Saturday, March 12, 2005

Inter-Communion: two perspectives

My friend Jim posted an interesting article by a Roman Catholic Father today, and I commented on it. Below is what I wrote on Jim's blog.

The issue about inter-communion for me as a Lutheran is not so much a problem of being excluded - last year I attended a RC church with a friend of mine, and went up to the priest and received a blessing rather than holy communion, which was wonderful - I receive communion weekly at my own church, so I don't NEED to receive it elsewhere. We have a good relationship with our neighboring RC church, and work together in many ways.
It is really a difference in eccelesiology, as Fr. Tucker's statement reveals. As a Lutheran pastor (of the ELCA, not the LC-MS), I give communion to every Christian who wishes to receive it. For ME to deny someone communion because they are not a part of my church body, because they do not fit into my hierarchical structure, would be an insult to the Holy Spirit, who blows wherever it wills and creates faith in the hearts of many people who do not share my denomination. I understand the difference between a Lutheran and RC ecclesiology, and I am not complaining about being excluded, just offering a different ecclesiology.
I am also not so sure that a multitude of denominations is an evil. Let me quote from the Augsburg Confession VII: "It is enough for the true unity of the church to agree concerning the teaching of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions, rites, or ceremonies instituted by human beings be alike everywhere." That is the difference in ecclesiology right there. So, there are Lutherans, Methodists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Baptists, Orthodox and more. As long as we have the same gospel, and the same sacraments, that diversity can be a gift to the world.
I also disagree with the image of the RC church as the mother church, and all other churches (including the Orthodox church!) as her rebellious children. But again, it's a difference of ecclesiology, and the question is, which ecclesiology is closer to the gospel truth.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:38 AM

    This is an interesting approach. Recently we have had this discussion (as eastern orthodox) regarding the idea of 'conversion' and whether it is a human artifice or a matter of divine election - and if the latter, what measure do we have as human beings to determine when a person has crossed the invisible threshold and become a 'member in good standing.'

    One possibility, however, is that in following the exhortation of St. Paul to 'test every spirit,' the orthodox church has historically been persistently vigilent in their vulnerability and in the practice of allowing the heart of the faith to be invigorated by the presence of Christ.

    There has been a distinct shift over the past few centuries at least - the Orthodox have been touting their faith as the 'one True Faith,' while if it is truly an apostolic faith (and for many centuries is was) then it is more accurate to call itself 'Tried and True.'

    The risk that we face today, as Christians in general, seems to be that many churches prefer the comfort of being 'true' rather than the risk of being 'tried.'

    This has a big impact within communities that are supposed to believe alike, but becomes an even bigger issue when we speak of inter-communion and have to come to terms with our own tests and trials and those that other denominations have endured.