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CWOB resolutions at General Convention study guide

CWOB resolutions at General Convention study guide

Sharing communion without first baptizing a person is a small but common practice in the Episcopal Church right now. There’s been a great deal of discussion on the question here on the Episcopal Café over the past few years.

(You can read an essay from 2007 here, and a series of three essays posted last year beginning with Part 1, and then Part 2 and Part 3.) These discussions generate more comments than any other subject on the Café. And now some of the ideas being discussed are going to be voted on at General Convention this summer.

The Diocese of Eastern Oregon has proposed a resolution that would remove any bar to anyone receiving Holy Eucharist. But it’s not the only one.

“[There are] two resolutions on this topic [that] convention will consider when it meets July 4-12 in Indianapolis. The Diocese of North Carolina has proposed a longer-term look at the issue. Resolution C029 calls for a special commission to conduct ‘a study of the theology underlying access to Holy Baptism and Holy Communion’ and recommend to the 78th General Convention any amendment to Canon 1.17.7 it believes is needed.

The texts of both resolutions are available here. Eastern Oregon’s is accompanied by a diocesan statement explaining its stance.

This will be the second time in recent years that what is variously called open communion, open table and communion of the non- or unbaptized has come to convention. In 2006, the General Convention affirmed Canon 1.17.7 (via Resolution D084) and asked for the House of Bishops Committee on Theology and the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to provide to the 2009 meeting of convention ‘a pastoral and theological understanding of the relationship between Holy Baptism and eucharistic practice.’”

Mary Frances Schjonberg has collected a huge compendium of resources in an article posted on the Episcopal News Service this afternoon. It turns out that this controversy has been discussed to one degree or another since at least 1982 in the Episcopal Church. The discussion in church history goes all the way back to Didache, written in the first centuries of the Church’s life.

Schjonberg’s article contains links to all the original Episcopal Church material such as previous resolutions, Ecumenical statements and position papers.

You can find the whole history of the Episcopal Church’s Communion without baptism discussion here. If you’re preparing for General Convention, this is some must reading.


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Bill Dilworth

Dean Knisely, I saw you at the Walkabout last week, and wished you’d gotten a question about CWOB in the group I was part of…

Nicole Porter

I agree with Derek. The sacraments shouldn’t be made into an “inclusion gimmick”.

Dave Paisley

“If you’re preparing for General Convention, this is some must reading.”

Or maybe if you’re suffering from insomnia…

Jesse Zink

I think that the survival question and the CWOB question are broadly related. I don’t think we’d be considering CWOB so seriously if the church didn’t seem to be in such a perilous state attendance- and other-wise.

For me, the CWOB issue is about a lot more than liturgical theology. I think the presence of this debate at this point in the life of the church says a lot about where we are at in the church but I wrote about that elsewhere.


Derek Olsen

I would agree with Chris–I see this as a survival matter. Some proponents of CWOB believe that it is a form of evangelism because it enables us to be completely open to all. I don’t see it that way. Instead, I see it as an excuse to *not* do evangelism because evangelism involves talking with people, engaging their questions, and explaining why we do some things and not other things. For instance, we believe that Baptism comes first for a reason. If someone is truly desperate for the Eucharist then they’ll likely *want* to know that there’s more to it than just receiving bread and wine.

CWOB practiced as a simple “y’all come to the table” short-circuits those conversations about belief, meaning, and faith.

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