December 02, 2002 Q & A

Anglican Family Wishing to Take Communion in an OPC


I am a baptized Anglican. Would my family and I be able to take communion at an OPC church?


First, I suppose that you mean: Can a full (confirmed) member of the Church of England take communion? The answer is yes, with certain assumptions, which you didn't make clear in your question. As an Anglican, you must be a full member of Christ's church in good standing. You mention the word family. I presume you are asking for your wife and children as well. They also must be full members in good standing. In other words, each communicant must have individual communicant standing in a church which confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

A second condition is that the particular congregation allows visiting believers to take the bread and wine of the communion. In a Presbyterian church, the table of the Lord must be "hedged." That is, non-member guests may be allowed only after conferring with the Session (board of elders) or the pastor speaking for his elders. This is the stricter way of hedging the Table.

But most OPCs hedge it by verbal warning such as, "Visitors among us, if they are members in good standing of churches that confess Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord according to the inspired Scriptures, and if they have examined themselves, are invited to partake with us." This places the responsibility of partaking on the communicants, for blessing or for judgment. If you are considering taking the sacrament in an OPC, as a one-time visitor or as one who contemplates sojourning among us for an extended period, contact the pastor beforehand. But I want to add something more by way of explanation.

Turn in the Bible to 1 Corinthians 11:16-24. It gives the context of the Apostle's instruction—the abuse of the Lord's Supper in Corinth. I doubt if this abuse prevails today in serious Christian churches. But the basic relevant instruction is found in verses 23-32. Verses 23 through 26 summarize the meaning of the sacrament. In Presbyterian doctrine (found in the Westminster Confession of Faith) we reject all notions that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ. But we hold that those who partake faithfully (with full acknowledgment of sin and having sought forgiveness through the shed blood of the Savior) may and should take the bread and wine for spiritual blessing. Christ, by the Holy Spirit, is spiritually (not carnally) present in the elements. But verses 27-32 warn against partaking unworthily.

There are three ways to partake unworthily:

(1) By being an unbeliever—a non-Christian.

(2) By being a believer who is living unrepentant in what he knows as sin. Here he's not speaking of sins of weakness, frailty, and impatience in human relations, to which we are all subject, and are constantly repenting of. He refers to deliberate sins in which we continue willfully, or to sins between brothers and sisters in Christ that have not been dealt with (Ps. 19:13 and Matt. 5:21-24). The form used in the OPC covers all these points.

(3) By not discerning the relationship between the elements and the Lord's body (and blood, too). This applies first to children. Those of very young age aren't generally able to use adult discernment. They naturally concentrate on the material. If an adult were to request more "punch" (wine), or another piece of bread, that would exhibit extreme ignorance, even blasphemy! But not children, since they are incapable of adult thinking. We don't have a precise age for communing, but well into adolescence verging on adulthood is the general practice. It is the age of ability to take responsibility for one's own behavior, which varies greatly from person to person. That is why, before taking the sacrament, self-examination is called for (verse 28 and 2 Cor. 13:5).

But why be so cautious? Because of what the Apostle writes in verses 28 and 30. God's judgment is severe on those who deal with his holy things in a careless and off-hand manner. Verse 30 mentions that some were afflicted with serious illness, others fatally. We don't read of those afflictions today, but the Word of God speaks of the last Judgment, which is horrible in contemplation. "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows ... this he will also reap" (Gal. 6:7).

You might have one more question: Why be a member of a church at all? Must one join a church to be saved? Not necessarily. But God's Word teaches that with privilege comes responsibility. Theoretically, all Christians are under the discipline of the church. And what is the highest degree of discipline? Excommunication! The church declares the excommunicated one not to be a Christian. This seldom happens, and many churches, sadly, do not practice discipline. But, at least, we share the Lord's Table with those who, even though they are not under our own jurisdiction, have assumed a position of responsibility.

It is my practice to do more than answer questions with yes or no. And I may have attempted to teach you what you already know. But my motive is not to make it harder for one to partake of that ordinance which the Word of God declares as most sacred. We extend the sacrament to other Christians because it is the Lord's supper, not the exclusive possession of the OPC. Please return with other questions if I can be of spiritual profit to you.



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