The promised study materials for "Table and Font: Who Is Welcome?" appeared on www.elca.org/worship last Friday. The general announcement of that to the ELCA's rostered leaders seems a tad, uh, understated: an e-mail from "ELCA Presiding Bishop" with the subject "An invitation to study The Use of Means of Grace." Since that was adopted by the ELCA in 1997, one might initially imagine there could not possibly be anything of controversy here. ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton begins:
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! I'm writing about an important conversation that I need you help to facilitate across our church. The question we have been invited to consider is: Who is welcome and invited to receive Holy Communion in ELCA congregations?We note the bold print is Bishop Eaton's emphasis, not ours. We also observe that the ELCA's "recommended practice" since 1997 considerably broadened who was formally welcome to ELCA altar rails previously. Particularly, 1) UMG eliminated age requirements that, in the Western Church, pre-date the Reformation by several hundred years and 2) invited baptized persons who do not believe the Body and Blood of Christ are in, with, and under the elements of bread and wine.
The recommended practice in our church is that people who are baptized are invited to receive Holy Communion. Though this is the practice set out in the ELCA's statement, "The Use of the Means of Grace", there is wide variety of practice in this church.
Now the ELCA Church Council is calling all ELCA members into a conversation about "The Use of the Means of Grace", particularly on this matter of invitation to Holy Communion.Your leadership in engaging your congregation, synod or faith community and colleagues in this conversation will be critical to our church as we seek to be faithful and grounded, yet hospitable and mission-minded in administering Holy Communion.
Being a sea creature, Shrimp is so accustomed to the smell of fish that we rarely even notice it. Nevertheless, they still always smell fishy.