GC2012: The Episcopal Church Moves One Step Closer to Open Table
Michael Heidt in Indianapolis
July 11, 2012
On passing resolution C029 in the house of Deputies, the Episcopal Church is now one step closer to tacitly recognizing the practice of "open table", in which unbaptized persons are admitted to Holy Communion. By acknowledging the increasing incidence of "open table", and failing to censure it, the House of Deputies encourages the Episcopal Church to break with its own canons and the practice of the wider church since the days of the Apostles.
C029 reaffirms that the sacrament of Baptism is "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." However, while stressing that Baptism is normative, the resolution does not state that it is prescriptive.
At the end of its second Resolve, C029 states, "We also acknowledge that in various local contexts there is the exercise of pastoral sensitivity with those who are not yet baptized." In this instance, "pastoral sensitivity" is the admission of people to Communion without being baptized. This is against the law of the Episcopal Church as stated in Canon 1.17.7: "No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church."
In an attempt to bring the resolution into accordance with Episcopal Church law, Canon Michell of the Diocese of Dallas moved that the last two lines of the resolution be struck out. Deputy Newman from the Diocese of Los Angeles disagreed, arguing that "the reality we all live in is the tension that we experience when someone puts their hands out (to receive Communion) and the law book says no."
Deputy Loeb from the Diocese of Georgia believed that open table was wrong, "make the font open," he said, "have that be the way to the table." But a clerical deputy from the Diocese of New Hampshire spoke vehemently in favor, "We are crazy Christians." she exclaimed, "because we have a crazy God. Many of us do offer open table." For her, the resolution was a "both and."
Canon Michell's motion to amend failed and C029 went to the vote as written. The resolution passed and will now go to the House of Bishops for final approval. If it passes through that House, the Episcopal Church may be justly accused of breaking the universal law of the wider catholic church of which it claims to be a part and the Prayer Book's Article XXIX, which states:
"The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing."
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