I’ve been writing a number of things in a number of places recently. I’ve done some pieces for the Living Church, some of which are out, some of which are still in their pipeline. I was invited to write another piece for the Washington Post which may be on their site today or tomorrow. I’ve also been writing some bits for Forward Movement about which more will be said at the right time. And, I’ve been trying to write stuff here.
The upshot is that I haven’t put out anything at the Episcopal Cafe in quite a while, and that’s not a good thing. The Daily Episcopalian has been running some unusual stuff recently from some new voices—or at least people who haven’t written pieces before—particularly around Communion Without Baptism. We had one from our self-proclaimed liturgically-conservative non-theist, one from the site’s village atheist, then one that I can only kindly characterize as theologically confused.
I think that one of the major difficulties that we’re having around the whole CWOB issue is that there are so many Episcopalians out there who simply have an insufficient understanding of basic Eucharistic theology. Case in point—today’s article. In my comment on it, I pull out what I see as the single biggest mistake our church is making when it thinks and talks about the Eucharist and, by extension, CWOB:
What really bothers me here, though, is this: “Because, you see, I think God has cherished and adored all these persons since before they were born. Has been in relationship with them, all along. And is longing to be closer to them, speaking to them through our worship, even if they only once step through our doors.”
I absolutely believe this; she’s spot on.
However—what does this have to do with the Eucharist? The author never makes the connection but seems to assume that there is a clear and easy one to be made.
The Eucharist is the food of the covenant community who confess Jesus as Lord. We enter the covenant community by making our own covenant with Christ in the midst of the community: it’s Baptism. The Eucharist assists us in keeping our Baptismal Covenant and helps us to continue to grow into a life of discipleship through it’s nourishment.
This basic Eucharistic theology is found nowhere here. Instead, there seems to be a simple assumption that the Eucharist means that God loves you and wants to be in a relationship with you and that if anyone can’t have the Eucharist at any time it’s the church’s way of saying that God doesn’t love them. That’s not what is going on at all.
Granted—some people may perceive it like that, but this perception does not constitute the church’s theology. We do need to do a better job about teaching the basics of Eucharistic theology—so that both our visitors and our members can grasp what it is that the church both intends and does.
I think it’s time for a back-to-basics primer on what the prayer book teaches on the Eucharist to provide a real starting point for any discussions going forward.