Monday, May 23, 2005

Rainbow Sashes and Holy Communion

The Associated Press
Sunday, May 15, 2005; 10:48 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A Roman Catholic priest denied communion to more than 100 people Sunday, saying they could not receive the sacrament because they wore rainbow-colored sashes to church to show support for gay Catholics.

Before offering communion, the Rev. Michael Sklucazek told the congregation at the Cathedral of St. Paul that anyone wearing a sash could come forward for a blessing but would not receive wine and bread.

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What an interesting story. I believe it serves to illustrate an important aspect of the Lord’s Supper. That is the fact that partaking of the sacrament is not only about “me and Jesus”, but also a statement of confession – a profession of doctrinal unity. It seems that on some level, Rome understands this.

Traditionally, we Lutherans also practice “close(d) communion”. It has been the standard practice of the church until only recently, from a historical perspective. One simply does not commune with Christians of a different public confession – with whom we have doctrinal disagreement.

The case in Minnesota is a shocking one, perhaps. But sometimes we can see the issues most clearly in the starkest examples.

I submit these questions. Should an LCMS Lutheran refuse communion to members of the Rainbow Sash Alliance, as the priest did? What if they were wearing “other” kinds of sashes? What if the sash said, “Baptist” or “Presbyterian” or “Roman Catholic” or even “ELCA”?

What if the sash said, “Scripture is not God’s Word”? Or, “You have to decide to follow Jesus”, or “Christ isn’t really present in his meal”, or “You have to do good works to get to heaven”?

Having said all that, I do think there is one important difference with our story and my fantasy illustrations (and thanks to Pastor Poppe for pointing out this distinction): In the case of the Rainbow Sashers, they had been specifically told in no uncertain terms that they MAY NOT receive the sacrament while wearing the sash. Their attempts to do so anyway represent a blatant, knowing defiance of this instruction. When a Christian of another denomination comes to commune at an LCMS altar, they typically don’t do so in defiance of our practice, but in ignorance of it. Most, when the pastor is given the chance to explain our teaching, even if they do not agree or understand, are respectful enough not to challenge it in such a brazen way.


Andy said...

I hate to be the voice of opposition in my first comment on your blog, but this post touched a point on which I can't remain silent. While I respect your opinion, I must speak strongly.

I think it's tragic that the Lord's Supper would be used as a political tool, even if those politics are hiding under the banner of doctrinal unity. The eucharist is a symbol of our union in Christ, not of our union in doctrine.

Obviously the Rainbow sashers were also using the eucharist for political reasons, but I, for one, would have been proud to go forward and be refused communion because of my love for fellow Christians, to stand in place of those who are being cut off from the body of Christ. Like all non-violent protest, the purpose is to show the injustice of what you are opposing, and I believe the Church's treatment of homosexuals is quite unjust.

Preachrboy said...

Well, I am not going to debate the validity of closed communion in this context, except to reiterate my point from the post - that being, that the story illustrates how when we commune we ARE confessing. More than just our "unity in Christ".

Here's a question for you Melanchton. (By the way, an interesting choice of a moniker... Melancthon being the early ecumenist type that he was):

Would you be "proud" to confess your "unity in Christ" with a Mormon at the rail? After all, they say they are Christians too. If not, then aren't you making a doctrinal distinction? Just curious

Andy said...

That's an interesting question. If I wanted to consistently apply the logic that I used above, I think I'd have to say that I would stand with them if they sincerely wanted to commune in my Church and were being denied.

I might be just trying to justify myself there because Mormons likely wouldn't want to commune in my Church (big-C intentional).

Honestly, I do think that the Mormon understanding of God and Christ is different enough that I don't think they share with me a union in Christ. I have to admit that I don't know what to call this other than doctrine.

Food for thought... Thanks.