The question of the degree of openness of the Lord' Table rumbles around in some Anglican churches. Arguably it is a question of greater importance than all the sexuality questions because it connects, or for that matter disconnects actions at the core of the living of our faith, baptism and eucharist. In TEC a commission of theologians has been looking into this question and has published a report.
Here I reproduce a few paragraphs - not necessarily representative or summative of the whole document. Although I disagree with the tentativeness of the conclusions reached, this work strikes me as responsible, thoughtful, and repaying of careful study. Readers of this site know that I am not often appreciative of TEC work in this way, but I am always happy to recognise quality when I find it. (For a contrast in theological quality, by the way, pop over to BabyBlueOnline re the PB and marriage).
Of course I am drawing attention to this document because in ACANZP open table hospitality is practised and I do not agree with that. I especially do not agree with it because it is the result of purely pragmatic and esoteric decisions being made by individual ministers with absolutely no supporting theological work commissioned by our bishops or synods. We need to do some work on this ourselves. One interesting thing about the TEC report is that, despite the manifold signs within TEC that liberal approaches to a variety of issues have strong support, this report is far from a simple endorsement of open table hospitality!
"No one, as far as we can tell, advocates that churches establish checkpoints on the way to the altar. Nobody wants to be the baptism police and nobody denies that clergy must exercise appropriate pastoral discretion in specific cases. Nevertheless, the canon with regard to baptism and communion is quite clear: “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church.”
Moreover, clergy enter into a type of covenantal relationship with their bishop regarding the “doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ as this Church has received them.” They also promise obedience to their bishop. It would also appear that both bishops and priests enter into a similar covenantal relationship with the people in their care. In that light, one might well question any deviation from the canons with regard to baptism and eucharist. It is equally important, however, that any change in practice occurs in the light of these covenantal relationships and therefore should be clearly thought out, openly discussed and prayerfully discerned. Regardless of one’s views about whether this canon should be followed, we all agree that it should not be willfully violated in arbitrary, secretive, or idiosyncratic ways, where clergy and parish become a law unto themselves. This is not so much for the sake of the canon as for the sake of the covenantal relationships between bishops, priests, and people.
At the same time, we recognize that the impulse towards open communion arises out of serious pastoral issues faced by clergy in the diverse contexts in which they seek to minister faithfully. Sometimes these pastoral issues are connected to the particular contexts of their ministries. Sometimes they arise in the course of particular liturgical occasions such as weddings or funerals."
The whole document is here.
(Happy to take comments, but am off-line for a day or so. Will publish comments as soon as I am reconnected to the WWW!)