Wednesday, May 09, 2007

You're soooh mean!

You probably think this blog is about you. Sorry, not really. I don't know.

Many Evangelical as well as Calvinist folk are so offended with the closed communion practise of Lutherans. At first, in my mind, that was a concern in me too. It seems so tribal, divisive, clannish and not Christianly at all.

Over at Reformed Catholicism this is being discussed. It was started off from The Pirate with a nice help from Confessing Evangelical . These guys' contributions have been insightful.

To my Calvinist and Evangelical friends who are quite disappointed at the close communion practices of orthodox Lutherans, I have a suggestion, a sincere advice. Do not start with the question "why do they do close communion"? This is not the first question to ask. The first issue is this, "what is happening at the Lord's Supper"? Is this the body and blood of Christ? This is the first question to understand, and when it is settled, the idea of closed communion, you will find is not strange at all.

If you answer that question with a "yes", to which a Lutheran will say also "amen", then you got your answer too - you will see that it makes sense why they practice close communion and they only offer it to those who can say "yes", this is the body and blood of the Lord according to his Word.

If your answer is "no", then why blame them for being closed? This is something to be happy about, why commune at the table to which you can not agree? You should not be desiring it. Besides, this answer means there is nothing special about communion and it is no different (really, I mean no dis-respect) to eating bread for breakfast or taking a sip of wine during dinner.

So the Lutheran practise of closed communion is a very simple issue to resolve. It is not hard and you will not be offended once you know the answer to "what is on the table". Believe me, I was like that too, close communion became the least of my concerns after I got the answer to the question from Scripture (1 Cor 10:16).

Now would an RC commune in a Lutheran table? Of course they won't! I got my suspicions why they won't, I just want to know if they match their reasons.


Matthew Delves said...

I would also say that the reason why many people laugh at the idea of a closed communion is that they take the 'Emerging Church' inclusiveness as the norm.
If you don't hold to the teachings of the church then you shouldn't be undertaking communion with them. It does seem harsh to begin with though I completely agree with it and would encourage many churches to do likewise.
God bless,
Matthew Delves

L P Cruz said...


Come to think of it, now that you said it, by practising close communion, one can really get the Gospel out to inquirers who are not being given the bread and wine.

It is an opportunity to clarify with inquirers the Gospel for surely it will be a question that will come up from would be visitors.

Thanks for the idea.

John H said...

Lito: thanks for the link and your encouraging comments. I've found some aspects of the Reformed Catholicism discussion a little bruising, though overall it's been very positive.

I think you are right that the key question is what people believe about what is happening at the Supper. In my experience - and the Ref.Cath. discussion bears this out, I think - Reformed Christians tend to focus on closed communion as an issue on its own, and feel hurt and offended at our "exclusiveness".

But the moment you set out clearly what we actually believe about the Lord's Supper, and what is actually said and sung at our Divine Service, they usually say, "Yikes! Well in that case I wouldn't want to take part!"

The truly positive aspect of that sort of discussion is that it does normally result in an increase in mutual understanding - and understanding our differences better is an essential step to truly resolving them.

L P Cruz said...

John H,

Thanks for stopping over and it is my pleasure to point other readers to your blog. I have learned much from the angles you presented. Keep it coming.

Close communion is staight up an emotional and controversial topic, and at first blush it appears sectarian, but it has been practised by Christians of old.

I certainly agree, mutual understanding past the emotions is what we should aim for, and I hope your comments in your blog promotes that. The folk in reformedCaths are interacting actively with you so that is a good sign.

Steve said...

If one takes Holy Communion at a Lutheran Chruch then they are publicly stating that they agree with Lutheran theology on The Lord's Supper. Likewise, if one takes Holy Communion at a RC church, then they are agreeing with RC teachings.

If one takes Holy Coummion at a Lutheran or RC Church, but they reject what the respective churches teach, then they are being dishonest to fellow worshipers, the pastors, and themselves.

In 1 Cor. 11:29, Paul writes "For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drink judgement on himself." Closed communion is a loving act that protects a person who is properly taught on what Holy Communion is.

L P Cruz said...


That is what I said in response, witholding the cup/bread from someone who does not share the belief of the one offering it (the Pastor) is much better since at least the offerer believes that it will harm than do good.

At the same time, I have heard of Lutherans who, for lack of closer Lutheran church in the area, would commune in an RC church. I wonder about that.

Steve said...

If a Lutheran communions at an RC, then a Lutheran accepting the RC position that the Priest is "re-sacrificing" Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Also, the Lutheran is accepting the doctrine of transsubstitation. Both run counter to Holy Scripture.

While weekly communion is very good, Holy Scripture doesn't put any time constrants on how often we are to communion. If the Lutheran received the Body and Blood of Christ in with and under the bread and wine on once a year, but receives grace by the means of hearing the word, the Lutheran is still recieving God's grace.

L P Cruz said...

Your point should well be taken Steve,

The Lutherite in the RC table needs to know that, although I heard them say "atleast these guys believe it IS the body and blood of the Lord".

Mostly these folks are in a remote area and they do not have a called minister or are in a transition period of calling. Fortunately I heard instances when the Synod provides a circuit pastor to serve Word and Sacrament too.

I take your point toou - the person who receives Law and Gospel from the pulpit is also receiving the Lord too, hopefully they get it consistently from a faithful leader/preacher.

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J. K. Jones said...

I respect the closed-communion position among conservative Lutherans. At least they take the sacra .. er, uh, I mean - ordinance seriously.

I would not want to partake of communion with a group when doing so would be disrespectful of their beliefs. I would not expect them to take communion in my Southern Baptist church against their convictions, either.

L P Cruz said...

Hi JK,

Thanks for understanding.

They are not being a snob, they actually like you to affirm what it is and so partake - but only if you can confess it IS the body/blood of Christ given FOR YOU. That FOR YOU aspect is important.

So when the Pastor who is offering, is asserting what the recipient is denying then there is no point. Which I think is logical and biblical.

As you said, against one's conviction when done is sin.

Steve said...

As a former SBC, I find the SBC (and most of the American Evanglical Church) view of Holy Communion as unbiblical. They are unwilling to call Holy Communion a scarment since they reject what Jesus said, what Paul taught, and the earily church practiced.

When the inscription on many "alters" have "Do This In Rememberance of Me" instead of "This is My .. ", then the focus is not of Christ but on the Christian.

Mykola Danylov said...

Thank you very much, brethren, for such interesting topic.

In my own parish and family practice I touched to three main problems concerning 'closed communion' (CC) (you see, my Ukrainian Lutheran Church as a member of the CELC and a WELS's partner also follows this rule strictly):

1) as for me, CC has to do with 'horizontal' relationships (man-to-man) rather than 'vertical' (God-to-man) ones. Therefore if some sincere believer (formally non-Lutheran) confesses in the Eucharist the Christ's true body and true blood and, moreover, he confesses the 'Sola fide' doctrine - why should a pastor deter such person from his communion WITH CHRIST for the reason of SECONDARY interdenominational differencies?

2) practically CC had become 'a fairy tale'. I mean that those people who 'had passed' their confirmation and Chatechism course many-many years ago would not really differ in theological background from any 'undenominational Evangelics'... But they do still have CC and are considered as 'conservative Lutherans'... :)))

3) CC had become an invincible barrier even between so called conservative church bodies. It is not a secret that even the CELC and the ILC have not communion of altar. That's why primarily noble CC sometimes transfers into 'near sectarian' tool for emphasis of someone's identity.

So I can't decide definitely if CC practice is undoubtedly evangelical.

L P Cruz said...


Dear brother, I can only say amen to all you said here and you said it very well.

Indeed CC if practiced with a requirement that one must agree in all points of doctrine is a ploy for sectarian emphasis as you said.

You are one of the very very few I know who is stating the obvious. All the rest in blog world I know are simply singing the same chorus.

Thanks your comments are worth re-reading.