Saturday, 17 September 2016

Holy Communion in the Church in Wales to be open to all the baptised

The Bench of Bishops of the Church in Wales has announced that, with effect from Advent Sunday, everyone who has been baptised can participate fully in Holy Communion, regardless of their age or whether they have been confirmed.

The website of the diocese of St Davids states that “The news came in a Pastoral Letter handed out to members of the Governing Body at their meeting in Lampeter [15 September 2016] and was warmly and widely welcomed. Copies of the letter, together with guidance notes and practical advice for clergy and congregations, are being sent to all parishes.”

The letter can be viewed here, and I have put a transcript below the fold. There is also this theological background.

David Pocklington writes about this here for Law & Religion UK The comments there look at the potential implications for the Church of England whose Canon B15A states that:

1. There shall be admitted to the Holy Communion:
(b) baptized persons who are communicant members of other Churches which subscribe to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and who are in good standing in their own Church.

A Pastoral Letter from the Bishops of the Church in Wales to all the faithful concerning Admission to Holy Communion

The Church, as the Body of Christ, has both Word and Sacrament to nourish and sustain its members. Down through the centuries, the Church has been called to the faithful preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments as part of God’s mission and witness to his Kingdom.

From about the fifth century, it became common in the western Church to separate the Sacrament of Baptism (in which a person is joined to the Body of Christ, and sacramentally with Christ’s death and resurrection) from the ceremony of Confirmation, when the bishop, as chief pastor, welcomes the newly baptised, and lays hands upon them praying for the strengthening of the Holy Spirit. From the thirteenth century, it became customary also not to admit anyone to the Sacrament of Holy Communion unless or until they had received the sacramental act of Confirmation.

Thus three ceremonies which the early Church had held together were separated, and the pattern was established with which Anglicans are familiar (of Baptism in infancy, of Confirmation at puberty, and Communion thereafter). These developments seemed expedient at the time that they were implemented, but in so doing, a great truth was obscured: the Sacrament of Baptism, commanded by Our Lord, is in fact the whole ceremony, entire and complete in itself, by which a person is incorporated into Christ, and recognised as a Christian.

In the Church today, there are many who believe that the witness of the Church to Jesus Christ, and the process of nurturing children and young people in the Christian faith, would be immeasurably strengthened by recovering this earliest symbolism. Baptism alone should be seen as the gateway into participation in the life of the Church, including admission to the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

In conjunction with advice from the Doctrinal Commission of the Church in Wales, and from the Governing Body, the Bench of Bishops wishes now to re-adopt the practice of the early Church with respect to admission to Holy Communion. It is our conviction that all the baptised, by virtue of their Baptism alone, are full members of the Body of Christ and qualified to receive Holy Communion.

We have taken note of the existing rubrics and the teaching found in the Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer of the Church in Wales. We have also taken advice from the Legal Sub-Committee of the Governing Body and have been given the assurance that such a step does not require any change in the present Canon Law or Constitution of the Church in Wales. We have also received advice from them of civil law implications in taking this step.

With all this in mind, as of the First Sunday of Advent this year, 27th November 2016, we are giving permission for all those who are baptised in water and in the name of the Holy Trinity, to receive Holy Communion at the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist within our dioceses and jurisdictions. None is required so to receive, but no barrier should be erected to prevent all the baptised from making their Communion, other than that which is required by civil law.

Of course, this decision raises important questions for the life of the Church. We have asked for assistance in preparing materials which can be used in our parishes and Ministry and Mission Areas to instruct the faithful on the meaning and significance of this change.

Since we remain, as a Church, committed to the Baptism of Infants, even the youngest of children would be entitled to receive Holy Communion under these provisions. However, while this will be permitted by the theology of the Church, it will not always be appropriate to administer Communion in both kinds. The civil law does not permit the administration of alcohol to children under the age of five, and even thereafter parental permission is required before a child may receive Communion from the chalice. It will be important for parishes and clergy to establish good practice by ensuring that clear records are kept of what permissions are given, and Communion in all other cases would have to be in the one kind (the bread).

In lifting the customary barriers to Communion, we are mindful that this opens out as well a new and strengthened understanding of the Rite of Confirmation. It will be no longer the gateway to Communion, but take its proper place in the sacramental acts of the Church as a channel of God’s grace, affirming disciples of their place in the fellowship of the Church and commissioning them for service in the Church and world. We have asked the Standing Liturgical Advisory Commission to prepare work on a new Rite of Confirmation that will reflect more clearly this understanding.

We entrust the Church in Wales to God’s good care and grace, and pray that, as we acknowledge the place of all the baptised at the Eucharist, he may renew our life in him and the commission we receive to his service, so that we might all grow in grace, and bear witness to his love in the world.

The Bench of Bishops September 2016

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 17 September 2016 at 8:52pm BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church in Wales

The statements that on the one hand three ceremonies became separated yet also one of them is the entire ceremony seems like kind of a disconnect.

Posted by: Geoff McL. on Saturday, 17 September 2016 at 9:16pm BST

In my ignorance, I had thought that the admission of 'all the baptized' to Holy Communion was already a fact around the Anglican Communion. We in ANCANZP have long been open to this. After all the Eucharist is God's gift to all the Baptized. The Sacrament of Confirmation has become an occasion of adult affirmation of one's baptismal promises made on one's behalf by others - a strengthening of Baptismal grace.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 17 September 2016 at 10:46pm BST

The Episcopal Church in the US went through a similar process and had experienced similar incongruities when folks who were communicants in other churches were able to receive communion but older yet-to-be-confirmed members of its own were unable to do so.

Lambeth addressed the issue of inconsistencies in the practice of confirmation-before-communion for "guests" in 1920.12.C.1f

Posted by: Tobias Haller on Saturday, 17 September 2016 at 11:37pm BST

Very welcome.

But the Church of Wales and the Church of England ought to reflect on the fact that it is not really for either church to decide who is, and who is not, welcome at the Lord's Supper.

Posted by: Kate on Sunday, 18 September 2016 at 8:45am BST

Like Father Ron, I am also surprised at this. I am use to hearing statements before Communion in both Australia and New Zealand that all the baptised are welcome.
I have taught for many years in Catholic schools and was always pleased to point out this difference between Anglicans and Catholics. However even there I had individual priests tell me that, as I was member of the school community, I was welcome to receive the Eucharist.

Posted by: Brian Ralph on Monday, 19 September 2016 at 12:33am BST

It is also the case with the American Episcopal Church that all baptized are welcome to receive the Blessed Sacrament. This was not the situation when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. Only individuals who had been confirmed (or who were "ready" to be confirmed) by a bishop in the historic episcopate could receive. That changed due to the influence (in part, anyway) of Blessed John.

Posted by: Kurt Hill on Tuesday, 20 September 2016 at 4:50pm BST

TEC's welcoming of all the baptized to receive Communion reflects the increased importance of baptism in the 1979 BCP (298) -- "Holy Baptism is FULL initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ's Body the Church."

It thus rejected the previous implicit view that somehow Confirmation made Baptism complete. Consequently, since Baptism made one a full Christian, anyone that was baptized was welcome to receive communion, including children and unconfirmed adults.

Posted by: dr.primrose on Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 3:24am BST

Some 35 years ago when my TEC parish priest baptised his own children (new born babies), he gave them a tinox church piece of the host dipped in the consecrated wine. When I asked him why, he explained that the rite of baptism had brought them into the Christian family and that in the tradition of the Orthodox churches, infants received HC when they were baptised and he wanted to incorporate that tradition. I don't think he did it for other children when he baptised them, but I am not sure. In any case, since I have been a priest, I have always done the same, if the parents agree. That is thanks to Revd Douglas Ousley, who is still a priest in NYC I believe.

Posted by: Sara MacVane on Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 11:12am BST

Infant communion from baptism in the Orthodox and Eastern Catholic tradition is my own preference as well, though it's worth noting that in their case chrismation (confirmation) is administered at the same time. In other words they both practice communion of the baptized and in effect require confirmation for communion.

Posted by: Geoff McL. on Wednesday, 21 September 2016 at 2:25pm BST

Sara MacVane - applause

Posted by: Kate on Thursday, 22 September 2016 at 4:02am BST
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