(ENS) Some General Convention Resolutions endorse unbaptized people receiving the Eucharist

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The young woman who called St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Hood River, Oregon, was upset and asked if the church offered communion.

“I really need some support right now and I feel like it starts there,” she told the Rev. Anna Carmichael, the parish’s rector.

The wrinkle was that while the woman had attended various churches she had “never formally been baptized and yet somehow this needing to be in community and needing to be supported, in her mind, had something to do with communion as well,” Carmichael recalled.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)General Convention * Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, Worship* TheologySacramental TheologyEucharist

18 Comments
Posted May 15, 2012 at 4:00 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Ian+ wrote:

Let’s just install drive-thru windows on the gospel side of our churches. Get your daily Jesus fix with no commitment, discipleship, no expectation of a transformed life. But you’ll feel good about yourself, which is all we aim for in our society.

May 15, 5:56 pm | [comment link]
2. bettcee wrote:

Is there some reason why Rev, Anna Carmichael could not offer to prepare this woman for Baptism and ultimately Baptize her as most Christians are? Surely that would have made the woman feel like she had the full support of both the Rector and the community of the church.
Did the Rector really have to tell her no without explaining the significance of Baptism and offering to Baptize her.
I am not a cradle Episcopalian so I may be mistaken, but I thought that a priest or rector of a Church could offer to prepare people for Baptism and to Baptize them at any time. Please correct me if I am wrong.

May 15, 6:53 pm | [comment link]
3. paradoxymoron wrote:

I hope that they’ll make allowances so newcomers can “SUPERSIZE IT!” OR “Go B-I-G” or get it with cheese if they’re willing to drop another $1.99 in the collection basket.

May 15, 6:58 pm | [comment link]
4. paradoxymoron wrote:

How about “open ordination,” followed by “open vesting in the Church Pension Fund?” Problem solved!

May 15, 7:23 pm | [comment link]
5. RalphM wrote:

I want to drive a car on the interstate.  Why should I be denied that just because I’ve never bothered to get a license or even learn to drive?

May 15, 7:29 pm | [comment link]
6. Br. Michael wrote:

As long as the send in their money who cares what they believe.  TEC is so non Christian who really cares what they do?

Surely it’s not news that TEC routinely ignores its Cannons and fundamental doctrine.  Maybe they can work this in with the same sex blessings.

May 15, 8:07 pm | [comment link]
7. Todd Granger wrote:

This will be the issue that splits the liberals in The Episcopal Church over the next few years.  I sporadically visit a few of the more thoughtful theologically liberal Anglican/Episcopalian weblogs, and liberal Episcopalians are by no means unanimous in their support of this.  In fact, several of these bloggers have condemned the practice of giving communion to the unbaptized, citing pretty much the same reasons that are written in the comments above.

Some of them have also bemoaned the fact that The Episcopal Church seems bent on self-destruction, careering wildly from one divisive issue to another.  I feel for their sense of betrayal, but - camel’s noses, slippery slopes, Pandora’s box.  There it is.  I admit that in the depths of my sinful heart it is difficult not to feel a certain degree of Schadenfreude.  Lord, have mercy.

May 15, 9:27 pm | [comment link]
8. NoVA Scout wrote:

Prepare the woman for baptism, baptise her, and then give her communion.  What’s so hard about that?  A blessing will suffice in the interim.

May 15, 10:21 pm | [comment link]
9. c.r.seitz wrote:

What’s hard is that it lacks immediate inclusivity. TEC wants to be available to all and sundry, and why should this person have to wait? Preparation for Baptism assumes that she needs to do something apart from her created state. Isn’t she already ‘prepared’ by virtue of who God made her? The Church is there to affirm who she is.

#7, I wish we could count on this but I suspect you, like myself and others, assume the money will have to fully run out before we come to the end of the Book of Judges.

May 15, 10:55 pm | [comment link]
10. IchabodKunkleberry wrote:

TEC should just present all their beliefs and doctrines as adiaphora.
Then the tent will be big enough for everyone. Since no beliefs or
doctrines would be enjoined upon members, even the faithless
could have a sort of faith. No point in leaving them out.

May 16, 12:25 am | [comment link]
11. bettcee wrote:

If the Rector neglects to give an explanation of Baptism or to offer the opportunity for Baptism to a woman who is seeking Christian support and inclusion, it seems to me that the woman is being excluded from a basic rite of the church. (No pun intended)

May 16, 2:42 am | [comment link]
12. vrmjws wrote:

Let me complicate this a bit. Some Pentecostal Churches don’t require baptism for Communion. But they do require belief and fairly regular church attendance. For them Believers’ Baptism has to do with personal Salvation. I would have no trouble sharing Communion with a Bible believing unbaptised Pentecostal.

May 16, 8:22 am | [comment link]
13. Saltmarsh Gal wrote:

FWIW, I have been in parish ministry as an ordained person for twenty-four years and, while there have been many times when people (members and non-members) have been in terrible distress, the only sacraments (or sacramental rites depending upon your churchmanship) that have seemed appropriate are emergency baptism, confession and unction of the sick.  To press straight to the Eucharist is a significant misunderstanding of pastoral theology (malpractice, IMHO) and, ultimately, a great disservice to the person needing help.

May 16, 8:22 am | [comment link]
14. Ralph wrote:

“To press straight to the Eucharist is a significant misunderstanding of pastoral theology (malpractice, IMHO) and, ultimately, a great disservice to the person needing help.”

Exactly. Holy Listening? Of course. Short-term spiritual direction? Yes. Other types of pastoral counseling? Sure. A blessing? Definitely.

Communion of an unbaptized person? Absolutely not. That’s not what the lady was really calling out for. The Rector’s actions warrant diocesan investigation and intervention.

I don’t know how well the seminaries teach theory and practice of ministry. I do know more than a few TEC clergy who have no working knowledge of Hebrew or Greek.

May 16, 10:39 am | [comment link]
15. MichaelA wrote:

Amen to all the above.  The whole story sounds like a beat-up, frankly.

May 16, 10:44 am | [comment link]
16. bettcee wrote:

This is what Jesus said:

Matthew Chapter 28, Verse 19-20
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.

May 16, 10:47 am | [comment link]
17. Connecticutian wrote:

I posted the following on the ENS site, but in case it doesn’t make it past the Moderator:

The Episcopal Church seems to always be re-inventing itself, as if the profound questions have never been asked and answered.  There is a Canon restricting who may participate in communion - why?  As the article says, it’s based on ancient tradition - why is the Church second-guessing that based on a vague emotional sense of “welcome”?  Furthermore, why is nobody discussing the role of scripture as the basis for both the ancient tradition and current praxis?  Read 1 Corinthians 11, for example.  The Eucharist is not simply an agape feast, like a brunch that we want everybody to enjoy and take comfort in.  “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”  If that’s not what we’re doing when we receive, then we’re making a mockery of the Words of Institution.  “For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves.”  Potential converts might take The Episcopal Church more seriously if they observed its priests and bishops taking the sacraments more seriously.

May 16, 10:59 am | [comment link]
18. jhp wrote:

From the Didache :
“But let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist except those who have been baptized into the name of the Lord.” (9.5)

The documents from which we know anything historically reliable about the faith and practice of the Early Church make it explicitly clear that baptismal confession preceded Holy Communion.

So giving communion to the unbaptized is something parishes are doing against TEC’s own canons, against cogent theological objections, and against the virtually universal historical tradition of two millennia.  The modern arrogance that insists “we know better now” is just stunning ...

To be sure: of all the wrongs in the Episcopal Church crying out to heaven for vengeance, this is by far not the worst, but still ... how can any standards be maintained either for or against a doctrine or practice when so much is set aside to permit giving Holy Communion to the unbaptized ?

May 16, 3:42 pm | [comment link]
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