Baptism, Eucharist, and the Hospitality of Jesus: On the Practice of "Open Communion"

By Farwell, James | Anglican Theological Review, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

Baptism, Eucharist, and the Hospitality of Jesus: On the Practice of "Open Communion"


Farwell, James, Anglican Theological Review


The opening of the eucharistic table to the unbaptized is a practice inspired by the radical hospitality of Jesus. Too often, however, the practice of open communion is adopted casually, without the systematic theological reflection called for by something so central to ecclesial identity and mission. Among the issues the practice raises are (1) its reliance on the claim that Jesus would not have shared a ritual meal with his disciples alone, (2) its departure from the paschal ecclesiology at the heart of contemporary liturgical renewal, which links baptism and eucharist to a post-Constantinian understanding of mission, (3) its failure both to appreciate the pastoral value of longing, and to avoid a modernist commitment to the immediate gratification of individual desire, (4) its naive assumption that boundaries are necessarily inhospitable, and (5) its taking the place of genuine evangelism and public ecclesial witness. This essay, while not an exhaustive argument against open communion, addresses these critical issues.

It has become commonplace, in some circles of the Episcopal Church, to argue that communion ought to be offered to the unbaptized in public worship as an expression of the radical hospitality of Jesus. A handful of high profile parishes, in conscientious defiance of the canons of the Episcopal Church that restrict communion to the baptized,1 have undertaken the practice and inspired a number of other parishes to do the same. While the actual practice of offering communion to the uiibaptized does not appear to be widespread, its profile is high enough to have warranted a resolution before the 74th General Convention asking for the appointment of a task force to consider the serious ecumenical and theological ramifications of this growing practice.2 The topic was recently on the agenda of Anglican liturgists who meet annually with the North American Academy of Liturgy. The Episcopal Church is not alone in reconsidering the traditional restriction of communion to the baptized. Recently, scholars and pastors of the Presbyterian Church (USA) devoted a vigorous session at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion to this topic, and Methodists have long discussed whether Wesley meant by his claim that the Lord's Supper is a "converting ordinance" that the table should be open to all.

On any given Sunday, should "seekers," those "passing through," unbaptized guests or family members of parishioners, the spiritually curious, or even people of other religions be invited and encouraged to receive the consecrated bread and wine of the eucharist?

Among those parishes that answer this question affirmatively by practicing "open communion,"3 the quality of theological reflection that accompanies the practice has been uneven, at best. Some parishes have adopted open communion after considerable discussion and analysis of related issues in sacramental theology, ecclesiology, and evangelism, while others have offered little justification beyond a general deference to the notion of the hospitality of Jesus. Of course, the hospitality of Jesus is of great significance: by those who articulate it carefully, the call for open communion aspires to embody the hospitality of Jesus Christ in our sacramental practices-practices themselves grounded in Christ as the primordial sacrament of God.4 Any argument that challenges us to be more open and hospitable toward the other deserves attention, both because of the human propensity to fortify our own egos and privileges by excluding others and because, by any reading of the gospels, Jesus' vision of the kingdom was one which renders problematic any hard boundaries between insiders and outsiders. However, before we rush toward the practice of open communion for all as more reflective of the ministry of Jesus, there are some questions that need further exploration. We have not settled the matter simply because, on the face of it, open communion appears more hospitable than the tradition of inviting the baptized to communion. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Baptism, Eucharist, and the Hospitality of Jesus: On the Practice of "Open Communion"
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.