We Practice Close(d) Communion
As have most Christian churches for two millennia, Faith Lutheran Church practices “close(d) communion.” Based on 1 Corinthians 11:27-29, [Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.] we want to safeguard the spiritual well-being of any who do not recognize that Jesus is truly present with His Body and Blood in the Sacrament.
Based on 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, [The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.] and 1 Corinthians 1:10, [Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.] we regard the reception of the sacrament together as a statement that we believe the same doctrine. We respect the faith of those who do not agree with confessional Lutheran teaching. Therefore we do not ask them to state with their communion what they do not believe in their heart. Close(d) Communion is not a judgment of hearts but rather an honest recognition that there are differences in beliefs among Christians.
Close(d) Communion is an expression of love—love for those who may disagree with some of our teaching as a congregation of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and love within the close fellowship of those sharing the same faith.
The following theses were written by founding father of our Missouri Synod, C. F. W. Walther:
Walther’s 13 Theses on Communion Fellowship
- The true visible church in an absolute sense… is that church in which the Word of God is preached purely and the Holy Sacraments are administered according to Christ’s institution.
- A church in which the Word of God is fundamentally denied, or in which a fundamental denial of the Word of God is tolerated, is not a true orthodox church, but a false teaching church or sect.
- Every person is obligated to recognize the true visible church, and, if having opportunity, to join it.
- Every person is obligated to avoid churches that teach falsely, and in the event that a person has belonged to such a church, his obligation is to renounce and separate himself from it.
- Because of their ignorance, true Christians are also found in churches that teach falsely.
- Those who are aware of the partial apostasy [falling away] of the [denomination] to which they belong and yet continue to remain within that [denomination] are not to be considered among the weak but are either the lukewarm whom the Lord will spit out of His mouth or Epicurean religious skeptics who within their hearts would ask with Pilate, “What is truth?”
- The main purpose of the Holy Sacrament is to be a tool and a means to offer, bestow, and receive the promises of grace with a seal, guarantee, and pledge that confirm these promises. However, within this major purpose, as a secondary goal, the Sacrament is to be a distinguishing sign of confession and a bond of fellowship in worship. Therefore Communion fellowship is Church fellowship.
- Holy Communion was not instituted to make people Christians. It was instituted to strengthen the faith of those who already are true Christians. Therefore Communion should be administered to no one who has been revealed as a false Christian.
- In Holy Communion the Body and Blood of Christ is actually present, distributed and received by every communicant. Therefore, without grievous sin, Communion cannot be administered to anyone who does not confess a belief in this mystery.
- Holy Communion is a mark of confession of faith and doctrine among those who celebrate together. Therefore admitting members of churches that believe falsely to the celebration of communion within the Lutheran Church is in conflict with: 1. Christ’s institution; 2. The commanded unity of the church in faith and thus in confession; 3. Our love for those whom the Sacrament is administered; 4. Our love for our own fellow believers, especially the weak who would be given serious offense by this action; and 5. The command not to become participants in the sin and error of others.
- We do not place members of heterodox churches under excommunication or declare them to be heretics or damned by our refusal to allow them to participate in the celebration of communion within the fellowship of the Lutheran Church. Instead, they are merely suspended until such time as by their separation from the false church they are reconciled with the orthodox church.
- The heterodox themselves regard and declare it improper for them to commune with those who are orthodox. Would it not then be disgraceful for those who are last in regard to Christ’s own institution and administration of the Sacrament to expose those who have been first?
- The more unionism [joint worship of those not united in doctrine] and syncretism [combining unlike and irreconcilable elements in the interest of false union] is the sin and corruption of our time, the more the loyalty of the orthodox church now demands that the Lord’s Supper not be misused as a means of external union without internal unity of faith.
PICTURED ABOVE: “Christ of the Eucharist ” by Juan Juanes, 3rd quarter of 16th century.