A pastoral attempt to walk a fine line on open communion passed the House of Deputies Wednesday by 77 percent among the laity and 64 percent among the clergy.
C029, “Access to Holy Baptism and Holy Communion,” is a complete substitution of resolutions calling for open communion throughout the Church. Instead of making canonical changes, it “reaffirms that baptism is the ancient and normative entry point to receiving Holy Communion and that our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to go into the world and baptize all peoples.” The resolution also acknowledges that “in various local contexts there is the exercise of pastoral sensitivity with those who are not yet baptized.”
That acknowledgement of communing the unbaptized was the cause of spirited debate in Deputies.
The Rev. Canon Dennis Blauser, Northwestern Pennsylvania, chair of the Deputies committee, urged approval of the resolution, saying that “we believe that much theology and reflection be done during the next triennium by bishops and dioceses with the continued guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
The Rev. Canon Neal Michel, Dallas, asked that the resolution drop the reference to the “exercise of pastoral sensitivity,” saying that “at a time when the whole issue of authority is before us … it is not helpful to send a message that” the Church tacitly supports a change in the doctrine of the Church.
The Rev. Susan Buchanan, New Hampshire, a member of the Evangelism Committee, countered Michel’s amendment: “At the hearings, the conversation around this was eye-opening, grace-filled and fabulous,” she said. “We heard the witness clearly and passionately of the freedom of the Holy Spirit to work through our structures … and in spite of them. Baptism is our normative practice, and that does not and never will prevent the Holy Spirit from pouring out God’s grace.”
She continued: “We are crazy Christians because we have a crazy God. There is nothing normative about how the Holy Spirit works. Many of us do offer an open table, but we’re Episcopalians, and we so often live and move and have our being in that middle area of tension, of mystery, of both-and. Before us is a resolution not amended that is both-and. I urge us to continue to live into that both-and world and continue our conversations about it.”
That attempt to amend the resolution, as well as an amendment to the amendment, were both defeated.
–By Lauren R. Stanley