Over at Wittenberg Trail, I got into a discussion that led to the subject of communion. To cut the long story short, the way my synod's pastors practice 'closed communion' has been dubbed by some LCMS folk as 'moderate' i.e. not confessional. As I mentioned somewhere, I describe my synod as a centrist synod.
Here is how the pastors at home practice 'closed communion'. In our bulletin sheets there is a mention of what our local church believes about the Lord's Supper, namely:
The Lutheran Church teaches that the 'Holy communion is the true body and
blood of our Lord Jesus Christ given with bread and wine, instituted by Christ
himself for us Christians to eat and drink'. It is for baptized people
- repent of all their sins
- trust in Jesus Christ as their only Saviour
- believe that in the sacrament Jesus gives his true body and blood with
bread and wine
- join with the congregation in *this* public confession of Jesus and his
After consecration, the pastor comes forward holding the chalice containing the bread and say words to this effect ..."Dear Friends, our Lutheran Church *does not believe* that the bread and wine are *mere* symbols of Jesus' body and blood, but rather we believe it is truly the body and blood of the Lord given for our sins. Those who could confess this with us are welcome to receive the Lord's supper. Come for all things are ready".
I argue that because these words were written and are said prior to distribution, a visitor who comes forward is confessing what we confess about the supper. If a visitor comes forward dispite the words then there is no reason for him/her to be denied.
I defend that this is in the spirit of Scripture and the BoC. However, this position is called 'moderate' (but what can you expect I said we are centrist) and non-confessional - meaning we are not truly Lutheran (so reader beware).
I argue that the fact that the person is coming forward after the announcement of what it is not and what it is, is an assumption on our part (yes we can be wrong, but what do we have) that the person is agreeing with our confession about the Supper.
Further, I argue from the fact that the Lord's Supper is one of the Means of Grace, i.e. how God comes down to us, and therefore must not be denied on anyone who does not despise but rather rejoices in it!
Apparently for some folk, this is not enough. Apparently one must NOT ONLY believe that it is the true body and blood of the Lord, one must agree 100% with what the pastor preaches from that pulpit too. This latter one is rather curious, and opens for some abuse.
You know I am not always in church, sometimes I visit some Lutheran local church somewhere in the country when I am on holidays, I do not know what esoteric doctrine a country pastor might have taught sometime in his past or he currently hold, what I am agreeing with him is the confession on the means of grace, the Supper, that it is true body and blood of the Lord.
I examined for BoC references to check this position and here are the following
1. Large Catechism on the Sacrament of the Altar: We do not intend to admit to the sacrament and administer it to those who do not know what they seek or why they come.
My Comment: this is taken cared of by the explanation prior to distribution
2. The Apology to the Augsburg Confession (1531) says in Article XI.4 - Confession: "...Excommunication is pronounced on the openly wicked and on those who despise the sacraments."
My Comment: the fact that the person is coming after the explanation does not indicate that he despises the sacrament.
3. The Augsburg Confession (1530) says in Article XXIV.6 - Mass: "...People are admitted only if they first had an opportunity to be examined and heard".
My Comment: This indicates that before communion is given, the person must have given his confession in private to the pastor during the week and only then communion is given to such. In fact in some churches, this necessitates the use of communion tokens. I doubt if those who say we are non-confessional even practice this. Or, this may be also the general confession and absolution that happens earlier in the service, no matter anyway. Note that on my part, I agree with the meaning of the words in the BoC and not on the words themselves. The question is this - will our pastors eventually catechize that visitor? Yes. In fact if the person has been coming for some time, the person will receive a visit from the pastor and one of the things that would be discussed is this doctrine of communion.
Rightly so - one of the pastors (himself LCMS) in the discussion commented that there must be a way to practice close communion with non-Lutherans but we must be able to practice open communion amongst fellow Lutherans too irregardless of what Synod they come from.
I believe our pastors will serve you the elements if you confess what we confess about the Supper irregardless of what Synod you come from. I am open for correction and proper orientation on this by LCAus pastors themselves , but I have been to quite a few and find my articulation to be reasonable(if they are reading this, they can straighten my mis-impression or misunderstanding).
However, I am at this point comfortable that the way we practice it is in keeping with the Gospel as a gift and the nature of what the Means of Grace is -- that the very Sacrament (which is Gospel with elements) creates faith itself in the heart of the sinner according to God's will; why should we withold it if the person is willing to confess and receive it, why should we add more requirements that they belong to our synod etc etc? I just do not understand.
Well, dear reader : caveat lector. I do not necessarily carry the proper brand name to some: confessional. No matter, I only care that my position is Biblical, that is enough. You can call me a mongrel Lutheran, I do not care.
Remember, I am not perfect, I am not a member of Mt. Zion. Be careful of what you read here, you can get contaminated --- by the truth.