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The case for communion before baptism

The case for communion before baptism

The Anglican Journal has a helpful article on “Open Communion,” also known as “Communion Before Baptism.”

The case for open communion

From The Anglican Journal

Should we invite persons who are not baptized to receive Holy Communion? The church is discussing this question today. Anglicans traditionally have believed that the eucharist is a family meal, reserved for members of the church through baptism. Those who are not baptized are not members of the church; therefore, they cannot participate in the family meal.

This exclusive view of the eucharist has a long history. St. Paul warns against eating and drinking in an “unworthy manner” (I Cor. 11:27), though he seems to leave the decision whether to partake in the meal to each person’s conscience (I Cor. 11:28).

Closed communion is standard practice in some Christian churches, including the Roman Catholic and Orthodox. However, many Anglican churches now practice open communion. There are good reasons, both missional and theological, for doing so.

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Paige Baker

"Forgive the cliches but cheap grace is, well, still cheap grace. What one gets free is worth every penny that is paid for it."

My understanding has always been that grace to us is free. Jesus already paid for it--all we have to do is accept it.

If you have to pay for it, it isn't grace.

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Paul Woodrum

We nobly invoke grace and generosity, hospitality and inclusion to justify inviting everyone, baptized or not, to the altar to receive the sacrament. I wonder if the real reason might not be institutional panic over declining numbers and further ponder, considering human nature, if this isn't the opposite of what we should be doing -- observing some boundaries and maintaining some standards. Even the Ethiopian eunuch, as much of a spiritually hungry outsider as one can imagine, was first instructed, then baptized and then fed.

Forgive the cliches but cheap grace is, well, still cheap grace. What one gets free is worth every penny that is paid for it.

Worship means giving worth to but could it be that in our desperation to survive we've so devalued Christian belief and practice that, for many, if not most, it's hardly worth the bother?

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Michel Alexandre Salim, AOJN

Like Susan, based on Sara Miles' experience I would think that communion should not be denied to those who feel called to receive it, as indeed it can be a transformative experience.

In practice, I'm not aware of "baptismal check" resulting in people being turned away, though. Or of Episcopal celebrants refusing someone communion (though the BCP lists criteria for refusing someone).

Perhaps the invitation could be broadened to include baptised Christians (who presumably understand what communion is about) as well as those who have some understanding as to its significance, *and* feel called to it.

After all, given the wide differences in understanding about the eucharist, wouldn't a Catholic/Orthodox/Lutheran/Anglican-leaning non-baptised seeker have a more appropriate understanding of how we celebrate it than, say, a baptised Reform Christian?

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tgflux

For me, per always, I see the paradox in this.

I understand the value of/emphasis on Baptism as the general (canonical) admission to the Lord's Table...

...AND I see the Economy of Grace, which says "Y'all Come!" to the Table, regardless of wedding garment or baptismal certificate (Checking for a proper certificate? Haven't we had too much of that lately? O_o)

We don't want to stress Open Communion to the point that Holy Baptism (and catechesis before it) becomes somehow optional (or worse). At the same time, we don't want to throw up a stumbling block to the Holy Spirit, inspiring someone to come to the altar Right Here/Right Now. Both/And. Paradox.

JC Fisher

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Richard E. Helmer

For me, the call to humility in this discussion over sacraments offered and sacraments received is paramount. Thing is, it cuts both ways -- humility in the face of the Church's teaching about what is normative, and humility in administering the sacrament in a context of communally experienced grace.

Facile assertions of rectitude on either side simply won't do.

Here's one approach:

In our parish, I share the traditional norm when asked. In worship, we invite people to discern the call to receive. In writing, we reflect the intimate relationship between communion and baptism. At the rail, open hands are given the Body of Christ.

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