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John Wesley

Dear and Gentle Reader,

I am most interested in your exposition of the doctrine of communion. I, too, have written a sermon on the benefits of constant communion and may post it forthwith to my journal.

I would like to invite you to visit my humblye journal, as I start my tenure upon this continent. I have been elucidated by your musings and wish to make your most courteous acquaintance whilst in the Americas.

I am most curious about the manner in which clergy conduct themselves in the colonies, as I am a newly arrived pastor and do not wish to offend the faithful and the savages. So prithee hence to my journal and let us hold each other accountable in our mutual love of Christ.

I remain God's humble servant,
John Wesley

John Wesley

Yeah, verily, I cannot stop from commenting further -- I am of the most fervent opinion that the partaking of the Lord's Supper is one of the, if not the most powerful form of God's Grace available to humankind. It is previenent, it is Justifying, it is Sanctifying.

I have been guilty of denying that Grace to those who come to the rail, but I am but a flawed man. It is of my most strong opinion that this Grace should not be withheld.

Keith McIlwain

I would go a step further and welcome all people to the Eucharistic table...Christian, atheist, Buddhist...whatever. If the Emmaus story in Luke 24 is to be believed (and I believe it is), then Jesus can be made known in the breaking of the bread. So, it is also an evangelical sacrament, and, if there is but a glimmer of faith, perhaps the atheist or the Buddhist might meet Christ at the table. This makes it an extremely open table!

Good post.

reverend mommy

But in defense of exactly what the Missouri Synod believes (I can't believe I'm doing this, btw) -- they cannot be sure if people who have left their flock are continuing in faith or are apostate.  They believe in a very particular exegesis of 1 Cor 11 -- they believe that if the person is apostate and takes communion, they will be blaspheming God, in particualr the Holy Spirit and the person will be damned to hell forever, no get out of jail card.  Period.  Therefore they believe that the loving thing is to bar persons from communion to save their souls.

Convoluted, I agree and definitely not what I believe, but there you have it.  It is an integral part of who they are and to fight it would be very difficult. 

They don't realize that they are being insulting -- they think of their action as loving. (Twisted, eh?)


Greetings in Christ,
And congratuations. It's only the select Methodist who gets John Wesley to comment on their blog. My comments will pale in comparison I'm sure.

My name is Jay Winters. I'm a Lutheran (LCMS) Seminarian. I found your blog because I have Bloglines set to pick up the word "Lutheran".

I found your treatment of our communion practice interesting, and it's something that I've wrestled with before - so I wanted to give you the Cliff's Notes of our theological ideas.

As Reverend Mommy has said already, our take of I Cor 11 IS pretty literalistic. I mean...we actually do believe it's His Body and Blood when He says it is and all...wink, wink.

There are two levels to the Lutheran practice of "close communion", and both of them have to do with "distinguishing the Body". The first level of that is distinguishing the Body of Jesus Christ and His Blood that are there in, with, and under the bread and wine. We would say that anyone who takes the sacrament in a way that does not distinguish the Body in this way is guilty of taking the sacrament in vain.

Secondly, distinguishing the Body of Christ assembled around the Sacrament is necessary - meaning that you have to realize who you're "com-unifying" with - both in terms of everyone's relationship with Christ and in terms of everyone's relationship to each other through that relationship with Christ.

So basically we would object to a UMC parishioner taking communion from an LCMS altar because of a couple of reasons:
a.) It's Jesus' Body and Blood and we think that's sort of a big deal - a big enough deal that if you take it in vain you hurt yourself physically and spiritually.
b.) At the very least what you're doing when you're communing at a different altar, you're "transfering your membership" to the group of people eating and drinking there because you are publically confessing and unifying with those people in the Sacrament.

Make sense? If not, please let me know. I'd love to talk about this some more. But please do email me to let me know if you've responded - I'm not real good at checking back.

May God richly bless us and keep us in the knowledge of His Grace until He comes again in Glory to bring us beyond this time of separation into a time of everlasting unity and peace.

In Christ,

John B

I can appreciate what Theresa and Jay are saying and I can intellectually understand the positions they lay out, though I disagree.

The Church is far more than a single local congregation or any particular denomination. Within the UM tradition, individuals first join the Church universal, then the United Methodist Church, then a local congregation. It is the universal nature of the Church which allows us to open the communion table to all believers. In a sense, being a member of the Body of Christ trumps being a member of a particular denomination or local congregation.

As I see it, closed communion denies the reality of the Church universal and says to me that MS Lutherans and other denominiations what practice closed communion think they are the only real Christians. I know almost all would deny thinking this way, but actions speak louder than words.


Fair enough John. I would argue that the unity of the church is tied to confession of Christ (Matt. 16:18).

Your concept of membership is VERY interesting to me however. In Lutheran churches it goes more, "you join the local congregation which is a part of the LCMS, which is a part of the Church Universal." So it's like all of the memberships come together simultaneously.

It makes an amazing amount of sense however, given the socio-political backgrounds of each church. Prussian-Germans and Scandinavians would have understood their membership in the town AS their membership in the larger organization. Early Americans, however, would understand a more inverse-hierarchical membership in a historically amorphus place called "America".

Wow! What a neat insight! Thanks!


My wife and I have been visiting the UMC and a woman told me that Wesley believed that communion can be taken by anyone and that communion in itself is an opportunity to accept Christ? Is that true that UMC believes that? From what you're saying is that you must be saved to take part in communion. Please respond..Thnk you Jim

John B

No human being can rightly judge the spirtual condition of another person's soul. Certainly there are evidences which will be indicators, but only God sees the heart. I say this as a way of saying, I can't judge whether a person is saved or not.

We UM's believe that grace is imparted through the sacraments. There are different forms of grace, previenent, justifying, and sanctifying, depending on where a person is on their spiritual journey. Again, no one can make that judgment. Thus in a very simplified answer, we practice open communion and leave the condition of a person's soul in the hands of God, with the anticipation that only those who to whom God has given a desire for His grace will choose to receive it.


That isn't what I was saying. WHat I was being told was that Wesley believed one could be saved by taking the sacrement of communion but according to Wesley's writings..I don't find that anywhere. What I do see is that when Wesley does talk about communion he specifically says "Christians" who take it. If that is what he is saying than Yes, one needsd to be baptized or saed to take part in communion. So I would take "open-door" to mean a Christian FROM ANYWHERE or ANY CHURCH can come in and partake...Yes or no?

John B

Wesley wouldn't say that someone could be saved by taking communion. However, I do think he'd say that by taking communion, a person can encounter Christ and thereby put faith in Him and thus be saved.

I also think that Wesley's understanding of open communion must be seen in the light of 17th century England. Every citizen of England was assumed to be a member of the Church of England. Thus open communion was open to everyone who in some manner or another had an affilation with a church. In our multi-cultural society, one cannot assume that every person is grounded in the church. This makes the 3 questions I mentioned at the beginning especially important and the determining factor as to who can or cannot take communion. If a person can says yes to those questions then the table is open to them.

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