Thursday, November 22, 2012

Separate but equal communion?

The Church of the Holy Apostles in Virginia Beach, Va., is the only blended Roman Catholic and Episcopalian church in the United States. But what a great thing it is to have at least one. Maybe Holy Apostles could be a precedent and role model for other experiments in Catholics and Protestants worshiping and sharing congregational life together.

Now, however, the Virginian-Pilot reports that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Richmond has ruled that the Catholics and Episcopalians of Holy Apostles can no longer receive communion together in the same room. For the past 30 years the entire congregation has shared a combined communion liturgy and then Catholics were served by the Catholic priest and Episcopalians were served by the Episcopalian priest at separate altars in the same sanctuary.

From now on Catholics and Episcopalians will be able to hear the same sermon but they will have to celebrate separate communion liturgies and be served communion in separate rooms.

What a shame.

The Episcopalian pastor Michael Fergusin said: "It could have been much worse."

So the Diocese of Richmond should be congratulated for allowing this experiment to continue. Some were worried the diocese would pull out of the church.

But why not allow Catholics to be in the same room with Episcopalians when they receive communion? I am not even quite sure how to interpret the ruling. What does it mean? What is the logic? The Virginian-Pilot article doesn't give the rationale for the ruling. I fear the diocese may not have given an explanation for the thinking behind its ruling.

If you want to think more about the question of guarded verses open communion tables there is a useful article in Christian Century magazine entitled "Who is Communion for?" Especially interesting are the comments at the end of the article, including the Facebook comments.

I myself believe the holy meal is for all God's children and all of us are God's children whether we want to be or not.

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