As conversation about Communion without Baptism percolates in the Episcopal Church and our own diocese has called for a year of conversation about the issue, we have begun to collect links and resources to assist those engaging in conversations about the relationship between Baptism and Communion.

It is our belief that the historic understanding and teaching of the Church is clear and that there is an intimate relationship between being baptized into the Body of Christ and then deepening that sharing by partaking, with fellow Christians, in the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.

We hope these resources will be of help as the conversation continues and as we seek to deepen our life and participation in the Body.  If you have resources to suggest or questions, feel free to contact us.

In the near future, we will be releasing a parish study guide on Baptism and Communion that focuses on the question of "Why Baptism?"

 

Bloggers and Others on Communion Regardless of Baptism

David Simmons (askthepriest.org and Aiya Iluvatar blog), "Ecumenical Implications of Eucharist without Baptism"

Therefore, any approach to removal of baptism as a requirement for communion should be considered carefully. It should be recognized that a change in this principle would put us out of step with most of what we recognize as our brother and sister Christians in a more fundamental theological way than even the proposed same-gendered blessings might. It is not simply a change in praxis for the sake of hospitality, it is a fundamental alteration of how we think about the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist.

 

Bob Griffith (Imago Dei Community and Saint Paul's Carroll Gardens), "Communion Without Baptism"

The Millennial generation does not imagine they are accepting or rejecting the Christian Faith--they imagine they are entering into formation for a new way of life, and they expect the Church to initiate, guide, teach, equip, and send them.

 

Derek Olsen (Haligweorc blog), on Episcopal Cafe "Sacramental Theology 101: Baptism and Eucharist" 

The prime mechanism of the “big tent” is the Book of Common Prayer—this is what we use together and what does give us a set of shared expressions (even if we don’t always entirely agree on what those expressions mean!). Likewise, it contains a variety of materials that I think can assist us when we try to talk God with one another.

Towards the back of the prayer book is a catechism (pp. 845-62). It’s a brief little thing, just under twenty pages, but it provides a basic outline of the faith that is fundamental enough that all Episcopalians—no matter their party affiliation—can get behind it.

 

 

A Tribe Called Anglican, "Baptism, Eucharist, & Theological Literacy"

The root of many of the difficulties the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are facing go right to this issue: theological literacy among clergy.  If indeed we depend on priests, and most importantly bishops, to fulfill their ordination vows to be pastors and teachers and to “ to guard thefaith, unity, and disciplineof the Church,”  and to (in the words of St. Paul in Ephesians) “equip the saints for the work of ministry,” what will become of a church whose priests and bishops don’t know, don’t agree with, or don’t teach the Catholic, Biblical, and Apostolic Faith?


Derek Olsen, "Back to Work" (a response to a piece on EpiscopalCafe)

The Eucharist is the food of the covenant community who confess Jesus as Lord. We enter the covenant community by making our own covenant with Christ in the midst of the community: it’s Baptism. The Eucharist assists us in keeping our Baptismal Covenant and helps us to continue to grow into a life of discipleship through it’s nourishment.

This basic Eucharistic theology is found nowhere here. Instead, there seems to be a simple assumption that the Eucharist means that God loves you and wants to be in a relationship with you and that if anyone can’t have the Eucharist at any time it’s the church’s way of saying that God doesn’t love them. That’s not what is going on at all.

Granted—some people may perceive it like that, but this perception does not constitute the church’s theology. We do need to do a better job about teaching the basics of Eucharistic theology—so that both our visitors and our members can grasp what it is that the church both intends and does.


The Most Rev'd Katharine Jefferts Schori speaking on Communion and Baptism

At a townhall meeting in North Carolina a few months ago, she said, 'If we're aware that there are people coming to the table who have not been baptized, it's time to do something.'

 

Remington Slone (Assistant Rector of St Peter's, Savannah, GA) "The Shape of a Spoiled Society"

The reality is that either our current trajectory in either the Church or in Society writ large is pushing us toward unabated instant gratification and poor impulse control; Communion Regardless of Baptism being a seemingly small ritual change indicative of an impoverished people.

 

Jared Cramer (Rector of St. John's Grand Haven, MI) "A Slight Rant on Current Arguments for CROB" 

But being a part of the Christian community should still entail commitment tosomethinglarger 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.

 

Tom Ferguson (Dean of Bexley Hall) "Being without Communion: Thoughts on Communion of the Unbaptized"

Some parishes feel completely free to make this decision on their own, despite the fact it is explicitly forbidden in the canons of the Episcopal Church. Some dioceses apparently feel free to do the same. This speaks to the deeper issue of people believing that so long as they are convinced something is right, then f**k everybody else. This lays us open to hypocrisy and insularity. Hypocrisy because people only choose to obey the canons they want and cry out against those who do not. "How dare Quincy and Forth Worth take these uncanonical actions! Us? But we're right."

 

Chris Arnold (Lord Open Thou Our Lips blog) "Communion Without Baptism"

What is often missing from these conversations is whether or how a non-baptized person can participate at all in the eucharistic celebration. I'm not advocating that we return to the old discipline of escorting people out after the sermon (from this, the Orthodox liturgy retains the cry "The doors! The doors!", i.e., they were to be closed and locked to prevent the un-initiated from experiencing the rest...) but I'm considering the Eucharist as a single grace-filled action between Christ and his church. In other words I'm keen to see this in light of participation, not just of reception.

 

C. Wingate (Tune: King's Lynn blog) "No to Communion Without Baptism"

Abandoning baptism as the standard of membership represents a failure of our religious nerve so profound as to tip the balance against our institutional continuance. What's the point of a church that by implication admits that being a part of it is of no real consequence? 

 

A K M Adam (University of Glasgow) "On Baptism and Eucharist"

But since so much of the church through so much of history (especially in the Episcopal tradition) has held firmly to the premise that baptism — as sacramental incorporation into the Body of Christ — should normatively precede Eucharist — as the sacramental nourishment of that Body — that it’s somewhat misleading to minimise the proposed change. The magnitude of the discernment and articulated theological deliberation that undergirds the practice of baptising before participating in communion far overshadows the infrastructural foresight that has been advanced to justify communion without baptism.

 

Matt Gunter (Into the Expecation blog) "Baptized into the Eucharist: A Sketch of an Argument for the Logic of the Traditional Discipline" - this is a very fine nine part series on the issues. 

 While the practice of baptism has its roots in John's and Jesus' practice, it is somewhat other. Since we are baptized into Christ's death and resurrection and in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; our baptism is not the same as John's or even that of Jesus and his (pre-Easter) disciples. It is an Easter event. And it is the risen Jesus who commands his followers to make disciples and baptize.

 

Matt Gunter (Into the Expecation blog) "Against Communion Without Baptism: Some Anecdotes"

He and his wife linger long at our fellowship time after the liturgy. He is even the chair of our IT committee. I can assure you he feels most welcome. When I asked him what he thought of our limiting Eucharist to the baptized and if it bothered him, his response was, “Why would I take Communion, I am not a Christian.” I suggest that we respect him more and he us by acknowledging that distinction than if we pretended it was irrelevant.

 

Jonathan Grieser (Fr Jonathan's Blog blog) "Communion without (or before) Baptism - Oh, no! Not again!"

It always seems to me when something like this comes up that it reflects certain underlying attitudes in those proposing it. Is there something like progressive “oneupmanship” at work–an attempt to demonstrate one’s progressive theological bona fides to other Episcopalians and to other religious groups? And coming as it does in the midst of conflict within the Anglican Communion, and a promised debate over liturgies for same sex blessings, I’m tempted to think that the sponsors and supporters of the resolution are looking for one more battle to separate the sheep from the goats, the “real” progressives from the rest of us.

 

Derek Olsen (Haligweorc blog) "CWOB Post-Mortem" - these posts are from the Society of Catholic Priests Conference at which Derek presented adroitly on the issue.

 Far and away, though the conversation continually  returned to the notion of “inclusion”. Note this and note it well. What I take from this finding is that the center of the discussion about CWOB is not around sacramental theology. This is fundamentally not a debate about theology. If we continue to argue it as if it were a theological debate, we will go unheard and the majority of the church can and will be persuaded that CWOB is a good idea.

 

Contemplative Vernacular blog "CWOB: Asking the Wrong Questions"

God’s work on our behalf by water with Word and Spirit that we indeed receive and be indissolubly children, where children is a living out of this Life and growing more fully therefrom living for one another, general society, and all creatures. This is the human creature freed, again, drawing together our creation and our redemption—for the latter is who we are intended to be in the former.

 

Tobias Haller (In a Godward Direction blog) "Cb4B 2 GC" 

My observation in response to pitching this as "radical inclusivity" is simple: The church is radically inclusive and baptism is the means by which people are included. Communion is the celebration of that inclusion, not its means. 

 

Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkowski (All Things Necessary blog) "Children at the Table and Open Communion, or, the Agape Restaurant"

I fully believe that the desire to practice open communion comes from a place of good intentions. But it lacks the Anglican virtue of coherence in which a practice or belief reasonably coheres with the fullness of scriptural witness and apostolic tradition. In essence, it contradicts our proclamation that full participation in the Body of Christ begins from baptism. How then could one receive the Body of Christ before baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection?

 

Robert Hendrickson (The Curate's Desk blog) "On Being Made and Ever Re-Made: Of Baptism and Communion" and "On Communion: How do we Remember if we have never heard?" and Responding to the Diocese of Eastern Oregon's Position Paper and On Many and More Controversies: of Justice, Female Priests, LGBT Christians, and Communion Regardless of Baptism"

A Church that wants to transform society cannot be shy about asking its members to be transformed.  A Church that wants to impart the strength to challenge the systems of oppression and violence better offer more than enlightened self-interest to feed its people.  Sacraments that don’t matter enough to wait, to ponder, to make a loving commitment to receive are not Sacraments that can fuel the Body.

 

David Cobb (Rector, Christ Church New Haven) "Participating in Christ's Death and Resurrection: Baptism and Communion"

It will be given us to say once more, “we receive you into the household of God, confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection and share with us in his eternal priesthood.”  There is a household, into which Baptism brings us and it is that household which offers up the Bread and Wine as a sign of Christ’s death for us, as the means by which we proclaim his resurrection, and as the present, concrete expression of Christ’s priesthood which reconciles all creation to the Father.  

 

Daniel Martins (Bishop of Springfield) "On Communion without Baptism"

This past January 7, my Archdeacon and I attended a Christmas liturgy at a nearly Russian Orthodox church. We were in clericals, people there knew who were were, and we knew we were not invited to receive Holy Communion, and made no attempt to do so. But immediately upon the conclusion of the liturgy, we were accosted by a lay liturgical minister who brought us unconsecrated bread that came from the same loaf that the consecrated portion had been cut from--the "antidoron"--and were enthusiastically offered this bread. I have rarely felt more welcomed in my life. That act, to me, was "radical hospitality." I'm not sure how something like this could be adapted into our liturgical tradition, but it seems worth thinking about.

 

Anthony Clavier (Shreds and Patches blog) "Giving Communion to the Unbaptized"

Our two desperate tasks are as follows. We have to come to some understanding about what Christian Faith means. Given our unhappy divisions that in itself seems a near impossible task. Is Christianity unique? If so in what manner? Who is God? Who is Jesus? What is the identity and mission of the Church? All these questions are themselves potentially divisive. May we fudge? Well we’ve done a good job at that already. ‘It doesn’t matter what we believe or what the church is, come and join us’ doesn’t seem life-changing or life-sustaining. Why bother?  If its political action one wants, well join a party. At least one doesn’t have to go to meetings unless one likes that sort of thing, rather like being religious without going to church.

 

Chris Epting (Bishop and former TEC Ecumenical Deputy) "'Open' Communion?"

The point being, we have ecumenical covenants and commitments that we have made over the last forty or fifty years which are predicated on our commitment to certain basic sacramental practices. When these practices involve the most basic sacrament which unites all Christians together, regardless of our other differences, surely we run the risk of being considered unreliable ecumenical partners when we make these changes with virtually no theological conversation among ourselves and certainly none with our ecumenical partners.

 

Bryan Owen (Canon for Parish Ministry at St. Andrew's Episcopal Cathedral in Jackson, Mississippi) "Communion without Baptism...Again?" - A good summary of how some wider blogs are covering the issue.

 

By Water and the Holy Spirit (A Facebook site devoted to the issues) "Early Church Writings on Baptism and the Eucharist"

Commenting on the consistent tradition of the early Church and its relevance for today's debate,James Farwell of General Theological Seminary writes:

 

[T]he Eucharistic meal is a ritual that both nourishes and signifies an entrance into the paschal mystery in which, by the patterns of their lives, disciples enter into the embodiment of Jesus’ continuing ministry in the world.  To the extent that it is the baptized who enter into that mystery, it is for the baptized that the meal is intended.  It is not exclusionary to restrict that meal to those who commit themselves to anticipatory practice of the kingdom: to the contrary, one can argue that it is disingenuous to offer this meal as if it requires nothing but the desire to participate out of curiosity, custom, or an unformed sense of spiritual longing, however sincere.[1] 

 

[1] James Farwell, “Baptism, Eucharist, and the Hospitality of Jesus: On the Practice of ‘Open Communion,’” Anglican Theological Review 86.2 (Spring 2004), 224.

 


 

IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS

Reflections on Holy Baptism and the Holy Eucharist: A Response to Resolution D084 of the 75th General Convention Theology Committee of the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church .

Further, if Jesus’ practice were really as open as is sometimes assumed, it is difficult to account for the early church’s struggles over getting Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus to sit down at the same 
table. Indeed, it would seem that it is baptism and not communion  that enables the diverse yet unified body imagined in Galatians 3:27–29. Whatever one wants to say about open communion, it cannot easily or directly be based on Jesus’ day-to-day eating practices as best we can reconstruct them.

Moreover, Jesus’ focus on the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” should remind us that his engagements with tax collectors and sinners were directed at restoring and repairing their covenantal relationship with God. Further, if Jesus’ practice were really as open as is sometimes assumed, it is difficult to account for the early church’s struggles over getting Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus to sit down at the same table.

Indeed, it would seem that it is baptism and not communion that enables the diverse yet unified body imagined in Galatians 3:27–29. Whatever one wants to say about open communion, it cannot easily or directly be based on Jesus’ day-to-day eating practices as best we can reconstruct them. Moreover, Jesus’ focus on the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” should remind us that his engagements with tax collectors and sinners were directed at restoring and repairing their covenantal relationship with God.

 
While both baptism and eucharist encode in their own way this “both-and” of divine gift and moral response, the structural relationship of the two sacraments is such that baptism carries the weight of clarifying the life for which eucharist strengthens us. Baptism and eucharist thus require each other as the ritual grammar of this paradoxical “both-and” of Christian faith. This structural relationship is visible in the traditional brevity of detail that marks the eucharistic prayer: the Great Thanksgiving and the communion, taken together, are the performative shorthand for this divine life that we both  receive and adopt through baptism.

An Episcopal Cafe post on the Diocese of Eastern Oregon Resolution and the Diocese of Connecticut's call for a dialogue on the issue to last one year.