The Welcome Table

Those sitting on the Committee on Evangelism knew they could not dispense with resolution C040 — Open Table — in a few minutes. The proposal, sponsored by the Diocese of Eastern Oregon, went to the heart of what it means to gather as God’s people.  Latecomers to Friday’s hearings could not find a seat during the morning session, or the afternoon session. People crowded the doorways, leaned against the walls, or sat on the floor.

At issue was whether or not the Episcopal Church should formally change its practice and “invite all, regardless of age, denomination, or baptism to the altar for Holy Communion.” Proponents spoke about the need for unconditional and radical hospitality. Opponents wondered whether this proposal diminished baptism in the name of a fuzzy inclusivity.

Scripture was no help. Both sides quoted Jesus. Tradition? That only raised questions about what the Early Church did and why.  The only point agreed upon was this: There is power in the Eucharist, sacred, holy power that brings tears to our eyes as it works upon our wounded, yearning souls. This power is beyond our understanding. We know it exists. How it works is a divine mystery.

People told stories about how they were transformed by receiving Holy Communion before they had been baptized. They wondered aloud whether they would have become faithful and faith-filled Christians had they been denied the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

Priests talked about giving the Sacrament to unbaptized babies and others who came to the altar rail. Some described judgment calls made on pastoral visits. Put simply, the cancer ward is really not the place to decide who should and who should not receive Holy Communion.

Resolution C040′s ultimate fate remains unknown. But those who spoke, or heard the testimony, or read the resolution had to examine their own views about this Sacrament that lies at the core of our Christian identity.

You, too, can make your own inquiry.  Visit www.generalconvention.org/gc/resolutions.

The Rev. M. Dion Thompson

 

 

Breathe

Breathe. Take a moment to feel your own breath. Take a moment to feel your spirit connecting with God. Take a moment before the 77th General Convention of the Episcopal Church shifts into overdrive and the hectic rush of committee hearings and legislative sessions make you forget that God is at work here in Indianapolis.  Breathe. That’s what Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori advised us.

“Breathe deep for the spirit is blowing a fresh wind,” she said. “Breathe deep and be not afraid.”

Our time here gives us a chance to confront some of those fears that pulse through the Episcopal Church, those whispered voices that speak of a diminished life when we all know God is having none of that. Behold, I am doing a new thing! The Holy Trinity has thrown down an old-fashioned challenge, forcing us to rethink who we are in the 21st century. Nothing new there. Our forefathers and mothers did the same thing, century after century. And here we are again.

This time around we’re talking about possibly changing our Church’s structure. There’s an upcoming discussion on the idea of having an “open table,” allowing anyone, regardless of age, denomination, or baptism, to receive Holy Communion. That kind of talk can take your breath away. You might start hyperventilating. You might forget to breathe.

In her opening address, Canon Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies, suggested we see our time together as a nine-day Bible study. We’ve another chance to consider how the institutional church can become “the people of God church.”

This is no time to sink ourselves in false dichotomies and either-or questions: Are we for mission, or governance. We need both. We need the prayers and taize chants, along with a dose of decorum and order.

And so we breathe and do our part to make sure our Church continues to be God’s beating heart in the world.

– The Rev. M. Dion Thompson