No eucharist before baptism, bishops say

Published June 1, 2011

The House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada has unanimously reaffirmed that the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is to be given only to those baptized in the Christian faith. “We do not see this as changing for the foreseeable future,” the bishops said in a statement released following their recent meeting in Niagara Falls, Ont.The affirmation came out of a discussion led by Bishop James Cowan of British Columbia, on the concept of the “open table,” in which Holy Communion is made available to everyone who wishes to participate, whether baptized or not. In their statement, the bishops said they recognize that open table is being practised in some parts of Canada and that the practice “arises out of a deep concern to express Christian hospitality.” According to the release, “the bishops will discuss and offer guidance to the church on Christian hospitality and mission and how these relate to the Table of Christ” at their fall meeting in November. To those who protested the Apr. 15 statement-charging that the bishops may be slamming the door on people who want to come to the table and from there into the church-Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, defended the bishops’ unanimous vote. In an interview, he told the Anglican Journal that the bishops are sensitive to the fact that giving the sacrament of eucharist can lead to baptism in some cases. “No one is dismissing that, but at the same time, a good pastoral coach can help people understand how baptism and the eucharist complement each other.” Archbishop Hiltz also acknowledged that, in some churches, unbaptized people do come forward to take communion. “There’s no ticket taking at the altar,” he said. “We don’t ask everyone, ‘Are you baptized?’ ” Although the bishops were unanimous in upholding the reservation, the primate stressed that they “are prepared to have a conversation about what Christian hospitality means in relation to the Lord’s table.”As for the place of unconfirmed but baptized children at the eucharistic meal, he said: “We went through a period a few years ago when it was thought that children had to be confirmed to participate. But we have moved away from that now. The fundamental rite of admittance to the Lord’s table is baptism.” Ω


  • Diana Swift

    Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.

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