Virtual Communion Is Not Communion

There are several reasons why the meal that was in Jesus’ presence which he constituted as the Lord’s Supper cannot be shared across the internet’s bandwidth. First, this Supper is a churchly meal. The Supper that we receive has to be “this meal” that has been blessed by the prayer of consecration and words of institution. Just as Jesus instituted it with formal words, the Lord’s Supper has to be consecrated with those words by an ordained minister. People may well eat bread and drink wine as they watch a video from their pastor, but that is not really the Lord’s Supper. Even homes where an ordained teaching elder is present lack a full contingent of elders to preside at the table, which is another requirement for the Lord’s Supper to be properly administered.

…[W]e should not try to normalize our present situation. The present pandemic is a really difficult time for churches. Certainly, we should be together under Word, sacrament, and prayer as the primary driver of our Christian life ordinarily. Those things are ordinary means of grace, but this is not an ordinary time. Yes, God will provide his people with necessary spiritual nourishment, but we should not try to force God’s ordinary means into God’s extraordinary providence. We need to endure through this time the best that we can in the ways that God will provide for us now. In one sense, Christians should feel as though they do not have everything that they want from church at the moment. Christians should feel a tension about this time when we cannot assemble because they should long to be together again in person to receive Word and sacrament. Rather, than feeling normal about our present circumstances by pretending that we can receive God’s ordinary means of grace over the internet, we should pray vigorously for God to end the present crisis.

Harrison Perkins,Virtual Communion?The Mod (June 3, 2020)


    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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One comment

  1. Perkins’ first paragraph points out some basic administration elements (no pun intended) that I think are scriptural, and certainly align with the confession and (should be the) practice of P&R churches. I can see many evangelicals thinking this is benign and somewhat Roman Catholic thinking: An ordained minister must bless, concentrate/pray, and speak the words of institution with the physical elements and physically gathered church present? The common view in evangelicalism (“pop Christianity” might be a better descriptor) flattens out the offices so that there’s really no distinction between clergy and laity: any Christian can baptize (mother baptizes her daughter in church-wide ceremony), any Christian can preach (Carson Wentz–Go Eagles!–preaches in his home church), any Christian can administer the Lord’s Supper in any place (Father at home with his family), you get the point.

    Perkins’s second paragraph hits home. I’ve been lamenting the loss of physically gathering with God’s people for Word, sacrament, and fellowship. But isn’t it better to lament the loss of a good thing instead of acting as if we can virtually duplicate all the church does when it gathers?

    Case in point may be those churches that have decided to try and partake of the Lord’s Supper virtually. While the desire is noble and I’m sure well intended, apart from it raising a host of ecclesiastical questions/issues, I think it undermines the loss church members are right to feel as we long to truly gather as a church body and partake in the bodily presence of one another. The loss of having to refrain from the Supper should be felt; the virtual attempt at it cannot capture all it’s meant to convey and do as we, as a gathered body in the physical presence of one another, proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.

    May God help us all think biblically as we seek to navigate life through the trials brought on, and to light by, this pandemic.

    PS: Dr. Clark, it’s getting to the point where I either need my own soapbox or blog (which no one would read), so thanks for letting me vent and interact here!

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