Open Communion as the “Evangelical” Way?

[From Walther’s Pastoral Theology (transl., abr. by John M. Drickamer), pp. 107-108:]

At the head of the article [in Der Lutheraner] is Chrysostom’s statement: “I myself would rather lose body and life than allow the body of my Lord to be given to someone unworthily; and I would rather have my blood shed than to permit His most holy blood to be given to an unworthy person.”

Not a few preachers in this country have the custom, when they begin the celebration of the holy Supper, of turning to all those assembled and encouraging everyone to participate, even members of other confessions who are present. Especially the German Methodist preachers here use this means to gain access to the German Protestants who are scattered here. The latter have often had to do without public preaching and the reception of the Supper for years. Now if a Methodist preacher comes to them in their isolation and not only preaches but does not make the slightest difficulty about celebrating the Supper among them and admitting them to it without further ado, then he has usually already won the people for himnself. He uses the holy Supper as bait, as a means of luring the people into the net of his fanaticism [Schwaermerei] and sectarianism.

But do not many so-called “Lutheran” preachers follow a similar practice! We have sadly experienced that not a few of the preachers who call themselves Lutherans, when they have prepared the holy table for the Sacrament, invite to this means of grace anyone who wants to come and admit them without any examination of their faith and life (in the opinion that this is truly evangelical). It is to be feared that many act this way for impure reasons, to be considered really “nice, broad-minded” men and to be praised. It is to be feared that many give the holy Sacrament to everyone, even to those who are manifestly godless, do not want to lose their pastoral poition, which may bring them a good income.

[My comment: is it the case that true evangelical concern governs communion practice, or–my bet–paper-spined practice dictates doctrine?]

There is hardly anything in all pastoral care [Seelsorge] that gives a faithful minister of the church more trouble than if he wants to act conscientiously in admitting people to the holy Supper. If an orthodox Lutheran preacher takes over a new congregation and wants to admit no member to the Lord’s Table until he has spoken to each individual and has learned from his mouth that he knows what the holy Supper is; that he acknowledges that he is a miserable sinner; that he in his heart believes in God’s Word; that he desires grace and the forgiveness of sins in Christ’s Blood; also that he earnestly intends to follow Christ in a holy life, unspotted by the world, and the like; what harsh resistance he usually meets right away! How many enemies he usually makes right away! How seldom it proceeds without divisions arising! How often he sees himself required to travel on right away and to hear it said that he wanted to lord it over the congregation.

[More to come…]
[By the way, I just re-read my comments on Closed Communion here, and I still think they’re as clear as I’ver ever gotten on the issue.]

Timotheos

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