Communion Practice: Evangelical or Legalistic, Ecumenical or Sectarian

Closed communion is evangelical and ecumenical. Open communion is legalistic and sectarian.

Closed communion is the practice of communing only those who have been instructed in the pure doctrine of the Scriptures. This doctrine is summarized in the six chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism. Closed communion is the practice of giving the body and blood of Jesus in the bread and the wine only to those who confess this unadulterated Christian doctrine and have thereby joined themselves to the regular instruction of this pure doctrine at a congregation, which teaches this doctrine.

This practice is evangelical, because its presupposition is that it is possible and even to be expected that one can hold to the pure confession of the Holy Scriptures. The fact that we expect people to agree with the teaching of the Small Catechism and continually join themselves to this confession at a congregation, which teaches it, demonstrates something very evangelical. It demonstrates that we can – and indeed do – know what the Scriptures teach. The Scriptures are not an obscure rule book meant to be debated and interpreted by a court, a magisterium, or synodical resolutions. They are the clear, pure fountain of Israel, just as our Confession asserts (SD Rule and Norm, 3). And we, by the saving grace of God, know what they say (2 Tim 3:15). Therefore, insisting that people know this and publicly confess this is a confession that God is so gracious that he actually makes his Word clear to us.

Closed communion is evangelical because the practice assumes that the Lord’s Supper is a public, evangelical proclamation. And the gospel is to be proclaimed, not privately held under a bushel.  As often as you eat the bread and drink the cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Cor 11:26). That is to say that you proclaim the pure Christian doctrine of Christ’s death, which includes with it all parts of biblical doctrine.  This is because all the Scriptures bear witness to Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins to be received through faith (Acts 10:43). What we teach about the law, Creation, Redemption, how we come to faith and are preserved in the faith, prayer, baptism, the office of the keys, the Lord’s Supper, and even the table of duties – all of this pertains to Christ crucified. Denying what the Scriptures teach in any of these parts is an attack, from one angle or another, on the very essence of the gospel. Closed communion is a confession that all doctrine is united together in Christ. And it assumes that the gospel is not some privately held belief. It is rather something to be proclaimed from the roof top (Matt 10:27).

This practice is ecumenical. Ecumenical means that it is the practice of the church, the household of God, drawn from the Scriptures. The Greek word for household is oikeios, which is where we get the term ecumenical. It is ecumenical because it is Scriptural, and the church, the household (oikeios) of God, is built on the foundation of the doctrine revealed in Holy Scriptures, the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:19-20). It is therefore the historic practice of the church.

St. Paul rebukes the Corinthians (1 Cor 11:17ff) for gathering for the Lord’s Supper while there are divisions among them. This led them to abuse the Lord’s Supper, leaving some hungry while others got drunk. This was not a right practice of the Lord’s Supper, and Paul even says that it is not even the Lord’s Supper. This was because of their division. They didn’t agree on what they believed, as St. Paul admonished them (1 Cor 1:10). This division among them and thereby their abuse of the Lord’s Supper therefore caused some of them to get sick and even to die. The sin against the Lord’s Supper was taking it while not agreeing on doctrine and life. Because they did not understand that there was one Lord, one faith, and one Baptism (Eph 4:5), they all believed different things according to their own pet-teachers, whether that was Peter, Paul, Apollos, or even Christ (1 Cor 1:12). Paul therefore rebukes them for having divisions in doctrine while presuming to partake of the Lord’s Supper. He instead admonishes them to wait for one another, that is, be of one mind (1 Cor 1:10b), and then partake of the Lord’s Supper.

As I said, because closed communion is Scriptural, it was also the historic practice of the church. In the 2nd Century Justin Martyr writes concerning those who are admitted to the Sacrament:

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. (1st Apology, chapter 66)

Closed communion is also ecumenical because it does not ignore the serious issues, which divide the church. It fosters an ecumenical spirit, which seeks concord in doctrine rather than complacency. It shows concern for those who are in error’s maze rather than giving them the devilish impression that the false doctrine they profess isn’t really that dangerous.

Closed communion is both evangelical and ecumenical.

Open communion varies from congregation to congregation.  Usually it involves communing those who can agree to their communion statement, which may or may not clearly confess the substantial presence of Christ’s body and blood in the bread and the wine.  At the most it relies on the personal confession of the communicant, but it does not take into consideration where such communicant regularly attends church.  In other words, it does not take into consideration what the communicant publicly confesses on other Sundays.  Open communion is legalistic and sectarian.

Open communion is legalistic. Legalism is when one depends upon rules, whether divine or man-made, for comfort and certainty. Open communion is an attempt to fulfill the law of love. Those who practice it may often have some genuine motives, thinking that they are loving their neighbors who are caught up in error. But they are attempting to use God’s institution in a way that God has not given them to use it. They are, often unwittingly, attempting to win over their erring brothers by means of proclaiming that they are not really in serious error. By their efforts they have accomplished what Christ has commanded. They have loved their brother. Or so they think! But in reality they have taught their erring brothers not to avoid false doctrine. They have therefore taught them that they have met a certain standard, however low, which makes them fit to receive the Sacrament. Closed communion is practiced with the understanding that only faith in the promise of the body and blood of Christ makes one worthy. It therefore urges the communicant to depend on and learn from every Word that comes from the mouth of God. Open communion rather urges the communicant to lean on his own flawed understanding of God’s Word. Open communion urges one to rely on his own piety, rather than on the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).

Open communion is legalistic, because it treats instruction like a law to be fulfilled that makes one worthy for the sacrament. Those who promote open communion often assume that those who practice closed communion are legalistic. This is because they do not understand that instruction, or doctrine, is primarily evangelical. They look at doctrine as a burden. So, ironically, in their attempt not to be legalistic, they are treating doctrine as a rule book, which we must reduce to the lowest and most achievable standard.

Open communion is sectarian. If legalistic is opposed to evangelical, then sectarian is opposed to ecumenical. To be a sectarian means that one is not concerned about agreement in doctrine, but rather agreement in another manufactured purpose of some human institution. Often people assert that we are obligated as a synod to “walk together,” playing on the etymology of the word “synod,” which really just means a convening, coming together, meeting, convention, council, etc. Now, it certainly is true that members of a conference, synod, etc. should obligate themselves to confess the same thing. But is this what people always mean? If we mean that we are to walk together simply because we have agreed to be in fellowship, then this is sectarian. A sectarian is more concerned about some human pact to do things together than he is about confessing the same doctrine with other brothers. Those who promote open communion can boast all they want about their own congregation, their own synod, and their own fellowship. But if their main concern is not unity in confession of the precious doctrine of the apostles and prophets, then they are building with a different cornerstone than Christ.

If a congregation communes people without requiring that they publicly confess at other congregations and altars the same doctrine, then that congregation has claimed its identity in something other than doctrine. And that is the essence of sectarianism.

Open communion is the devil’s way of tricking weak consciences into affirming error. Closed communion is Christ’s way of leading us back to the truth and keeping us therein. While it may feel mean and unfair to our old Adam, closed communion teaches us to take doctrine seriously. And it urges our pastors to guard the doctrine, which has been entrusted to them. For by doing so they will save both themselves and their hearers (1 Tim 4:16).

About Pastor Andrew Preus

Pastor Andrew Preus is the pastor of Trinity Lutheran/St. Paul Lutheran, Guttenberg/McGregor, IA. He is the eighth of eleven sons, with one sister. He received his seminary training at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, ON (MDiv) from 2009 to 2013, and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN (STM) from 2013 to 2014. His main theological interests include Justification and Church and Ministry. He is married to Leah Preus (nee Fehr), and they have four children: Jacob, Solveig, Kristiana, and Robert.

Comments

Communion Practice: Evangelical or Legalistic, Ecumenical or Sectarian — 37 Comments

  1. Thank you for a much needed clarification of a topic that divides those in the church. Perhaps you might submit it to the Minnesota North District for consideration at our next convention.

  2. Dear Pastor,
    You make, in my mind, an error, the pastor communes the person at the altar rail, not the congregation. I hold pastoral discretion, even as I practice closed communion in the congregation.

  3. @Pastor Prentice #4

    You distribute the Body and Blood of Christ and are responsible, insofar as you can determine, that the recipient should be receiving it.
    But if you got careless with exceptions, the congregation in the persons of the Elders, would have something to say about it.
    Communion is unity with God and among the communicants. Andrew’s not wrong.

  4. @helen #5
    Dear Helen,
    You do not need to lecture to a pastor, who understands the role of our office and calling. The Elders may have a comment, they have no say in it. Neither do you as a member of that congregation.
    I believe Andrew is wrong when he states the public confession of the person to the congregation – basically, I disagree with:

    If a congregation communes people without requiring that they publicly confess at other congregations and altars the same doctrine, then that congregation has claimed its identity in something other than doctrine. And that is the essence of sectarianism.

    Note: the congregation does not commune, it is the pastor of that congregation.

  5. “Communion Practice: Evangelical or Legalistic, Ecumenical or Sectarian”… or Confessional

    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. According to the LCMS “Guidelines for the Constitution and Bylaws of a Lutheran Congregation,” all communicant members of a Missouri Synod Lutheran member congregation are to agree to unqualified acceptance of the Missouri Synod’s confessional standard, the Symbols in the Book of Concord of 1580.

    From the ACELC “Evidence of Errors in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, II. Holy Communion” (p. 4):

    “Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions teach that full agreement in every article of doctrine must serve as the standard for admission to Holy Communion at the Lord’s altar in evangelical practice of the Lord’s Supper.”
    “Closed Communion admits to the altar only those in agreement with all articles of doctrine so that the unity of the One true faith is preserved and confessed.”

    Missouri Synod confirmands, when becoming communicant members respond, “I do” to the question, “Do you hold all the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God and confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from them, as you have learned to know it from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true?”

    In his Christliche dogmatik (Vol. III, p.444), Franz Pieper writes:

    Auch die apostolische Kirche praktizierte nicht “open”, sondern “closed communion”. Luther sagt: „Also hat Christus getan: die Predigt hat er lassen in den Haufen gehen über jedermann, wie hernach auch die Apostel, daß es alle gehört haben, Gläubige und Ungläubige; wer es erwischte, der erwischte es. Also müssen wir auch tun. Aber das Sakrament foll man nicht unter die Leute in den Haufen werfen. Wenn ich das Evangelium predige, weiß ich nicht, wen es trifft: hier aber soll ich es dafürhalten, daß es den getroffen habe, welcher zum Sakrament kommt; da muß ich es nicht in Zweifel schlagen, sondern gewiß sein, haß der, dem ich das Sakrament gebe, das Evangelium gefaßt habe und rechtschaffen glaube.”(See English translation in J.T. Mueller, Christian Dogmatics, pp. 437-8)

    The Formula of Concord, Ep.X.7 states:

    “We believe, teach, and confess also that no Church should condemn another because one has less or more external ceremonies not commanded by God than the other, if otherwise there is agreement among them in doctrine and all its articles.”

    In his “Why Should Our Pastors, Teachers, and Professors Subscribe Unconditionally to the Symbolical Writings of Our Church” (Concordia Theological Monthly, 18:4, 1947, p. 241-53), C.F.W. Walther includes the confession of all church members, when he writes:

    “By demanding only a conditional subscription to its Symbols the Church forfeits its distinctively Lutheran characteristics” [p. 245]

    Finally, the Formula of Concord designates all the previous Lutheran Confessions as “a unanimously accepted, definite, common form of doctrine, which all our evangelical churches together and in common confess, from and according to which, because [not in so far] it has been derived from God’s Word, all other writings should be judged and adjusted as to how far they are to be approved and accepted.” (SD, RN, 10) [p. 249]

    Included in the CTCR document, “A Theological Statement for Mission in the 21st Century,” submitted to the 2016 convention, is the statement:

    “Lutheran mission is defined by an unqualified (quia) subscription to The Book of Concord as the correct exposition of the Holy Scriptures. We are in harmony in the one biblical Gospel and the Sacraments instituted by Christ.”

    Subscription without reservation to the Book of Concord is also require for all Altar and Pulpit Fellowship with other Lutheran church bodies.

    Allowing admission into a Missouri Synod’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper of people who are not confirmed and who do hold an unqualified subscription to the Lutheran Confessions (i.e. the BOC) is called “open communion.”

  6. We all agree that there is “pastoral discretion”
    in that there are times when, for pastoral concerns,
    a person perhaps who is not formally a member of
    the LCMS or a partner church may be communed.
    No one questions that. We disagree on the limits of
    pastoral discretion. Inviting all who agree to a bulletin
    statement is not pastoral discretion.
    The Commission on Theology and Church Relations
    document gives guidance so congregations can have
    bulletin statements that reflect the scriptural and
    confessional position of the LCMS. If statements simply
    request that, before communing, an individual speak with
    the pastor or elder, this issue would largely evaporate as
    one of division.
    Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison
    President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

  7. So BJS,
    According to what is said, the Church I administer and lead practices “closed communion”, BUT, in pastoral emergencies and by my discretion (and I will have to make choices); I “open” the communion in that emergency, then “close” it immediately following.

  8. One problem that pastors face is that of the married children of members who have moved away and, for various reasons, had to join an ELCA congregation. What happens is that the child of that member comes home and, the pastor is expected to commune the former member. Unfortunately, the parent never informed the pastor of the ELCA status of the child.

  9. Is it within a “pastor’s discretion” to commune a person who confesses the Lutheran doctrine of the Trinity, Justification, the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and Church and Ministry, but maintains that today God’s Word no longer prohibits pastrixes or ‘homosexual marriage’?

    Is it within a “pastor’s discretion” to commune a person after the pastor has a couple of minutes conversation to receive positive answers on the person’s being baptised, and his belief in the Trinity and the Real Presence?

    Is it within a “pastor’s descretion” to commune a person who states she subscribe unconditionally to the Lutheran Confessions, but is proud of the bumpersticker on her car supporting a pro-abortion candidate for President?

  10. @Pastor Prentice #4

    Pastor Prentice,
    The pastor represents the congregation when he preaches, teaches, and administers the sacraments. I agree that it is the pastor who is called to do it publicly, and he is the one put in charge of that flock. But if the congregation assents to the pastor’s teaching and practice, then the congregation has made that teaching and practice its own.

    Also, I think you are confusing my definition of closed communion. I never said that closed communion is only communing those of the same synod and other partner synods. Closed communion is communing those of the same confession. Usually this will be those of your own synod. Although, I have asked members of other LCMS congregations not to commune, because I have discovered that they do not hold to the same confession. So synod is only a facilitator. If synod is the standard for communion fellowship then we have a sectarian communion policy.

    With that said, while I agree that unique cases arise, the term “pastoral discretion” is often a very loaded term, kind of like the term “responsible communion.” A unique case would usually be communing a member of a confessional independent congregation, or a confessional pastor who is in status confessionis against his church body. But in any case, the policy must be based upon where they attend church regularly, and whether that church teaches the pure doctrine. The pastor must determine this to the best of his ability. I believe a good practice toward which we would do well to move is not to commune at a congregation unless your pastor has spoken to that pastor.

  11. Is it within a “pastor’s discretion” to commune a dying person who wants to taste and have the Lord’s Body and Blood for the last time, and via Confession / Absolution, etc., the pastor at his/her death bed will allow for such.

    Is it within a “pastor’s discretion” to make the theological decision by his training and as pastor by call of his congregation to commune a member, or do they have to pass a test / ecclesial oversight by the bishop?

    Is it within a “pastor’s discretion” to commune someone who loves little (but is reminded to love better), but confesses, and is absolved by the pastor who stands in for Christ.

  12. @Pastor Andrew Preus #12
    Hello Pastor Preus,
    I agree with what you say. We pastor’s make hard decisions in reality, as we oversee the Holy Sacraments. No matter how tight we get things, we have “pastoral discretion”.

    And if my discretion is weak and bad, then I need to be called on the carpet to the CV, the DP, the SP, and any / all pastors that will publicly call me out.

    And perhaps this is grounds for my removal.

  13. @wineonthevines #10

    One problem that pastors face is that of the married children of members who have moved away and, for various reasons, had to join an ELCA congregation. What happens is that the child of that member comes home and, the pastor is expected to commune the former member. Unfortunately, the parent never informed the pastor of the ELCA status of the child.

    The responsibility for this is on the parents, to inform the Pastor, and the child (and family) not to expect family exceptions. (The parents shouldn’t make an exception of themselves when the visit goes the other way either.)

    @Pastor Prentice #6

    Note: the congregation does not commune, it is the pastor of that congregation.

    The pastor is responsible to GOD, and the congregation, for his decisions. The congregation is advised not to be yoked with unbelievers. It’s the pastor’s responsibility to see that they aren’t.

    There is “pastoral discretion”; I’m not arguing that. I’m saying the congregation may advise you if it seems to be overused publicly.

    Don’t feel privileged, Rev. Prentice; I ‘talk’ to MDIV’s (and more) quite often; they usually engage me in good cheer and encourage it. But they don’t “pull rank”; they can usually convince me with an explanation. 🙂

  14. Here’s an excerpt from the Inter-Christian Relationships: An Instrument for Study (Commission on Theology and Church Relations of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, February 1991, p. 21):

    “We need to reaffirm and maintain the freedom and responsibility of congregations, both pastors and people, to provide responsible pastoral care to Christian individuals as spiritual needs require. Let it be understood, however, that such situations do not establish the rationale for our synodical corporate actions and witness, nor ought the exception become the rule. Moreover, in such pastoral care situations, officials of the Synod, as well as pastors, congregations, and others, must take care to insure that the immediately affected Christian community is fully informed of the action and understands it as an attempt to be faithful to the Gospel. Finally, the entire Synod must be encouraged to respect the integrity of such pastoral care actions. It is far more in keeping with Christian love to assume that such actions have been taken responsibly than that such actions represent liberal tendencies, doctrinal compromise, or lack of concern for the confessional convictions of the Synod. [Emphasis added]

    The bold-face section will allow counselled adjustments to be made before pastoral actions drift beyond discretionary limits.

  15. So, if a pastor does not know whether said members (as I memtioned) do commune at the child’s ELCA cong. does it behoove the pastor to find out if that is the case?

  16. @Pastor Prentice #6

    I believe Andrew is wrong when he states the public confession of the person to the congregation – basically, I disagree with:

    Seems a rabbit-hole, read his statement this way:

    If at a congregation people commune absent the requirement that they publicly confess at other congregations and altars the same doctrine, then that congregation has claimed its identity in something other than doctrine. And that is the essence of sectarianism.

  17. @wineonthevines #17

    So, if a pastor does not know whether said members (as I mentioned) do commune at the child’s ELCA cong. does it behoove the pastor to find out if that is the case?

    I would say he should, but perhaps he also needs to put out information as to why LCMS members shouldn’t do it, for the congregation in general.

    I grew up in Minnesota in the ALC. 90% of my relatives were absorbed by elca. I do not go back to my home church, where my parents are buried in the congregation’s cemetery; they have (at last report) a woman in the pulpit. It’s as well that my mother’s generation didn’t live to see that.

  18. @Pastor Prentice #13

    Is it within a “pastor’s discretion” to commune a dying person who wants to taste and have the Lord’s Body and Blood for the last time, and via Confession / Absolution, etc., the pastor at his/her death bed will allow for such.

    Not if they reject our confession. There’s no such thing as “Emergency communion” because we do not believe teach and confess that those who die w/o it are condemned. Now if they confess their acceptance of our confession on their deathbed, that’s a non-issue.

    Is it within a “pastor’s discretion” to make the theological decision by his training and as pastor by call of his congregation to commune a member, or do they have to pass a test / ecclesial oversight by the bishop?

    A “member” can be assumed to accept our confession unless they have openly rejected it. Right?

    Is it within a “pastor’s discretion” to commune someone who loves little (but is reminded to love better), but confesses, and is absolved by the pastor who stands in for Christ.

    I’m not sure what this means. but again, if they are a “member” they can be assumed to accept our confession unless they have openly rejected it. Right?

    Puzzled,
    -Matt Mills

  19. @Matt Mills #24
    Dear Matt,
    Well, there are “pastoral emergencies” when it comes to the Lord’s Supper. At least I feel so in my training and theological view. But when someone needs the Lord’a Body and Blood, and I feel they are examined well, I have examined them, and then…well, to all your standards, I practice “open” communion.

  20. In his March 11, 2015, midweek sermon, Rev. Paul Harris (Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin TX) stated:

    Should I partake of Communion in other churches if there is no confessional Lutheran church around? First recognize, contrary to what you’re thinking, it is not Lutherans but Catholics and Reformed who posit “have to” situations for Communion. For the Catholic, a “have to” situation is the deathbed; for the Reformed it’s any emergency. That’s funny to me. The Reformed don’t believe it is the Body and Blood and yet think an emergency warrants it being celebrated by a layman. The Reformed don’t, however, think there’s any emergency warranting Baptism by a layman. For us, there is an emergency Baptism, but no emergency Communion.

    While stating it wasn’t “emergency communion,” Rev. Eckert gave an example in his September 30, 2008 BJS post:

    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.

  21. Dear BJS,
    I think part of the problem with Matt / Carl, and some…as non-pastors, you have never been in the heat of a pastoral emergency. As the CTCR says in a great document, “Admission to the Lord’s Supper”, for one I read:

    viewing communicants only as confessors of official doctrine
    runs the danger of intellectualizing “faith in these words” (cf.
    SC VI, 5–10; Tappert, 352). The cognitive and intellectual element of
    faith is present, of course. But the simple faith by which the Christian
    becomes a worthy communicant is not a matter of theological
    sophistication and precise articulation. Such faith is the heart’s trust
    in the words of Christ and in the saving gifts He offers through his
    own Supper.

    Yes, in my tenure, a servant of Christ, I have looked to the faith of the person in that emergency, very guarded and trying to be careful, yet I will not withhold the gift of Christ.

  22. If someone is dying and wants the Lord’s Supper from me, and that person is not me member nor a member of a confessional Lutheran congregation, then I would ask him, “Do you consider me to be your pastor?” If he says no, then I have no right to give him the sacrament, because I am not called to shepherd him. If he says yes, then as Jesus says, “whatever two or three of you agree on earth…” Then, if he is likely to be dead within the next few days, and he is conscious, then I would go through the Small Catechism with him and ask him if he agrees with it. I would stay for hours if it came to that and examine him as thoroughly as possible given the circumstances. But in that case, he would be under my pastoral care, and he would confess what we confess. So it would still be closed communion.

  23. @Pastor Prentice #27

    These discussions are always difficult in the abstract Pastor. Perhaps it would help if you would give me a solid “slam dunk” example of a situation where you would exercise your discretion to commune a person who rejects our confession.

    Blessings+,
    -Matt Mills

  24. @Matt Mills #30
    Truth be told,

    Perhaps I can never give you a “slam dunk”.

    In reality, I should only commune those of my own congregation. They are the only ones I pastor and examine as a good pastor should. Could I do better? Of course, we all probably err and admit members we should not at times. If any pastor says otherwise, they in my mind do not tell the truth.

    If you came to my Church, should I commune you? What if you were on pastoral bane. How am I to know? Trust me, some of the worst pastor to pastor arguments have come over this. In reality, I would commune you, I would take you at your word. In fact, I would see you speak your confession, and I would absolve you. You would be ready.

    Yes, truly dying people do not need the Eucharist. Simply the Word proclaimed, prayers said, oil applied, confession and absolution offered is good enough.

    Yes, if any of us never partake again, we are still just fine with the Lord. We don’t get “extra” points for heaven.

    But, if someone truly passes the “test” of worthy Eucharist readiness, the pastor truly thinks they are ready and worthy, even if of a different confession, and in the spirit of special case, it truly is hard to not commune a person with perhaps the strongest medicine we have available, the Body and Blood of Christ.

    So yes, hard and fast rules are great and are followed, but in that special circumstance, the heart of a pastor sometimes bends to offer Christ to someone that needs it, understands it, wants it.

    Yes, in my journey, perhaps simply saying “no” in all cases is best. Yet, those special exceptions do stink.

  25. @Matt Mills #30

    Not an example, Matt, but an indication that this is not a new question : look up Galesburg Rule in the Lutheran Cyclopedia (on line now on the LCMS site). Here is the core of the discussion:

    “…At Lancaster, Ohio, 1870, C. Porterfield Krauth* made a verbal statement on the meaning of the “Pittsburgh Declaration.” At Akron, Ohio, 1872, he was asked to put his explanation into writing. The result was the Akron Rule, adopted by the 1872 convention: “I. THE RULE is: Lutheran pulpits are for Lutheran ministers only. Lutheran altars are for Lutheran communicants only. II. The Exceptions to the rule belong to the sphere of privilege, not of right. III. The Determination of the exceptions is to be made in consonance with these principles by the conscientious judgment of pastors, as the cases arise.”…”
    [As you see, I had a better memory for II, while Rev. Prentice is understandably more focused on III.] 🙂

    There is a little more to the entry, before and after. I’m glad to see we have an edition on line, though I remember researching a couple of different ones, to see if/how they changed, when that was a matter of burrowing in the stacks and spending an hour in a quiet corner of the library.

  26. @Pastor Prentice #31

    In looking over the various statements and phrases you have posted:

    “I disagree with: If a congregation communes people without requiring that they publicly confess at other congregations and altars the same doctrine, then that congregation has claimed its identity in something other than doctrine.

    “for pastoral concerns, a person perhaps who is not formally a member of
    the LCMS or a partner church may be communed.”

    “someone who loves little (but is reminded to love better)”

    “the heat of a pastoral emergency”

    “passes the ‘test’ of worthy Eucharist readiness”

    “ready and worthy, even if of a different confession”

    “in the spirit of special case”

    “the strongest medicine we have available”

    “someone that needs it, understands it, wants it”

    “I ‘open’ the communion in that emergency, then “close’ it immediately following.”

    it seems that your one statement most clearly expresses your position:

    I practice ‘open’ communion.

  27. @Matt Mills #30: “Perhaps it would help if you would give me a solid “slam dunk” example of a situation where you would exercise your discretion to commune a person who rejects our confession.”

    Trinity Lutheran Church, Evansville, IN (Rev. Dr. Martin Noland, pastor) submitted Overture 5-15 To Standardize Admission to the Lord’s Supper (2016 CW, p. 349).

    Overture 5-15 resolved to add the following to Article VI of the LCMS Constitution:

    3. Congregations and pastors shall admit to the Lord’s Supper only persons who are communicant members in good standing of Synod congregations or who are communicant members in good standing of Lutheran congregations in altar fellowship with the Synod. Exceptions to this rule may be made by pastors or chaplains in cases of
    (1) imminent death—or the possible threat of the same,
    (2) emergency,
    (3) war,
    (4) severe illness,
    (5) intense personal crisis, or
    (6) individuals who are in a “state of confession”;
    but only for Lutherans who were at some time communicant members of a Lutheran congregation. In such cases, the pastor or chaplain shall make an examination of such person’s understanding of the Lord’s Supper prior to communing him or her, if that is possible.

    The proposed constitutional addition did not make it into Resolution 5-15, To Address Questions re the Sacrament of the Altar (2016 TB First Issue).

    Neither did Overture 5-11, To Reaffirm Standard for Pastoral Admission to Lord’s Supper: Full Agreement in All Articles of Christian Doctrine (2016 CW, p. 347), which

    Resolved, That the LCMS reaffirm that the standard for pastoral admission to the Lord’s Supper is full agreement in all articles of Christian doctrine.

  28. @Carl Vehse #33
    Dear BJS and Richard,

    01) I will defend my communion practice as closed, and under exceptional circumstance, pastoral discretion is used.

    02) Richard, the tone with which you use and the relentless remarks like “demoncrate” and “pornicopia” (for California) have no place here, in my mind; but, I only chime in, I am not the editor(s) and owner(s) of the site.

    03) I have emailed said editors my concerns.

    04) Pastors deal with the junk and sin of the world, some more than others, and as we deal with it, it would be nice for a “hang in” rather than “take a hike.”

    05) I hang around BJS because I see some good content, easy to read and comment, but if we slide into “talk at you” as opposed to constructive wrestling with hard issues. Well, I am out.

    I hope the editors respond.

    Best I can do as CV and Synodical Rep. is fight for the Synod, the Confessions, and be true to the Scriptures, so we can continue to bring the Gospel to the lost and dying. Perhaps only in my small, to many, failing parish.

    Time to “ease up” I guess.

  29. @Pastor Prentice #35

    05) I hang around BJS because I see some good content, easy to read and comment, but if we slide into “talk at you” as opposed to constructive wrestling with hard issues. Well, I am out.

    “Carl Vehse” frequents tougher lists, I think, and sometimes forgets to leave their mode of communication behind. But since it’s not aimed at you, a mild protest on line should have been sufficient.

    Carl is valuable here and elsewhere, as you may notice, for contributing considerable research skills. He is someone, in brief, that you can learn from.

    Of course, if you feel that anyone who disagrees with you is “talking at” you [IOW, you aren’t inclined to listen] it’s pretty hard to have a constructive discussion!

    The ball is in your court.

  30. @Pastor Prentice #35:

    Your tiff about my tone in Post 33 is odd, since Post 33 is made up of quotes coming directly from your previous statements.

    the tone with which you use and the relentless remarks like “demoncrate” and “pornicopia” (for California) have no place here, in my mind

    Such words have not been used by me in this thread. In fact those specific words have not been used by me or anyone else on any BJS thread.

    However, when BJS topics involve or pertain to antiChristian, murdering, or wickedly perverted groups of people, accurate (and pointed) descriptions of them do have a place, whether those descriptions are provided in paragraphs, sentences, or made-up words (Word Generator may prove to be useful).

    Complaining about “tone” in the use of such descriptions is an ad hominem tactic of leftist political correctness. By diverting from the descriptive sentences, phrase, or word, for which substantiation can be made or debated, the ad hominem is aimed at the person’s “tone” in a text message, which unless accompanied by emoticons or previous documentation, is more nebulous and, without mental telepathy, cannot be substantiated one way or the other.

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