Saturday, May 03, 2003
Via Mark Byron, I read the Midwest Conservative Journal's response to many Protestants' and Anglicans' (including my own from several months ago) calls for "open table" Communion. The MCJ correctly points out the Roman Catholic argument that if you believe in transubstantiation, which means that you believe that the body and blood of Jesus Christ is literally present in the Eucharist, then you cannot share it with those who don't.
I'm not quite sure where I stand on this. My opinion has changed since January, when I wrote my call for an "open table," in that I now do believe in transubstantiation (I'll remind my reader(s) that as an Anglican, I essentially have free reign to believe whatever I want on an awful lot of issues without violating the doctrines of my denomination). I do think that Roman Catholics should open Communion up to anyone who believes in it, and not just Roman Catholics, but that's another issue. The issue at hand is hard enough as it is. For instance, a few months ago I was with a friend's Protestant church group, and we had a sunrise service on Easter where we also took Communion. I wasn't thinking about transubstantiation at the time, since I still wasn't clear on what I believed, but afterwards some of the bread was thrown to the birds. I was horrified later as I thought of this and realized what I'd inadvertantly allowed to happen, and actually regard it as one of the more regrettable things I've ever done.
In my mind, a priest is necessary to consecrate the bread and wine, and thus instill in it the body and blood of Christ. This need not be someone who has gone through a licensed seminary, but merely someone who has been designated by the congregation to act as their leader. I think that apostolic succession should be followed if at all possible, but it's not essential, just the appropriate thing to do if available. Thus, even though the Protestant minister didn't believe it was more than symbolic, he acted as priest and actually consecrated the Eucharist. This also leads me to wonder what I should do about Communion in churches that don't believe in transubstantiation. If any of the Eucharist is wasted, sin has been committed.
I'm sure at this point Roman Catholic readers will think I'm just about ready to swear allegiance to the Pope, and Protestant readers will think I've gone of the deep end and have anti-Biblical beliefs. The former is definitely not true, and I hope that the latter isn't, either. I intend to look into this more in the near future to see what's right and what I need to do in response.