Baptism now, Communion in a minute

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“On call” baptism.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori dropped this phrase in video taped remarks on the issue of Communion without Baptism, and frequent Cafe commenter Jonathan Grieser picked it up. He writes:

But what would an Episcopal baptismal theology look like that invited people at the beginning of their exploration of faith to undergo the rite? What would it mean to have the baptismal font featured as a central element in our liturgical spaces. In some churches it is, but in many, its location at the entry of the nave is obscured by its small size and by the minimal amount of baptismal water that remains in the font week to week.

I’ve had as a theme this Easter season the Ethiopian eunuch’s question of Philip: “What is to prevent me from being baptized?” Philip’s answer should be ours–Nothing! And an immediate invitation to join us at the font. If we want to practice radical inclusion, that’s where we should begin. That’s where the early church began. Baptism is a beginning, not an end point, and a theology of baptism that embraces an infant as well as an infant in Christ is radically inclusive and affirms the spiritual journeys of those who find their way to our church.

If I am understanding correctly, “on call baptism” would lower what some people consider a barrier to communion by making it easier to be baptized. I find this intriguing and would love to hear more about it. What would “on call baptism” look like? What are your thoughts?

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67 Responses to "Baptism now, Communion in a minute"
  1. Here is what I said last week on HOBD (the bishops and deputies discussion list.

    "Perhaps we need to open baptism to an every week affair -- our font is a large granite boulder in the entryway with a continual flow of water --I could just offer to baptize everyone as I greet them each day.

    Put up a sign GOT BAPTISM? YES! RIGHT HERE NOW!! ¡Hoy! What's to prevent it? (in the words of the eunuch of Acts)"

    I know Bishop Frade of SEFL encouraged churches to put out a sign - Baptisms Today!

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  2. I *think* it would be a good idea, provided that we're talking about doing the Examination of the Candidates and the Baptismal Covenant beforehand - the whole service, that is, and not just the isolated application of water with the Trinitarian formula. My fear is that there would be some clergy who would, in the interest of barrier-breaking and openness, take the HOBD suggestion (which I'm taking as tongue-in-cheek seriously) even farther, and start baptizing people on the fly - sort of Water To Go. "Hi, would you like to be baptized? OK, just lower your head. Yes, just like that. . [Ahem] I baptize you in the Name..."

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  3. Well, emergency baptism is just that --- in the moment and on the fly; and it is as the church teaches just as much baptism as a formal rite entered into after months of catechumenate.

    For centuries, starting with the Apostles, baptism was a mystery -- and act that in and of itself accomplished what it meant. We have lost sight of the nature of a sacrament, and wandered into a form of "believer baptism." I'm not saying that is a bad thing, but having both infant (and instant!) baptism, and adult baptism side by side is a bit of dissonance that we either need to resolve or accept. The common element is water and the Name -- and in any case God handles the rest.

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  4. Tobias, I'm not for forbidding emergency Baptism. Heavens, man, it's in the Holy Writings - right there in St Augustine's Prayer Book!

    I wasn't envisaging danger of death situations, but decontextualized Baptisms of people with no understanding of the expectations and commitment that come with Baptism. it doesn't seem that that would go far to teach anything, even given that they would be perfectly calf Baptisms.

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  5. Damn autocorrect to Hell! "valid Baptisms," not "calf Baptisms."

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  6. I should add that the theory seems to be that baptized infants are being brought up in Christian families who are part of a Christian community, and so will grow into the faith. "Water to Go" wouldn't offer that - those so baptized might not have any connection with other Christians at all.

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  7. i think this is putting the horse before the cart, and for strange reasons. Is the most important thing maintaining the traditional sacramental succesion requirement (baptism, then communion)? Why? And how did this succesion requirement develop anyway? As someone pointed out in comments on another post recently, it isn't apparent in NT writings.

    The most plausible and compelling reason I have heard for how the succesion requirement developed: as a matter of self-preservation, the persecuted early church was forced to reserve misunderstood communion (eating flesh and blood!) for insiders who had been carefully instructed and who could be trusted. The chatacumenate prior to baptism was a serious thing, and chatacumens were dismissed without communion. (If there are other theories about how the succesion requirement developed, please share! I haven't researched this thoroughly.)

    Within this persecuted context, succesion makes sense. But our context today is very different. I have yet to hear a plausible argument that communion somehow loses its efficacy without being preceded by baptism. If we allow the unbaptized to remain in church during the celebration of communion, it seems rude and inhospitable to me to set a table and not invite them to come and dine.

    On the other hand, I think there is still value in requiring a period of preparation for adults seeking baptism. (I would also prefer that adults be baptized and confirmed at the same time--adults choosing to be baptized are making a mature affirmation of faith.)

    Anyway, it feels like this baptize-at-the-drop-of-a-hat idea is motivated by a desire to preserve the traditional succesion requirement above all else, without considering what makes sense within our current, not-persecuted context.

    Jason Cox

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  8. Jason, why does it make sense to maintain the preparation before Baptism, while not requiring any preparation at all for Communion? Could you expand on that?

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  9. I personally don't believe in the "open table", but have absolutely no problem with on-the spot, no preparation baptisms. The more people baptized, the merrier.

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  10. Again, Baptism is about a commitment to a path of discipleship. The Ethiopian eunuch asked only after Philip opened the Scriptures to him; he knew what he was getting himself into.

    I'm all for baptizing people but they need to have an understanding of what it is they're promising; the Baptismal Covenant is an important part of the process and it does begin with assurances that the baptizee (or the people who promise to raise the baptizee in faith) renounce evil, commit to Jesus, and promise to follow him in a life of discipleship.

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  11. I'm not arguing for no preparation. I'm pro-hospitality, not pro-ignorance. Even though people on the other side mock this argument, CWOB is what I think Jesus would do. I think people who are drawn to the table will want to learn more. I don't see the table being abused by a lot of scoffers.

    Can you answer my question: is there a good reason, within our current context, to maintain the non-biblical succesion requirement? (A requirement that, as I understand it, developed because of reasons that no longer exist.)

    Jason Cox

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  12. (The short version is that Baptism is the start of a covenant relationship with God. The Eucharist is the on-going point of contact that furthers and strengthens the covenant already made.)

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  13. "I personally don't believe in the "open table", but have absolutely no problem with on-the spot, no preparation baptisms. The more people baptized, the merrier."

    I do not understand this. If no preparation is needed for one sacrament (emergency baptisms being a different ball of wax), why is it needed for the other? Why the preferential treatment? Could one not also say, "The more people at the table, the merrier!"?

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  14. Bill,

    Your question of Jason, "...why does it make sense to maintain the preparation before Baptism, while not requiring any preparation at all for Communion? Could you expand on that?"

    gets close to the heart of the questions we who are welcoming all to communion in Jesus' name (emphatically not 'our' welcome or 'inclusion') are struggling with. In the Bible and the early church, there's an ongoing struggle with who is included and how. Initiated-only-communion (I-o-c) seems to assume that our preparation and readiness is necessary to fall into the embrace of God's love. Look at the story of the Prodigal Son, returning home with his rehearsed little rationale that the father stops mid-sentence. Look at the story of Zacchaeus in Luke. The divine embrace is unconditional and is always in advance of our readiness or preparation. Do we celebrate God's conditional love? Or do we embark on a path of discipleship when we discover that there's nothing we need to do to make our way into God's good graces?

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  15. I believe the sacraments have power beyond our puny attempts to explain them to people. The power of God in sacraments in a faithful community is something we can't control or manage. I see it in young children as they help with baptisms - placing their hands in the water as I say words they don't understand (as if we adults do) - or reaching out for the Bread of Life as we share at the Altar. It is Christ in our midst that speaks to the heart and shows us who we already are. It is not our words but The Word.

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  16. Jason, I don't think we're in danger of being swamped by scoffers, either. What' I'm concerned about is the casual visitor to a parish going up for Communion out of a desire to be polite and not turn down the invitation, or to fit in. "Well, I don't believe in this God business, but I'd hate to offend Tom and Betty at their wedding by not receiving Communion. Looks like everyone else is going up, so..."

    What I was asking, though, was why the period of preparation for Baptism is advisable?

    Reasons for maintaining the current practice?

    1. One that leaps to mind is the idea that in Communion the members of the Body of Christ are being fed fed and sharing the Body and Blood of Christ. We are made members of Christ's Body in Baptism; the Eucharist nourishes that union.

    2. Receiving Communion is an intimate encounter with Jesus that presupposes a prior relationship with him.

    3. Sacraments aren't magical, but rely on faithful intent for their efficacy; the recipient has to be properly disposed to receive the benefits. Requiring Baptism before Communion wouldn't guarantee that disposition, and someone *might* have it without Baptism, but giving Communion to those whose only preparation is being present at the service itself seems counter-productive.

    4. If it's not broke, don't fix it. Why do we need to alter the current policy? Are priests really finding high numbers of people who want to receive Communion but are unwilling or unable to wait until they are baptized - or unwilling to be baptized at all? How does not explicitly offering Communion to non-Christians affect anyone?

    I do continue to think that the appeal to Scripture by proponents of CWOB is a little odd. Why do we need scriptural warrants for every bit of sacramental and liturgical praxis? It's not a terribly Anglican or Catholic way to approach Scripture. Where does it end? I'm from a part of the country where the group known as the Church of Christ is found in high numbers. Among other things, they do not allow instrumental music in church, because they can't find a New Testament warrant for it. And arguments from Jesus' sharing meals with sinners (which you didn't bring up but which seems to be a major source of justification for CWOB) seem to be based on a mistaken equivalence between the sinners at Jesus' meals and the unbaptized.

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  17. Donald,

    I think you're throwing out a red herring when you say that the standard, canonical approach is about "preparation and readiness"; rather I'd say it's about commitment to a relationship. Yes, God has a relationship with each one of us individually and with us as a community. This relationship began at the very foundation of the world as Paul puts it. Baptism, though, is--among other things--a demonstration that both the individual and the community that nurtures them recognizes this relation that God has with us (pre-eminently through the person of Jesus Christ).

    Baptism is partly about us recognizing and committing to the relationship that God is drawing us towards. Discipleship does require commitment and it does require a community who is willing to assist us with that commitment when things inevitably get difficult.

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  18. We have a very wide range of practices of baptism that people in TEC have experienced, partly due to the fact that so many find their way to TEC from other traditions rather than being cradle Episcopalians. Maybe what is needed is an increased emphasis on confirmation?

    One thought I had this weekend after the last comment debate on this topic here on the Lead is, include the Baptismal Covenant in the Eucharist liturgy in place of the Nicene Creed with the understanding that if you can say that without having to cross your fingers behind your back and without tongue in cheek, then you are welcome to receive communion. This reminds those of us who are baptized just what we committed ourselves to, or were committed to by our parents. For those who have not been baptized, once they are able to join in this public stating of the Covenant, they can then ask the priest to baptize them, probably at the end of the service, or if the staffing of a parish allows it, on the way up to communion.

    The story of Phillip and the eunuch has been looked at quite a bit in these discussions. I also agree that his request for baptism, which Phillip agreed to, came only after a period of discussion and instruction in the faith.

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  19. Donald, please see my reply to Jason.

    In talking with the curate before and after Mass this morning, he brought up a point that I hadn't thought of before: proponents of CWOB sometimes seem to argue as if God's unconditional love and the work of his grace were restricted to the Sacraments. You see this sometimes in the characterizations of proponents of IOC (thank you for that acronym, David!) as standing between the unbaptized and God. He pointed out that if someone remains in their pew at Communion time and says something like, "Oh, God, I wish I could go to Communion, but..." that they have effectively made an Act of Spiritual Communion.

    Derek, you wrote, "Discipleship does require commitment and it does require a community who is willing to assist us with that commitment when things inevitably get difficult." Absolutely agree. But couldn't we make entry into that community a little easier for people by not inflexibly linking Baptism to attendance at Inquirer's Classes, or requiring them to prove their commitment by forging the community relationship before they approach the font ?

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  20. Donald, I wrote David instead of your name in my last comment. Forgive me!

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  21. First, I think Derek is spot-on about baptism as a covenant, and Eucharist as an expression of that covenant. Switching them around would basically rewrite that covenant.

    Now, as far as simplified rites, what about conditional baptism (p. 313), for people who have doubts about their own baptisms? I'd imagine that applies to a lot of people, especially if they aren't sure it was originally done the "right" way.

    I also wonder if there is any provision for private baptism. If I were to have a barrier, it's having it done in public in front of everybody I'm going to spend Sundays with. But I also read about baptismal fonts in the early church that were hidden away deep in the building.

    -Alex Scott

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  22. Bill D., I wasn't intending my comment as a response to yours, but to the original post. I'm afraid I'd have to say I find a bit of creeping receptionism in your point 3 above. The reason we baptize infants is both that it is efficacious and they are baptized into the larger context of the church. There actually is a "magical" element in the sacraments, unless they are reduced to mere symbolic acts reflective of our inner dispositions and opinions. As long as the church is as work, the sacraments certify that they do what they say they do.

    As you know, I favor the traditional sequence of baptism prior to reception of communion, but not on "gnostic" grounds based on human wisdom or understanding of what is going on, but at the more basic level of what the sacraments are: baptism as initiation into the body, and communion as celebration of that body. One joins before celebrating. That for me is the whole argument. And as I have written elsewhere, I think one of the reasons we have this present debate is due to the shift away from "conventional" baptism (private and virtually universal) to "intentional" baptism, with its stress on the gathered community and the covenant --- all this at the same time the eucharist became more commonly the primary Sunday worship experience.

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  23. Regarding infant baptism, how many times have I seen a young couple come to church when the woman is pregnant, have the baby baptized, and then never darken the church door again? I've lost count. Clearly, today, we cannot count on the infant being raised in a Christian home. I'd favor quick and easy baptisms, although, if I were a priest or LEM, I would never refuse the Eucharist to anyone who came forward.

    June Butler

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  24. What a great idea! We Baptize infants, why not "infant" inquirers of all ages? It would place huge importance on Confirmation, but I also think that would be a good thing. Good for Bishop Jefferts Schori, great idea, indeed... The Church needs to recover its zeal for Baptism, and a sense of its urgency. It saddens me to see it lived out in the life of the Church as a social event.

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  25. I'm personally a proponent of CWOB but through reading the debates on this site over the years have come to understand opponents' reasons for their position. This on-call baptism idea, however, seems a misplaced idea.

    From the ENS article and my own experience, the people this resolution targets are young people who, more likely than not, have not grown up in the church (thus they can't count on being baptized as infants) and who are hungry for meaning and community.

    Give these folks some credit: they know what baptism means. This is making an eternal commitment, joining a new religion. It's not something to be done lightly or capriciously, and not just so you can be invited to the table.

    Offering baptism on the fly to people who want to consider before making commitments will probably just freak them out. How do we make space in our communities for these people? Our Sunday worship in its present form is centered around the Eucharist. Open table is one way to make this celebration welcoming to non-initiates. There could be other ways to welcome them. But a speedy baptism just to get them to the table is not one of them.

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  26. Why hasn't anyone mentioned the recovery of the tradition of Antidoron/Eulogia/Pain Benit? Look it up, the Orthodox still do it, and some places in France too. There is no excuse for a liturgical church, and one so proud of ancient heritage, tradition and "Catholicism", to be ignorant of these traditions. Their recovery and reinvention for an Anglican use could be a way forward. And a form of Artoklasia at the end of Evensong or Mattins, esp. in locations where a priest is hard to come by, could be a fabulous tradition!

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  27. I could see, perhaps, having "Baptism on the Fly" if we did not think of baptism as a one-time-event. I would also ask everyone "how" they would do this. For us, the Baptism changes the entire liturgy of the day. We have also made a great deal about the "baptismal covenant" in recent years as the "only covenant we need" as part of the argument against the probably-now-defunct "Anglican Covenant." Are we ready to drop all that and just give them a quick splash at the doorway with a trinitarian formula? Anyone who receives the Eucharist in TEC will at least have had the "instruction" afforded by the full liturgy that precedes it. What will the "at the door baptized" have gotten? I must admit myself to be "guilty" of increasingly positive feelings about communion _before_ baptism (not communion WITHOUT baptism) but if it is to be that "naked" without community or anything more than the most minimal liturgical observance, then perhaps we should just put a host dispenser on the door of the church? (OK, that was a bit petty, but "on the fly" really seems to be a bit too far, I think).

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  28. I'm wondering about an implicit assumption I hear being made frequently in these conversations: that making baptism and/or communion easier to access or receive will somehow resolve a dilemma or cause our ranks to swell.

    Beyond my rather critical piece about baptism of several years ago, I'm wondering if our rather narrow debate over CWOB (or CBB), canons, and clerical pastoral discretion tends to lose the forest for the trees.

    Do we want committed members or not? If so, we need to expect something from them, and not fall into the trap of being used as sacramental grocers. In a world where everything is commodified, we need to be cautious about sending the implicit message that sacraments are cheap and life in the community they disclose or express demands nothing.

    Do we want disciples after Christ? Then we need to get more serious about resourcing catechesis.

    While I tend to argue baptism first and upholding the norm of the canon, I am struck by the counterpoint offered by St. Gregory's, San Francisco. I don't think their missional success is simply because they offer communion to everyone comes through the door. I think it is because they intentionally teach in every aspect of their ministry, from liturgy to service. How many of us are in communities that can say the same?

    For me, where we fall on the matter of CWOB matters less than how serious we are about building up communities of committed Christians. Carts and horses and all that...

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  29. Derek,

    I like this that you wrote very much:

    "Baptism is partly about us recognizing and committing to the relationship that God is drawing us towards. Discipleship does require commitment and it does require a community who is willing to assist us with that commitment when things inevitably get difficult."

    And I agree whole-heartedly that we work for, long for, and seek to invite others to share with us a path of discipleship.

    Covenant? I worry about the "Baptismal Covenant." If we talk Baptismal Covenant when we're looking to honor what's traditional and part of our received sacramental order, as near as I can tell we're misleading ourselves. Luther reminded himself "I have been baptized" when he felt besieged by Satan and his own depressive nature. Baptism as he knew it (and as I read it in the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch and in the best of the church's practice until this most recent reform) was the church enacting a sacrament and counting on God's promise to act in it. What I hear too often in people looking for support/affirmation/hope in the Baptismal Covenant is something like, "When I'm in a hard place, I try to remind myself of the promises I made at my Baptism." At least as I'm hearing it, there are odd resonances of my or your promise being the foundation of a covenant. It's close to contract thinking. Isn't covenant in the Bible closer to the astonishing discovery that God binds God's self to us before we've made any response at all and that God binds God's self to us by an unbreakable divine promise?

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  30. When you ask whether we want to be a welcoming or even a radically hospitable community, people always seem to want this and then our response is rapidly followed by a list of "BUTS". It seems to me that the real question is whether we REALLY want what we say we want without condition? Who are we protecting? Who's in charge here anyway? (Just questions so please feel free to answer these questions in any way you want.)

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  31. Peter -I wonder if "we" - those in charge, don't really want radical hospitality but want power and control. Pentecost is coming up - the ultimate out of control event - tongues of fire for everyone - baptized or not. Or as Sr Corita said - they had "tons" of fire.

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  32. Peter there is an ancient liturgical practice intended for radical hospitality and welcoming that we have forgotten, that of the Blessed Bread, that I'm now going the be the squeaky wheel advocate for, so y'all better get ready to hear it:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antidoron

    http://anglicanexfide.blogspot.com/2010/08/antidoron-pain-benit-and-sunday-loaf.html

    And, to conclude the Offices, the Artoklasia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artoklasia

    Squeak, squeak.

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  33. Clint,

    There's much of Orthodox practice that I love and a lot we borrowed shaping liturgy and community at St. Gregory of Nyssa, SF. As one who spent a whole year before coming to our Episcopal Church hovering on the edge of Orthodox and went so far as to apply for transfer from Princeton Seminary to St. Vladimir's (accepted, and chose in the end to become an Episcopalian instead), my experience of the Antidorons is a clear second best consolation prize. And in the years after I treasure a couple of occasions when I was given a clear and insistent invitation to communion by an Orthodox host. But insofar as not 'second best' or consolation prize, isn't the antidoron gesture actually present among us (when it's done wholeheartedly) in the sacramental of coffee hour.

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  34. Donald, I disagree. Our whole discussion is about hospitality and welcome, and fellowship and love, not about a desire of all people to receive the Body and Blood. And it's only second best because you are a baptized Christian who perceives the Body and Blood in the Sacrament. And no, the coffee hour is no substitute for a liturgical action in Church intended by word and sign to offer hospitality, fellowship and unity through the sharing of blessed bread, which is entirely different than partaking of the Sacrifice by receiving the Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacrament. Christians are called to offer the first to the whole world-of which blessed bread has anciently been the sign--and offer/do the latter on behalf of the whole world.

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  35. Clint,

    I do agree that we need to listen with discernment to what desire people are feeling and expressing. People I've baptized who were already receiving communion have told me repeatedly they were moved to receive communion by an open invitation that stirred something deep and holy in them, so they said or thought to themselves, "I didn't wholly get it, but knew I wanted that too."

    And I do believe the antidrons is direct kin to coffee and sweet and savory goodies offered on the altar after liturgy with the people gathered around. Anciently those additional gifts included more bread, milk and honey. It is a reminder that our simplified feast was and is a feast for the whole person and that we're actually committing to feeding both body and soul.

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  36. Tobias, I affirm that the Sacraments *do* work operare ex operato. But I also assert that while the grace conferred in the Sacraments is not caused by the disposition of the recipient, that disposition can and does affect the work of the Holy Spirit in them.

    For example, you *could* sneak into the local Safeway and validly consecrate the entire bread aisle, but that doesn't mean that everyone who unwittingly eats a sandwich made with the resulting Pepperidge Farms Body of Christ is making a "good Communion."

    This is a link to an RC apologetics site that puts the matter better than I seem to be doing: http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/what-does-the-expression-ex-opere-operato-mean

    The necessity of having the proper dispositions seems to be a solidly Catholic teaching: the Catechism of the Catholic Church treats them as part as a part of the sacramental system: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/__P35.HTM

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  37. This is a wonderful conversation that gets at the heart of what we understand baptism to be and its relation to the Eucharist.

    Donald, thanks for bringing up Luther (it was through his baptismal theology that I extracted myself from believer's baptism). Luther gets it right when he says infant baptism demonstrates to us the nature of faith--that it's all in God's power and not in ours. Faith, for Luther, means trusting in God's promises to us, that God will save us. It's not trusting in our promises to God.

    I have no idea what a radically inclusive baptismal liturgy would look like. If I were designing it, it would include a confession of faith and a public commitment to follow Christ, recognizing at the same time, that it is a moment, a stage on a journey, that may end in a very different place.

    There's another important issue here, too--the nature of the Church. What does the body of Christ look like in a post-Constantinian, post-Christian world? How do we witness most effectively to non-Christians? The debate over CWOB is in part a debate over those very questions. I would prefer some clarity about them before making decisions about our Eucharistic practices.

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  38. Of course, at your Church, Donald, the Antidoron IS distributed from the altar though even then after the formal liturgy is over, and Communion is brought to everyone standing around, not a situation where folks go up and get it, so you're speaking from an entirely different liturgical arrangement than most of the rest of us. And I think St. Gregory's and their customs, should remain as they are because they really work in that place.

    For Antidoron to do what I'm proposing, it would most likely need to be done at the same time as communion, and honestly, getting a blessing from a priest and then walking over to a server to pick up a chunk of bread from a basket is less intimidating and more hospitable to first timers than expecting them to figure out all the logistics of communing, esp if communion involves altar rails and guiding a chalice! Then, take the basket of the leftovers to coffee hour as well--maybe a server could carry the basket at the dismissal procession--to mark the continuance of fellowship beyond the liturgical setting.

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  39. Margaret, you wrote: "Give these folks some credit: they know what baptism means. This is making an eternal commitment, joining a new religion. It's not something to be done lightly or capriciously, and not just so you can be invited to the table."

    This sort of illustrates something I've noted elsewhere about the conversation we're in: the assumption (mistaken, IMO) that Baptism implies commitment, while the Eucharist is commitment-free. I can't see how that follows. We're made a part of the Body of Christ in Baptism, and that relationship is nourished in the Eucharist; where's the difference in commitment? Why is Baptism not to be received without due consideration and on the spur of the moment, but the Eucharist can be?

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  40. Clint, I'd be concerned that if pain bénit or antidoron were distributed at the same time as Communion it could potentially confuse people, especially if both the pain bénit and the bread used for the Eucharist were of the same kind.

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  41. I baptized a woman in a lake, one in a fountain, and a few in churches. Right there on the spot. Because they asked and confessed. (This was before I became an Episcopalian and my ability to baptize was taken away...)

    There appears to be an assumption in the comments that baptism 'on the fly' is something of a lower or diminished view of the sacrament. I think quite the opposite. It's a high view of the sacrament indeed that recognizes its efficacy regardless of the setting, and that welcomes its mysterious initiation into the body of Christ whether it is done after months of preparation or after a sudden moment of conversion. I guess what I mean is this: more ceremony and more preparation don't necessarily equal a higher view of the sacrament.

    I have to admit that even after years in TEC, I'm still remarkably uncomfortable with infant baptism.

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  42. Bill, usually antidoron is distributed by servers from baskets or big bowls in a place that is definitely on the way back from communion, and definitely not distributed from the altar. The practice should be explained in the same manner and time during the announcements when we invite all baptized Christians to receive the Eucharist, and add that as the Lord fed 5000 with five loaves, so then everyone, baptized or not, is welcome to eat with us the Bread of Fellowship (?) as an ancient sign of hospitality, unity and many blessings.

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  43. "Bill, usually antidoron is distributed by servers from baskets or big bowls in a place that is definitely on the way back from communion, and definitely not distributed from the altar"

    Clint, what you seem to be describing here is the use of antidoron (along with wine, in the Slavic tradition) to "cleanse" the communicant's mouth after Communion. The antidoron offered to non-Orthodox is given at the end of the service, when everyone in the congregation goes up to kiss the priest's hand-cross.

    (I note with sadness that *some* Orthodox will not even share antidoron with non-Orthodox, and insist on fasting before receiving it.)

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  44. Ann: I'm all about welcoming, and I've said repeatedly that I don't want to "exclude." I'm just not convinced that the current canon does exclude, especially if it also includes a blessing for guests.

    Plus I think this is treating "welcoming" as an end in itself, when it's only one part of a big, complex process. I've said before that I think CWOB also threatens to leave things like repentance and discernment--and even faith--off the table. Without those, the seeker loses out on the other gifts the church offers, like the capacity for spiritual and moral growth. With baptism, there's at least a starting point.

    (this is why it always bugs me when the confession is left out of the liturgy; I always wind up reading it myself anyway)

    But anyway, I think the important thing is to just have a clear, compassionate explanation.

    - Alex Scott

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  45. Jeffrey, you asked about the "how." If it were up to me, I'd make provisions for the Anglican equivalent of an altar call. After the sermon, the priest would invite those who had not been baptized but who wanted to be to come up to the font (in lots of church's you'd have to move the font from the door to the chancel, I guess), ask them the questions in the Examination and Baptismal Covenant part of the Baptismal liturgy and baptize them. It would add minimal time to the service, while making sure that people knew (through the questions posed to them) that Baptism is a serious undertaking.

    I'm guessing that if we did it that way, not everyone who ended up being baptized during the "altar call" would have made the decision that day, but would have heard the invitation at previous services and had time to reflect and pray about the step. But it would also provide for more spontaneous Ethiopian-eunuch / Lydia-the-dealer-in-purple-cloth/ Philippian-jailer-type decisions.

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  46. Sure Bill, been there done that, but just because that's how THEY use it doesn't mean we would have to do it exactly as they do, and I would research the French model or whatever is left in the West - or whatever was done in the West before it was forgotten. And further, I would offer a good Episcopal version of Artoklasia at the end of Morning or Evening Prayer, esp. in communities where it is hard to get a priest on a regular basis. Perhaps a special version of Artoklasia would be awesome at weddings too, and be a great tie-in to the reception following.

    All I'm saying is get creative, think outside the box, look around and the solution has probably been there all along, even if it has been forgotten or overlooked before. If people who don't discern the Body and Blood come forward because they want to feel included, there's at least one way to do this, given to us by tradition that is full of rich symbolism. There is no reason not to explore this option, intellectually or in practice, and no canons or historical understandings of the Sacraments are being overhauled. The Antidoron IS all about fellowship and inclusion, and designed as such from the beginning. I see no reason not to trust this and give it a shot, reworked for our time.

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  47. I'm still curious about making more allowance for private baptisms. Also, since I wasn't raised in TEC, I'd like to know, are sponsors involved, as they are in the Catholic and (I think?) Orthodox churches?

    -Alex Scott

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  48. Clint, I guess my point is that nobody in an Orthodox church is going to mistake the antidoron given communicants right after Communion with the Eucharist itself, because they know what's going on and because only communicants eat it. But if there were bread being offered in the church to anyone in the congregation at large who wanted it *at the same time* that Communion were being distributed, it might be, especially if the two breads being distributed were the same kind. I suppose careful explanation could prevent that confusion. I understand that in the French model the pain benit is/was leavened bread, which would not be confused with the wafer bread used for the Eucharist.

    I'm not against exploring the idea of reinstituting this venerable practice - just kibitzing about how.

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  49. Alex,

    You raise another important subject in your point about sponsors. Yes, we have them in TEC, but in my experience, sometimes too much latitude is given in family's selecting sponsors and godparents who may not have any church affiliation whatsoever! (This is especialky true with infant baptisms). I maintain having at least one sponsor from the community where the baptism is being held is best practice...

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  50. In my parish anyone who wants prayers stays afterwards in the sanctuary and once the clergy are done with the "meet and greet" in the narthex, they move back in to the sanctuary and pray with whoever is there who wants it. In the meantime some of the Daughters of the King stay behind to sit with and pray with those who want prayer.

    This is a bit out of the box, but this could be a time for "on call" baptism, with the priest or deacon calling on those present to be the presenters and witnesses. This could work if the Baptismal Covenant was recited during the Eucharist in place of the Nicene Creed, or the Covenant could be recited at that time. The water in the font can be kept full and clean and blessed, so you are ready to go. This probably wouldn't take more than 10 minutes to do. Maybe do it once a month.

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  51. I disagree with this just as much as I disagree with CWOB. We have catechism courses for a reason to educate people about the Church and its sacraments. People who just say "Hey, can you baptize me now?", are most likely not to understand just what it means as well as what is expected of all of us as Christians.

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  52. You know, from the sounds of this conversation one might think that there were thousands of unbaptized folks lurking in our churches trying to get hold of the Eucharist, OUR Eucharist.

    There aren't.

    My greatest concern is that we do not become so protective of "God's holy gifts for God's holy people" (does that mean just us Christians?)that we start to sound like the Romans and cause the same pain that they do quite shamelessly.

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  53. "Does that mean just us Christians?"

    Are we really going there?

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  54. The standard spoken invitation to communion at the parish I am a member of:

    "This is not a catholic table nor is it a protestant table, it is god's table, and at god's table, all people are welcome"

    This is what is printed at the back of the bulletin:

    "All are welcome at the Lord's Table. Baptized Christians are invited to receive the Sacrament, and all are encouraged to come forward for a blessing..."

    I'm a proponent of CWOB and would much prefer the printed statement be revised... but the spoken invitation creates a nice welcome for those new or visiting. And in alternative liturgies, we have offered basically open communion (with no printed restriction)... in either setting no one has been turned away because of their lack of baptism or their membership in other or no faiths.

    Chris Cooper

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  55. Peter,

    I hear no one suggesting pursuing what you fear. At most, we are left in our public liturgies with what the current BCP says: "The gifts of God for the people of God..." No one is required by canon to print any language in the bulletin or make an announcement regarding who or who may not receive. Visitors and guests are permitted to decide for themselves what the invitation might mean. Clergy and the communities in which they serve have latitude to decide which is most hospitable in their context for mission and ministry regarding baptismal preparation.

    In short, "carding at the rail" is not being suggested, and there is nothing legislatively been entertained in that regard.

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  56. There seems to be a confusion of the in extremis situation from the regular case.

    Like Fr Haller I want to underscore that

    Baptism is the sacrament of incorporation into Christ by means of Christ's Body, the Church. Communion is nourishment of us as members of Christ.

    I would add that Baptism is once-for-always, our receiving and being brought into the relationship Whom we can always turn to as the act of God for us in word and water by the Spirit. Communion is weekly nourishment of that relationship not just for ourselves but for the life of the world.

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  57. Richard, in my experience policies always lead to some sort of procedure. I love what the Prayer Book says because it does not define who the "People of God" are. Why don't we all just leave it at that? If we go too far with this conversation we will end up doing the same damage that the RC's already do and that would be heart breaking.

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  58. Peter, I believe if you read what I wrote, you would fine I tend to agree with you.

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  59. That is of course "find." Perhaps we'd be better off passing canonical changes regarding spell-checkers! 🙂

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  60. I suggest that we have stronger catechism classes because it's clear that it is sorely lacking.

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  61. I've been watching this thread and the conversation at Episcopal News Service with interest. It feels like we're beginning to actually talk when people are offering real experience of actual mission and conversion and talking about real practice (and I mean both practice from the perspective of Initiated-only-baptism and from the perspective of Communion-without-baptism or as I'd prefer to describe it 'before baptism').

    Clearly baptism and baptismal practice have become central to our thinking in the Episcopal Church, and clearly a communion practice that doesn't address baptism at all is out of synch with our church.

    Speaking from thirty or so years' experience (when I wrote it) of baptizing people who came to the font via the table, I wrote this piece re-visioning baptism from sources in scripture, tradition, and practice, what do mean baptizing people who are already receiving communion:

    http://associatedparishes.org/Articles/Article.aspx?id=41

    I think this conversation is important, that listening to one another's experience as we talk matters, that the questions of theology and how we do theology that are coming up here matter and I appreciate the patient work people are putting in to listening and trying to think together.

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  62. An addition to what I just posted - I'm hearing some ask whether offering everyone communion is simply a fear of hurting people's feelings and where mission and discipleship show up in the practice. Some of us who have been making invitation to all part of our liturgy are working with missionary intent and have found our way to this practice as reluctantly as others in other circumstances where something that seems like it could be the Spirit pushes us against what we know and have been taught. The current Anglican Theological Review has St. Gregory's story of how we got to that moment in about 1983, what came before, and how it was seeing visitors converted and thinking about Jesus' meal practice together that pushed us to try something we hadn't envisioned or sought:

    www.google.com/url?sa=X&q=http://www.anglicantheologicalreview.org/static/pdf/articles/schell_.pdf&ct=ga&cad=CAcQARgBIAEoATABOAFAmYTv_QRIAVgAYgVlbi1VUw&cd=n9XgSKbxhlM&usg=AFQjCNFDmPd0q7gj1aM36Zpj8xOnufwBmA

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  63. If it's magic, you must get the spells right -- remember Aunt Clara?

    If it's club, then there should be membership standards and a purpose to be pursued -- participants should be joining a working group. (Many times, it seems that Communion is seen as an individual matter -- me and my God.)

    At one parish we attended, a Jewish congregant wanted to take communion -- he was fully participating in the activities of the parish but didn't wish to convert. Don't remember how it was resolved, but an uncomfortable time was had by all.

    There is also the model of the village pub, a useful institution where all are welcome, if they behave themselves.

    Baptism at the door reminds me of those black lace doilies that used to be available at the entryway, for women who weren't wearing hats.

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  64. "those black lace doilies that used to be available at the entryway, for women who weren't wearing hats"

    Chapel caps, and they didn't just come in black, Murdoch. My parish in Fort Worth used to have a whole rainbow of choices in chapel caps - everything from black to white.

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  65. For what it's worth, i'm getting tired of the discussion and it's still May. It seems to me that proponents of CWOB what to imitate Jesus transgressiveness, but would remove the rule that makes the transgression a transgression in the first place. It also sounds to me like their anxiety about "inclusion" though laudable, can only too easily insult guests. By treating them like members of the household. I don't get it. If you want to give communion to anyone who asks for it, go ahead. Norms always admit exceptions. (pr have Anglicans suddenly turned into rigorists? What's to happen to our sherry?

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