Who Really is Practicing Selective Fellowship?

Because I won’t commune members of the LCMS who believe that communion should be open to all who want it, or all who have been baptized, or all who believe in the Real Presence, I am accused of practicing selective fellowship.  Au contrari I’m practicing confessional fellowship. Those communing all members of the LCMS are the real ones practicing selective fellowship.

The Lord Jesus gives the unity that is found in Holy Communion.  When we commune with others we know we are not at one with, we are introducing our sinful disunity into the Lord’s holy unity.  When the Roman Catholic or Orthodox Church practice closed Communion, even though they have errors in their theology, they don’t introduce disunity into God’s unity.  They are at one in their errors.

Those in the LCMS who are communing everyone based on the LCMS label are practicing arbitrary selective fellowship.  They aren’t communing based on confession but on a label.  Though there is no established unity they are arbitrarily selecting this group of people to be in fellowship. And this has consequences.

Because they are communing people who believe every Christian should be invited to the Lord’s Table, they are confessing that everything from baptizing babies to ordaining women to cohabitating fornicators doesn’t matter, is not divisive of church fellowship, and can be worthily communed with.  They are accepting a man-made disunity into God’s unity and because of that some of them are weak, sick, and a number of them have died (1 Cor. 11:30).

I know; I know; this is too harsh, strident, stringent, narrow-minded, and hardheaded. This verse is so offensive that the 1991 LCMS enchiridion deemed it not suitable for children and so left it out. For crying our loud, even drug companies are willing to tell the whole world that a drug of theirs can cause sudden death….and that, even when taken as prescribed.  But we’re afraid to tell our kids the full consequences of wrongly receiving Communion. We’ll go right up to telling our kiddos that taking Communion wrongly leads to judgment.  We just won’t tell them how serious that judgment might be.  That’s like a drug company saying, “Our drug can have serious side effects but we’re not telling you what those are.”

And do note, 1 Corinthians 11:30 doesn’t limit the consequences of an unworthy communion practice to just the individuals wrongly communing.  Paul warns the churches of Corinth. He says “many of you” not “many of them.” Whole churches are being warned, whole churches are suffering the judgment of the Lord because others are misusing the Sacrament of the Lord. I think someone should be warning us. I think our leaders should be pleading with us as Moses and Aaron do the recalcitrant Old Testament Church not to continue to rebel against the Word of the Lord by practicing a fellowship that doesn’t exist.  We are in fact spiritually living together before marriage.  There’s no more blessing of the Lord in spiritual cohabitating than there is in physical.

So, the first step toward real koinonia is to stop communing with people we know believe in open Communion when we believe in closed or believe in closed when we believe in open.  We’re not sending each other to hell; we’re recognizing there is disunity among us that is offensive to the one body of Christ.  We should talk; we should meet; we should study together.  We just shouldn’t be communing together.  Doing so does not help.  It in fact hurts.  It makes us weaker, sicker, and deader.  None of us wants to select this sort of fellowship, do we?



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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