Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Friday, June 05, 2009

Closed Communion: What is It?

Pastor’s Window for June 2009

Closed Communion: What is It?

At the May voters’ assembly, I mentioned to you my concern that we need to increase our understanding and tighten our practice of closed communion. As you know, we already practice closed communion at Epiphany, and this practice is expected of all LCMS congregations. But it is a difficult practice, often messy, always burdensome, and never politically correct. Thus it is good for us to review our teaching about closed communion so that we understand its proper use, and on that basis evaluate our practice.

So what is closed communion? Essentially, it is the practice of admitting to the Lord’s Supper only those who have been instructed in Lutheran doctrine (usually via Luther’s Small Catechism) and are baptized and confirmed members of an LCMS congregation, who also confess that in the Lord’s Supper they receive the true body and blood of Christ in their mouths for the forgiveness of their sins. The pastor, as the steward of the mysteries of God in this place, is responsible for admitting to the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 4:1). The elders assist me with this difficult task. There is only one other Lutheran synod in America with whom the LCMS is in fellowship, and whose members can therefore also commune at our altar: The American Association of Lutheran Churches, or TAALC. This is a small Lutheran body coming out of the former American Lutheran Church, made up of pastors and congregations who refused to merge into the ELCA due to its rampant liberalism. Only LCMS Lutherans (or members of the TAALC, or another Lutheran body outside the United States with whom we are in fellowship) should commune at Epiphany. Other Christians, as a rule, should not commune here. This includes other Lutherans, including our brothers and sisters in the ELCA.

But why is that? Because we need to be honest with ourselves and with one another, especially at the altar of our Lord, about our divisions on significant doctrinal matters, the teaching on the Lord’s Supper itself not being the least of these. It is not as though we don’t consider these others to be Christian, or that we don’t think they’ll go to heaven. It is rather that fellowship in the Lord’s Supper is the supreme expression of unity in biblical doctrine. Where there is no such unity, there should not be fellowship in the Lord’s Supper. Using the ELCA as an example, even though they go by the name “Lutheran,” and even though many of their members believe that in the Lord’s Supper they receive the true body and blood of Christ for their forgiveness, the LCMS and the ELCA are significantly divided on issues such as the inerrancy of the Bible (the ELCA does not teach that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God), women pastors (the ELCA has them in spite of God’s clear Word, e.g. 1 Cor. 14:33-35), homosexuality (the ELCA not only tolerates this, it is moving toward ordaining openly gay pastors and in many cases has already ordained them), abortion (the ELCA is not pro-life), and any number of other issues. In addition, the ELCA has declared altar and pulpit fellowship with churches like the Reformed Church in America who blatantly deny the bodily presence of Christ in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. That means they not only commune with them, they share pastors. If one communes at an ELCA congregation, one cannot be sure that the pastor (who may or may not be Lutheran) even confesses the bodily presence of Christ in the Sacrament! How can we commune together as if there is no division? Our Lord would not have us sweep our differences under the rug as if they didn’t matter. Jesus prayed that His Church would be one on the basis of His Word, which is nothing less than divine truth (John 17:11, 17).

Christians in other church bodies may be strong in the faith. We may even have much in common with them. They may be models for us in faith and in life. They may be our dear friends and family members. But that doesn’t mean we should commune together when we disagree on very clear biblical teaching. To do so would be to create a sham unity for the sake of earthly harmony. This is sinful. From the above, it should also be clear that the unbaptized and non-Christians should not commune. In the Sacrament, our Lord gives His gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation by placing His true body and blood, in, with, and under the bread and wine, into our mouths. We ought to take this gift seriously, treat it with reverence, and delight in it. We also desire those who are not in our fellowship to join us at the altar. The way they may join us is by taking instruction at Epiphany and, forsaking their former altars, become members of our congregation. We do not exclude other Christians out of meanness, nor out of arrogance, but out of love. But that leads us to next month’s article… Closed Communion: Why We Practice It. In preparation for that article, please read 1 Cor. 11:17-34.

As an aside, some people prefer to call closed communion “close” communion, as in those who are close to one another in doctrine commune together (TAALC, for example, makes this distinction). There is no difference in the meaning, and I prefer to call a thing what it is. Our altar is closed to those not in our fellowship. This is the only biblical and loving practice, as we will discuss next month.

Pastor Krenz

3 Comments:

Blogger kg1016 said...

?Question. Do you require that the women of your congregation cover their heads while praying to God?

4:44 AM  
Blogger kg1016 said...

Please sir can you tell me if you require the ladies of your congregation to cover their heads during your Prayer meetings. Kris

4:46 AM  
Blogger Pastor Krenz said...

We do not.

9:35 AM  

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