Separatistic or Unionistic

Neither one is Biblical.  To be separatistic is to separate from other Christians without Biblical cause.  To be unionistic is to have altar or pulpit fellowship (not friendship) without Biblical cause.  Of course, those of us practicing closed Communion are called separatistic; we’ve rejected that judgement since the reason we are are not communing someone is they deny Scriptural doctrines we affirm.  On a fresh translation of Proverbs 18:1, I wonder if the unionistic crowd, those practicing open Communion, aren’t the real separatists?

Keil and Delitzsch translate Proverbs 18:1, “The separatist seeketh after his own pleasure; Against all that is beneficial he showeth his teeth” (Vol. VI, ii, 1).  They take this as a reference to one who separates himself from the congregation and follows his own counsel.  They go on to say: “the effort of the separatist goes out after a pleasure, i.e. the enjoyment and realization of such; instead of seeking to conform himself to the law and ordinances of the community, he seeks to carry out a separate view, and to accomplish some darling plan.”

I can tell you that there is absolutely no pleasure in practicing closed Communion.  I imagine there is nothing but pleasure in practicing open Communion.  What a hero you are when you say the Baptist aunt visiting on Confirmation Sunday can commune!  How caring you are for communing any Christian who wants to!  How accepting, non-judgmental you are in welcoming all Lutherans to your altar! I don’t know if the Methodist still say this but at one time their invitation to the Sacrament was, “’Let all who love the Lord come here’” (Barclay, Luke, 130).  Can’t you just hear the congregation going, “Aww”?

And who is the one not conforming to “the law and ordinances of the community”?  Prior to the 2004 convention, closed Communion was our official doctrine and practice.  (Reading the 2013 Convention Workbook, I would say some in our Synod still think it is. But long after the ALC had abandoned an inerrant view of Holy Scripture, they made believe they still held it.) Even if open Communion is the new doctrine of our community, isn’t it true that among those practicing open Communion, they each commune who they will?  Some commune all Christians, others all baptized Christians; some commune not all Christians but all Lutherans.  Others have no stated or written policy about who is invited to the Lord’s Table.  They really are a law unto themselves.

Who is the one who shows “his teeth against anything beneficial”?  We who practice closed Communion are said to hate everything, but while admitting that we tend to be less winsome than the open Communion crowd, before we let this proverb stick we have to define beneficial.  The truly beneficial must be in accord with God’s Word for only God is good. When a person, against better knowledge, goes against God’s Word he is bearing his teeth at it.

The open Communion pastor may believe that babies are to be baptized, Mother Mary is not to be prayed to, the Body and Blood of Jesus is truly present, and the Lodge is an unchristian religion.  But when he communes people in these errors, what God’s Word has to say about these things doesn’t matter to him. His own word, opinion, or “darling plan” count for more.

The unionistic pastor is separatistic, and all the pleasure he is getting now from being so is all that he will ever get from it.




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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