Open Communion

A proposal from the Diocese of Eastern Oregon to allow the Episcopal Church congregations to “invite all, regardless of age, denomination, or baptism to the altar for Holy Communion” would pave the way for the elimination of Canon 1.17.7, which says “no unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.”

Eastern Oregon’s Resolution C040 is one of two resolutions on this topic the convention will consider when it meets July 5-12 in Indianapolis. The Diocese of North Carolina has proposed a longer-term look at the issue. Resolution C029 calls for a special commission to conduct “a study of the theology underlying access to Holy Baptism and Holy Communion” and recommend to the 78th General Convention any amendment to Canon 1.17.7 it believes is needed.

The texts of both resolutions are available here.  Eastern Oregon’s is accompanied by a diocesan statement explaining its stance.

This will be the second time in recent years that what is variously called open communion, open table and communion of the non- or unbaptized has come to convention. In 2006, the General Convention affirmed Canon 1.17.7 (via Resolution D084) and asked for theHouse of Bishops Committee on Theology and the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Musicto provide to the 2009 meeting of convention “a pastoral and theological understanding of the relationship between Holy Baptism and eucharistic practice.”

In its report to the 2009 convention, the SCLM said it had been in contact with the bishops’ committee and “stand[s] ready to cooperate with them on this important issue in the future.”

The bishops reported that a study was “on-going.” In June 2009, the committee circulated “Reflections on Holy Baptism and the Holy Eucharist: A Response to Resolution D084 of the 75th General Convention,” which was later published in the Anglican Theological Review. The committee called it a “promissory note” because “we do not assume this is our last word on these matters.”

“It is essential to understand the doctrinal and liturgical connections between baptism and eucharist, especially in a church that has been rediscovering the centrality of baptism,” the members wrote in their conclusion. “We invite the church into this work.”

This year, the bishops’ theology committee reported in the Blue Book that it is “undertaking a renewed engagement with the theology of the Eucharist.” They noted what they call “the continuing (and controversial) practice of inviting the un-baptized to receive communion” and suggested what is needed is “a renewed and fundamental understanding of the eucharistic assembly and of eucharistic celebration as the quintessential gathering of the people of God.”



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