Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Petition: Speaking the Truth about "Radical Hospitality"

Shrimp here. Yes, it has been a long time. Yet perhaps we can still make a difference.

The ELCA is embarking on another "conversation." The Summer 2014 issue of Seeds for the Parish (not yet on-line, but now appearing the snailboxes of congregations and their leaders) includes Table and font: Who is welcome? An invitation to join the conversation by Scott Weidler, "program director for Worship and Music, of the ELCA churchwide organization."

The innocuously phrased article opens, "For many centuries, Christians have considered Holy Baptism as the sacrament of initiation or entrance into the church, while Holy Communion is the sacrament that nourishes and sustains Christians week by week. This remains the recommended practice in the ELCA," followed by a quote from the The Use of the Means of Grace (this link is to a pdf file of UMG).
For many congregations of this church and among our ecumenical partners, the invitation to receive Holy Communion is for everyone, not just for those who have been baptized. For some, it is a simple matter of hospitality. If this is Christ's table, than all are welcome — period. For others, the initiatory nature of baptism into the body of Christ is critical. Becoming a baptized and communing Christian involves serious commitment and even risk. The invitation, therefore, must be gracious yet clear: Holy Communion is for the baptized; the call to Holy Baptism is for all. Still other find some middle ground in this important conversation.
The ELCA's conversation on this matter, formally introduced earlier in Table and font: Who is welcome? (another pdf which can be found within the "resources" section at www.elca.org/Worship) begins this fall, with resources to be available "by mid-August 2014."

Those resources have yet to appear as of our posting, but one response appeared a week ago at iPetitions, one to which ELCA members (clergy and lay) are encouraged add their names. We've been told the source is Prof. Paul Hinlicky and Pastor Sarah Wilson of Lutheran Forum, and you can find Dr. Hinlicky's initial defense of the petition on the Forum website.

Here's the petition:
Speaking the Truth about "Radical Hospitality"

To the Conference of Bishops of the ELCA: We bring before you our concerns regarding “radical hospitality,” which we understand to propose the invitation of the unbaptized to the Lord’s Supper as a matter of principle. We are informed that such “radical hospitality” is already practiced in some ELCA congregations and is being advocated in others by certain leaders and teachers.

1. “Radical hospitality” disregards in principle the stringent warning against unworthy reception in the Scripture, as in I Corinthians 11:27–28.

2. It further disregards in principle the repeated emphasis of the Lutheran Confessions that the sacrament of the altar is for those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ in faith and public profession—a faith and confession whose first act is holy Baptism into the Lord’s death and resurrection. See especially The Large Catechism on “The Sacrament of the Altar” and The Formula of Concord 7, “Concerning the Holy Supper.”

3. It discards the age-old rule of faith by which the church has always understood Baptism as the entry into the cross-carrying Christian life, for which holy Communion is the nourishment.

4. As such, it also discards the ELCA’s own teaching in “The Use of the Means of Grace” (1997) as expressed in Principle 37 and Applications 37E and 37G.

5. The proposal of “radical hospitality” misleads by falsely suggesting that identifying the addressee of the promise of holy Communion as the baptized is an act of anti-gospel exclusion.

6. “Radical hospitality” fails to recognize Baptism itself as the truly radical act of inclusion. All people in every nation are called by the gospel to join themselves to Christ, who “has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14), by baptism into a community in which “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female” (Galatians 3:28).

7. Under the cover of inclusivity, “radical hospitality” in fact deceives the unbaptized, encouraging them to participate in the sacrament without recognizing the entailed commitment to the cross of Jesus Christ and without discerning His body, both in the blessed bread and wine and in the holy community of those who take and eat it.

8. Baptism, repentance, and faith are not legalistic preconditions for grace, but the form grace takes as the Holy Spirit draws persons into a lifegiving new relationship with God.

9. As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we call upon the ELCA to remember in principle and in power the opening words of the Ninety-Five Theses: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he meant for the entire life of the Christian to be one of repentance.”

10. We exhort pastors and laity of the ELCA to self-examination as to whether our own lives reflect the way of the cross, the life of repentance, and the joy of faith, which are our proper witnesses to the unbaptized and in themselves an invitation to Baptism.

11. And we ask the Conference of Bishops to reiterate clearly the teaching of the whole church, the Lutheran Confessions, and the ELCA: holy communion is intended for the baptized, just as baptism is intended for the world.
You may sign it here.

Shrimp out.


Anonymous said...

Saw this coming. . .The antinomians just can't tolerate "intolerance". . .Seems that the "birthrite of the baptized," was rather short-lived! . . . Besides, why shouldn't we cast our pearls before dogs and swine when then come to the altar? Cause if they come to trample us under their feet, God's promises that "He will send his angels to guard over the dogs and swine lest they dash their feet against us". . Or something like that!

snuggarunt said...

To be honest, as a former and current victim to past injustices, it is a fantastic feeling to be able to exact a little retribution within the church by rightfully characterizing those who don't agree with "radical hospitality" as being unchristian, un-welcoming or even pharisaical bigots! What worked against those who practice "closed communion" or those who object to "infant communinion" will work here too!

Anonymous said...

Dear Snuggarunt, many thanks for warning us that any one of the hospitality radicals may well be just a grudge-holder seeking petty retribution, without any basis in Scripture or real Christianity. It seems you haven't heard the Good News -- you don't have to be that way. God has something really new for you -- a new you, hand-crafted by God the same forever. That's what His Gospel has been doing for the last 2000 years. Let Jesus change your life, instead of the other way around. Let Him change you from victim to victor. What have you really got to lose? Oh, and as for church, find a Christian one, we can help. -- John

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