Updated Thursday afternoon
Are individual cups at Holy Communion legal in the Church of England?
Mrs Mary Durlacher asked a question about this at the online meeting of General Synod members in July and was told that the answer is “no”.
Mrs Mary Durlacher (Chelmsford) to ask the Chair of the House of Bishops:
Q68 Will the House of Bishops reconsider the prohibition of use of small individual cups as a valid ‘common sense’ pro tem way of sharing the Communion wine while current constraints remain?
The Bishop of London to reply on behalf of the Chair of the House of Bishops:
A The Legal Advisory Commission has stated “it is contrary to law for individual cups to be used for each communicant” and that “the doctrine of necessity cannot be appealed to in order to justify the use of individual cups even in circumstances where there is a fear of contagion from the use of a common cup. … the Sacrament Act 1547 makes provision for cases where a necessity not to deliver a common cup arises: in such a case the normal requirement that the sacrament be delivered in both kinds is disapplied by statute. Even if a shared cup cannot be used for medical reasons, the use of individual cups remains contrary to law … . In such cases reception should be in one kind only.” The House cannot authorise or encourage a practice which would be contrary to law.
The reply refers to this Legal Advisory Commission paper and to the Sacrament Act 1547. Also relevant is this Church of England advice Holy Communion and the distribution of the elements issued
on 1 in mid-July 2020 after the Synod meeting.
Mrs Durlacher subsequently instructed a group of six barristers to prepare a legal opinion. They disagreed with the Bishop’s reply and concluded that there was nothing in law to prevent the use of individual cups at the administration of Holy Communion. Their opinion is here: The legality of the use of individual cups for communion wine.
Ian Paul has published a number of relevant articles on his Psephizo blog.
Andrew Goddard Can we receive both bread and wine during the pandemic?
Andrew Atherstone Receiving Communion in individual cups: round two
Ian Paul Did Jesus use multiple cups at the Last Supper?
This has now been picked up by the secular and church press.
It has been pointed out (by Matt C on Twitter) that, even if legal, “Individual communion cups are not covered by either List A or List B of the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules” (and so their introduction would require a faculty).
I have corrected the date of issue of the Holy Communion and the distribution of the elements paper above. The paper issued on 1 July was this COVID-19-Advice-on-the-Administration-of-Holy-Communion-v3-1.7.2020, although that has been subsequently updated. The current version is version 5.1.