Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hospitality, Inclusion, the Altar, and the Font

I have been following several discussions/posts about what Derek Olsen has taken to terming "communion without baptism" (or CWOB). As he and Tobias Haller have been engaging the Anglican Scotist (especially concerning this blog post), it struck me that I would prefer at this point to step back a little bit from the fray and take a larger view of those very current words, "inclusion" and "hospitality".

Now, as nearly everyone on the traditional side of the argument is wont to point out, the theology of the BCP is quite clear: baptism is what includes us in the church. Two passages from the catechism:
Q. How is the Church described in the Bible?
A. The Church is described as the Body of which Jesus
Christ is the Head and of which all baptized persons are
members. It is called the People of God, the New Israel,
a holy nation, a royal priesthood, and the pillar and
ground of truth.

Q. What is Holy Baptism?
A. Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us
as his children and makes us members of Christ’s Body,
the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God.
Also, consider Cramner's words in the postcommunion prayer:
...and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people....
This rather puts me in a position very close to that of Christopher, who writes that "If I were to make a distinction in the parlance of our day, I would prefer "incorporation" rather than "inclusion."" I think, however, I must take a more aggressive stance. Let me reiterate my chief concern of a few weeks ago: that those so "included" in communion, in this age at least, are those with a commitment to syncretism that leads them away from Christianity.

Christopher, and BSnyder in the comments here, and Derek here, and I are all agreed: communion takes place in a Mystical Body in which the chief sacraments are not only about feeding or whatever, but that the Christian life is about being bound into that Body, which is the life of Christ. But that leads me to a much stronger negative response, one that is elicited by Paul's statements about the consequences of sexual immorality. The problem with offering communion to Hindus and Wiccans and random New Agers and other people who have no Christian intentions is that we are joining Christ back to them. We thus make communion a Hindu/Wiccan/New-Age/whatever sacrament.

If we want a feeding model, we would be better off looking to the Syro-Phoenician woman. At first, she seems to fit the bill; but note also that she who gathers up the crumbs from beneath the table specifically acknowledges Jesus' unique authority in approaching him in the first place. One should also note the cases in the Acts: conversion of gentiles leads directly to baptism. There is something of the restorationist in this movement, as though something was lost even before the Diddache, perhaps even before Pentecost itself. It's hard to take seriously a theory that is supposedly based in historical analysis and which appears to skip the entire history of the church.

My final observation is how deeply insecure this movement seems, underneath. BSynder sums it up thus: "Episcopalians have been so worried for so long about offending people that our preaching has become soft and atrophied." I would put it another way: that the radicals in the Episcopal Church are fine with the spiritual, but are scared to death of appearing to stand for anything religious. And I think this is hurting our evangelism, because in the end we increasingly cannot give anyone a reason for joining our church as a vehicle for joining with Christ. In this case, we are opening up the sacrament of our unity with Christ to people who do not want such unity and reject that inclusion. Surely that paradox is not lost on many who might convert rather than visit.

Addendum: I would commend to the reader a series of posts by Matt Gruner, beginning with Baptized into Eucharist.

1 comment:

Derek the ├ćnglican said...

Excellent points--I see you articulating the other implications of the social/society discussion that Christopher started out with. I'm suddenly struck with the need to revisit 1 Corinthians and Ephesians... :-)