The Church Times writes sense about Communion

I have just seen the leader in the Church Times for 31st July (thanks to Dave Walker’s Church Times blog for the link). And I was interested to see that this significant newspaper more or less agrees with the position I have taken about Communion being offered in both kinds, although from a more pragmatic perspective. After a summary of negative reactions received (including those in letters to the editor, which I am not able to read as I am not a subscriber), the leader writer continues:

Confusion and distress about the method of administration is not good for the Church, and, at the very least, is yet another distraction from the purpose of the eucharist itself … In this situation, the clergy need to offer the laity as much choice as possible, in order to remove any feeling of coercion … Any permanent change in the practice of the Church of England should not, however, be allowed to come about simply on the basis of a crisis mentality and the publication of press releases — even archiepiscopal ones.

Indeed. My only real objection is to the leader writer’s appeal to “the doctrine of concomitance”, defined by Webster’s as:

(R.C.Ch.) The doctrine of the existence of the entire body of Christ in the eucharist, under each element, so that the body and blood are both received by communicating in one kind only.

In other words, this appears to be a specifically Roman Catholic teaching, presumably to justify the mediaeval withdrawal of the Communion cup from the laity which was quite specifically and deliberately repudiated by the founders of the independent Church of England. If this is the doctrine that the archbishops and bishops are tacitly appealing to, that is, if they present Roman Catholic doctrine as the standard for the Church of England, then why haven’t they already submitted to the Pope? I don’t mean to sound anti-Catholic, but I do have strong objections to this kind of attempt to be more Catholic even than His Holiness.

Anyway, three cheers to the Church Times for standing up to the archbishops in such a high profile way, one which they will not be able to ignore.

6 thoughts on “The Church Times writes sense about Communion

  1. Peter, the doctrine of concomitance may be a Roman Catholic doctrine, but the idea that you don’t have to receive both bread and wine to partake of the Body ad Blood of Christ can definitely be found in the Book of Common Prayer. In fact, it says that you don’t have to receive either. I refer you to this rubric at the beginning of the service for the Communion of the Sick:

    But if a man, either by reason of extremity of sickness, or for want of warning in due time to the curate, or for lack of company to receive with him, or by any other just impediment, do not receive the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood, the Curate shall instruct him, that if he do truly repent him of his sins, and stedfastly believe that Jesus Christ both suffered death upon the Cross for him, and shed his Blood for his redemption, earnestly remembering the benefits he hath thereby, and giving him hearty thanks therefore, he doth eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ profitably to his Soul’s health, although he do not receive the Sacrament with his mouth.

  2. Thank you, Tim. Yes, I accept that those who have faith but are unable to receive the elements can still receive the benefit – but only if the sacrament is done according to Jesus’ ordinance. I do not accept the Roman Catholic doctrine that the bread is transformed into both the body and the blood of Christ, which is a variant of the doctrine of transubstantiation, explicit rejected by the Church of England. From the words you quote, it would be better not to celebrate Communion at all than to do it in a way which disobeys Jesus.

  3. Meanwhile in the online supplement to the more evangelical Church of England Newspaper (download “The Record, 31/07/2009”), Andrew Carey, son of the former Archbishop(?), also writes some sense, concluding an article “Swine flu panic” as follows:

    One level-headed expert, Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of GPs said of the increasing numbers turning up at surgeries: “There’s too much preoccupation with the threat of death. The numbers of people getting influenza are still tiny. The reality is, that for most people it’s a basically mild illness, and we are losing sight of that.”

    In this light it seems that the Church of England itself seems to be stepping into the area of overkill with recent advice to suspend the chalice. I’ve no overriding objection to communion in one kind, although I imagine it would feel incomplete. Surely though it’s questionable as general advice at this particular time and in these circumstances?

  4. Hmm, let’s see – Jesus’ ordinance (as elaborated for us by Paul in 1 Corinthians):

    Communion service basically a bit like a pot luck supper with songs and prayers attached. A real meal with enough food and drink present that there is a danger of people getting drunk. Fellowship element probably as big if not bigger than worship/liturgical element. People reclining around a table. Bread probably one large piece of flat bread. Also, reading between the lines in the gospels, bread shared at beginning of meal, wine at end.

    Contrast this with modern Anglican practice:

    Liturgical element increased exponentially, meal element reduced to tiny symbolic bit. People sitting in rows looking at altar at the front. Fellowship element entirely optional. Bread commonly little round wafers – it takes more faith to believe that they’re bread than to believe that they’re the body of Christ. Thanksgiving over bread and wine removed from original context at beginning and end of meal and isolated as parts of a ‘prayer of consecration’.

    Need I continue? If we need to observe the Lord’s Supper ‘according to Jesus’ ordinance’ for us to ‘eat and drink the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ to our soul’s health’, there’s a lot more for us to worry about than just whether or not we all receive the wine.

    Personally, I think Jesus is a lot more patient and merciful than that.

  5. Indeed, Tim. Yes, Jesus is patient and merciful, but we should not presume on his mercy by deliberately flouting his instructions. So, instead of taking steps away from them, like removing the wine element completely, and replacing real bread with wafers which is what my church did at the beginning of the swine flu outbreak, let’s get back closer to observing things completely as Jesus commanded and have proper fellowship meals.

  6. What bothers me about this is that when bishops think that not offering any cup at all is better for the communicant than offering the individual communion cups. Where is the common sense?

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