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.
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.