A discussion on an Episcopal Church group on Facebook about the possibility of an “open table” policy, that is, allowing the unbaptized to receive communion under some circumstances, recently turned into a bit of a donnybrook. For some, whether the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is offered to all is a matter of inclusion, while, to others, the issue is one of whether changing the policy undermines the importance of baptism in a Christian’s life. Here are some thoughts:
- The only reason why I believe that communicating an unbaptized person may be appropriate in some circumstances is that it is true that the Bible itself never makes baptism a requirement for receiving the Lord’s Supper. That being said:
- We are advised to hold fast to received traditions, which include having baptism as the form of initiation into the Church, and communion being most appropriate after baptism. Traditions aren’t absolutely set in stone, but that doesn’t make them any less meaningful.
- Communion, as a distinctively Christian ritual, would be largely meaningless for many non-Christians. Christianity isn’t the only world religion with practices intended specifically for members (the Jewish Passover meal and Islamic hajj being examples). Rites for members of a particular faith shouldn’t be seen as a form of exclusion, but should open the door for more teaching and, in a Christian setting, evangelism.
- Early in the life of the Christian Church, baptismal candidates were dismissed from the service before communion was celebrated, and today, many faith communities still require confirmation or restrict communion only to their own membership. Allowing all baptized Christians to receive is a genuinely inclusive option.
- Coming to the rail for a blessing is an option that doesn’t seem to get enough “press” time. An invitation to come forward for a blessing, coupled with an invitation to inquire about baptism, is a great icebreaker, so to speak.
*Please note: Any thoughts expressed here are totally unofficial opinions from a laywoman. I make no claim to speak for anybody in an official capacity.