Question: What do:
1. The sky is blue
2. Water is wet
3. Jesus saves
4.Closed Communion in LCMS
have in common?
Answer: These things have always been true.
Even though some of our congregations have trouble accepting Closed Communion, it doesn’t change the fact that not only our Synod, but the Christian Church for two thousand years has always treated the Lord’s Supper with great reverence and care.
What is Close(d) Communion?
First of all, some congregations will differentiate between CLOSE and CLOSED Communion. For our purposes, we will not differentiate at this time. In a nutshell, Closed Communion is when a Church holds that the Lord’s Supper is meant to be served to those who
1. Know what they are receiving (1 Corinthians 11:23-27)
2. Trust in Christ’s Promises over man’s wisdom (Isaiah 42:23, Philippians 2:10, 1 Corinthians 1:25, Titus 1:2)
3. Share a common confession of the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 10:16-17, 2 Corinthians 6:14, 1 Corinthians 1:10)
Why would the Christian Church do this?
The answer to this is actually quite simple and biblical.
1. Differing beliefs at the Lord’s Altar is a cause for strife and hypocrisy and should be avoided. (Matthew 23:28, 1 Peter 2:1)
2. Taking the Lord’s Supper incorrectly is just, plain bad for you! (1 Corinthians 11:29)
Does this mean we think only LCMS Lutherans are saved?
NO! Remember, this isn’t an LCMS idea. This is the historic practice of the Christian Church. LCMS Lutherans are no more saved than Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox, Episcopalians, WELS Lutherans, ELS Lutherans or any other number of Churches who practice closed Communion. What it means is we believe, teach and confess different things, and we do not pretend that we are all the same by going to each others’ altars for Communion.
So why do some churches (including those calling themselves “Lutheran”) practice open Communion?
1. Differing views on what the Lord’s Supper IS: If somebody does not believe the words “This is my body… this is my blood” , then they have no reason to believe St. Paul who warns us of the harm in taking Communion incorrectly. Therefore, they don’t believe there is any danger.
2. For Churches who have historically practiced Closed Communion (Many Anglican, Episcopalian, the churches which formed the ELCA et al) they have decided that Christian teaching isn’t as important for fellowship as the desire to be together. In a strange way, they have said that “If we don’t give communion to everybody, they might not get saved.” In other words, they are worried that people can’t get saved in Methodist, Baptist or other Churches. They don’t say this outright, but what people do, says a lot about what they believe.
What about LCMS Churches who practice open Communion?
Unfortunately, that is a question which not only needs to be asked now, but has even been asked in the past. Since 1967, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod has affirmed and reaffirmed no less than nine times, that faithful practice in our churches includes Closed Communion.
Two different types of open Communion
Overt open Communion: This is when the congregation does nothing to differentiate between people who should receive the Lord’s Supper. Often they will say things like “It isn’t OUR table, it’s the LORD’S table!” The irony of that statement is “If we are supposed to be caring for the Lord’s table, how come we don’t take His instructions seriously?” The positive side of this is when a Church practices open Communion overtly, they are being true to what their church believes, teaches and confesses.
The second type of open Communion is known as functional open Communion. This is when a Church (which are officially supposed to practice Closed Communion) make such a paltry effort to express the practice of Closed Communion that it is hard to tell the difference.
What about Churches that put a note in their bulletin which reads something like this:
The Lord’s Supper is a special meal instituted by Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. If you have been Baptized and believe that this is the body and blood of Christ, you are welcome at the Lord’s Table.
This type of insert has become more common in congregations. On one hand, it is correct in stating the “WHO” (instituted it ) and “WHY” (it was instituted) of the Lord’s Supper, but where it fails, is
1. Not making a proper confession of the nature of the elements (The true body and blood of Christ)
2. Not recognizing the issues of fellowship which must first be present before coming to the Lord’s Table. (Roman Catholics, ELCA Lutherans, WELS Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox and Episcopalians may hold a similar view, but we are by no means in fellowship with them.) You see, when we go to the altar of a particular church body, we are saying that we are in 100% agreement with the teachings of that Church. Again, it’s not that we are saying that only LCMS Lutherans are saved, rather we are saying that we are not in agreement with those other churches, so we do not practice hypocrisy, by going to their altars.
Ok, so what would be a more effective way of communicating the LCMS position on Communion at Church?
Communication, really is the key! Pastors should be both willing and able to communicate any and all teachings of the LCMS to both the
When the congregations are well-informed, they can also be very helpful in sharing this information with guests. After all, it is important to remember that the pastor isn’t just making up rules as he goes, but is rather teaching what has been decided by all the congregations who voluntarily belong to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. In the case of Communion, each of our 6,000 (+) congregations in America have decided that (among other things) being a member in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod means that each congregation will practice Closed Communion.
Ok, I get it… we practice Closed Communion. Why are you telling me this?
Simply put, at the last national convention of the LCMS, enough concerns were raised about how certain congregations are practicing Communion that the voting body decided it was time to check and see how we were doing on this particular practice. The resolution reads this way:
“To Encourage Proper Oversight in the Administration of the Lord’s Supper by Visitation from Ecclesiastical Supervisors.” This resolution calls for each district president to “be encouraged to address the congregation’s administration of the Lord’s Supper in his visits; and … that those practices which are not in harmony with the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions be addressed fraternally and evangelically.” –2013 LCMS Convention
So… get to it, people.