Why Don’t We Commune Those Who Believe in Open Communion?

This is first and foremost a matter of pastoral care.  If I asked an LCMS Lutheran if they believed in infant Baptism and they answered “No,” you know I could not commune them.  Well those who believe Christians believing different doctrines should commune together at the same altar are saying not only the doctrine of infant Baptism doesn’t matter, but neither does the doctrine of creation, the Real Presence, or any other biblical doctrine.

Second, this is a matter of confessing Jesus clearly.  Did Jesus speak out of both sides of His mouth?  Did Jesus say both babies are to be baptized and they are not?  Did Jesus say women should be pastors and they should not; the world was both created in 6 twenty-four hour days and it evolved over 6 billion years; His Body and Blood are both present on and absent from His altar?  If we admit those who believe in open Communion to our altar we are saying the Jesus on our altar has said contradictory things.  Fallen, sinful men can and do often contradict themselves.  The sinless, holy, God in flesh and blood cannot.

Third, this is a matter of hypocrisy.  If we commune those who believe in open Communion, we are making them and us hypocrites.  That is, they really believe Communion is to be open to all Christians, or all Lutherans, or all who believe in the Real Presence, but they are communing at an altar that publicly teaches the direct opposite.  They believe one thing and do another, and if we commune them we are doing the same.  Likewise, if you believe Communion is only to be shared by those who share the same faith, who believe the same things, then you can’t commune at open Communion altars without becoming a hypocrite.  You believe one thing about the doctrine of Communion and practice contrary to that belief.

Here are the three reasons Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas doesn’t commune LCMS Lutherans who believe in open Communion:  It is unfaithful pastoral care to do so.  It makes is seem that the holy, Lord Jesus teaches contradictory things.  It makes hypocrites out of us and them.

Finally, rather than feeling defensive for practicing closed Communion as the LCMS has since her beginnings 165 years ago, those people who profess to be members of the LCMS and yet believe in open Communion should be ask to defend their remaining in a church body that publicly denies what they believe.

Do you know the problem with the last paragraph?  It was absolutely true until the 2004 Synodical convention.  At that convention, the Synodical president gave his report where he described open and closed Communion as only a difference in practice not doctrine.  That report was accepted by the convention.  Then in 2007 the LCMS entered into fellowship with the American Association of Lutheran Churches which publicly says they do not practice closed Communion but responsible Communion, i.e. they tell people what Commune is and it’s up the individual whether to commune or not.  It is dishonest to claim that the official doctrine of the LCMS is closed Communion now that she has declared herself to be in fellowship with those who never have held that doctrine or practiced accordingly.


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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