Friday, January 12, 2007

The Anglican Practice of Open Communion: A "Barthian" Take


A question from the comment section of an earlier entry ("My Third Reason for Remaining Anglican" - Saturday, January 6, 2007):

DMARTIN ASKS: Do Anglicans believe that to share the Body and Blood of Christ is an act of full communion or not?

LEXORANDI2: Obviously, I can only give you one Anglican's perspective on this, but, YES, this is certainly the principle behind the practice of open communion in Anglican churches, even if institutionally (canonically) our respective ecclesial communities (i.e. churches) do not yet live into this reality.

I find it helpful to appeal to Barth's objectivist theology in support of the "open Table" practice, particularly the question of what is real and unreal about the Christian and the Church in light of our union in Christ. What is real about the Church in Christ (objectively and eternally so) is the Church's unicity and holiness. Disunity and corruption -- the very things we unhappily "live into" -- are unreal, and thus are things destined to nothingness. By "living into" them (through schism and apostasy) we improperly reify the very things that have been abolished in Christ.

That being said, over the course of my ministry I have become increasingly passionate in my advocacy for the "open Table." For, despite our tenacity to live into the unreal (with respect to such things as "orders" and tertiary differences in doctrine), I am convinced that the Anglican tradition attains her highest degree of "living into the reality of what we already are in Christ" in the celebration of the sacraments via her "open Table."

Obviously, she fails miserably in other ways...

(I direct my readers to revisit an earlier blog entry --Dialogue with Barth-- for a further elaboration on the real and unreal distinction.)

8 comments:

jbrim said...

I'm probably misreading you here, but doesn't this render the whole notion of excommunication null?

Anonymous said...

"For, despite our tenacity to live into the unreal (with respect to such things as "orders" and tertiary differences in doctrine)"

It seems that by advocating an open Table, ecclesiology is placed in the tertiary category.

lexorandi2 said...

I would argue the opposite. The Open Table places ecclesiology in the primary category. After all, it is an article of the Creed: We confess the Church to be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. The open Table is the highest ideal of this. For that brief moment of "Kingdom time," our divisions (typically based on tertiary issues) are suspended, and we live into the real.

My mention of "orders" was an allusion to the validity question inflamed by Leo XIII's unhelpful and infamous bull.

JBRIM: I'm not sure what you're getting out, unless you read me as suspending all ethical and doctrinal concerns, which I assure you was not my intent.

Mark said...

"We confess the Church to be one, holy catholic and apostolic. The Open Table is the highest ideal of this. For that brief moment of "Kingdom time", our divisions ( typically based on tertiary issues ) are suspended, and we live into the real."

It is difficult to refute your logic here. The Church is most truly herself, most fully one, holy, catholic and apostolic when she is joined to Christ and made "one body with him" in the holy Eucharist. ( wherein also the communion of saints reaches its apex, since all who are in Christ- both in heaven and on earth- are united to each other in Him ).

The Roman Catholic Church, of course, does not endorse the Open Table concept. But the recognition of spiritual fraternity between herself and "separated brethren", along with the canonical licitness of Protestants receiving the sacraments in certain circumstances, indicates that the idea is not entirely foreign to Roman ecclesiology.

lexorandi2 said...

That's a great observation, Mark. This idea is not totally foreign to Roman ecclesiology. Personally, I feel more at home in Roman ecclesiology than in Eastern. In other respects, however, I am more Eastern in my theology.

dmartin said...

So why not become Maronite or Milkite or some other version of the Eastern Roman Catholic?

lexorandi2 said...

Actually, I was this >< close to joining an Eastern Catholic Church back around 1996. It didn't happen for a number of reasons, which I won't belabor you with.

Anonymous said...

"I would argue the opposite. The Open Table places ecclesiology in the primary category. After all, it is an article of the Creed: We confess the Church to be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. The open Table is the highest ideal of this. For that brief moment of "Kingdom time," our divisions (typically based on tertiary issues) are suspended, and we live into the real."

"One" in what way? If you offer with the vague "in Christ", it is earily similar to "invisible Church". Schism has consequences. Your offer of an open table to RC's and EO's is actually an open invitation to undermine the episcopal authority of RC and EO Bishops that would be less-than-overjoyed to see you communing those in their charge.

Rome, Byzantines, and Anglicans don't even have agreement on what they're recieving. For Rome it's transsubstantiation; for the East it's "God in His energies" (something Rome isn't very excited about); and for Anglicans it is varied from near transsubstantiation all the way down to darn near bare signs (I'd bet there is at least some 'sign and seal' Calvinists amongst the Anglicans). To just brush all that aside becomes tantamount to relativism. It is chaos.

"My mention of "orders" was an allusion to the validity question inflamed by Leo XIII's unhelpful and infamous bull."

IF Pope Leo was correct then all you're offering is refreshments. Is Pope Leo's bull still in force or binding to the RCC today? I don't think the EO has a position that I can find. Is it feasable that Pope Leo was correct, since the earlier Anglican Bishops did depart from established principles in performing consecrations?