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Author Topic: Methodists (or Wesleyans) or Former Methodists: Communion?  (Read 2646 times) Average Rating: 0
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Shlomlokh
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« on: January 17, 2011, 03:08:21 PM »

I have never been able to pin down the Methodist view on communion. Having grown up Methodist, at every single church I ever attended--and I've been to many in my young life--communion was described as a symbolic memorial (or an "ordinance," if you will) of Christ's death on the cross, although in some churches it was considered a Sacrament while others would shun the word. The view even varied within the same church when different pastors would take over. It would be celebrated maybe once a month with white bread and grape juice and the bread would broken up afterwards and tossed to the birds while the youth would "take communion shots" downstairs after the service (something I abhorred).

On the internet, I have found some Methodists who will say that they believe it is the body and blood of Christ with some going as far to say that the believe exactly as the Orthodox do, but when pressed about it, they don't believe the same thing. I have read their document about communion a few years ago, but it was incredibly vague. In talking with my mother about it last night, she said that they always believed it was Christ's body and blood, but believe it should be given to everyone. Something never spoken about in any sermons I heard or in Sunday school, nor was it ever alluded to during their communion services.

I do know that John Wesley had a very high regard for communion, even admonishing his followers to take it as often as they could, but I have never seen this view in modern Methodism or Wesleyanism, except for a pastor in Texas who has a website for lay people to consecrate their own eucharist with a hot dog bun and grape juice.  Roll Eyes

What has been everyone else's experience?

In Christ,
Andrew
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« Reply #1 on: January 17, 2011, 04:16:37 PM »

Article 16—Of the Sacraments
Sacraments ordained of Christ are not only badges or tokens of Christian men's profession, but rather they are certain signs of grace, and God's good will toward us, by which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm, our faith in him.

There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel; that is to say, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord.

Those five commonly called sacraments, that is to say, confirmation, penance, orders, matrimony, and extreme unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel; being such as have partly grown out of the corrupt following of the apostles, and partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures, but yet have not the like nature of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, because they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about; but that we should duly use them. And in such only as worthily receive the same, they have a wholesome effect or operation; but they that receive them unworthily, purchase to themselves condemnation, as St. Paul saith.

Article 18—Of the Lord's Supper
The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather is a sacrament of our redemption by Christ's death; insomuch that, to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ; and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ.

Transubstantiation, or the change of the substance of bread and wine in the Supper of our Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

The body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten in the Supper, only after a heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith. The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshiped.

Article 19—Of Both Kinds
The cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the lay people; for both the parts of the Lord's Supper, by Christ's ordinance and commandment, ought to be administered to all Christians alike.

Article 20—Of the One Oblation of Christ, Finished upon the Cross
The offering of Christ, once made, is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifice of masses, in the which it is commonly said that the priest doth offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, is a blasphemous fable and dangerous deceit.

I attended a Methodist church for a few months before becoming Orthodox. I don't remember any clear teaching on Christ's presence being taught, but I do remember the attitude that anyone who believes in Jesus is welcome to receive it. I also do not remember ever hearing any kind of epiclesis when they celebrated communion.

I also found this to be an interesting point to make a dogmatic stand on.
Quote
Article 23—Of the Rulers of the United States of America
The President, the Congress, the general assemblies, the governors, and the councils of state, as the delegates of the people, are the rulers of the United States of America, according to the division of power made to them by the Constitution of the United States and by the constitutions of their respective states. And the said states are a sovereign and independent nation, and ought not to be subject to any foreign jurisdiction.

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« Reply #2 on: January 17, 2011, 04:25:21 PM »

I attended a few Wesleyan Holiness churches, that were part of the Church of God out of Anderson, IN, back when I first became a Christian (about 1997-2000), and they saw communion as merely symbolic. However, they did view it with a bit more solemnity than, say, the potluck after the service. So to with baptism: yes, they viewed it as merely symbolic, but it was still special somehow. On the other hand, there was a ton of anti-Catholic vibes at the main church I attended during that time (the pastor had even written a book on eschatology--wanna guess who the antichrist was?), so they were wary of becoming "too much like them Catholics down the street".
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« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2011, 05:04:24 PM »

I attended a few Wesleyan Holiness churches, that were part of the Church of God out of Anderson, IN, back when I first became a Christian (about 1997-2000), and they saw communion as merely symbolic. However, they did view it with a bit more solemnity than, say, the potluck after the service. So to with baptism: yes, they viewed it as merely symbolic, but it was still special somehow. On the other hand, there was a ton of anti-Catholic vibes at the main church I attended during that time (the pastor had even written a book on eschatology--wanna guess who the antichrist was?), so they were wary of becoming "too much like them Catholics down the street".

LOL. I experienced that, too.

In Christ,
Andrew
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« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2011, 06:05:58 PM »

Here is an excerpt from a position paper on communion from my former denomination:
Quote
“Christ is really present in the sacrament”
The statements above seems to say less than that the bread and cup actually are changed into the body and blood of Christ, and yet more than that they are simply symbols to help us remember his death for us.

That being said, the average member of a congregation may have a rather "high" view of communion, or more likely, "it's just a symbol" view. I think in any congregation you would find a wide range of understanding, much of it not historic Methodism. There is so much church-hopping amongst Evangelical churches that "denominational distinctives" tend to be a bit muddied.
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« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2011, 11:29:27 PM »

As with many aspects in the United Methodist Church, there is a lot of diversity. Back in the late 80s, a new hymnal came out, and shortly after, a Book of Worship. The Great Thanksgiving that is prescribed to be said is thuroughly trinitarian, which includes the following congregational responses: "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord, God of power and might; heaven and earth are full of your glory, Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest!" And, what we call the mystery of faith, "Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again."

For an epiclesis, the pastor says, "Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine. Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we might be for the world the Body of Christ, redeemed by His blood. By your Spirit, make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes back in final victory, and we feast at His heavenly banquet. Through Your Son Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in Your Holy Church, all honor and glory is yours, almighty Father, now and ever. Amen."

We then pray The Lord's Prayer. Then everyone who "earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another" come forward. When receiving the bread, the suggested words are, "The body of Christ, given for you." And when the cup, "The blood of Christ, given for you."

Our liturgy infers that we understand Communion to be a sacrament and that Christ is truly present in the consecrated bread and wine (usually grape juice, going back to our temperance days of the 19th century). We do not explain how Christ is present. We do not reserve the elements. For us, it remains a holy mystery. In fact, after communion has been distributed, the minister says this prayer: "We thank you for this holy mystery, in which you have given yourself for us. Send us forth, by the power of your Holy Spirit, that we might give ourselves for others. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.
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« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2011, 08:00:13 AM »

I grew up in Methodism and became a believer in 1962 or 1963, aged 15 or 16. I do not recall any teaching being given about the nature of communion, though regular communion services were held. I would be very surprised if there is not a range of views about the nature of the communion, ranging from the sacramental to the 'bare memorial', both among the people and among the ministers. What is important to bear in mind, I think, is that there have been different streams of Methodism, and they moved further from the original ethos of the movement in Wesley's own day. The Wesleyans, in various ways, were more 'high' than, say, the Primitives or the Bible Christians (mainly a West Country movement). Here in Britain most of the Methodist bodies had re-united by 1932, but different streams of spirituality and ethos continued, and to some extent still continue. The Wesleyans (I believe) would only allow an 'ordained minister' to lead the communion services; the Primitives allowed local preachers (so called 'laymen') to do so. Today, as far as I know from my infrequent contacts with Methodism, it has to be a minister, though I doubt many people know why. Certainly I am never invited to take a communion service in a Methodist church, though I preach maybe four or five times a year among them.

The 'bare memorial' view seems to have spread throughout most of Evangelicalism here in Britain, and from your posts also in the USA, but if you asked individuals in any congregation you might well get different views expressed. What you Orthodox may find odd, or hard to grasp, in thinking about us, is that it doesn't matter to us. Whenever I take communion in a church as one of the congregation, or lead the service as the preacher, I never expect all the people who take the 'elements' to hold the same view of 'how it works' or 'what its theological nature is'. But I am sure that they would all regard it at the very least as an act of obedience to our Lord's command, "Do this in remembrance of me."
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« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2011, 09:36:44 PM »

I found this on the UMC website:
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Do United Methodists believe that the bread and wine physically or chemically change into Christ’s flesh and blood in this sacrament?

No, we believe that the change is spiritual. They signify the body and blood of Christ for us, helping us to be Christ’s body in the world today, redeemed by Christ’s blood. We pray over the bread and the cup that they may make us one with Christ, “one with each other, and one in service to all the world.”
To me, this looks like a belief in only a symbolism being taught by the UMC. One wonders how others in the UMC could teach differently from their church and not switch their allegiance elsewhere?


In Christ,
Andrew
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« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2011, 11:17:56 PM »

Andrew, what you quoted was an attempt to answer the question of whether the UMC believes the bread and wine become either physically or chemically the body and blood of Christ. To say that Christ is present in a spiritual sense seems correct to me. I don't believe the Orthodox view is that the bread and wine become physically the body and blood. Does it not remain bread and wine, yet Christ is truly present, mystically incarnate, in the bread and wine?
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« Reply #9 on: January 19, 2011, 11:39:00 PM »

What you Orthodox may find odd, or hard to grasp, in thinking about us, is that it doesn't matter to us. Whenever I take communion in a church as one of the congregation, or lead the service as the preacher, I never expect all the people who take the 'elements' to hold the same view of 'how it works' or 'what its theological nature is'. But I am sure that they would all regard it at the very least as an act of obedience to our Lord's command, "Do this in remembrance of me."

The reaction of the crowd in John chapter 6 certainly mattered to the Lord.
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« Reply #10 on: January 19, 2011, 11:54:48 PM »

Andrew, what you quoted was an attempt to answer the question of whether the UMC believes the bread and wine become either physically or chemically the body and blood of Christ. To say that Christ is present in a spiritual sense seems correct to me. I don't believe the Orthodox view is that the bread and wine become physically the body and blood. Does it not remain bread and wine, yet Christ is truly present, mystically incarnate, in the bread and wine?

Well, if we didn't, then the early Christians (read: Orthodox) would not have been persecuted so fiercely for being cannibals. Wink We do believe that in some mystery beyond any human's ability to understand that it truly is His Body and Blood by the power of the Holy Spirit. Consider the prayer of St. John Chrysostom said before the reception of the Holy Mysteries:
Quote
Priest: I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief. And I believe that this is Thy pure Body and Thy own Precious Blood. Therefore, I pray Thee, have mercy on me and forgive my transgressions, voluntary and involuntary, in word and deed, known and unknown. And grant that I may partake of Thy Holy Mysteries without condemnation, for the remission of my sins and for the life eternal. Amen.

Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of the Mystery to Thy enemies; I will not give Thee a kiss like Judas; but like the thief do I confess Thee. Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom.

May the communion of Thy Holy Mysteries be to me not for judgment or condemnation, O Lord, but for healing of soul and body.

In Christ,
Andrew
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« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2011, 12:00:22 AM »

Andrew, what you quoted was an attempt to answer the question of whether the UMC believes the bread and wine become either physically or chemically the body and blood of Christ. To say that Christ is present in a spiritual sense seems correct to me. I don't believe the Orthodox view is that the bread and wine become physically the body and blood. Does it not remain bread and wine, yet Christ is truly present, mystically incarnate, in the bread and wine?

We ask that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, and that the change is made by the Holy Spirit. Receiving the Bread and Wine are not tangible symbols representing our being united to Christ in a spiritual manner. They are the Body and Blood of Christ fully present, not in the Bread and Wine, but as the Bread and Wine, and we become more perfectly united, both physically and spiritually, to Him by receiving all that He is as He is fully present.


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« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2011, 12:27:52 AM »

Andrew, what you quoted was an attempt to answer the question of whether the UMC believes the bread and wine become either physically or chemically the body and blood of Christ. To say that Christ is present in a spiritual sense seems correct to me. I don't believe the Orthodox view is that the bread and wine become physically the body and blood. Does it not remain bread and wine, yet Christ is truly present, mystically incarnate, in the bread and wine?

How could physical elements such as Flesh and Blood be truly present if not in a physical manner?
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« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2011, 11:31:11 AM »

Andrew, what you quoted was an attempt to answer the question of whether the UMC believes the bread and wine become either physically or chemically the body and blood of Christ. To say that Christ is present in a spiritual sense seems correct to me. I don't believe the Orthodox view is that the bread and wine become physically the body and blood. Does it not remain bread and wine, yet Christ is truly present, mystically incarnate, in the bread and wine?

How could physical elements such as Flesh and Blood be truly present if not in a physical manner?
But how can it be physically flesh and blood if it still looks like bread and wine? The only way I know to answer my own question is to say, "It is a divine mystery" and leave it at that. I resist explaining what is happening. All that can be affirmed is that Christ is truly present. We take Christ into us when we receive the Eucharist. We participate in this by faith, without needing to tap into Plato and come up with some metaphysical explanation of what is happening and when. I believe what I said above would be consistent with classical Wesleyan thought.
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« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2011, 12:18:12 PM »

Andrew, what you quoted was an attempt to answer the question of whether the UMC believes the bread and wine become either physically or chemically the body and blood of Christ. To say that Christ is present in a spiritual sense seems correct to me. I don't believe the Orthodox view is that the bread and wine become physically the body and blood. Does it not remain bread and wine, yet Christ is truly present, mystically incarnate, in the bread and wine?

How could physical elements such as Flesh and Blood be truly present if not in a physical manner?
But how can it be physically flesh and blood if it still looks like bread and wine? The only way I know to answer my own question is to say, "It is a divine mystery" and leave it at that. I resist explaining what is happening. All that can be affirmed is that Christ is truly present. We take Christ into us when we receive the Eucharist. We participate in this by faith, without needing to tap into Plato and come up with some metaphysical explanation of what is happening and when. I believe what I said above would be consistent with classical Wesleyan thought.
As we approached Christmas recently this past year, much of this fell into place for me as I meditated on the troparion for the pre-feast:
"Make ready, O Bethlehem; for Eden hath been opened for all. Prepare, O Ephratha; for the Tree of Life hath blossomed forth in the cave from the Virgin. For her womb did appear as a supernatural paradise, in which is planted the Divine Plant, whereof eating we shall live and not die as Adam. Verily, Christ shall be born, raising the image that fell of old." (Prefeast of the Nativity, Troparion, December 23)
As Adam and Eve physically ate of the tree in the garden, so we too must physically eat of the Tree of Life, which is Christ.

Kevin, I would guess that what you mean when you say that "Christ is truly present", you mean that in a spiritual sense. We Orthodox include a physical sense as well.

Yes, it is bread and wine. Yes, it is the body and blood of Christ. What's to explain?
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« Reply #15 on: January 20, 2011, 01:21:26 PM »

One wonders how others ... could teach differently from their church and not switch their allegiance elsewhere?

In Christ,
Andrew

There is no need for you to puzzle over this. The nature of the Eucharist is, as I wrote earlier, not a central doctrine among us, and not one over which we would break fellowship with each other.

Let me (as I have done before) express my own view on the matter of differences of eucharistic doctrine and of maintaining fellowship despite them: whatever blessing it is that God gives, God gives it both to those who understand it aright and to those who do not understand it, if they take the Supper in repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The reception of the true blessing depends on, or flows through, our faith in Christ himself, not our mental grasp of the inner workings and nature of the sacrament/ordinance.
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« Reply #16 on: January 20, 2011, 01:28:54 PM »

One wonders how others ... could teach differently from their church and not switch their allegiance elsewhere?

In Christ,
Andrew

There is no need for you to puzzle over this. The nature of the Eucharist is, as I wrote earlier, not a central doctrine among us, and not one over which we would break fellowship with each other.

Let me (as I have done before) express my own view on the matter of differences of eucharistic doctrine and of maintaining fellowship despite them: whatever blessing it is that God gives, God gives it both to those who understand it aright and to those who do not understand it, if they take the Supper in repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The reception of the true blessing depends on, or flows through, our faith in Christ himself, not our mental grasp of the inner workings and nature of the sacrament/ordinance.
And what if some one doesn't agree with the view you have propsed here? What if they believe exactly the opposite of what you are saying?
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« Reply #17 on: January 20, 2011, 02:41:18 PM »

what if some one doesn't agree with the view you have propsed here? What if they believe exactly the opposite of what you are saying?

It is a fact of life that different people regard different doctrines or practices as non-negotiable: for one it is predestination, for another female preachers; for one it will be the doctrine of the Eucharist, for another the place of the sabbath; and so on. Presumably, if someone doesn't agree with the view you have propsed here... if they believe exactly the opposite of what you are saying, then that person's conscience would lead him to break fellowship with me, or with the church I worship at and go elsewhere. All I am saying is that among such people as Methodists and Baptists, the nature of the Eucharist is not commonly such a principle. We may be right or wrong in this: I am only stating what I believe to be the situation, neither applauding nor condemning it. (Obviously, in fact I do approve of maintaining fellowship, else I would myself look for a church where all agreed on this point; but that was not the purpose of my posts.)
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« Reply #18 on: January 20, 2011, 04:35:11 PM »

Andrew, what you quoted was an attempt to answer the question of whether the UMC believes the bread and wine become either physically or chemically the body and blood of Christ. To say that Christ is present in a spiritual sense seems correct to me. I don't believe the Orthodox view is that the bread and wine become physically the body and blood. Does it not remain bread and wine, yet Christ is truly present, mystically incarnate, in the bread and wine?

How could physical elements such as Flesh and Blood be truly present if not in a physical manner?
But how can it be physically flesh and blood if it still looks like bread and wine? The only way I know to answer my own question is to say, "It is a divine mystery" and leave it at that. I resist explaining what is happening. All that can be affirmed is that Christ is truly present. We take Christ into us when we receive the Eucharist. We participate in this by faith, without needing to tap into Plato and come up with some metaphysical explanation of what is happening and when. I believe what I said above would be consistent with classical Wesleyan thought.
As we approached Christmas recently this past year, much of this fell into place for me as I meditated on the troparion for the pre-feast:
"Make ready, O Bethlehem; for Eden hath been opened for all. Prepare, O Ephratha; for the Tree of Life hath blossomed forth in the cave from the Virgin. For her womb did appear as a supernatural paradise, in which is planted the Divine Plant, whereof eating we shall live and not die as Adam. Verily, Christ shall be born, raising the image that fell of old." (Prefeast of the Nativity, Troparion, December 23)
As Adam and Eve physically ate of the tree in the garden, so we too must physically eat of the Tree of Life, which is Christ.

Kevin, I would guess that what you mean when you say that "Christ is truly present", you mean that in a spiritual sense. We Orthodox include a physical sense as well.

Yes, it is bread and wine. Yes, it is the body and blood of Christ. What's to explain?
Not spiritual in a symbolic sense. Is not the Eucharist the incarnation of Jesus Christ who is the Bread of Life who comes down from heaven? I affirm that Christ is physically present. Does the bread and wine change physically? No. Could you not say that the Eucharist is, if you will, fully divine and fully material?

The Eucharist is a mystery. It cannot be explained, only received by faith. And we don't have to understand it to receive it. That's why infants are baptized. Their capacity  to understand what is going on at their baptism is completely irrelevant.
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« Reply #19 on: January 20, 2011, 05:01:24 PM »

But how can it be physically flesh and blood if it still looks like bread and wine?

Hidden "in, with, and under" the forms of bread and wine.

Certainly the mystery has to stop us at some point. But I don't think it's at the point you are imagining. And I think if we were to affirm that Christ is not physically present that would be heresy. So we don't stop simply at "Christ is truly present and we don't know anything more", but rather "the physical elements of Christ's Body and Blood are present, but we don't know exactly how they can be without their natural characteristics being apparent".
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« Reply #20 on: January 20, 2011, 05:08:04 PM »

Does the bread and wine change physically?

That is a mystery. What we do know is that the Flesh and Blood of Christ become physically present and that the apparent characteristics of the elements remain that of bread and wine.
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« Reply #21 on: January 20, 2011, 09:38:42 PM »

But how can it be physically flesh and blood if it still looks like bread and wine?

Hidden "in, with, and under" the forms of bread and wine.

Certainly the mystery has to stop us at some point. But I don't think it's at the point you are imagining. And I think if we were to affirm that Christ is not physically present that would be heresy. So we don't stop simply at "Christ is truly present and we don't know anything more", but rather "the physical elements of Christ's Body and Blood are present, but we don't know exactly how they can be without their natural characteristics being apparent".
If this is the teaching of the Church, I accept it.
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« Reply #22 on: January 20, 2011, 09:45:08 PM »

Not spiritual in a symbolic sense. Is not the Eucharist the incarnation of Jesus Christ who is the Bread of Life who comes down from heaven? I affirm that Christ is physically present. Does the bread and wine change physically? No. Could you not say that the Eucharist is, if you will, fully divine and fully material?

The Eucharist is a mystery. It cannot be explained, only received by faith. And we don't have to understand it to receive it. That's why infants are baptized. Their capacity  to understand what is going on at their baptism is completely irrelevant.
I'm not sure that "incarnation" is the right word in this context. I would appreciate someone else supplying a better word.

Yes, the Holy Mysteries (the elements) are fully divine and fully material. This, as you seem to suggest, is what the sacramental life is all about.

Yet I read on the UMC website:
Quote
Do United Methodists believe that the bread and wine physically or chemically change into Christ’s flesh and blood in this sacrament?

No, we believe that the change is spiritual. They signify the body and blood of Christ for us, helping us to be Christ’s body in the world today, redeemed by Christ’s blood. We pray over the bread and the cup that they may make us one with Christ, “one with each other, and one in service to all the world.”
(Sorry I don't have the exact words used in your communion ritual.)

Compare that with
Quote
Again we offer unto Thee this reasonable and unbloody service and beseech Thee and pray Thee and supplicate Thee: Send down Thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these Gifts here spread forth, and make this bread the precious Body of Thy Christ, and that which is in this cup, the precious Blood of Thy Christ, changing them by Thy Holy Spirit.

It would appear, Kevin, that your personal stand is closer to the Orthodox position than is the UMC.
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« Reply #23 on: January 20, 2011, 09:51:51 PM »

I'm not sure that "incarnation" is the right word in this context. I would appreciate someone else supplying a better word.

No, it's not. Incarnation means becoming fleshly. The Logos already became fleshly 2,000 years ago in the womb of the Virgin Mary. The Eucharist makes the Incarnation present in a special way in the bread and wine, but it is not itself an incarnation.
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« Reply #24 on: January 21, 2011, 02:52:56 PM »

I'm not sure that "incarnation" is the right word in this context. I would appreciate someone else supplying a better word.

No, it's not. Incarnation means becoming fleshly. The Logos already became fleshly 2,000 years ago in the womb of the Virgin Mary. The Eucharist makes the Incarnation present in a special way in the bread and wine, but it is not itself an incarnation.
Yes, incarnation was a bad word choice. Do you have a suggestion of something I can read that attempts to explain with some depth exactly what the mind of the Church is on what is happening at the Eucharist?
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« Reply #25 on: January 21, 2011, 03:00:25 PM »

Not spiritual in a symbolic sense. Is not the Eucharist the incarnation of Jesus Christ who is the Bread of Life who comes down from heaven? I affirm that Christ is physically present. Does the bread and wine change physically? No. Could you not say that the Eucharist is, if you will, fully divine and fully material?

The Eucharist is a mystery. It cannot be explained, only received by faith. And we don't have to understand it to receive it. That's why infants are baptized. Their capacity  to understand what is going on at their baptism is completely irrelevant.
I'm not sure that "incarnation" is the right word in this context. I would appreciate someone else supplying a better word.

Yes, the Holy Mysteries (the elements) are fully divine and fully material. This, as you seem to suggest, is what the sacramental life is all about.

Yet I read on the UMC website:
Quote
Do United Methodists believe that the bread and wine physically or chemically change into Christ’s flesh and blood in this sacrament?

No, we believe that the change is spiritual. They signify the body and blood of Christ for us, helping us to be Christ’s body in the world today, redeemed by Christ’s blood. We pray over the bread and the cup that they may make us one with Christ, “one with each other, and one in service to all the world.”
(Sorry I don't have the exact words used in your communion ritual.)

Compare that with
Quote
Again we offer unto Thee this reasonable and unbloody service and beseech Thee and pray Thee and supplicate Thee: Send down Thy Holy Spirit upon us and upon these Gifts here spread forth, and make this bread the precious Body of Thy Christ, and that which is in this cup, the precious Blood of Thy Christ, changing them by Thy Holy Spirit.

It would appear, Kevin, that your personal stand is closer to the Orthodox position than is the UMC.
That would be my desire.
I should note that when the minister prays over the bread and wine, he says "Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine. Make them be for us the body and blood of Christ, that we may be for the world the body of Christ, redeemed by his blood." I do not see in this anything that would suggest a symbolic understanding. Is there anything in this prayer that is clearly at odds with the liturgy of St. Chrysostom?
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« Reply #26 on: January 21, 2011, 03:31:41 PM »

The biggest difference I can see is the phrase "make them be for us".

This could be taken in a Calvinist context where the bread and wine are a sign pointing Christ's presence, which is received when the bread and wine are received, but that the bread and wine do not become the Body and Blood of our Lord, but are signs joined to a spiritual reality.

This would be consistent with traditional Methodist teaching as I understand it.

We ask that they become changed into the Body and Blood of our Lord.
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« Reply #27 on: January 21, 2011, 03:43:39 PM »


It would appear, Kevin, that your personal stand is closer to the Orthodox position [And perhaps John Wesley's] than is the UMC.
Bold bracket added.  By the way, I purchased the Outler book on JW you recommended, Kevin.

This could be taken in a Calvinist context where the bread and wine are a sign pointing Christ's presence, which is received when the bread and wine are received, but that the bread and wine do not become the Body and Blood of our Lord, but are signs joined to a spiritual reality.

Agreed, but why would we interpret the Methodist service in a Calvinist context?
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« Reply #28 on: January 21, 2011, 04:08:00 PM »


It would appear, Kevin, that your personal stand is closer to the Orthodox position [And perhaps John Wesley's] than is the UMC.
Bold bracket added.  By the way, I purchased the Outler book on JW you recommended, Kevin.

This could be taken in a Calvinist context where the bread and wine are a sign pointing Christ's presence, which is received when the bread and wine are received, but that the bread and wine do not become the Body and Blood of our Lord, but are signs joined to a spiritual reality.

Agreed, but why would we interpret the Methodist service in a Calvinist context?

The only things that I have seen, from the Articles of Religion to how it is explained on Methodist web sites, denies that the bread and wine actually become the Body and Blood of Christ but still convey Christ's presence to the recipient. This seems very similar to what Calvin taught.
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« Reply #29 on: January 21, 2011, 04:08:26 PM »

The biggest difference I can see is the phrase "make them be for us".

This could be taken in a Calvinist context where the bread and wine are a sign pointing Christ's presence, which is received when the bread and wine are received, but that the bread and wine do not become the Body and Blood of our Lord, but are signs joined to a spiritual reality.

This would be consistent with traditional Methodist teaching as I understand it.

We ask that they become changed into the Body and Blood of our Lord.
I noticed exactly the same phrase. I can't speak about a Calvinist context, but it seems to me that "for us" can be understood as a purely subjective perception.

As Orthodox, we believe that the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ. I know that what I am about to say is not Kevin's belief, nor that of the UMC, but the "for us" phrase in this context strikes me as somewhat akin to "Yes, Jesus is alive - alive in your heart. (So let's not quibble about whether he really came back from the dead after his crucifixion.)" Do you see what I'm getting at? That there is some ambiguity here?

Are we talking about something that is true for me/for us? Or about something that is simply true?

Kevin, I just pulled from my shelves John Wesley on the Sacraments by Ole E. Borgen. Are you familiar with this book? I've had the book since my pre-Orthodox days. It appears to be a scholarly reference book rather than a casual read. I don't remember reading it before, though my copy does bear signs of some use (I probably read random excerpts). I'm wondering if I should give this another look. What say you?
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« Reply #30 on: January 21, 2011, 09:53:47 PM »

The biggest difference I can see is the phrase "make them be for us".

This could be taken in a Calvinist context where the bread and wine are a sign pointing Christ's presence, which is received when the bread and wine are received, but that the bread and wine do not become the Body and Blood of our Lord, but are signs joined to a spiritual reality.

This would be consistent with traditional Methodist teaching as I understand it.

We ask that they become changed into the Body and Blood of our Lord.
I noticed exactly the same phrase. I can't speak about a Calvinist context, but it seems to me that "for us" can be understood as a purely subjective perception.

As Orthodox, we believe that the bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ. I know that what I am about to say is not Kevin's belief, nor that of the UMC, but the "for us" phrase in this context strikes me as somewhat akin to "Yes, Jesus is alive - alive in your heart. (So let's not quibble about whether he really came back from the dead after his crucifixion.)" Do you see what I'm getting at? That there is some ambiguity here?

Are we talking about something that is true for me/for us? Or about something that is simply true?

Kevin, I just pulled from my shelves John Wesley on the Sacraments by Ole E. Borgen. Are you familiar with this book? I've had the book since my pre-Orthodox days. It appears to be a scholarly reference book rather than a casual read. I don't remember reading it before, though my copy does bear signs of some use (I probably read random excerpts). I'm wondering if I should give this another look. What say you?
I haven't heard of that book or author, so, no idea. I think the point is well taken that the "be for us" allows for the interpretation of some spiritual or symbolic reality, with the physical not included. It is fair to say that for Methodists to say Christ is present, that  it would not include a physical sense which the Orthodox hold. I, however, am desiring to consent to the Orthodox view in all things. It should go without saying that, since I am an ordained elder, the Orthodox view on apostolic succession poses quite a dilemma for me.
I can say without reservation that the United Methodists reject the idea of transubstantiation. We also consider Eucharist as a sacrament, and not a memorial. We understand Eucharist to be a means of grace in which God reveals Himself to us. As far as John Wesley, I assume he held to the teaching of the Anglican church of his time.
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« Reply #31 on: January 21, 2011, 09:54:35 PM »


It would appear, Kevin, that your personal stand is closer to the Orthodox position [And perhaps John Wesley's] than is the UMC.
Bold bracket added.  By the way, I purchased the Outler book on JW you recommended, Kevin.

This could be taken in a Calvinist context where the bread and wine are a sign pointing Christ's presence, which is received when the bread and wine are received, but that the bread and wine do not become the Body and Blood of our Lord, but are signs joined to a spiritual reality.

Agreed, but why would we interpret the Methodist service in a Calvinist context?
I hope the book is helpful to you.
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« Reply #32 on: January 22, 2011, 01:25:24 PM »

I, however, am desiring to consent to the Orthodox view in all things. It should go without saying that, since I am an ordained elder, the Orthodox view on apostolic succession poses quite a dilemma for me.
You will be in my prayers. My own priest was a minister in the United Church of Canada. He was able to hang on there until his retirement a few years ago, so undoubtedly he would identify with your situation. (Now, of course, we are glad to have a priest who is paid by the UCC  Wink)
Quote
I can say without reservation that the United Methodists reject the idea of transubstantiation.
While I am unqualified to give an adequate explanation, it is my understanding that "transubstantiation" means one thing to Roman Catholics and something similar but at its core different to the Orthodox. The bread and wine are bread and wine; and are the body and blood of Christ; we accept a both/and situation as we do about a lot of things.
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« Reply #33 on: January 22, 2011, 05:27:05 PM »

An interesting thread. I am taking the communion service at a Congregational church next Sunday. The thread has prompted me to devote the sermon to the blessing God gives through the Eucharist - an unusual topic, perhaps, for a sermon in my circles. Thank y'all for the prompt!

Probably prompted largely by this Forum, I have in fact preached several sermons on this theme (at communion services in Baptist churches) and even written a small book on the matter. You don't know what you're setting in motion!

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« Reply #34 on: July 07, 2011, 09:45:17 AM »

Perhaps this resource http://gatewayumc.org/pdf/hcfinal2.pdf may help to answer your questions concerning the United Methodist Church's view on Communion.

It is entitled "This Holy Mystery: A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion," and was produced by the General Board of Discipleship.
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« Reply #35 on: July 07, 2011, 12:49:15 PM »

years back when i used to go to a Methodist church in the south of England, we was given communion once a month, a wafer of bread same as catholic, and a wine that tasted like sherry in a shots glass, the Minister who was a friend of mine would give this to anyone that wanted to partake, he also said it was a symbol of Christ, not Christ himself.

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« Reply #36 on: July 07, 2011, 02:08:05 PM »

the Minister ...would give this to anyone that wanted to partake

I believe historically, and perhaps to this day, Methodists have an inclusive approach to such matters, in that:

1. they believe the Communion is, or can be, a converting ordinance and is thus suitable to seekers, not only to those who are already sure of their faith; and

2. they leave it to the participant's own conscience whether it is right or not for him to partake, rather than trying to assess it themselves.

I am not saying they are either right or wrong; just trying to explain what may be their motive.
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« Reply #37 on: July 07, 2011, 02:30:17 PM »


I believe historically, and perhaps to this day, Methodists have an inclusive approach to such matters, in that:

1. they believe the Communion is, or can be, a converting ordinance and is thus suitable to seekers, not only to those who are already sure of their faith; and

2. they leave it to the participant's own conscience whether it is right or not for him to partake, rather than trying to assess it themselves.

I am not saying they are either right or wrong; just trying to explain what may be their motive.

I think that this is a correct characterization.  I can remember much emphasis being placed, at least in teaching circles within the United Methodist Church and at Annual Conferences, upon Holy Communion as a "means of grace," which would equate it (in some sense) with preaching, Scriptural study, prayer, etc.  From this understanding spring the beliefs/practices which you have observed.  As the United Methodist communion liturgy begins:  "Christ our Lord invites to His table all who love Him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another."

I think that is the basis for what is called "open communion" - the belief that it is a matter between the individual and God as to whether he or she should partake.  So it is that even the unbaptized may commune in a Methodist Church, as far as I know.  This understanding of open communion is broad even within a study of historic Protestantism, though.  I know from my historical and genealogical studies that as late as the 19th century, many Protestant churches held "preparatory services" on the eve of Holy Communion days which seem to (at least superficially and conceptually) resemble our Orthodox Vespers services, and one needed to attend these services if one intended to commune the following day.  Some of them even issued "tickets" or "tokens" from the church elders following an examination which entitled one to be admitted to Communion.  This was the practice in Presbyterian and German Reformed Churches, at least.  Where did all this rigor and reverence for the Sacrament go?  I think that an age of ease, convenience, and a misguided sense of incluiveness led it to be discarded. 

The more that I studied about the history of the church, however, the more I was uncomfortable with this understanding of Holy Communion as an individual act between the individual and God.  At one level it is, but simultaneously it is so much more than this.  It seemed much more in accord with church tradition for Holy Communion to be the scene of the Church united across all times and places.  In addition to the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, this connection between the Body of Christ which was offered for us, and the role of the Church as one body who partakes cannot be excluded from the concept of Holy Communion.  The concept of "open communion," by removing any standard for partaking except one's own personal judgment, removes the role of the Church except as consecrator of the elements, incerasingly distances itself from the unity of the faith which the act is supposed to show.

By the way, David, I've come to greatly admire your posts on this forum, which I've been reading the past few weeks.  Very, very thoughtful discussions.  I don't know where you're located exactly, but through your posts I am reminded of some of my father's ancestors who were members of a small Baptist Church in the vicinity of Gorsley, Herefordshire, in the early 19th century.
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« Reply #38 on: July 07, 2011, 03:28:20 PM »

even the unbaptized may commune in a Methodist Church,

I think you are correct here. One must look back to the 18th century for the origin of the practice among Methodists. Then, more or less everyone who came to Methodist meetings would have been 'christened' as an infant, and for those not sure of their present faith or standing with God it was more a matter of their seeking personal assurance of forgiveness of sins and acceptance with God. Those who were anxious about their state of grace, and had not yet found Christ, were encouraged to 'communicate' often as part of their search.

Quote
Where did all this rigor and reverence for the Sacrament go?  I think that an age of ease, convenience, and a misguided sense of inclusiveness led it to be discarded.

You have answered your own question.

Quote
The more that I studied about the history of the church, however, the more I was uncomfortable with this understanding of Holy Communion as an individual act between the individual and God.  ...it is so much more ... the scene of the Church united across all times and places... of the Church as one body

Amen!

Quote
The concept of "open communion," by removing any standard for partaking except one's own personal judgment, removes the role of the Church

Yes. But then, the scripture does say "Let a man examine himself and so partake." I agree with you that it should be the baptised who partake, but it should be the baptised who are truly wanting to walk with God. "Let a man examine himself." I would be very hesitant to refuse communion to someone. What if he had been living a life of deep sin for years, had come to anxious, serious conviction the night before (presumably Saturday), and came to the Lord's Table as part of his repentance and restoration? What of my own grandfather in about 1898 who was walking home rolling drunk from the pub, from a life not only of drunkenness but also of theft, despite his godly father and his upbringing, had (I was told) some vision of the Devil on his way, and went home frightened out of his wits and deeply convinced of his need to find Christ? Someone was called to pray with him and counsel him, and he became a steadfast and respected Methodist local preacher. If he had gone up to the Lord's Table the morning after his experience (actually, English Methodists have a rail at which people kneel at the front), probably no-one would have known of his profound exercise of soul the night before. What if he had been turned away? There is much to be said for "let a man examine himself". It is, I think, a dilemma, and personally I prefer to give the sinner the benefit of the doubt. If he does come in hypocrisy, he will answer to God - but maybe that is better than the minister (priest, in your Church) putting a stumblingblock before a penitent.

Quote
I don't know where you're located exactly,...my father's ancestors who were members of a small Baptist Church in the vicinity of Gorsley, Herefordshire,

Currently Wrexham in north-east Wales, but I was born and grew up in the South of England. Herefordshire is the next county to Monmonthshire, where my forebears lived ca. 1850-1925 - perhaps a cultural as well as religious similarity therefore, though a little later than your family.
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« Reply #39 on: July 07, 2011, 04:11:19 PM »

Hidden "in, with, and under" the forms of bread and wine.
This is the Lutheran heresy known as "sacramental union."
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