Canadian Anglicans will hold discussions this spring about whether baptism is necessary for taking part in communion — questioning a requirement of Christianity that has existed for 2,000 years.
“Official teaching is you have to be baptized first. But a number of clergy across the country feel strongly about this as an issue and many have approached their bishops about allowing for an ‘open table’ in which all could take communion,” said Archdeacon Paul Feheley, who is the principal secretary to Archbishop Fred Hiltz, head of the Anglican Church of Canada.
It will be discussed when the House of Bishops meet in April, but not as an official topic, he said.
I've already offered some thoughts on communing the unbaptized and why I oppose the practice, so I won't rehash it all again. But I will cite and respond briefly to some of the comments in favor of the practice from the National Post article:
Rev. Gary Nicolosi said that if Jesus did not discriminate about who he invited to his table, then the Church should follow his lead.
“How, in our multicultural and pluralistic society, can our churches be places of hospitality if we exclude table fellowship with the non-baptized? This is not an academic question,” wrote Rev. Nicolosi, the pastor at St. James Westminster Anglican Church in London, Ont., and an official Church consultant on how to build membership.
I fully agree that this is not an academic question and that the Church should, indeed, be concerned about how our parishes can be places of hospitality in an increasingly diverse and post-Christian context. But I think there's something deeply awry with Fr. Nicolosi's approach here. The Jesus we meet in the Gospels did not own a house, so he was never in a position to invite anybody to "his table." Fr. Nicolosi gets things backwards: it's not other people who accept an invitation to dine at Jesus' table, it's Jesus who accepts invitations to dine at other people's tables. And if we take seriously the accounts of the Last Supper in the Gospels, the only people present for that meal were Jesus' closest followers. That makes the Last Supper - the meal at which our Lord instituted the sacrament of Holy Eucharist - an exclusionary event.
Fr. Nicolosi continues by asking the question:
“How can the church effectively minister in a post-Christian world where a significant percentage of the population is not baptized?"
What happens if we take out the word “post-Christian” and insert “pagan,” and then take out the words “a significant percentage” and add “the vast majority”? We get this question:
"How can the church effectively minister in a pagan world where the vast majority of the population is not baptized?"
This is the exact same question that faced the early Church. And yet, in stark contrast to our day, there was no movement among the early Christians to allow for communion without baptism. And yet they still found ways to “effectively minister."
Once again, I find the reasoning used by those pushing for communion without baptism unpersuasive. It strikes me as a well-intentioned but misguided effort to make a dying Church "relevant" in a post-Christian world by watering down the Gospel in the hopes that such an accommodation to the culture will make the institutional Church more appealing to people who mistrust and/or have no use for such institutions.
In contrast to Fr. Nicolosi, I think that Ephraim Radner gets it right:
Rev. Ephraim Radner, professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College, an Anglican seminary in Toronto, rejects the idea that changing 2,000 years of tradition will make the Anglican Church stronger.
“The Eucharist isn’t a welcoming exercise,” he said. “It is about Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. It’s not a meal like any other meal.
“It has been a clear and consistent practice through all of Christianity and shows that a baptized person has committed himself or herself to Jesus.”
He said to eliminate the requirement would water down what Christianity stands for, and he is concerned that leaders of the Church do not find the suggestion alarming.
“It’s dangerous,” he said. “It makes God and Christ not as holy and demanding and wonderful as the Church has taught.”
This kind of change, he added, would also drive a further wedge between Anglicans and Roman Catholics and the Orthodox Christians and help kill any notion of ecumenical reconciliation.
Read all of the National Post article.