Friday, August 27, 2004

Eucharistic Hospitality to Guests from Other Churches

The following is a rough translation of the theses refered to in a previous post. These are just the bare theses and the consequences drawn from them. Each thesis has a supporting paragraph in the text. The published form also has further exposition and details. I only aim to translate the first supporting paragraphs. I refer to the published form of these theses, published by Verlag Otto Lembeck, Frankfurt aM. The post has a link to the on-line version. The consequences are from pages 73-74 of the text Abendmahlsgemeinschaft ist moglich (Frankfurt: Lembeck, 2003). Comment will follow. The theses concern Lutheran and Roman Catholic Eucharistic Hospitality and does not necessarily apply to other forms of such hospitality nor does it propose mutual recognition of ministers or other forms of "stages on the way to full communion."

Communion in the Supper is Possible.

Theses for Eucharistic Hospitality

Thesis 1: The acceptance of baptized Christians to the same table is not in need of a basis, but rather their being turned away.

Thesis 2: The lived ecumenical community in a place and the failed community in the Supper contradicts themselves. That weakens the church’s witness and in view of the challenges of civil society appears unworthy of faith.

Thesis 3: In many exceptional cases individuals are already admitted to the community of the Supper.

Thesis 4: Baptism is the door to the community of the church, the body of Christ, that is newly constituted in the Lord’s Supper.

Thesis 5: Jesus invites to the Supper. He is the giver and the gift. Only in his name and commission does the church speak the invitation. This [invitation] cannot happen indiscriminately but must correspond to the will of Jesus Christ.

Thesis 6: Community in the Lord’s Supper extends further than community in the church.

Thesis 7: The church lives as a community in proclamation, in worship, and in service in the world. Church communion presumes the perfection of these and a common basic understanding but not a historically determined form.

Thesis 7.1: Together in faith: distinguished representations of the churchly presentations and the binding exposition of the common faith in Jesus Christ as the salvation of the world must not be church dividing.

Thesis 7.2: Together in the understanding of the Supper: Ecumenical dialogue has lead to a wide-reaching agreement in the traditional controversial themes in the understanding of the supper. Further remaining distinctions do not hinder a common celebration of the Supper.

Thesis 7.3: Together in the understanding of the Office of Ministry: In spite of wide opposition in the question of the office an approach in basic truths has enabled Eucharistic hospitality.

Thesis 7.4: Together in service of the world: diakonie, community, and the Supper enable each other reciprocally.


Our presentation amounts to, among other things, the following consequences and steps to act on in practice:

1. Granting Eucharistic hospitality finds an extensive theological basis in the previous results of ecumenical dialogue commissions. We call the church to finally receive their results and put them into practice.
2. Eucharistic hospitality is possible without the erection of complete agreement in Eucharistic theology, an understanding of the office of ministry, and of the church.
3. Ecumenical dialogue about the Lord’s Supper is a plea to deepen the theology and spirituality of the Supper in the churches and thereby to discover and practice a greater commonality. That has consequences for the form of the Supper (Texts, Hymns, Symbols) just as for the practical engagement with the Eucharist (reservation of the Eucharistic gifts, cup for the laity).
4. The message of the Supper should be so given in proclamation and praxis that the people of today can understand it and experience the Supper as relevant for their lives.
5. Where community is possible, community should be practiced. Distinctions should not separate; they can much more enrich all the more because no church can bring catholicity of itself to its fullness.
6. In order to receive the Supper as a guest in a church no other condition should be posed than that the guest is a member of his or her own church.
7. Whereas for many people, who have gone on the ecumenical path, cross through the churches to participate in the supper respectively in the Eucharist of another church is a great spiritual need, others have yet trouble with ecumenical worship, just as when they are not in their own church. This situation appears to require a differentiated solution:
a. There are situations in which those who do not take part in the Supper of another confession is the greater spiritual affront than if they were to participate.
b. It should be the rule: where Christians as individuals or as a congregation live matter of factually in an ecumenical community, the churchly minister should not refuse Eucharistic hospitality to those Christians.
c. Leaders of congregations, Pastors, Priests, who invite adherents of other confessions to the table should have the required pastoral competence and responsibility.
d. In a pastoral way, we therefore submit, that under the possibility of lived ecumenical community of the church the open invitation—and not only admission or toleration—expresses the Supper of the Lord. Exceptional or certain cases of admission, as it is practiced in some dioceses, is a first step towards Eucharistic hospitality.

The ecumenical command of the hour is a common repentance and consciousness, as it is possible for human beings, to experience the Eucharist as a sign of community and source of one’s personal spiritual life. We hold it to be now theological possible and pastorally imperative to practice Eucharistic hospitality and through that to humbly advance on the way to full church fellowship.

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