The Lord's Supper
By the First Presidency
(Statement published in the Saints Herald August 1994, pages 3-4, adapted for name change)
As we have previously communicated in pastor mailings and the pages of the Saints Herald (June 1994, pages 3-4), the 1994 World Conference took action to remove the legislative prohibition on serving the Lord's Supper to persons who are not baptized members of the Community of Christ.
Our "Letter of Pastoral Counsel" to the World Conference and an accompanying editorial have been published in the June Herald (pages 3-4) as direction to the church in this matter.
In general, these statements affirm that we will now offer the Lord's Supper to any who choose to partake of it in accordance with their own faith and practice. This is effective immediately. However, the change in procedure does not modify our current understanding of the Lord's Supper as representative of the life and sacrifice of the Christ and as a renewal of our baptismal covenant.
In the months ahead we expect to engage in a churchwide dialogue on this and many other related issues. We are confident that this process will be enriching and instructive to us all.
We recognize that there are a number of questions, many of them hypothetical, in the minds of pastors and other church administrators who must deal with this change in our practice, particularly in places where members are concerned about the Conference action. We do not want to write policies that attempt to cover every possible circumstance, but only to suggest the spirit by which individual decisions can be made. We hope these additional guidelines will be useful in responding to such questions.
Guidelines for Administration of the Lord's Supper
- The Lord's Supper is a Christian sacrament, rich in meaning and purpose, which calls us to remember the life and sacrifice of our Lord. In that sense, it speaks most powerfully to those who have made a covenant with Christ, a relationship usually established through water baptism.
- In administering the Lord's Supper, however, the principle that we will follow is that the emblems will be passed to all worship participants and they will be free to partake at their own initiative. No attempt should be made to determine whether persons have been baptized in some other church or whether the form of baptism is consistent with our own. The choice is with the individual.
- In the case of children who are members of our own church families, they will be invited to receive the Lord's Supper upon baptism and confirmation, which occurs after reaching the age of accountability (eight years of age or older). Occasionally, there may be children of other faiths in attendance with church families. In such cases, it would be appropriate to share privately with the visitors that our own tradition is to offer the Lord's Supper to children after baptism at age eight or above. Most people will respect that practice, but it remains an individual choice.
- Many congregations have among their regular participants people who have chosen not to be baptized as a member of the Community of Christ, usually on the grounds that a previous baptism in another faith is sufficient. In such cases, pastors are encouraged to visit personally with them and to explain the new procedure, inviting them to receive the emblems at our Communion services. This personal invitation may be particularly useful in assuring them that they are not only permitted but welcome to share in this way.
- In recognition of the change in practice, some pastors may choose, at least for a while, to make a public statement of invitation and explanation before serving the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. We do not wish to be prescriptive in this matter and would leave it to individual judgment as to whether such a statement would be useful and appropriate. We offer the following suggestion as a model for the type of statement that could be made:
The tradition of the Community of Christ is to understand the Lord's Supper as a sacrament in which we remember the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ and renew the covenant we made at the waters of baptism.
Others who share with us may have different understandings and practices within their own faith and tradition. We invite all who participate to do so as an expression of the faithful unity and love exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ in whose name we worship.
- In all of our church life we seek to be governed by the sustaining presence of the Holy Spirit, which instructs in places where policies and guidelines may not. We continue to affirm that those who preside over our congregations and worship services are called to do so in accordance with the leadings of the Spirit (Doctrine and Covenants 17:9). Their pastoral judgment should be respected in situations where further interpretation may be required.
We intend to take very seriously the instruction of Doctrine and Covenants 158:11c that we "look especially to the sacraments to enrich the spiritual life of the body." We are called to seek a greater understanding of divine purpose in these sacred traditions and are assured that we will be blessed with a confirming assurance of God's Spirit in our worship and study. As we make these adjustments in our administration of the Lord's Supper, we are confident that our people will do so in good spirit and with a desire to demonstrate our essential unity through Christ Jesus.