Monday, July 06, 2015

Oh ... this too

In yesterday's General Convention recap, in addition to setting aside the issue of marriage, which I will deal with before long, I neglected to mention the whole issue of CWOB (communion without baptism).

You may recall that, in 2012, the Deputies voted to adopt a resolution that faintly praised the traditional position that baptism must precede communion, but also included some verbal wiggle room that would have been interpreted as passive permission for the practice to continue and spread. The Bishops, however, rejected the entire resolution on a resounding voice vote. But, like the Hydra of ancient Greek mythology--a serpentine creature with multiple heads, and the ability to grow two more when one was cut off--CWOB won't go away quietly.

There were multiple resolutions on the subject this time around, and some passionate testimony in support of them before the committee on which I served. In the end, we moved along (against my vote) one that called for a special task force to study the issue and report back to the 79th General Convention. On a very close vote--77 Yes and 79 No--the House of Bishops rejected the resolution, and it died on the spot. At least one bishop who voted in favor is a known opponent of the practice, but argued that the matter isn't going to just go away, so way may as well have an organized conversation. Others offered the rejoinder that we ought not to abdicate our teaching authority as bishops by submitting to the hegemony of a task force. On the following day, there was a motion to reconsider, but this time a two-thirds majority was required, and it fell far short.

We will, of course, have to face this again. And after that, probably yet again. In the midst of all the strategizing and apocalyptic drama around marriage, it has not occurred to me until now to say that, from a pure theological and ecclesiological perspective, maintaining sacramental discipline around Baptism and the Eucharist is actually more important, more fundamental. It strikes closer to the heart of Catholic order and ecclesial identity. It doesn't have the cultural pizazz that marriage does, but it's quietly huge. Were we to flip on that issue, we would have incontrovertibly surrendered any claim--already compromised by prior actions--to be a co-steward with others of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church of the creeds.

As William Shatner used to say when hawking Priceline, "This is big. Really big."

7 comments:

Ian+ said...

Then perhaps we in the Diocese of Springfield can come up with a solid package of sacramental teaching to share with all of TEC as to why Baptism must come first. (Did I just volunteer?)

Dan Harris said...

Were we to flip on that issue, we would have incontrovertibly surrendered any claim--already compromised by prior actions--to be a co-steward with others of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church of the creeds. I think TEC has already done that with the Gay marriage issue.

Joe Roberts said...

I believe that rank and file lay people would be most appreciative of any efforts by bishops and other clergy to provide solid sacramental teaching concerning the question of "Open Communion", that is, communion without being baptized (in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit). The Church (here I mean across TEC) did not have the benefit of such teaching relative to marriage and, though the result that we got would likely have been the result anyway, it nonetheless might have caused more rank and file "pew sitters" to ask more questions and maybe even voice more (some) objection. That horse has escaped the chorale and likely will not be returned; I pray that we will not make the same mistake again. Joe Roberts

Richard+ said...

I cannot help but wonder when the General Convention will consider addressing the elements used in communion. The practice of using bread and wine is rather archaic. Jesus was using the food and drink of his day, and we should use the food and drink -McDonald's and Coca Cola - in our day to maintain the integrity of Christ's intention.

Christ Church said...

Indeed, Bishop Dan, you are right. You and I disagree on some things (notably marriage equality) but we completely agree on the relationship of Baptism and Communion. I think it is indeed far far bigger. I hope and pray and encourage you to perhaps find ways in this triennium _to work with the House of Bishops_ to really strengthen our teaching on this. You (Y'all!) need to double down on CWOB, it seems to me; how is it that our teaching on this is clear, and yet the resolutions keep coming up?

Bob S.

Jon said...

This reminds me, wasn't there a push for direct ordination (ie. not ordaining folks to the diaconate before ordaining them as priests) 3 or GCs ago? What ever happened to all that? Did it just (mercifully) die out as folks moved on to other issues?

Ben said...

I am curious to know if there was any discussion of the implications of Open Communion on polity. If Christ’s Table is open to all, should ministry in Christ’s church be open to all? How could it not be open? Or is the assumption that opening Communion to all will be so attractive that people will be moved to “go deeper”? If so, that would elevate church polity above the Sacraments. In this frightening scenario not only is the cart in front of the horse, the cart has left the horse entirely. Am I missing something here?