The topic of the Lord’s Supper and Closed Communion came up today in several different contexts. With several people asking the same question, maybe it is time to revisit the topic and our practice.
Our bulletin announcement says:
“Holy Communion is celebrated this Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church in the glad confidence that our Lord, as His Words say, gives not only bread and wine, but also His true Body and Blood for us to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins. Our Lord invites to His table those who believe He is truly present, repent of all sin, and set aside any refusal to forgive as He forgives us. Because Saint Paul reminds us that we can receive the Lord’s Supper to our judgment, we are very careful to administer the Sacrament only to those who are properly prepared. When we receive Holy Communion, we publicly declare our agreement with the teachings of the church from which we receive it. Therefore, if you are not yet a member of this congregation, a sister congregation of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and if you have not previously spoken to the Pastor about Holy Communion, please refrain from coming forward to receive Communion until you have first spoken with the Pastor.
If you cannot receive the Lord’s Supper but desire a blessing, please join us at the Communion rail and cross your arms over your chest to tell the pastor of your intent.”
With this being said, we certainly practice closed Communion. Yes, the most important part of the Lord’s Supper is that which we receive from Christ Jesus. We receive His true body and true blood (doctrine of the Real Presence) for the strengthening of our faith and for the forgiveness of our sins. At the same time we are confessing a common faith, not only in Christ Jesus, but in all aspects of doctrine. Thus we are confessing that we are saved by grace alone, not by works. Thus we are confessing that the Bible is the Word of God, inspired and inerrant, and that the Law condemns certain actions such as abortion, homosexuality, and same gender marriage which are legal but immoral.
We believe, teach, and confess that Christ Jesus is sacramentaly present in, with, and under the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. When Jesus said, “This IS my body,” He meant exactly what He said. This sacramental presence mirrors the incarnation of Jesus as true God and true man.
We also take very seriously Saint Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 11:27 and following where we are warned that it is possible to take the Lord’s Supper to our judgment. Not all Christian congregations confess the Real Presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Supper, therefore we are careful not to give to those who doubt Jesus’ words the opportunity for their harm.
What about those who had been confirmed in the LCMS, and at one time made the good confession of faith? However, based on their spouse’s desires, or their own doubt, they left the LCMS and joined another church body. Their confession of faith is not what they said at confirmation, but they repudiated that when joining in a church body that teaches other than the Real Presence. They repudiated their confirmation when they joined a church body that dismisses some or all of the Bible. The confession of your church is your public confession. If your public confession is not in agreement with the LCMS, we would be helping you to bear a false witness of your faith. If you do privately agree with the Lutheran teachings, then you are lying about your confession when you commune at your home congregation. Either way, this is not a good thing.
In 1983, and again in 1999, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod published documents about the Lord’s Supper. These were prepared by the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) to answer questions about our doctrine and practice. You can find both documents here: (https://www.lcms.org/about/leadership/commission-on-theology-and-church-relations/documents/lutheran-doctrine-and-practice).
All CTCR documents, as well as all Lutheran doctrines and writings, must stand under the clear Word of God. These statements explain our position concerning both the theology and practice of the Lord’s Supper in light of the Bible.
As a brief summary: We believe, teach, and confess that Jesus’ body and blood are truly present in, with, and under the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper. He gives us this gift for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith. If someone who disagrees publicly with the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, or the Christian faith in general (salvation by grace through faith for the sake of Christ), we cannot commune them until they repent of their false doctrine.
There is additional criteria for determining who I may commune, but that is outside the scope of this article.
If you desire to talk about our doctrine and practice, please feel free to contact me.