Support the Café

Search our Site

Is Communion on-line really Communion?

Is Communion on-line really Communion?

As online worship becomes more common in some churches, leaders within the United Methodist Church are debating whether the denomination should condone online Communion.


Many churches have launched online options for church activities, including worship, seminary, ordination counseling and financial giving. Despite the growing availability of church resources online, participating in Communion has mostly remained a part of the physical act of worship in a congregation.

“The Methodist understanding of Communion arguably is more low church and less emphasis on the ‘real presence,’” Tooley said, when compared to denominations like the Episcopal Church.

With Methodists’ history of itinerant evangelism spread through circuit-riding preaching, online Communion fits with the denomination’s populist bent, said Stephen Gunter, associate dean for Methodist studies at Duke Divinity School.

“It’s always been about how we get the gospel to the next person,” he said.

But Methodists also have a history of accountability, checking on one another’s spiritual life, Gunter said. “I can’t see how someone (who’s) satisfied to be in front of a TV or computer screen would be interested in being held accountable to anything.”

Some worry that online communication is becoming an alternate form of community for Christians.

“Digital mediation is now preferred to the immediacy of embodied conversation,” wrote Brent Laytham, dean of the Ecumenical Institute of Theology and professor of theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University. “Like a hug or a kiss, like incarnation and resurrection, Communion requires bodies that touch.”


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
David O'Rourke

The fact is, Christians are entering the virtual spaces and are gathering to pray, study and engage in fellowship, building community in a new world that is not defined by geography.

I have found several types of people who are engaging with the church in virtual spaces, from those who are actively involved in “real world” churches and their involvement in church in the virtual world adds to that to people like Priscilla, who for a variety of reasons do not connect to a real life church and connect to church in a virtual world.

The virtual spaces are a new mission field, and it is important that the church not abandon it to all the other forces that are rapidly shaping it. Just because we don’t know how to do sacraments in virtual settings, and it seems very strange to us, does not mean that we should simply ignore the issue. Instead we need to engage with these questions and explore how God can work even in virtual spaces. The answer may very well be that we cannot celebrate the sacraments in the virtual world and therefore cannot be fully church, but we need to do the exploration before we say it is not possible.

Priscilla Cardinale

Wow. How limited is one’s concept of God if God cannot bless bread and wine over the Internet? Is God’s power so weak that the priest must be physically present or could God be omnipresent and powerful enough to use this modern technology as a blessing and evangelism that is new to our current way of thinking?

I have taken online communion for a few years now with MadPriest since I am not made to feel welcome in the local Anglican and Episcopal churches. It is as real, as holy, and as sacramental to me as any communion I’ve ever taken in a flesh and blood church situation.

Why is it that I’m not surprised that this good thing that reaches someone like me who has been unchurched for over a decade and a half poo-pooed and dismissed by the insiders who are comfortable with their own situations? So much for growing the church and evangelizing those not comfortable with the current forms of church — we don’t count.

I say: God bless us all, even those of us who are left out and ignored by those of you who want things to always be what you are comfortable with! We will commune with God online and you can be happy that we aren’t something you have to worry about I guess. That is sad though and very emblematic of why the church is dying today.


“The Methodist understanding of Communion arguably is more low church and less emphasis on the ‘real presence,’” Tooley said, when compared to denominations like the Episcopal Church.

There’s a statement which ignores at least 40 years of ecumenical dialogue…

JC Fisher

Paul Woodrum

Does it come with a home kit or just virtual bread and virtual wine blessed by a virtual priest, and virtual incense from a virtual thurible swung by a virtual thurifer?

Not sure this is baked enough to be passed on to commission reimaging the church. Maybe later as the technology improves.

Father Ron

‘Virtual Communion’? This would be the end of Incarnational Christianity!

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café