Holy Communion for all
Do you think that we ought to have open communion in our churches? (Invite the unbaptised.)
James Farwell and Kathryn Tanner argue about whether we should or not. Farwell is brave, he knows the position that he maintains needs defending.
Does the meal seek to do more than this so that the above line of defence is a weak argument for open-table fellowship?
Farwell asks whether we might consider the two sacraments in relationship with one another: the eucharistic meal is the foundation for the further table-fellowship baptised followers of Jesus are empowered to go into the world and involve themselves in as they minister to people created in God's image and discover with others more about life and God.
In this way then those partaking in the meal are those who share Jesus' vision and understand the commissioning it communicates and their own participation in his life as they fulfil that commission.
Farwell points our attention to Augustine could this, reductio ad absurdum, mean we are symbolically consuming ourselves. (I wonder how that might sit alongside something like transubstantiation - it's all beginning to get rather messy, isn't it? Charges of cannibalism (h/t in class to Ben Griffiths!) were levied at the early church by those who didn't, wouldn't or couldn't enter into the meaning of the meal.)
Farwell also asks that we be conscious of the changes that might have to be made to baptism, if open table fellowship is practised. He supports the idea that the Eucharist nourishes what has been assented to, received and birthed at baptism.
In some ways, I can relate to this. We feed what is alive not what is dead. Or continuing on this vein more accurately, do we feed what is not yet born in order to bring it to life? Having said that, this is not an active feeding of any yet-to-be born baby, it just happens as part of the life in which that child has been received and is growing. The unbaptised are nourished through the Word and worship in the church, do we wait until the birth of their faith-life as it is symbolised through baptism before we mark the nourishment of that life with the giving of the Eucharist? I only have questions at this point.
Farwell ties the Eucharist so closely to baptism that he makes a very persuasive case for preserving the meal to the baptised. This metanoia, turning to God, at baptism, is in itself remembered through the Eucharist too in so much as we are called to recall the life that we were called into at baptism (I know there's a lot of 'calling' going on in that sentence), a life in Christ, discipled - 'the table presumes the content of baptism.'
This thinking leads him to believe -
If we separate baptism from the Eucharist and do not require it, the real turning to Christ is foregone, argues Farwell. He does not reference the confession and absolution which precedes the Eucharist. He believes that we minimise the free gift of God that is also a call upon the whole of our lives and beings.
Is the sharing in his suffering prominent enough in a defence of open table fellowship based on gift and hospitality? If we invite people to come and partake of Christ's suffering, does that not need the former rite of baptism to ground that and make sense of it somehow? (Theologically, of course, language here of invitation which culminates in ideas of guest and host is problematic when Christ's is the invitation, he is the host and the host and we are all guests but more than that still, because we are participators).
Tomorrow I will think about reasons FOR open table Eucharist. Do share your thoughts. I would benefit, as might many others.
Ordained Anglican. Thinking out loud about church.