Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Slight Rant on Current Arguments for CROB

I write this with the hope that my passionate rant here might demonstrate how deeply I believe this touches our life as Christians. Also, "CROB" is my own acronym for "Communion Regardless of Baptism." I like it because not only is it slightly more accurate that "Communion without Baptism" (CWOB), but "CROB" just sounds like a bad idea, no matter what it stands for. :-)

The Episcopal Digital Network (formerly the Episcopal News Service) has posted an article online about the ongoing conversations surrounding the ongoing effort by some to implement a policy of Communion regardless of Baptism. This is the subject of at least one (and apparently likely more than one) resolution going forward to General Convention this summer, the highest authority in the Episcopal Church.

I know that I generally try to keep this blog reflective and low-key... but this debate brings up some very strong feelings in me. I think it runs right to the heart of the Christian message and so, if you'll forgive a slightly stronger tone, I have some things I want to say.

Before we get into that, we all need to be on the same page about some important realities. I want to be very careful to stress that the canons are very clear that baptism is required before reception of Holy Communion. I want to insist that this is partly due to our church's renewed emphasis on the centrality of Baptism to the Christian life and that our church's practice is already radically open compared to some other traditions. Though some call this practice "Open Communion," historically Open Communion has referred to the practice of communing those baptized in other traditions. This is a bold stance our church already takes, one that is rooted in our ecumenical relationships.

But there is more that I want to say than just that.

What  I want to highlight is that this article displays that we are basically having two entirely different conversations in this church right now about this question, how there exists at least two fundamental different approaches to the Christian life. Over and over again in arguments for Communion regardless of Baptism, the advocates of this position present a false choice to their audience.

No one is saying unbaptized people cannot join in our prayers (as was the practice of the early church during the Eucharistic prayer). No one is saying they cannot come forward and receive a blessing. No one is saying we don't invite them to coffee hour or to be a part of our shared life in all the myriad of ways Christian ministry exists outside of reception of the sacrament. No one is saying any of those things. Instead, what we are talking about is what properly precedes reception of the sacrament.

Throughout this article there are numerous misconceptions, false choices, and cases of rather tendentious language. Let me touch on just a few:

First off, I know that in the Episcopal Church people like to think of themselves as bold and prophetic, but it appears that our conception of a prophetic stance has now grown so broad as to allow anyone to ignore any of the rules of our church simply because they do not like them. This is not good and it is not healthy. Christian community means submission to the community. When the community is doing harm to one of its members, then civil disobedience might be merited, but those cases should be relatively rare.  

When clergy violate the canons and offer communion to the unbaptized, they exercise a dangerous form of clericalism in which they put their own personal views above the expressed views of all orders of the church—including the baptized—as articulated in General Convention. It is assuming they know better than the mind of the church, that their opinion on this question is more important than the voice of all the baptized in the Episcopal Church. Canons matter—and rubrics of the BCP matter—because they ensure all orders of the ministry have a proper and appropriate voice in our common life.

Mother Anna Carmichael is one of the key priests interviewed for this story. One of the most frustrating quotes was this,
“For many of the folks out here in the diocese we have already started living into the practice, which I know gets us in a sticky situation but it’s reality,” she said, adding, “we don’t check ID at the door” and strangers who come up to receive communion are not asked if they have been baptized.
Yes, because of course that's what those of us who follow the canons do. We check baptism IDs at the door. If we don't know someone at the rail, we ask them if they have been baptized. (Are you catching the hint of sarcasm here?)

Mother Carmichael is presenting a straw man, easily knocked down. No one is suggesting people start doing this. No one is suggesting that following the canon requires Baptism IDs or odd conversations at the altar rail. We all agree those are not things we want to do and I have yet to hear someone argue they are required for one to follow the canons.

But it is one thing to interrupt the distribution at the rail to ask someone you don't know if they have been baptized. It's another thing entirely to stand up and tell unbaptized people they are welcome to receive. It's the latter which is a problem—the intentional invitation regardless of what the mind of the church has expressed in our canons.

Another interviewee, General Convention Deputy Joe Ferrell, worries,
“Now [Holy Eucharist is] commonplace and, particularly at weddings and funerals, you’ve got severe pastoral problems if you attempt to restrict who is going to be welcome at the altar,” he said. “And you have it to some extent on Sunday mornings.”
Once again, compared to many denominations, our Church's approach is already one of the most welcoming out there. A false choice is once again put forward in this quote. Contrary to what Mr. Ferrell says, no one is attempting "to restrict who is going to be welcome at the altar." Everyone is welcome at the altar, what is offered at the altar simply varies according to who they are. And our church's approach can be articulated in a very warm and welcoming way.

The offering of a blessing to the unbaptized can be a profound act of hospitality, particularly if done with intentionality. In my own parish, we word our invitation very carefully to make the Church's broad welcome clear,
Everyone is welcome to come to the altar rail during Holy Communion. If you are not baptized, simply cross your arms over your chest to receive a blessing. If you are baptized, extend your hands for the bread and use a hand to guide the chalice to your lips for the wine. Or, if you prefer, you can intinct (dip) the bread into the wine. If you require a gluten-free wafer, please clasp your hands to indicate such to the minister.
I'm sorry, but I think that is a profoundly welcoming approach to take to this question. I have had many visitors tell me how much it meant to be invited to come forward and receive as baptized persons, even though they are members of another denomination. I have done several weddings in which large portions of the congregation requested blessings—and where they found that to be a gracious act of hospitality and welcome.

The author of the article, Mother Mary Frances Schjonberg, in an interview with Mr. Ferrell apparently "reminded [the interview person] that the Book of Common Prayer is silent on the issue." Though the prayer book might not specifically say that no unbaptized person is welcome to receive communion, it is also clear that the prayer book has some very specific points to make about what should precede reception of the Sacrament.

The Exhortation on pages 316-317 of the Book of Common Prayer lays out several of these expectations. It is also, to me, remarkably clear that this Exhortation assumes it is talking to and assuming baptized members are preparing for reception of the Sacrament.

The Exhortation articulates the unitive effect of Holy Eucharist, a unitive effect that is predicated upon baptism. It reminds us that we should prepare carefully before presenting ourselves for reception—it most certainly does not say that we should just come no matter what. It invites people to make confession, if they might require it, something that is part of our shared life in the Christian community. Heck, it even talks about how Christ has "washed us in his own blood," a rather obvious connection to the washing of Holy Baptism, as well has how Christ has made us a kingdom of priests, something we are by virtue of our baptism.

The framers of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer had no idea that the relatively recent and bold change of allowing baptized people to receive Communion regardless of age, denomination, or confirmation status, they had no idea that this bold idea would so quickly be seen as tame and restricting.

Indeed, one of the truly worthwhile sections of the article is when Mother Schjonberg traces the history of the current supposedly restrictive canon which specifies that no unbaptized person may receive Communion. There she notes that this canon actually arose out of the controversial product of ecumenical work resulting in the idea that baptism alone was required for reception of communion. The current canon was, in itself, a bold stance.

No age. No confirmation. No being a part of this church or that church. None of that is required to receive Communion. Instead:

Water + the Holy Trinity = a baptized person who is welcome at Christ's table.

This was a radical idea for some. It still is a radical idea for parents who are unsure about their baptized infants receiving Communion. I don't think we have yet fully unpacked it in our shared life.

Mother Carmichael also trots out one of the most unhelpful and disingenuous arguments for Communion regardless of Baptism.
"This is our construction around this issue because Jesus never said you have to have baptism before you have dinner with me,” she said. “So, this is our mess that we’ve created and sometimes I wonder in the grand scheme of all things how much this really matters. When we get to heaven is Jesus going to be more excited that we invited people or is he going to be more excited that we said you can come, but you can’t?”
Yes, Jesus didn't require baptism before sharing a meal with people. But Communion is more than a meal. Eucharist takes a part of a normal meal—bread and wine—and through the power of the Spirit uses that to unite our own sacrifice of praise, our own self-offering of who we are, to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Our union with Christ in baptism is re-experienced and brought present again in the Eucharistic prayer. Thereby, Christ becomes present in that bread and wine in a real way. This partly a shared meal but it is more than a shared meal. Every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square.

And, furthermore, can we please get rid of this idea— "Does this really matter at all because when we're in heaven, who cares?"

When we're in heaven, we we are finally in the full presence of the Holy Trinity, invited into the depths of divine love, I'm pretty sure all kinds of stuff won't "matter" to us anymore... but that doesn't mean these questions aren't important now, that they aren't important as we invite people into that journey.

You know what I think would excite Jesus? If our church stopped assuming that the Sunday service of Holy Eucharist was the only place for us to articulate Christian belief and practice. If we stopped thinking the ministry of the baptized meant dressing laity up and giving them quasi-sacerdotal functions. If we stopped thinking that truly including kids in our community was as simple as having them all "play priest" with the celebrant. If we stopped thinking being welcoming only involves a full-text bulletin—because then I am freed from the duty of noticing my neighbor, of sharing with and guiding them through our community's worship.

Who we are as Christians is about so much more than who gets to do what on Sunday when we celebrate Holy Eucharist. Who we are as Christian communities is so much larger than that, so much broader. The roles in which we function during Holy Eucharist are a symbol of our actual Christian ministry, the work we do out in the world proclaiming the love of God, standing up for the dignity of all people, and working to bring healing to a hurt and divided world.

You know what I think would excite Jesus? If our clergy and lay leaders stopped arguing amongst themselves regarding who can take Communion and instead made the truly bold act of inviting visitors into our homes for a real actual meal. You want Christian hospitality? Perhaps we should try practicing it in our homes rather than thinking we can tinker yet again with Sunday liturgy as a solution. Because no amount of tinkering with what we do on Sunday excuses the need for us to be truly welcoming people inviting all of God's children into lives of loving discipleship.

One final comment, and then I'll stop. Another interviewee, Wickenberg Ely, noted that
Many people who come to church are often “looking to be welcomed wherever they go and whatever they believe.” Yet, there are some churches that say “if you are to be a member of our community in Christ this entails discipline and commitment, so that belonging is not just by virtue of being a child of God, but it is by virtue of being willing to pledge yourself to this way of being of a child of God,” she said, adding that this is the stance of the Roman Catholic church.
I am absolutely fascinated in this person's argument saying  "If you are to be a member of our community in Christ this entails discipline and commitment, so that belonging is not just by virtue of being a child of God, but it is by virtue of being willing to pledge yourself to this way of being of a child of God." I am fascinated that this person is actually opposed to this view, is citing it as a bad example of what Christianity to be (and even slapping some ever-popular anti-Catholic prejudice to the view to ensure that we know it's all wrong).


We are, of course, always welcome as children of God alone. That alone lets us into the door, that alone enables us to embark of on this journey into the life of God. But I also think that being a member of the Christian community does entail discipline and commitment. It does mean being willing to pledge yourself to this way of being a child of God.

It's called the "Baptismal Covenant" and we pledge ourselves to it over and over again throughout the year, throughout our lives.

This comment by Ely reveals, I think, the true rationale under girding the movement for Communion regardless of Baptism. It is this false assumption that the way to invite people into Christian community is to welcome people "wherever they go and whatever they believe." It is this false assumption that the way our churches should be is completely open gatherings with absolutely no discipline, absolutely no commitment. And it is the false assumption that not only is this the shape of the Christian life, but that this is what people are looking for.

I have a hunch people are hungry for more. I have a hunch that Christian community involves real commitments to one another, real, actual discipline at times.

And I have a hunch, just a hunch, that when Jesus invites people to follow him, he might like it if they actually tried to walk in his path, rather than if they heard the call, smiled and proceeded to wander about on their own. I have a hunch Jesus is interested in disciples.

And who knows, in the end, God might decide to let everyone in regardless of anything at all. The love of God might be that big. It might be that powerful. I think that would be awesome.

But being a part of the Christian community should still entail commitment to something larger than a general sense of want. The call of Christ involves real actual commitment to people and to communities and the argument for Commmunion regardless of Baptism is a poor substitute for the real welcome, the real transformation, that the Christian life entails.

Oh, and since my blog is technically reflections on the church through the lens of Benedictine spirituality, I should also say that I think it's pretty safe to assume that Benedict would have found the arguments for Communion regardless of Baptism utterly unpersuasive and completely out of touch with the rich history of Christian spirituality and formation.


  1. You're absolutely right Father, CROB sounds completely unappealing and unappetizing.

  2. Thank you for weighing in on this Fr. Cramer. Good observations all around.

    "This is our construction around this issue because Jesus never said you have to have baptism before you have dinner with me,”

    That might be true enough as far as it goes. But, it is profoundly myopic. As you point out, it ignores the fact that we do not consider the Eucharist just another meal.

    It also ignores the fact that everyone Jesus ate with was already part of the covenant people.

    There is no reason to suppose that Jesus did not accept the particularly Jewish belief that God had chosen and called Israel to bless the nations even as he recalled Israel to that mission and ultimately fulfilled it himself. Nor was his summons to enter the kingdom a generic welcome of any and all regardless of repentance and the embrace of particular commitments (Luke 15:1-10).

    Jesus’ movement was a Jewish renewal movement. His mission was to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6, 15:24). His words and actions need to be understood in that context. Whatever symbolic fellowship meals he shared were limited to those already members of the covenant people of Israel.

    Though Jesus showed interest in and compassion toward Gentiles and hinted at their eventual incorporation, he did not gather them into his movement. As one would expect of an observant Jew of his time, there is no indication that he ever ate with Gentiles - outcaste or otherwise. There is no reason to suppose that the multitude that was fed miraculously was anything other than a Jewish multitude. It was the fragments of Israel that Jesus gathered into the baskets of his movement.

    Grace and peace,

    Matt Gunter

  3. I agree with you 100% and your approach in your parish is nearly identical to that which we have adopted in my parish (St. Paul's, Medina, Ohio).

    Fr. Eric Funston

  4. ...and in the parish I serve as well (All Saints, Pontiac MI).

    Karen Johanns

    P.S: Good rant, Father.

  5. "that alone enables us to embark of on this journey into the life of God."

    We must invite our guests to take part in this journey....of Baptism and Communion and community. I waffle on this issue and nobody should ever be turned away at the altar. But invitation to seek Baptism first is important.

  6. I am in general agreement with your argument against CROB, or perhaps I should say that I understand it deeply. Yet I am willing to talk about CROB with its supporters, because they truly fascinate me (and I am not being ironic here). I wonder if they realize that they simply undermine any rationale for baptism (what would it become? a benediction?). I must admit (with some guilt, because I am very attached to the Tradition) that I am fascinated by a Christianity without baptism. It would be indeed a radical new thing, almost unheard of in history. Perhaps we must admit that the attempts of the last few decades about making baptism central to the identity of Christian communities, in many denominations, has failed entirely? Why some people, who got a theological education, do not think it matters? Again, I am not being ironic. I am truly interested in understanding what kind of Christianity they envision. Not through slogans, but in much more detail.

  7. I must add that I have been in a parish where CROB was considered by a large majority of parishoners a very obvious praxis of the community (I was the one aghast) but then they also created a "first communion" service for six years old kids (the rationale being that these kids, in a predominant RC environment, would feel deprived of an important celebration). So communion for all regardless of baptism, but the baptized children of the parish playing some sort of walking the treshold (I think some had received communion already).So sometimes it is just confusion?

  8. If asked to choose if I would attend a Mass celebrated by you or by Mother Carmichael, I would unhesitatingly choose the latter. Just who appointed you as the owner of God's altar? The Body and Blood of Jesus is no one's private property!

    1. Dear David,

      I would gently suggest that this view is part of the problem. Who happens to be the celebrant should not be important, because each celebrant should agree to preside according to the norms of the community. Neither Mother Carmichael nor myself are owners of God's altar—we are simply stewards. For one of us to violate the norms of our community and offer the Sacrament to the unbaptized is, I think, the actual presumption.


    2. Dear David,

      I agree with Fr. Cramer here. I would further suggest that, ironically, it is the practice of ignoring baptism and commitment that turns the Body and Blood into 'private' property. It reflects and reinforces the individualism and consumerism that have such a hold on our society's imagination. And it makes Eucharist a 'private' thing rather than a communal and relational thing.

      Grace and peace,


  9. Dear Father,
    Through the years I have enjoyed reading your blog, as well as posts through the SCP, and usually find I agree with you, but I respectfully have to disagree with your position here. In our parish we welcome all to communion, not because we do not believe in the importance of baptism or because we believe communion is just a meal like any other. We do so because we believe that communion is truly Christ's body and blood given for the life of the world... not just to a select few. I take very seriously Jesus words, when he says "Whoever comes to me I shall never turn away." Baptism is our public acceptance of and commitment to the grace that has been freely given to us. I'm certainly not suggesting that Baptism in unimportant for living out the Christian life. The renewed emphasis on Baptism in the 1979 Prayer Book wonderfully emphasizes the ministry and authority of all the faithful, which is certainly a positive development in the the life of the church. But I do have concerns about continuing a view of baptism as some sort of "magical initiation" that separates the saved from the damned, or us from them, or the acceptable from the unacceptable, the worthy from the unworthy, or the people of God from the "rest of the world". Throughout my ministry I have found numerous people who were led to seek baptism because they found Jesus in Holy Communion. For most, I imagine the traditional path of baptism before communion will continue to be the conventional order, but that doesn't mean welcome those who come to the table by another path. Forty years ago, saying "all baptized Christians" are welcome to receive communion was a radical statement. Most Episcopal clergy I knew back then added things like " who believe in the Real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and who regularly receive communion in their own church" or something like that. But everyone most of us knew then was baptized and was a part of some church. So that was a very open invitation. That is not the case now. I just don't imagine Jesus witholds himself from anyone whether Baptized or not. I do hope our General Convention changes this canon.

    1. Dear Edgar,

      Unfortunately, with all affection and love, I feel like your argument is doing the same thing I found frustrating in the initial article. It's bringing up false choices and straw men.

      You say, "I do have concerns about continuing a view of baptism as some sort of 'magical initiation' that separates the saved from the damned, or us from them, or the acceptable from the unacceptable, the worthy from the unworthy, or the people of God from the "rest of the world."

      In this list you link together several views that are not held by all. Neither I nor other opponents of CROB view baptism as a "magical initiation that separates the saved from the damned" or "the acceptable from the unacceptable." To say we believe that is rather disingenuous.

      We are all made acceptable only through the grace of God in Christ. And when it comes to who is saved—I would argue strongly that this is not what we are talking about at all. What we are talking about is a particular journey into salvation known as Christianity. To affirm this journey does not have to condemn those who may encounter God in other ways.

      Furthermore, affirming the normative path of baptism before Eucharist does not mean that exceptions to that journey may exist. Our God is a God who does indeed work by exceptions because our God is great and big and expansive. However, that does not mean the exception should become the normative expression of our life—because that would put people who might indeed be on the normal path heading towards baptism in a place where they are receiving the sacrament before they truly are prepared.

      And, once again, to oppose CROB does not mean that we believe Jesus withholds himself. Instead, it is to affirm both that seekers may find Jesus in all sorts of venues and also to affirm that Jesus invites people into something real. Baptism is always open to all—not as a barrier but as a symbol and expression of the immense love of God out poured in Christ.


    2. Dear Jarod,
      Thank you for your very kind reply. You are right, most who oppose CROB in the Episcopal Church do not hold that rigid a view of Baptism and I did not mean to say that is your view. However such a view is not unheard of in the past or even now. One argument I read on this issue recently by another priest said communion is only for the people of God and the people of God are only the baptized. My own view, as I suspect yours may be, is that God's love is broader than that. Similarly however, I don't think it is fair to suggest that those of us who do practice "open communion" and thereby violate the canon, do so out of "dangerous clericalism" or because we put our own personal views above the rest of the church. Surely there is room for conscience and variety of practice in our common life. And I do not think that allowing people to receive communion have not been baptized will mean that that everyone will. In my parish are people who have done it both ways. My experience is that people come into the church and into a deeper relationship with Christ in many ways. There have been numerous changes in the church in the years since I was ordained. Some things I thought were going too far at the time and I felt would change what we believed, so I opposed them. I since have found them to have been blessings. Others that I though were blessings, perhaps wern't. I think there are good people and good arguments on both sides of this and most issues. My hope is that we can listen to one another and allow for the wisdom of tradition and the movement of the Spirit, while still respecting one another consciences. Thank you for your thoughtful thoughts about this and your willingness to listen to those of us who may have a different view.
      Blessings to you,
      Edgar +

    3. Dear Edgar,

      Thank you for your gracious words.

      I suppose the real sticking point between our perspectives lies along this line,

      "I don't think it is fair to suggest that those of us who do practice 'open communion' and thereby violate the canon, do so out of 'dangerous clericalism' or because we put our own personal views above the rest of the church. Surely there is room for conscience and variety of practice in our common life."

      While I profoundly affirm that there is room for conscience and variety of practice in our common life, I would suggest that in our Anglican ethos the boundaries of that are fixed by our prayer book and by our canons.

      As you know, deep within our history, our forbears killed one another over liturgical disagreement. Perhaps our tradition is a little more gun-shy of liturgical variety because of that... but personally I am grateful that boundaries are given.

      I find the Prayer Book itself to be a wonderfully open and permissive document, allowing for a variety of approaches to and expressions of Christian worship. I think that perhaps what gets me about the discussion surrounding CROB is that I sense within its advocates the same view which is all to common in our church this day: the rubrics are unimportant, I'm going to do this the way I think is right.

      That view, in some ways, concerns me even more than CROB itself.


  10. Dear David,

    You're right: it is the altar of Christ, and like Jared and Matt I am also a mere steward. That being said, stewardship has responsibilities as well as rights. Every time I stand at the altar and say "...take them in remembrance that Christ died for you..." I am issuing an invitation that is both daring and dangerous, one that is loaded with a responsibility that Christians accept by virtue of our baptism and our reaffirmation of the same. I think it is irresponsible for me to invite those who have not willingly made such a commitment into what the sacrament requires. That being said, I unhesitatingly give communion to whoever comes to be fed because it is far worse to embarrass someone or turn them away.

    I have been a part of this dialogue for awhile now, and one thing that has become painfully obvious to me is that whenever anyone opposed to CROB brings up all the other ways that clergy and congregation can offer radical hospitality, as Jared has done in his rant, we are met with a deafening silence. It is quick, easy, and emotionally gratifying for a cleric to invite everyone to communion, but far more difficult to work with a congregation to increase their own practices of hospitality and to increase our own commitment to walking the catechetical journey to the font with someone who is exploring what it might mean to be a baptized follower of Christ.


  11. Just for the record: when I returned to the church I sat in my seat during Communion for almost two years, exactly because I didn't believe in it.

    I wish that that parish had offered the choice of a blessing instead - but it didn't; it was Communion or nothing. But a blessing is much more welcoming, to me, than "inviting" people to participate in a rite they don't know anything at all about - not even the simple mechanics of what to do. (As a chalicist, I've seen this happen at the altar rail; people have literally no clue about what they are expected do to. And how could they? No one's bothering to tell them. Are they supposed to say anything? What do they do with the host and the chalice? How can they answer "Amen" to what a priest says to them - when they don't have the first idea of what it might mean?)

    A blessing is more intimate, too - and is at the same time much more respectful of boundaries, and therefore more appropriate, IMO.

    I'm sad to say that this is one of the factors that makes me realize I need to find a different church; CROB makes the church less attractive to me, IOW. It essentially makes spiritual growth optional - and the desire for spiritual growth is exactly the reason I returned to the church in the first place. So there's no real reason for me to be here at this point.

    Don't forget that the catechism of our church says that when we come to Communion "It is required that we should examine our lives, repent of our sins, and be in love and charity with all people." A pretty tall order, in fact - so how can we require it of somebody who's just come in the door? It's difficult enough for the rest of us, wouldn't you say? This is a liturgical means to spiritual growth - which comes at a price, I have to point out, since the the spiritual life is always difficult, even as it's worthwhile. It always involves work, in fact - and most of the work necessarily happens at the level of the inner person.

    The church ideally offers a life of growth, which involves work and difficulty. CROB is the absolute negation of that idea; it communicates instead that the spiritual life is a snap - anybody can join in anytime, without a bit of preparation or guidance or support. (Just don't forget to say "Amen" to whatever the priest says when you receive the bread and wine! Whether you understand or agree with what's said or not.)

    And then, it seems a bit of a bait-and-switch, too, to expect people afterwards to join up via Baptism. I'm thinking it's back to the Quakers for me....

  12. (I have to add that if I'd been expected to respond "Amen" to whatever a priest said to me at the altar - I've seen "instructed Eucharists" aimed at newcomers that say just this - I'd have thought the church was a racket, and would have run the other way as fast as I could.

    I mean, I know Episcopalians who won't say certain things during the service - "born of the Virgin Mary" for instance - so I wonder how we can expect somebody without any background in the faith at all to respond in the affirmative to the strange things said at the altar during the administration of Communion?

    I just don't get this whole concept. I don't think mystification is at all a good thing, and to me not explaining anything about what's going on end up being highly manipulative.)

  13. I've wrestled with this question quite a bit, and will consider your points. I particularly like this invitation and may try it out in my parish.

    Everyone is welcome to come to the altar rail during Holy Communion. If you are not baptized, simply cross your arms over your chest to receive a blessing. If you are baptized, extend your hands for the bread and use a hand to guide the chalice to your lips for the wine. Or, if you prefer, you can intinct (dip) the bread into the wine. If you require a gluten-free wafer, please clasp your hands to indicate such to the minister.

    I am curious as to how your parish is doing in terms of numerical growth. Have you seen an increase in Sunday morning attendance or financial support since you have been moving in this direction? I know there are many ways to measure "growth"; I'm just curious about the effects of the work you've been doing.

  14. "And I have a hunch, just a hunch, that when Jesus invites people to follow him, he might like it if they actually tried to walk in his path, rather than if they heard the call, smiled and proceeded to wander about on their own. I have a hunch Jesus is interested in disciples."

    With your kind permission, this will be our Quote of the Week in the parish's next weekly update email. It may even make an appearance in this Sunday's sermon.

    As for the whole of the on. I will be watching GC with dread, knowing that whatever ECUSA does the Canadian church is not far behind in copying. It breaks my heart to think of, but if CROB comes north (and it's already practised in a lot of parishes here) I will not be able to continue as a priest in this church - the church that brought me into faith from atheism, the church I dearly love, the church I gave myself to. We will have done away with the last scrap of commitment and expectations, and I simply do not DO relativism. So...watching with dread.

    1. I'd be honored and delighted for that to be the Quote of the Week!

      Take heart, my friend, have no fear. I also have a hunch that God is at work in this whole debate, drawing all of us into deeper truth and deeper relationship.

  15. From your lips to God's ear. Or, as the case may be, from your keyboard to God's feed reader. My hope is in the Holy Spirit (though that is now loaded language in reference to synods and conventions) but my cynicism sees a long rear-guard action. Ah, well. I hear Rome is lovely this time of year.

  16. CWOB or CROB, as you note, as I have noted, and as Fr Gunter and Dr Olsen have noted, is a serious undermining of how it is we understand that sacraments of Baptism and Communion to relate in respectively incorporating us into Christ and nourishing us on Christ.

    The irony for me is some of those speaking for this practice claim the inclusiveness of Baptism and by this practice undermine that inclusiveness. And I might add, equate inclusiveness with a vagabond life rather than a life committed to living in and following Jesus Christ. Such commitment is not merely individual, but is personal, meaning that it is grounded in the community of the ekklessia rooted in communion with the Trinity.

  17. And given that this is all touched off by how to deal with sexual-gender variant people, i.e., lgbtq folk, I might add that I find it insulting to think that I would be included by skirting around the sacrament of incorporation--Baptism. Why would I not receive the same fullness and be expected the same discipline as straight folk?

  18. Well, let's just put it this way: if you want to signal to people that you are a closed circuit and the unchurched are not even welcome to inhabit a ritual as a way of trying to understanding the doctrine, this is a good way. You can come into Christianity VIA the Eucharist, trust me. It was the only part of the whole thing that made any sense to me as a newcomer to both organized religion and to Christianity -- that you share some part of Christ together and that makes you part of him and part of one another. The rest of the discipline, for me and insofar as I have it, followed from that understanding. I'll not be coming to communion this Sunday. Thanks for the uninvite!

  19. Frog and Toad, here are the questions that get asked of candidates at the time of their Baptism:

    Question Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
    Answer I renounce them.

    Question: Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
    Answer: I renounce them.

    Question: Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?
    Answer: I renounce them.

    Question: Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?
    Answer: I do.

    Question: Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
    Answer: I do.

    Question: Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?
    Answer: I do.

    Perhaps it would have been easier for you at the beginning if somebody had explained this to you, rather than allowing you think you had to "understand the doctrine." I mean, it seems to me that anybody who loved Christ could easily understand these questions - and would eagerly respond to them in just the ways given here.

    Furthermore, at Baptism the whole community vows to help and support the new members of the church in their faith - something that doesn't happen at the Eucharist - so that they don't have to "try to understand the doctrine" on their own, or wander around guessing what the faith is about.

    Baptism is available to anybody who asks for it (thus, it's not a "closed circuit"), and - very importantly - you have contact with somebody who can answer your questions, and you are brought into the Community, where you will (hopefully) receive some real support in your faith life. You're not left alone to try to figure it out for yourself; the spiritual life can indeed be difficult, and nobody should have to go it alone.

    This is one very big reason, I suspect - there are many others, in my opinion - that Baptism has always come prior to Communion (as it still does, in fact, in every other part of the church).

  20. (The other good thing about Baptism, of course, is that it's "once for all" - and nobody can take it away from you. You are "marked as Christ's own, forever." That's a source of great strength and comfort in a way that Communion is not, IMO.

    It's a Sacrament (and a rather beautiful one, too, I think), not a barrier....)