A reader has recently informed me that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has begun a discussion in their congregations about the norm requiring baptism before admission to Holy Communion.
A request asking for discussion of this practice came out of the Northern Illinois Synod of the ELCA and was accepted by the 2013 Church Wide Assembly. As a result, the ELCA has begun a discussion process and has published a guiding document on their website which attempts to set the stage for this discussion. The document “Table and font: Who is welcome?” begins by acknowledging that the recommended practice in the ELCA is for baptism to precede Holy Communion. In this regard, the document quotes Principle 37 of “The Use of the Means of Grace:”
Admission to the Sacrament is by invitation of the Lord, presented through the Church to those who are baptized.
The document goes on to point out that “increasingly, in many congregations of this church and our ecumenical partners, the invitation to receive communion is for everyone, not only for those who have been baptized.” The document points out that this practice has developed under the notion of “Eucharistic Hospitality.”
According to the document, the discussion on the invitation to Holy Communion must address “the relationship between communion and baptism, as well as the relation between the sacraments and the proclamation of God’s word, the worship space, music, prayers and the whole of the liturgy.”
It will be interesting to see what comes of this discussion. Call me a traditionalist, but I wholeheartedly disagree with the practice of admitting non-baptized persons to Holy Communion. For me, requiring people to be baptized before receiving the Eucharist is not inhospitable; rather, it attests to the importance and priority of baptism and membership in the Church.
What are your thoughts? Are any of your churches dealing with similar issues? Is there a wider context, in practice or in theory, within which this discussion should be understood? Do you or your parish use a set text for invitation to Holy Communion?
Please comment below.
More information on this discussion can be found at the ELCA website under their Worship Resources tab.