«The Vision Before Us Compiled and Edited by Sarah Rowland Jones The Vision Before Us The Kyoto Report of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on ...»
Good relations between faiths are not achieved via interchangeability. Instead, they are achieved through the profound respect that faith communities have for each other, a respect for the faith and the delineating borders that preserve the uniqueness of each faith.35 Ecumenical Considerations on the Communion of the Non-baptised Similarly, neither James Farwell nor Kathryn Tanner raises any ecumenical implications stemming from the communion of the nonbaptised, which is surprising given the depth and thoroughness of the three articles. The ecumenical significance, our task, has not gone unnoticed. The report of Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations to the 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church noted the
following ecumenical consideration:
The unauthorised practice of ‘open communion’ is at apparent odds with the official teachings of this church on Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. In official dialogues between this church and others, our appointed members are to represent the official position of this church. In light of the increasingly widespread practice of ‘open communion’, it is increasingly difficult for them to do so with credibility. Further, the practice appears to invite members of other churches to receive communion when to do so is contrary to their own church’s eucharistic discipline.36 Any dichotomy between sacramental theology and praxis is bound to be an inherent ecumenical issue, and on its own merits serious discussion.
Because questions around baptism and eucharist are so central to the ecumenical agenda, the admission to eucharistic communion of the nonbaptised demands serious assessment from an ecumenical perspective.
Part Two • Baptism and Eucharist
In addition to internal Anglican conversations about eucharistic hospitality, there are important ecumenical dialogues of which Anglicans have been a part. Here we will consider the WCC Faith and Order Commission’s Baptism Eucharist and Ministry, as well as Anglican - Roman Catholic, Anglican - Reformed, and Anglican Orthodox dialogues. In the survey of ecumenical texts used in the preparation of this paper, it is interesting to note that very few deal explicitly with the necessity of baptism for admission to holy communion that characterised earlier Anglican texts. However, as the communion of non-baptised persons is a relatively recent phenomenon, one would not expect to find mention of it. Moreover, it can only be recently regarded as a church-dividing issue, even though official policies have not been changed. Yet the move toward Christian unity presumes the sequential and integral relationship between baptism and the eucharist, especially Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (BEM). On
baptism, BEM states:
Administered in obedience to our Lord, baptism is a sign and seal of our common discipleship. Through baptism, Christians are brought into union with Christ, with each other and with the Church of every time and place. Our common baptism, which unites us to Christ in faith, is thus a basic bond of unity.37
On the eucharist, BEM states:
The eucharistic communion with Christ who nourishes the life of the Church is at the same time communion within the body of Christ which is the Church. The sharing in one bread and the common cup in a given place demonstrates and effects the oneness of the sharers with Christ and with their fellow sharers in all times and places.38 The ecumenical consensus on baptism and the eucharist, and the relationship between the two dominical sacraments, is irreconcilable with policies which admit the non-baptised to holy communion.
The theological and ecclesiological bases for admitting other Christians to holy communion in the various plans of ‘full communion’, ‘open communion’ (in the classic ecumenical sense), ‘reciprocal communion’ and ‘admission to communion’ are consistently predicated on the baptismal reality of the members of other churches, whose members enjoy degrees of eucharistic hospitality with Anglicans. The recognition of a common baptism has made ecumenical ventures possible. A move toward the official communion of the non-baptised undercuts, threatens, and in the end denies basic ecumenical tenets, reflected in
the conviction of the BEM document:
When baptismal unity is realised in one holy, catholic, apostolic Church, a genuine Christian witness can be made to the healing and
Part Two • Baptism and Eucharist
reconciling love of God. Therefore, our one baptism into Christ constitutes a call to the churches to overcome their divisions and visibly manifest their fellowship.39 When the nexus between baptism and the eucharist is disjoined by policies which admit the non-baptised to the eucharist, it becomes difficult for Anglicans to continue to affirm or to adhere to such historic ecumenical consensus statements.
Historically, the lack of communion between the baptised gave rise to a sense of scandal which initiated the ecumenical movement in the first place. To cite Fr. Thomas Ryan once again: ‘The Anglican intuition now is to view baptism and Eucharist as inseparable; to affirm and even rejoice in the common baptism shared with others and then to deny that common life at the Lord's table is seen as depriving baptism of its meaning theologically.’40 Again, the praxis and theological justification for the admission of the non-baptised to communion posit a very different reality.
As noted above, Roman Catholic ecclesiology through the experience of the Second Vatican Council became profoundly baptismal. This would have a profound effect on the Roman Catholic Church’s engagement in the ecumenical movement. As the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church,
Lumen Gentium, promulgated 21 November 1964, states:
The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptised who are honored by the name of Christian, but who do not however profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have preserved its unity or communion under the successor to Peter. For there are many who hold sacred scripture in honour as a rule of faith and of life, who have a sincere religious zeal, who lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and the Saviour, who are sealed by baptism which unites them to Christ, and who indeed recognise and receive other sacraments in their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities.41 The Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, promulgated as well on 21 November 1964, continued in the same tone with perhaps even
For men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptised are put in some, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. Without doubt, the differences that exist in varying degrees between them and the Catholic Church – whether in doctrine and sometimes in discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church – do indeed create many obstacles, sometimes serious ones, to full ecclesiastical communion. The ecumenical movement is striving to overcome these obstacles. But even in spite of them it remains true
Part Two • Baptism and Eucharist
that all who have been justified by faith in baptism are incorporated into Christ; they have the right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.42 The underlying baptismal reality and its integral relationship to the eucharist are reflected in a degree of ecumenical eucharistic hospitality by the Roman Catholic Church. The 1983 Code of Canon Law specifies under what conditions Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church may receive the sacraments from Roman Catholic ministers. Anglicans would likely be considered within Canon 844§4, if ‘danger of death is present or other grave necessity.’43 While Roman Catholic theological and canonical treatment of eucharistic hospitality is far more tentative than Anglican practice, it nevertheless arises from the same conviction of the underlying dignity of all baptised persons, who are in real, though imperfect, communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Like the Anglican Communion prior to the 1968 Lambeth Conference, the Roman Catholic Church regards admission to holy communion as the goal of, rather than the means to, the restoration of full communion. Such is the expressed goal of Anglican - Roman Catholic ecumenical dialogue, and the methodology of the Anglican - Roman Catholic International Commission. The admission to holy communion of non-baptised persons can only undercut the Anglican - Roman Catholic quest for full communion at its very theological core.
In a very different bilateral dialogue, a significant ecumenical statement on the relationship between baptism and the eucharist appears in the 1984 agreed statement of the Anglican - Reformed
dialogue, God’s Reign and Our Unity:
Baptism and the eucharist rest alike upon the finished work of Christ in his incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension. Our baptism is a participation in the baptism of Jesus begun in Jordan and consummated on Calvary. By the same token when we are obedient to the words and deeds of Jesus on the eve of his passion, our celebration of the eucharist is a participation in the benefits of his death and resurrection. Both have, therefore, their basis in the one work of Jesus, accomplished once and for all, proclaimed and made effective for us by the continuing work of the Spirit. Our baptism engages us to follow Jesus on the way of the cross; when we share in the eucharist Christ renews that same engagement with us and enables us to renew our engagement to him.44 It is in the Anglican dialogue with the Orthodox Churches where the consecutive connection between baptism and the eucharist is most explicit. In first section of the 2006 The Church of the Triune God,
Part Two • Baptism and Eucharist
‘Trinity and the Church’, the members of the International Commission
for Anglican - Orthodox Theological Dialogue (ICAOTD) state:
To reach eternal life in communion with God and each other, we must be open in humility to the gift of God’s new life; we must die to the old life and be born again in the waters of baptism (John 3.3,7).
In order to come to the table of the Lord for the eucharistic banquet of his Body and Blood we must first be baptised in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28.18-20), and so be conformed to his death and resurrection. But that is not all. The grace of God in sacramental mystery draws us to a life in the world of love for God and neighbour expressed in devotion to ‘the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers’ (Acts 2.42) and in charity to the poor (Acts 2.44-45;
4.32).45 Later, in the section on ‘Priesthood, Christ, and the Church’, the Anglican - Orthodox agreed statement returns to the theme in a
11. The whole Church is taken into the movement of Christ’s selfoffering and his eternal praise of the Father. In baptism, the human person enters into this movement and is configured within the ecclesial community to the priesthood of Christ. The First Letter of Peter, an early baptismal homily, says that the baptised are to let themselves ‘be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ’, and calls them a ‘chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation’ (1 Peter 2.5,9). The priesthood of the Church is inextricably linked with the priesthood of Christ.
12. … Christians seek to be true to their sacrificial and priestly calling to be ministers of reconciliation and servants in this sinful world. The life of the Church can be called ‘eucharistic’ in the fullest sense of the term, as it participates in the selfoffering of the Son to the Father in the Spirit. Such participation includes sacrificial service to the world. As Jesus consecrated himself in self-giving both to the Father and to the human race, so the Church consecrates herself and enters into his selfoffering as a ‘royal priesthood, a holy nation’ (1 Peter 2.9). We offer and present to God ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice. The whole Church is priestly.46 Such a ‘priestly’ consideration of the life of the Church rooted in baptism and the eucharist makes no sense when the non-baptised are invited to receive holy communion. In fact, again, they are antithetical positions.47
Part Two • Baptism and Eucharist
Conclusion There are four ecumenical issues that bear on the practice of admitting the non-baptised to holy communion. Given the centrality of both baptism and eucharist on the ecumenical agenda, Anglican credibility is threatened when Anglican theological, liturgical and canonical texts say one thing, while Anglican praxis may suggest another. Our ecumenical partners deserve a consistent Anglican convergence on questions of baptism and the eucharist.
A cornerstone of the modern ecumenical movement has been the recovery of a real, though imperfect, sense of an underlying Christian unity through a commonly recognised baptism. In light of this point, ongoing Christian eucharistic disunity is a scandal which the ecumenical movement seeks to heal, towards the recovery of visible unity in one faith and in one eucharistic fellowship. While earlier Anglican and current Roman Catholic and Orthodox policies understand eucharistic communion as the goal to full communion rather than as a means to it, present Anglican policy allows for a measure of eucharistic sharing with other Christians attending Anglican celebrations of the eucharist. Yet this Anglican latitude is embedded in the ecumenical recognition of the deep nexus between baptism and the eucharist, over which even the varying degrees of Christian division cannot prevail. The practice of admitting nonbaptised people to the eucharist overthrows a century of ecumenical insight and growth.