Easter 2024

30 July 2012
do something - it's time to
A simple question:

Why does the National Cathedral flout the canons of the Episcopal Church without repercussion?

If you worship at the National Cathedral, you read this invitation to Communion: "All who seek God and a deeper life in Christ are welcome to receive Holy Eucharist."

These are admirable sentiments, but they are in conflict with Canon I.17.7: "No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church."

There is no mention of Baptism in the invitation to Communion given at the National Cathedral. But earlier this month General Convention stated that "The Episcopal Church reaffirms that baptism is the ancient and normative entry point to receiving Holy Communion". (Resolution C029).

It seems like a place calling itself the "National Cathedral" would, in particular, want to be normative in regard to the customs of the church as a whole.

I'm picking on the National Cathedral here, but the service leaflets of many other Episcopal churches have similar statements. And yes, I do believe this and other similarly-worded invitations are designed to subvert the intent of Canon I.17.7.

Meanwhile, the Diocese of New York has decided to go ahead with the liturgical blessing of Same-sex relationships and not wait for the Advent, 2012 start date prescribed by Resolution A049 (lines 46 & 47).

These are two instances of open disobedience and disregard for the particulars of our governing legislation that I'm aware of. I'm not trying to be overly-legalistic here, I just honestly wonder what the point of having General Convention is if the results don't really matter on the local level. Why include an Advent start date if some bishops will authorize same-sex blessings before then? Why require Baptism for Holy Communion if churches consistently offer invitations to those who are not baptized?

To be crystal clear, I am not advocating any kind of Baptism ID card check at the Communion rail -- nor, I believe, is anyone else -- but I do think it's irresponsible to issue an invitation to Communion without mentioning that it is baptized people who are eligible to receive in this church.

Our current Prayer Book references the centrality of Baptism at every opportunity. I think that 30+ years after its publication this should be clear in our liturgical behavior as well (and our liturgical spaces too, but that's another rant). Yes! Let's Baptize people, just like Jesus commanded, and let's make it a Big Deal.

I often listen to the webcasts of services of Holy Eucharist from St. Thomas, New York (it's an occupational hazard), and their invitation to Communion on Easter Day is very clear: all baptized Christians are welcome. In this situation, I've heard the rector immediately go on to say something to the effect of "if you're not baptized and would like to be, please let me know after the service. I would be happy to arrange that for you."

Baptism is freely available to all who desire it. By extension, and normally following the sacrament of Holy Baptism, Holy Communion is also.

If there is any point to keeping this distinction in our Canons, it seems that it's time to do something about non-canonical Communion invitations. I would suggest that diocesan bishops should make contact with those parishes who issue irresponsible invitations to Communion, whether in print or in person.

From what I understand, the Congregational Church (UCC) is one in which pastors and congregations can make these kinds of on the local level. In the Episcopal Church my understanding is that the authority to make these decisions lies with the triennal General Convention and the decisions are carried out by the bishops and everyone under their authority.

As our Presiding Bishop recently said, "If we're aware that there are people coming to the table who have not been baptized, it's time to do something."

I agree.

Labels: , , ,

Also, to paraphrase the PB from this past weekend: "Open table?? We have an OPEN FONT."
Thx for the good article.

Best regards
Toby, ideals

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