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Is The Eucharist Inclusive Or Exclusive?


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Help!

 

I am a lay minister in the Church of England who has recently started attending a liberal, progressive, inclusive church in Sheffield.

 

I like everything that is being preached here. It is refreshing, thought-provoking and stimulating. Especially the church's emphasis on inclusiveness.

 

But my problem comes with a statement at the start of every Sunday morning service, which basically says that only those who are baptised can join in the communion.

 

Surely this is exclusive and not inclusive? I am really struggling with this. Would God deny those who are genuinely searching, or do people really have to jump through the hoop of baptism before they are welcome at the communion rail?

 

I believe in baptism. I have been baptised and confirmed myself. But I don't want to use it as a badge or a reason to exclude people. There are people on the journey who are pre-baptism and yet probably have more faith than I ever will. Yes, I would eventually want to encourage them to be baptised, but in the meantime they have to sit in their chairs, or just 'receive a blessing', because they haven't been baptised. Do they feel alienated and excluded because of this?

 

Please, will someone explain to me how you can be an inclusive Christian and still hold to this practise. I am disillusioned because I thought in liberal, progressive churches everything is up for grabs and discussion and re-examinination, including the sacraments.

 

I am genuinely not looking for arguments. I just want someone to explain this to me so that I am not in agony every Sunday morning when this is said.

 

Thanks.

 

Andrew Wooding

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I understand where you are coming from. I am an Anglican also and every Sunday I hear my priest say that all baptized persons are welcome to come forward and share in communion. I guess I understand what that means, and I guess I see where the church is coming from.

When I take communion I feel as though I am taking part in something that has been done for thousands of years. I feel as though I am apart of something much bigger than even the church can really understand. It makes me happy to know that I can do something that makes me feel better about myself, even if it is only symbolic. But at the same time I think that maybe the church puts too much emphasis on baptism and not enough on loving acceptance. My girlfriend and I go to church every Sunday. I’ve been baptized so I take communion. She has not so she can’t. It doesn’t bother her much that she can’t take it for religious reasons, more it bothers her because she can’t take it to at least be with me.

Maybe one day the church will realize that communion is a very inclusive form of sacrament, but that it comes off as very exclusive. What if we made the act of communion something that everyone could join in, regardless of their faith. I guess that is something that we will have to work out when we are the leaders of the church. So I guess that I can only agree with you, but I can't realy offer anymore.

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Dear friends in Christ,

 

I wish to commend Rev. Martz for his bold and inviting response to the

rather strange developments from certain Catholic leaders in Colorado

Springs (see details below).

 

As a private, voluntary organization, the Roman Catholic Church may of

course do what it wishes in regard to who may or may not partake in their

rites and rituals. That said, if they want to be viewed as consistent,

credible, and just by the rest of the world - and even by their own members

- they should not refuse Communion on these grounds (matters of opinion).

 

Although I'm a United Methodist, I am a fan of the famed Roman Catholic

"consistent ethic of life" i.e. opposition to abortion, war, and capital

punishment.

 

I personally would not want to see abortions for purposes of eugenics,

selecting the sex of a child, or after the first trimester - with the

exceptions for rape, incest, and/or if the health of the mother would be at

risk if a pregnancy were brought to term.

 

And even the admittedly conservative Catholic stance re: war allows for the

hypothetical possibility of engaging in war; i.e. if a particular war satisfies all of

the conditions spelled out in their Just War theory (note: the Vatican

stated that current war with Iraq did not meet these criteria.)

 

So, it sure seems inconsistent for certain Catholic leaders to be rigidly

dogmatic about denying the sacrament of Holy Communion to members who seek

to make abortion safe, legal, and rare while serving it to persons who may

favor the death penalty or the Iraq war. This inconsistency has the effect

of unraveling their otherwise consistent ethic of life.

 

In Christ,

 

BrotherRog

 

Background:

Denver Church Responds To Controversy - Says "All" Are Welcome For Communion

"The largest Methodist church in metro Denver is spending thousands of

dollars on newspaper ads this week to counter Colorado Springs Roman

Catholic Bishop Michael Sheridan's stance connecting voting to Communion

worthiness. The copy shouts, "All Are Welcome at Christ's Table!" and is

signed by three clergy and a lay leader from St. Andrew United Methodist

Church in Centennial, which draws more than 1,000 worshipers a week. While

the ad makes no mention of Sheridan or Catholicism, senior pastor Harvey

Martz said it's a response to the bishop's statement this month that

Catholics may not take Holy Communion if they vote for candidates who

disagree with Catholic teaching on select issues. "I just think it's a

dismal thing for a Christian leader to stand up and say, in the name of

Christ, we're going to turn some people way from the table because of their

vote and their political opinion," said Martz, who formerly served in

Colorado Springs." (The Denver Post, "Church invites "all" to its

Communion," 05/27/04) READ FULL ARTICLE --- Denver Archbishop Outlines Denial of Communion (from The Interfaith Alliance)

 

St. Andrew UMC Advertises Open Communion

Ads in the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News this week proclaim "All Are

Welcome at Christ's Table!" in response to a statement from Colorado Springs

Roman Catholic Bishop Michael Sheridan connecting parishioners' voting

choices with Communion worthiness. Read more at

http://www.rmcumc.org/News/Communications/...b.htm#Communion

<http://www.rmcumc.org/News/Communications/bb.htm#Communion>

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If I remember correctly, at our church, the pastors invite people to the communion table by saying "all those who profess Christ". I don't think we say "all who have been baptised". In any event, we don't "card" people at the communion rail and ask if they've been baptised. We do require baptism for membership in the congregation, but not for communion I don't think. Our church joined several others last year and held an ecumenical service where we served Communion at Gay Pride. We didn't ask if people had been baptised before we served them the elements. The whole point of us going there was to be radically inclusive.

We did have a bottle of water there in case someone did want to get baptised.We didn't have any takers for the baptising. But we did have several people who took communion who sadi they had not taken it in many years and one who said they'd never taken it.

I don't think the church has any business cutting people off from communion for how they vote on anything. How are they going to know anyway? Camera in the voting booth? Politics and Religion can both get really scary when they are mixed together. Our denomination does take stands on political issues like the war and the death penalty, but we vote before we endorse anything and people who don't agree can vote differently.

Dillo

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  • 3 weeks later...

This debate is going on all over the world between so many denominations. I begin each Mass I say with the instruction that all "Baptised Christians, repenting their sins are welcome to communion". I do this, of course because it is part of the ordo, and I have sworn to perform the Mass with regularity. I admire the Orthodox approach, they in essence have two communions - the sharing of bread, unsanctified by the wine or by the priest, with all present and then a seperate "communion" for the community - all are included in the Lord's Supper but the sanctity of the sacrament is preserved.

 

I have petioned my Bishop to allow a varience (and may in my own lifetime actually get an answer, then again maybe not) on this. In the meantime - each faith community has to decide what the Lord's Supper means to them. If it is a memorial of the Lord, (lk 22:19) then it should be open to all who wish to honor Christ (membership in the club not being a pre-requisite to honor, I prayed for Reagan with his passing and wasn't a meber of that club). If, as my Church holds, this is a real communion with the Holy Spirit, an acceptance of the Pentecost through consecration, then many believe that to open this deepest of mysteries to those who don't believe (yet) diminishes the call. "Whenver two or more are gathered.." does not seem to include haveing a few who are gathered for some other name or reason.

 

am genuinely not looking for arguments. I just want someone to explain this to me so that I am not in agony every Sunday morning when this is said.

 

I am so sorry for your pain, and pleased at the same time that your walk with God is serious enough a force in your life that this matters deeply to you. We mean not to exclude, but to welcome. The welcome goes first to hearing the Spirit welcome you to the community, answering that call in your heart, and then with the outward sign of baptism -and then with communion in the community. Baptism (I believe and teach) does not save, nor make a Christian - it is the outward sign of the acceptance of Christ as your Rabbi, mentor and Lord.

 

Have faith, brother we've been working on this for only a few thousand years - we're bound to get to the right answer anyday now.

 

Yours in Christ,

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  • 2 months later...

I have been shocked -- and repelled -- by the officious and arrogant annoucements of certain Catholic diocesan bishops that persons who hold "unauthorized" views or who vote for candidates for civil office who don't publicly profess "authorized" views will be refused the Holy Communion. I cannot believe that Jesus would have permitted such discrimination, particularly just before a national election, wherein issues are very grave and clearly outside ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Holy Communion should be the right of any earnest Christian who tries as best he or she can to be a follower of Jesus. And I think such rigidity by ecclesiastical authority should be considered an affront to all devout Christians.

Edited by cynica
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  • 8 months later...

I would have to agree with the OP on this. Christ says to take the eucharist to "remember me" not to commune with him or the Holy Spirit. Therefore, there should be no reason unbaptised people cannot take communion. Their policy on the Lord's Supper is actually one of the dozens of reasons I attend the church I do, as they don't put restrictions on who can join Christ at his table.

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Well obviously, as BroRog says, any private institution has a right to set whatever standards they want. They can say that only blue eyed white males can take it, if they really want to be exclusive.

 

OTOH, I agree with others that it is disappointing. I see Jesus' mission as radically inclusive. He didn't mind being around prostitutes, lepers or religious nuts. :-)

He didn't say, oh yeah, since I know you are going to betray me, you aren't welcome to share this meal with me, Judus. Although tradition has it that it was the 12 disciples sharing the meal, it is logical to assume there were others including women (who cooked the food after all, you think it was men? :-))

 

I think the "remembrance of me" line is significant in that it makes no exclusions.

 

BTW, our church doesn't require baptism for membership either. I have never been baptised. It was not a part of my childhood religious experience, and was never a big part of my adult experience. I've thought about it, but am not real much into the tradition, I guess. The other thing is that my sister has stated that she would want to come to my baptism. I don't think I want her coming to my church, being that she is a fundamentalist.

 

--des

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I admire the Orthodox approach, they in essence have two communions - the sharing of bread, unsanctified by the wine or by the priest, with all present and then a seperate "communion" for the community - all are included in the Lord's Supper but the sanctity of the sacrament is preserved.

 

I'm almost hesitant to join this discussion because my thoughts seem so outside what I've read here from you guys so far.

 

I admire the the Orthodox approach too.

 

I have, for some time, been imagining and envisioning a more "initiatory" church, so obviously, I don't favor those who have not been baptised into Christ partaking in the sacrament. Not as an exclusionary manuever at all, but as a way to structure and give form to mystical experience, growth, and developing understanding within the Body of Christ. I guess one way to put it is that I favor the idea of "spiritual training" and bringing back the "emotional and imaginative" intensity of our religious rites and traditions. I think Baptism should be a powerful 're-birth" experience and that the sacrament should follow as true communion with Christ as one who has "died and no longer lives" but who now lives "in Christ".

 

I don't think we should 'democratize" our mysteries. Not even the Pagans do this. There are degrees and grades and levels of initiation and one doesn't skip any steps. This is not exclusionary at all. All who so desire may come. But it inspires diligence and passion I think to re-make these rites *special* and powerful, and which offers transformative experience to a "world" that I believe is starving for this.

 

Am I making any sense?

 

lily

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In my view, it is the Lord's table.  Jesus welcomes all.  It is not up to us to decide who is worthy.  In our church (United Church of Canada) we welcome all who are seeking to the table.

 

It doesn't have to be about "worth" Comrade. It can be about preparedness. It doesn't have to be couched in the language of condemnation or elitism. All are encouraged to experience baptism and to partake of the joys and mysteries of the sacraments. The Way is not barred to any. Jesus does welcome all.

 

All are welcome at the Lords table. I just favor the tradition of keeping an "agape" feast or meal among all who seek separate from the Eucharist or Communion or the Lords Supper that those who have been baptised in Christ partake of especially. I have a hard time actually understanding why this would offend anyone. No one is forbidden baptism who genuinely seek it, so the sacrament of the Bread and Wine is freely offered to all, just not before you're baptised.

 

I don't want the "form" of baptism to take precedence over the substance or reality of baptism to the believer. There are those who have been dunked, sprinkled and nearly drowned who are not baptised in Christ, and there are those who have never been baptised in water who are nevertheless baptised in Christ. It isn't, to me, about empty form, but about substance and aesthetics (which should not be overlooked or dismissed as irrelevant - its about beauty and ritual and keeping the sacred Sacred) which gives meaning and resonance and inspiration and passion to our faith, it's about commitment to a path and dedication to it, it's about CHOOSING to go this Way, it's about sacrificing whatever is necessary to discipline oneself along The Way. It's not about, "oh, I think I'll go take the sacrament of buddy Jesus today, maybe it will make me feel better."

 

In my opinion we've already been steadily neglecting these things; we've been there, done that. Why not look back, at what our spiritual ancestors may have done; why not make it MORE difficult to be a Christian instead of less? I mean, it IS difficult to be a Christian or to be in process of becoming Christ-like. Isn't it? Why give what is precious away to those who are not committed or serious or prepared to receive it? Why not instead persuade those who come how precious the experience of the sacrament and baptism is, or has all the potential in the world and Gods own Grace to be, instead of choosing to do away with what makes a tradition a tradition?

 

lily

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In my view, it is the Lord's table.  Jesus welcomes all.  It is not up to us to decide who is worthy.  In our church (United Church of Canada) we welcome all who are seeking to the table.

 

It doesn't have to be about "worth" Comrade. It can be about preparedness. It doesn't have to be couched in the language of condemnation or elitism. All are encouraged to experience baptism and to partake of the joys and mysteries of the sacraments. The Way is not barred to any. Jesus does welcome all.

 

All are welcome at the Lords table. I just favor the tradition of keeping an "agape" feast or meal among all who seek separate from the Eucharist or Communion or the Lords Supper that those who have been baptised in Christ partake of especially. I have a hard time actually understanding why this would offend anyone. No one is forbidden baptism who genuinely seek it, so the sacrament of the Bread and Wine is freely offered to all, just not before you're baptised.

 

I don't want the "form" of baptism to take precedence over the substance or reality of baptism to the believer. There are those who have been dunked, sprinkled and nearly drowned who are not baptised in Christ, and there are those who have never been baptised in water who are nevertheless baptised in Christ. It isn't, to me, about empty form, but about substance and aesthetics (which should not be overlooked or dismissed as irrelevant - its about beauty and ritual and keeping the sacred Sacred) which gives meaning and resonance and inspiration and passion to our faith, it's about commitment to a path and dedication to it, it's about CHOOSING to go this Way, it's about sacrificing whatever is necessary to discipline oneself along The Way. It's not about, "oh, I think I'll go take the sacrament of buddy Jesus today, maybe it will make me feel better."

 

In my opinion we've already been steadily neglecting these things; we've been there, done that. Why not look back, at what our spiritual ancestors may have done; why not make it MORE difficult to be a Christian instead of less? I mean, it IS difficult to be a Christian or to be in process of becoming Christ-like. Isn't it? Why give what is precious away to those who are not committed or serious or prepared to receive it? Why not instead persuade those who come how precious the experience of the sacrament and baptism is, or has all the potential in the world and Gods own Grace to be, instead of choosing to do away with what makes a tradition a tradition?

 

lily

 

I understand where you are coming from. The liturgy and ritual of the church are very important to me.

 

But, with respect, I do not think we can look at the church as a lodge with degrees of membership. There are as many paths to God as there are seekers. I don't think we can decide for others what their spiritual status is. And as I said, it is the Lord's table, not ours.

 

These are my feelings on the matter. But it is also not up to me to dictate how others look upon the sacrements. To me inclusiveness is an important part of Communion. I have no problem if it helps you in your walk to see it as more exclusive. Our fellowship with God and each other is more important than doctrinal differences.

 

Peter

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But, with respect, I do not think we can look at the church as a lodge with degrees of membership.  There are as many paths to God as there are seekers.  I don't think we can decide for others what their spiritual status is.  And as I said, it is the Lord's table, not ours.

 

I am not suggesting a "lodge with degrees of membership", I am suggesting a possible way to re-vision the traditions and sacraments that are common to Christianity so that the rites of baptism and the sacrament of the bread and wine and other rites can be infused with new meaning and be seen as significant and life changing to the believer, to us, again.

 

I am also and most certainly not suggesting that anyone should decide for others what "their spiritual status is". Each individual decides for him or herself when and if to be baptized. There are many paths to God. But what does it mean and how do we flesh out walking a distinctly Christian path? That's what I'm trying to work out Peter. And I don't understand why you keep insisting that this is exclusivism. Why does a structured praxis alienate anyones doxis? (a little stab at theological humor...I promise, I won't try this again)

 

Let me make sure that you understand that I am not carving out the way of salvation here, I'm talking about what I envision in my heart a Christian community to be. I never expect everyone, or even many to agree with me and I certainly don't condemn anyone for feeling differently.

 

I understand what you mean about everyone being invited and welcomed to the Lords table. I agree. I think in a perfect Church (perfect for me) there would be lots of communal feasting and giving thanks in fellowship and unity, but that the rite of sanctified bread and wine should be the privilege of those who have freely chosen to make the commitment of baptism into the Body of Christ. It is a rite of passage, an initiation, a re-birth and transformational experience that prepares one for the reception of "holy communion".

 

It seems to me that the whole problem rests here with a confusion between structure and order within a tradition and rules and regulations that restrict the liberty of individuals. I don't condemn others for following traditions outside of Christianity. I don't believe that the Christian tradition is the only path to God. Therefore I can hold fast to a distinctly Christian tradition without excluding anyone from anything.

 

 

lily

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But Lily, by making exclusive you are adding "requirements", I don't think that was ever the essence of what Jesus preached and lived/died for. The various Pharisees, etc. would come to him with various laws and traditions and he would generally tell them that they were not necessary in some way or other. One other thing, I remember some line about being baptised by fire and water. I know many people who have been literally baptised by water but nobody who was "literally" baptised by fire.

 

To say, well not even pagans-- but this is isn't a pagan rite. I think it is the difference between a hierarchal belief system with priests or priestesses, etc. and a congregational one (and no one claimed that the Anglican church, however liberal, was congregational in any sense). So perhaps it makes sense that UCC does it differently than Anglicans and Episcopalians. OTOH, I have been to (low) Episcopal and even guitar Catholic masses circa 1970 and don't remember any mention of baptism or anything else prior to the communion.

 

BTW, I think in the communal sense potlucks might be closer to the agape feast than our typical communion service, esp if you add requirements.

 

I agree with infusing new meaning into the rites, but I don't know how adding requirements infuses meaning. I think pulling it apart and looking at it and seeing how to put back mystery and the "communion" is the way to do that. I think we discussed this aspect before.

I, personally, do not see communion as a rite of passage. But *IF* you see it that way it makes sense to add this particular requirement. I'm not sure the water baptism is particularly distinctively Christian. I'm sure fire baptism is, but I don't know any one who would want to go thru with it. (Maybe if I asked my sister to come to NM and share with me my baptism ceremony, now *that* might constitute fire baptism. :-))

 

 

 

 

--des

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Some months back, there was a thread in which we were all discussing how sometimes Ex-Catholics and Ex-JW's devolope a fear of participating in communion because of what their faith group background taught about whether a person is worthy to partake in communion or not. Does anyone know where I could re-locate THIS thread and what it was called? Cause I like to to add the info to my research web page. Thanks:)

 

BeachOfEden

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Hi Beach,

Yes I remember such a (recent) discussion. I also remember in my little class prior to joining the church, the pastor mentioned that ex-Catholics will often stay away due to their feelings about the, gee don't know what this is called, but the idea that the bread and wine become the body of Christ in some literal way. I can't remember re: exJWs.

However, there is an excellent (some threads definitely stand out to me and this one does) thread on ritual (with lots of discussion on communion). Many many thoughtful comments:

http://tcpc.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=350

(hope that comes out right but anyway it is in this forum about another page in subject is praxis and ritual).

 

--des

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For Catholics: I think the word you were looking for is Transubstantiation - the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ.

 

I'm wondering what other Christian denominations believe in Transubstantiation?

 

For JW's: We were taught that only those who were going to be co-rulers over the earth (with Christ) were to partake at the "Memorial". For JW's, this "Mass-equivalent" is only observed once a year, close to Easter (the first full moon after the spring equinox). Only those who "know" they are "annointed" (144,000, derived from Revelation), partake of the bread and wine. That's only a few thousand partaking each year out of millions of JW's worldwide. <_<

 

So - From being told year after year after year that unless you just "know" you are supposed to partake, you don't. That could be a difficult mindset to overcome. Personally, it wouldn't enter into my mind at all. I'd love to receive communion. :)

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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Wow, Aletheia, talk about exclusive! :-)

Another thing about requirements of baptism say, well what about the fact that many

Christian churches baptize babies? If a church would accept that baptism, then the person really hasn't made any decision. The family has-- but that's quite different as all us ex- ___s

would attest. So if they say ahead of time, all you who are baptized (or whatever) do they JUST mean those who are baptized as adults? I'm quite sure they don't say that.

 

--des

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Wow, Aletheia, talk about exclusive! :-)

Another thing about requirements of baptism say, well what about the fact that many

Christian churches baptize babies? If a church would accept that baptism, then the person really hasn't made any decision. The family has-- but that's quite different as all us ex- ___s

would attest. So if they say ahead of time, all you who are baptized (or whatever) do they JUST mean those who are baptized as adults? I'm quite sure they don't say that.

 

--des

 

That is a very good point Des. I was baptised as an infant. I did not make a choice in the matter. Am I worthy to take communion as I never made a choice to be baptised?.

 

I don't believe that all Christians have to view the sacrements or the rituals of the Church in the same way. We each have our own path.

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>I don't believe that all Christians have to view the sacrements or the rituals of the Church in the same way. We each have our own path.

 

Well I guess that would be part of the progressive stance, right? Yes, I agree. I think what surprised the initial poster was that Anglican is supposedly a liberal church. That's true, but it is also a pretty "high" church (unless it is extra low, as I have been to), even so there were rituals, etc. that were foriegn and not too comfortable for me. (I'm sure coming out of Christian Science with almost zero rituals had some effect. )

 

--des

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>I  don't believe that all Christians have to view the sacrements or the rituals of the Church in the same way.  We each have our own path.

--des

 

I've been searching my heart all weekend regarding this topic. It occurs to me that I am already living an inclusive, solitary, ever-evolving, unstructured, questioning, searching "Christian" life. The most influential book of my own spiritual life is not written by a Christian (Peter Kingsleys "Reality"). I attend no local church. As a consequence of years of this, I am now hungering for a "ground level", essential Christian practice; one stripped of hierarchy, literalism, superficial overlay, and any nonsense that suggests that Jesus did not open The Way to a personal, intimate, and basically individual relationship to the Father.

 

But a church without structure, "requirements", goals, common rituals and praxis is what I'm ALREADY living and it does not satisfy. But this is where I am in my walk. I've spent the last 20 years of my "Christian" life flying solo...doing it "my way", walking "my own path", learning from many things, and where it has led me is to a hunger for a distinctly Christian walk that is nevertheless informed by all these other influences. There is a certain creativity in this, or a creative tension that is difficult to convey, but the liberty in it is only found within a certain structure. In other words, what inspires me now with new depth is the old and time-honored traditions and rites of our spiritual ancestors, which, in many ways includes pre-christian ones. The rite of Baptism, for instance, is known in many traditions and from time immemorial. It is as olde as the hills. This informs the rite with great depth imo. There is nothing "exclusive" about it, quite the contrary, this rite belongs to all of us, even those of us who are not Christian. But this does not by logical extension make the rite expendable to the experience to which it points. There is power and efficacy in rites done in Awareness. It is this, most of all, that I wish to convey here.

 

I do think we should do as des suggested in a previous post, and explore on this thread the *meaning* of baptism; analyze it and take it apart and see what makes it tick.

 

Baptism, for me, represents "dying" to an old way of life and being reborn into a new life in Christ. The immersion in water, or sprinkling, symbolizes returning to the amniotic or watery womb of the mother, and the rising up out of the water and taking that first gasp of air symbolizes the first breath you took when leaving your mothers womb. It is a re-birth experience. It is no longer you who live, but Christ that lives in you at this point. This is the outward expression of a deep truth that, in my opinion, is "essential" to Christian teaching. Jesus Himself was baptized. According to the record, it was at THIS point that the "dove" descended upon Him and the Spirit spoke "this is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well-pleased" or, in some commentary, "on this day have I begotten Thee". This is a very rich teaching of our tradition and I don't understand the urge to make it expendable, or meaningless and "nothing but" metaphor or empty rite or form...or, I say I don't, but I really do...I have done so myself.

 

At any rate, I'm not trying to push anything on anyone. I'm just inviting you guys to take a look at the beauty and the substance of these rites, and in some ways pleading with you guys to not "throw the baby out with the bath water". Discipline and structure does not have to be "authoritative" or "patriarchical" or "oppressive" and, heaven forbid lol, "exclusive"...we have the authority of Christ within us. We can hold to certain structures and traditions without becoming literalist fanatics. Or so I pray.

 

lily

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For Catholics: I think the word you were looking for is Transubstantiation - the bread and wine are changed into the body and blood of Christ.

 

I'm wondering what other Christian denominations believe in Transubstantiation?

The Anglican/Episcopal tradition uses the notion of "real presence," which is a little vaguer, but it's much closer to it than the congregational belief that it's merely a memorial. I think Lutherans and Methodists probably take yet another step back, though if I'm correct, UMC does use the term "real presence" as well.

 

Personally, I think Transubstantiation is one of the hidden jewels of Christian doctrine, and is in fact the key to understanding my entire Christology. In a nutshell: the Incarnation is so complete, that even a wafer of bread and a gulp of wine reveal the fullness of Christ without lacking anything. Of course, in their natural, outward form, they are precisely bread and wine, and never cease to be so. The conventional meaning, that they physically become flesh and blood, has never even been the official doctrine of Transubstantiation (which is that the essential substance of the bread and wine becomes the essential substance of the body and blood of Christ, not that their accidental physical characteristics become those of the man Jesus).

 

What makes this the key to my entire Christological framework? Put the human being Jesus into the category of accidental physical characteristics, and Jesus Christ into the category of essential substance, and you've pretty much got it. The Virgin Birth, Resurrection, Ascension, Second Coming, etc. don't refer to magical transmutations of the physical matter of Jesus' human person. As for his human person, it was precisely as it was, just as bread and wine are what they are. Just as the bread and wine's "becoming the body and blood of Jesus Christ" doesn't mean that they magically transform into some other kind of material; so these theological statements about Jesus don't preclude his complete and utter humanity (as orthodoxy insists that they mustn't).

 

It is perhaps tempting to transpose the eternal qualities of higher things down into "natural substance" as magical and legendary qualities; and perhaps it is truer to think of Jesus in this magical way, than to think that he was "just a man." But it's truer still to see in him Christ revealed, the hope of all glory, the way of being from which we come, and to which we are yet called. A way of being so competely and utterly transfused by God's presence, that even bread and wine partake fully.

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I think there are two important things that are trying to come out of this discussion:

 

1) In our natural being, we are born, we grow, we develop, we die. We participate in a developmental process that is going on all around us, from the infinitessimal to the cosmic. As such, what is appropriate to a person at one level of understanding is inappropriate to someone at another. It is futile at best -- and destructive at worst -- to teach higher spiritual teachings and practices to those who have just begun a spiritual path, or to those who are still curious and don't even know if they want one.

 

2) In our eternal being, we are completely and utterly God, we have never stopped being God, we never will stop being God, we'll never become less God than God, and we'll never become more God than a speck of sand on the seashore. As such, each and every person is God's child, welcome at God's table, heir to the blessings of the life of God's good creation.

 

If we don't try to steer between these two moorings, we're lost; but how to tie the two together? For one thing, we all agree that the process of initiation and growth is equally, freely available to all. The freedom to practice medicine means that anyone (economic situations being equal) can go to medical school: not that anyone can walk into the operating room and perform surgeries. For another thing, if the process is worth its salt, the participants know full well that their growth and development doesn't bring them closer to God in any eternal way, and that God remains both utterly beyond reach, and utterly at the true center of each of us, no matter who we are or how "evolved" we imagine ourselves. If it turns into a power play, that's the surest sign that the process has gone wrong somewhere.

 

It's true that the practice of communion will differ based on how it's understood: is it part of the initiation process (1), or part of the recognition of our eternal status as utterly equal before God (2)? How we answer that question will probably determine the rules of our practice of it. The more important question might be beyond the specifics: how do we order our worship, so that neither of these ingredients is lost?

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Thanks, Des, for re-locating this thread to me. Since January I have been working on this research project in which I examine the 10 points that the author of the book Ten Wrongs Things I Learned In A Conservative Church...wrote..and the last subject I have is examining this participation in the taking of the bread and wine issue and trying to explain to the reader the reasons why some Ex-Fundies like ex-Fundie Catholics and Ex-JDubs fear getting involved in communion. The author of the 10 Wrong Things books seems completely lost as to understanding why anyone would feel uncomfortable with communion...so my endevor to to explain why so that readers might understand better.

 

On the topic of baptism..yes in the JW faith you must be be old enough to make a choice on baotism before you can get baptized. JW's feel that babies can not make a choice cause they are not old enough to understand what they are doing. There is also this non-denominational/contemporary Protestant church I would attend sometimes called Bible Fellowship and they also believe this. So they explained that they do NOT baptize babies but instead they do this thing where the pastor prefor this blessing cememony where he prays over a perent's under age child and they ask God to guild the child's heart to choice to accept Christ when they grow up. I don;t remember what they call this...I only remember them explaining to everyone that they wanted to clearify that these cemonies are NOT baptism of under aged children.

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There is also this non-denominational/contemporary Protestant church I would attend sometimes called Bible Fellowship and they also believe this. So they explained that they do NOT baptize babies but instead they do this thing where the pastor prefor this blessing cememony where he prays over a perent's under age child and they ask God to guild the child's heart to choice to accept Christ when they grow up. I don;t remember what they call this...I only remember them explaining to everyone that they wanted to clearify that these cemonies are NOT baptism of under aged children.

My church growing up did this too, usually referred to as "Baby Dedication" or some such. I don't have a real difficulty with infant baptism... I think it kind of symbolizes that, after we've been looking for God for some time, we realize that God started looking for us first.

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