To Address the Practice of Infant Communion

To Address the Practice of Infant Communion

WHEREAS, St. Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians, “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.” (1 Corinthians 11:27-30); and

WHEREAS, some children at an early age may be able to so examine themselves, but infants are unable to discern the body and blood of the Lord, as 1 Corinthians 11 requires; and

WHEREAS, the Great Commission requires the Church to make disciples both by first baptizing them in the name of the Triune God, and then teaching them to observe all that our Lord has commanded us (Matthew 28:18-20), including the Lord’s Supper. This teaching cannot happen yet in the case of infants and very young children, and this catechetical component must precede admission to the Lord’s Supper; and

WHEREAS, our Lutheran Confessions further provide direction regarding admission to the Lord’s Supper: “As we treated Holy Baptism under three headings, so we must deal with the second sacrament in the same way, stating what it is, what its benefits are, and who is to receive it. All these are established from the words by which Christ instituted it. So everyone who wishes to be a Christian and go to the sacrament should be familiar with them. For we do not intend to admit to the sacrament and administer it to those who do not know what they seek or why they come.” (LC V 1-2.) Infants and very young children are unable to comprehend what God promises in the Lord’s Supper or its benefits. Nor do they “know what they seek or why they come”; and

WHEREAS, no one should be forced to commune, and infants and very young children are incapable of expressing their desire to participate in the Sacrament of the Altar. As stated in the Large Catechism, “Now, it is true, as we have said, that no one should by any means be forced or compelled to go to the Sacrament, lest we institute a new murdering of souls.” (LC V 42): and

WHEREAS, infants and the very young have not been, and are not capable of being, examined by their pastor or the Church. The Augsburg Confession states, “All those able to do so partake of the Sacrament together. This also increases the reverence and devotion of public worship. No one is admitted to the Sacrament without first being examined. The people are also advised about the dignity and use of the Sacrament, about how it brings great consolation to anxious consciences, so that they too may learn to believe God and to expect and ask from Him all that is good. This worship pleases God [Colossians 1:9–10]. Such use of the Sacrament nourishes true devotion toward God.” (AC XXIV 5-8); and

WHEREAS, “Christ commands us, ‘Do this in remembrance of Me’ (Luke 22:19). Therefore, the Mass was instituted so that those who use the Sacrament should remember, in faith, the benefits they receive through Christ and how their anxious consciences are cheered and comforted. To remember Christ is to remember His benefits. It means to realize that they are truly offered to us. It is not enough only to remember history. (The Jewish people and the ungodly also remember this.) Therefore, the Mass is to be used for administering the Sacrament to those that need consolation. Ambrose says, ‘Because I always sin, I always need to take the medicine.’” (AC XXIV 30-33); and

WHEREAS, the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations has twice in recent years researched and written two opinions on the practice of admitting infants and young children to the Lord’s Supper, first in Response to “Concerns of the South Wisconsin District Circuits 18 and 19 Regarding Infant Communion” (1997) and more recently in Knowing What We Seek and Why We Come (2014); and

WHEREAS, the congregations and pastors who are members of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod must require of communicants the sort of careful self-examination required by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11. To this end, and for the sake of those who wish to partake of the Lord’s Supper, congregations and pastors must admit to this Sacrament only those persons who are of sufficient age and discretion to examine themselves; and

WHEREAS, the practice of communing infants (Paedo-Communion) is not in harmony with Holy Scripture and the Lutheran confessions; and

WHEREAS, those who wish to extend the blessings of Holy Communion to infants or very young children are not adequately considering the special Biblical purposes and conditions of this Sacrament; therefore be it

Resolved, that the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in Convention affirms that the two CTCR opinions, Response to “Concerns of the South Wisconsin District Circuits 18 and 19 Regarding Infant Communion” (1997) and Knowing What We Seek and Why We Come (2014), are faithful to Scripture and consistent with confessional Lutheran practice since the Reformation; and be it further

Resolved, that while the 2016 LCMS Convention recognizes that there is no precise numerical age for first communion required by Scripture or the Confessions, worthy reception does involve conscious self-examination and catechetical instruction so that communicants know what they seek to receive at Christ’s altar and why they come to the Sacrament coupled with pastoral examination to encourage worthy use of the Sacrament; and be it further

Resolved, that the communing of infants and very young children prior to their instruction and examination in the faith is contrary to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions and should not be the practice of LCMS congregations and pastors; and be it finally

Resolved, that for the sake of the unity of Holy Scripture, for the unity of practice and doctrine for all LCMS congregations, and for the steadfast Christian faith of all our congregations’ members, this Convention strongly urges all LCMS pastors and congregations to avoid the practice of communing infants and very young children.


Comments

To Address the Practice of Infant Communion — 61 Comments

  1. From “An Explanation of Closed Communion” by Rev. Paul T. McCain (taken from Communion Fellowship: A Resource for Understanding, Implementing, and Retaining the Practice of Closed Communion in the Lutheran Parish):

    Among Lutherans today only The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and a few other smaller Lutheran bodies retain this practice [of closed Communion]. In our church and others, only those persons who have been properly instructed in the meaning, use, and benefit of the Sacrament may receive the Sacrament. Practically speaking, this means that Holy Communion is offered only to those persons who are confirmed members in good standing of LCMS congregations and those church bodies in full pulpit and altar fellowship with us.

    Although the claim was made that the LCMS is one of those Lutheran bodies that retain the practice of closed Communion, because the 1973 Synodical Convention adopted a resolution that basically let individual congregations decide whether to allow pre-confirmation communion or not, and because of the Missouri Synod’s comatose ecclesiastical supervision for dealing with congregations that practice other types of open communion, closed Communion may be at best practiced by only about 75% of LCMS congregations.

  2. In a 1993 article, “What Your Eating and Drinking At This Altar Confesses,” Prof. John T. Pless explains the Lutheran understanding of closed communion:  

    “In keeping with these apostolic instructions [I Corinthians 11:27-29], the Large Catechism declares ‘For we do not intend to admit to the sacrament and administer it to those who do not know what they seek or why they come’ (Tappert, The Book of Concord, p. 447).
     
    “Those who are to be admitted to the Lord’s Supper are first to be baptized and instructed in the way of the ‘all things’ which our Lord gives His church (see St. Matthew 28:19-20) so that they know what it is that they receive in the Sacrament (the true body and blood of the Lord) and how they are to receive it (repentance and faith). This happens through catechesis (teaching), the fulfillment of this catechesis is celebrated in Confirmation where the catechumen pledges ‘to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it’ (
    Lutheran Worship, p. 206). If one departs from this confession and Church, he may no longer eat and drink at this altar.
     
    “While we may not presume to judge the faith of another, the Scriptures do call us to judge between varying confessions of the faith (see Romans 16:17). In practicing closed communion, we are not entering into a judgement concerning the saving faith of individual members of other churches. We rejoice over all those who have saving faith in Jesus Christ. Fellowship at the altar is not established by faith in the heart but by sharing in a common confession of faith anchored in ‘the Gospel preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments administered in accordance with the divine Word’ ( Augsburg Confession VII,2-3; Tappert, 
    The Book of Concord, p. 32).Without agreement in ‘doctrine and all its articles’ (Formula of Concord X,6; Tappert, The Book of Concord, p.616) there is no fellowship, no oneness in the ‘holy things’ of Word and Sacrament.” [Emphasis added]

    In not being admitted to the Lord’s Supper, there really is no Lutheran difference between a person who is unable to publicly subscribe to the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the person who has not.

  3. @Carl Vehse #52

    This happens through catechesis (teaching), the fulfillment of this catechesis is celebrated in Confirmation where the catechumen pledges ‘to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it’

    So it says.
    How many Pastors ask their confirmation classes whether they will be in church the Sunday after their “big day”? I have heard of ONE who has told his class members not to stand there and take that oath unless/until they mean it. And he defended the class member who didn’t, because he at least was not going to swear to something that wasn’t true.

    Confirmation, on one hand, is written of as such a deciding factor that one would think it was the first sacrament instead of no sacrament at all in the Lutheran church.
    OTOH, preachers regularly joke about confirming birds so they will leave the belfry “and never be seen again”.

  4. @helen #53: “How many Pastors ask their confirmation classes whether they will be in church the Sunday after their ‘big day’?”

    That would be a good Question No. 10 in the LCMS’s Liturgy and Agenda, Confirmation (CPH, 1921, p. 333), or even hand-written in the Lutheran Service Book: Agenda.

    “OTOH, preachers regularly joke about confirming birds”

    Yes, no doubt Lufauxran preachers regularly joke about confirmation vows being so quickly ignored.

  5. @Pastor Prentice #55

    Pr. Prentice, it’s only logical that wool can be pulled over the eyes of the sheep, but a shepherd needs to be able to see. And know what he’s looking at.

    The bureaucracy, no doubt, is praying for a convention full of people like you.

    So am I but the prayers are probably a little different!

  6. @Carl Vehse #52

    Yes, no doubt Lufauxran preachers regularly joke about confirmation vows being so quickly ignored.

    That sidesteps the “Lufauxran” preacher who admits adults to membership and communion on the basis of a six hour session on a Saturday… (do they even mention the Catechism?)
    And the preacher who stands in his chancel and says, “All y’all come on down.” Lutheran, or otherwise, all communed.

  7. @helen #56
    Dear Helen,

    Yes, the preachers like me can see through it all, and will be at the convention.

    We preachers do make calls, and we see:

    01) We see “so called confessional men” parading as that, trying to make mountains out of nothing. True pietists, etc.

    02) We see liberals whose theology has crossed against proper teaching.

    03) And we will discuss and make the best calls we can make to steer the ship LCMS in the right direction.

    And I am glad the bureaucracy is praying for men like me to go, so I guess I can say, “God has heard their prayers.”

    And I will be praying to the Holy Spirit for guidance to make sure decisions are made from my perspective pleasing in His sight.

  8. @Pastor Prentice #55: “You keep saying Lufauxran preachers in the LCMS, there truly are none.”

    LCMS preachers who practice open communion or paedocommunion, i.e., early (pre-confirmation) communion, are Lufauxran practitioners.

    @helen #57: “That sidesteps the ‘Lufauxran’ preacher who admits adults to membership and communion on the basis of a six hour session on a Saturday…

    Rather than “sidesteps” Pless’s short article does not address the issue of the quality of catechesis, especially the “shake-n-bake” or “whip-n-chill” single-day classes for adults. However, as previously noted, Martin Luther did warn, “But we should not cast the Sacrament among the people in a heap… So I must not be in doubt, but know assuredly that he to whom I give the Sacrament has comprehended the Gospel and rightly believes.”

  9. @Pastor Prentice #58

    03) And we will discuss and make the best calls we can make to steer the ship LCMS in the right direction.

    I sincerely hope that every delegate prepares and goes with that intention. Life is going to get more difficult for confessional churches. We truly need to “walk together”. Faithful Pastors will need all the support they can get from a bureaucracy that, DV, remembers it was set up for support.

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