...are the ones that make the biggest difference

9.16.2004

Workable Solutions - IV

Hat tip to neothelogue for this link. There is also some commentary on Christianitytoday's news blog - scroll down a bit to find it.

From the article - "Yet such discussions [about communion] are important because they go to the heart of the Christian faith, say clergy and denominational officials. They affect the way believers perceive and take part in one of the most sacred events in Christian history: the meal Jesus shared with his disciples the night before his crucifixion. And they affect efforts to foster unity among Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians and end theological and liturgical disputes that have created deep divisions in Christianity."

This quote is a bit broader than the topics of my posts, which is finding workable solutions towards the problem of Protestantism's schismatic tendencies. But it does highlight another key area that will have to be addressed, one that follows closely in parallel with the other issues discussed thus far.

Historically, Protestantism has tended to relegate communion to a secondary status, probably in an overreaction to all things Catholic. This has meant communion being downgraded to a symbol and not a sacrament, and being practiced infrequently. My church, for instance, practices communion every 4-6 weeks and even then it is not the focus of the service. One of my biggest problems with our approach is the fact that communion is inserted where its "appropriate" in a sermon series, but it normally doesn't feel appropriate to me, and it usually doesn't relate very well to the topic of the sermon. I'm not sure how typical this is across the Protestant spectrum (which ostensibly includes Anglicans, who seem to be of a variety of opinions on communion according to Pontificator), but I'm pretty certain it is not at all out of the ordinary.

Finding a workable solution on this issue requires us to ask: How central is communion to our worship and why? How does communion fit in with and compare to other worship practices? How should we view communion - symbol, sacrament or somewhere in between? How frequently should we take communion? And, of course, is our communion open or closed?

Step IV - Develop a broad consensus on exactly what communion is, how we should practice it and membership/faith requirements necessary to receive it.

5 comments:

alana said...

Have you read the book: "Becoming Orthodox" by Fr. Peter Gilquist? It's about a group of Campus Crusade leaders who set out to, amongst themselves, figure out the answers to many of the very issues you raise...well, the title says it all.

But perhaps you know that.

Daniel said...

"Schismatic tendencies." I like that. Hope you don't mind if it finds its way into my doctoral thesis?

I don't have time for much commenting these days (what with a new baby in the house and an intercontinental move seven weeks away, I can't imagine why!) but I'm following you via Bloglines and you're edifying me in my own search. Thanks and keep up the Good Work!

Nathan said...

Alana -

Both my wife and I read it. I thought it was good, but its been a while so I should probably revisit it. The most current work on Orthodoxy I finished was "An Orthodox Theology Reader" by Dan Clendenin (I think that's the title, but I'm not 100%). Its a collection of various theologians and authors - it was good, a bit dense in parts, but good.

Nathan said...

Daniel -

"'Schismatic tendencies.' I like that. Hope you don't mind if it finds its way into my doctoral thesis?"

As long as I get a copy of it, you are free to use whatever you like!

Congratulations again, on your new baby! How are your other kids doing with their new sibling?

I haven't posted much anywhere because my wife and I are in the process of buying a home, and I'm standing up small-groups for the youth, starting student leadership teams and revamping the youth web-page. Not as busy as a baby and an intercontinental move, but its kept me pretty occupied.

Matt said...

As I was reading this post I had to check and see where you live. Your church's communion practice is very similar to that of www.pbcc.org , where I went to church for about 10 years before I was recieved into the Orthodox Church.