July 25th, 2012

[Episcopal News Service] The seeming disconnect in some parts of the Episcopal Church between the theology and practice of admission to communion became newly apparent to the Rev. Canon Beth Wickenberg Ely on a recent Sunday morning.

Ely, canon for regional ministry in North Carolina, who was presiding at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Charlotte, had to consult her notes to remind herself exactly how to describe who was welcome to receive communion.

“I didn’t know whether they say ‘everybody come’ or ‘baptized Christians’,” she recalled during a July 23 interview with Episcopal News Service. “I go with what the church does, and it varies.”

For Ely, who chaired the diocesan deputation to the recently concluded 77th General Convention, that moment at St. Martin’s epitomizes why her diocese proposed (via Resolution C029) that the Episcopal Church spend the next three years studying its theology that underlies access to Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.

Convention rejected both that suggestion and one from the Diocese of Eastern Oregon (Resolution C040) that would have allowed the church’s congregations to “invite all, regardless of age, denomination, or baptism to the altar for Holy Communion” by eliminating Canon 1.17.7, which says “no unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.”

Instead, the convention passed a substitute for C029 in which the Episcopal Church “reaffirm[ed] that baptism is the ancient and normative entry point to receiving Holy Communion and that our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to go into the world and baptize all peoples.”

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