Communion and BaptismPosted: May 28, 2012
Two of my Episcopal online resources, the Episcopal Café and the Episcopal News Service were writing about Communion and baptism in the Episcopal Church this week. Episcopal Café had multiple separate stories, including one by Jim Naughton and one by Theresa Johnson. Both focused on remarks made by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at a town hall meeting in North Carolina early this year. ENS had a more detailed discussion of the subject, including mention of resolutions before the General Convention this year regarding whether baptism is required to receive Communion.
I knew that canon law says that one must be baptized to receive Communion, and I know that all of the Episcopal churches of which I have been a part, either as a member or visiting on a one-time basis, have ignored that statute. Canon 1.17.7, as it is worded, is indeed stark: “no unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.”
In answer to a question, Jefferts Schori said that “the Communion table is not a place for discipline. The communion table is a place of welcome, and it’s not a place to turn people away from.” At the same time, 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.” She suggested some kind of “on-call baptism.”
I appreciate greatly that the Presiding Bishop has said directly that “the communion table is a place of welcome, and it’s not a place to turn people away from.” I’m not sure that I agree with the need for on-call baptism. I really like the proposed resolution by the Diocese of Eastern Oregon which allow congregations to “invite all, regardless of age, denomination, or baptism to the altar for Holy Communion.”
That is the direction would like to see the Episcopal Church take.