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On Private Communion

January 30, 2008

New podcast. Old issue. Is it appropriate to take communion to those who could not attend worship due to illness? Church history gives a host of differing opinions on the matter. Even our own Westminster Confession argues that private communion is against the nature of the sacrament. Have a listen, and be sure to leave you feedback on this one.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    February 28, 2008 5:04 pm

    Greetings Shaun and Matthew,

    Thank you for investing the time and effort to produce your podcasts. I find them to be very helpful.

    I have a question related to the private communion issues that your discussed. As an elder on session we are revisiting the issue of whether it is ever approriate to authorize communion at weddings of our members? My thoughts are (as you noted on the podcast) that our Westminster Standards teach that communion is sacrament for the whole church that takes place during gathered worship. Therefore as a session we can only authroized the Lord’s Table at a wedding if it fits those criteria. So to do communion at a wedding the session would need to first authorize the service, then invite the entire body and further make sure that all the marks of a true worship service are present in order for communion to be served.

    The couple who requested communion at their wedding are very dear saints and their motivation for wanting to have it is genuine and most of the flock attended the wedding and the elemets of worship were present. I’m curious if either of you have faced similar situations and how you worked through it with your elders?

    Thank you again!

    Adam

  2. pastorshaun permalink
    February 28, 2008 6:53 pm

    Adam,

    That is a great question. Unfortunately, the answer to it is often found not in what God commands, but in what everyone is doing. Communion at a wedding has become common place.

    So, I’ll ask you, Adam, is marriage a sacrament that may take place in the context of the worship of God’s people with violating the regulative principle (only doing what God commands in worship)? I believe that will give you your answer.

    Answering this couple will be a little more difficult, but if they are the godly couple you describe them as, I think they will understand when you explain to them that marriage is not an element of worship.

    That said, if your elders decide to permit this, I do think you have the proper checks and balances set up.

    In Christ,

    Shaun

  3. Anonymous permalink
    February 29, 2008 6:58 pm

    Shaun, thank you for your response. You make a great point about the marriage ceremony not being properly an element of the gathered worship service. So if I’m tracking correctly, we might say that when performed under the auspices of the church, the marriage ceremony is a type of service, that’s why we have forms included in the BCO, but it isn’t a worship service? Perhaps the same would hold true for funerals too? They would be a type of a service, with some of the elements of a proper worship service like prayer, sometimes a sermon and singing, but the funeral or marriage service is not properly a worship service and therefore we don’t celebrate communion at them.

    I’m anticipating someone countering me that a marriage ceremony is similar to vow taking that is done when we ordain elders and deacons in the service or even when receiving new members. I think the answer would then lead back to your original private communion discussion point, that there are regulations involved with the Lord’s Table that ought to caution us when we start looking for loopholes (for lack of better term), including ones we’re convinced are “good” and well meaning.

    Thanks again!

    Adam

  4. pastorshaun permalink
    February 29, 2008 8:24 pm

    You are tracking right with me, Adam.

    That said, I would encourage readers not to judge those who come to different conclusions too harshly. Your marriages are still valid even if you had communion during them. Mine certainly was and we had private communion with just the two of us.

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