Canadian ‘no’ to communion without baptism: The Church of England Newspaper, April 29, 2011 p 7. May 4, 2011Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Canada, Church of England Newspaper, Hymnody/Liturgy.
First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada has rejected calls to permit those not baptized to be allowed to receive the “sacrament of the holy Eucharist.”
At the close of their April 11-15 meeting in Niagara Falls, Ontario the bishops reaffirmed the church’s canons and traditional practice stating only those baptized would be permitted to receive. “We do not see this as changing for the foreseeable future,” the bishops said.
The bishops’ debate follows a March 7 “Guest Reflection” published in Canada’s Anglican Journal by Dr. Gary Nicolosi who argued for a relaxation in the church’s Eucharistic discipline as a way of attracting more people to church.
“How, in our multicultural and pluralistic society, can our churches be places of hospitality if we exclude table fellowship with the non-baptized,” Dr. Nicolosi asked.
“Open communion increasingly is seen as a way to build a bridge between the church and the unchurched. If people are ‘spiritual but not religious’ as several sociological studies indicate, then the desire for transcendence experienced in sacramental worship may well draw them to church,” he argued.
He added that “open communion played a major part in the rapid growth of my parish in Southern California. I saw the same scenario repeated many times—non-Christians receiving Holy Communion and experiencing God in a powerful way, leading to a desire to be baptized. Therefore, I ask: might we not see the experience of receiving communion as a way of drawing people to faith in Jesus?”
The bishops were not convinced by this argument, however, but acknowledged that an “open table” or “open communion” was practised in some parts of the Canadian church. This deviation from canons and customs “arises out of a deep concern to express Christian hospitality,” they noted. However guidance on “Christian hospitality and mission and how these relate to the Table of Christ” would be given to the church following the bishop’s October meeting in Halifax.
In an interview with the Anglican Journal, Archbishop Fred Hiltz stated the bishops were cognizant of the potential of the sacrament of Eucharist for leading some unchurched people to baptism. “No one is dismissing that, but at the same time, a good pastoral coach can help people understand how baptism and the Eucharist complement each other.”
In the Episcopal Church the practise of open communion is more widespread, though it is also forbidden by canon law. A study conducted released in 2005 by the Diocese of Northern California, which had advocated allowing open communion, estimated that a majority of dioceses had congregations that permitted open communion.
Of the church’s 110 dioceses, 48 responded to the Northern California survey. Of those 24, reported they had parishes who practice open communion, or communion without baptism (CWOB) while a further 7 dioceses were reported to “probably allow CWOB.”