation where THERE IS NO PLACE ELSE.

    This raises another question which I’ve nowhere seen addressed. Part of the reason for my staying, struggling and suffering is, this is the peculiar local Body into which I have been grafted. Do I take choosing to tear myself (and my family) out of this Body (into which–I think I can say–I have in some manner been called (not confusing with The Call)) and grafting in elsewhere lightly?

    Request further advice on the topic of closed communion, particularly defense strategies. Anyone willing to pick up the other two questions of where/if to go as well?

    Thank you again Rev. Weber and the other clergy on this site for their virtual care, but particularly am I grateful to Helen, LCMS Communicant, and the other laymen (a gender-neutral term, thank you) here who keep speaking up and reminding, “Hey, no, this is what is REALLY going on in the trenches!”

    soil Deo gloria,
    Grendelssohn

  12. @Grendelssohn #11
    It seems you are in a bad place, that is so sad; perhaps I still think that there are places where Scripture and practice align to the Will of God. I know there are, at least one (my Church).

    In your case, perhaps the battle is this, do not let the practice hurt your faith and your understanding of good practice. You come to the Holy Meal, your Church with faith and good understanding, you confess and are absolved.

    Make sure you care for yourself and family first and foremost. Even Luther I do believe said that a bad pastor, not believing in the Body and Blood still delivers it to your lips and soul. You still receive all benefits Christ has given.

    A flawed pastor and Church still delivers a perfect Word to you, God sorts out for you all the junk.

    Remember, God will sort the sheep from the goats; God will speak sternly to anyone that causes a little one to stumble.

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