When the Lord’s Supper Divides the Church

The Lord’s Supper is a sign and seal of our mystical union with Jesus Christ. It is also a means by which Jesus unites the different members of his church into one body. Our “coming together” (1 Cor. 11:17) at the Table of the Lord isn’t just a moment on our calendar—the Supper constitutes the church as the body of Christ.

So, what happens when the Supper divides the church rather than unites the church? I’m not focusing on how the heirs of the Reformation have not been able to bridge the differences that first appeared at the Colloquy of Marburg when Luther and Zwingli tangled. I’m focusing on how differences on the Supper sometimes divide the local church at the very point we should find the most intimate unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ every Lord’s Day.

In this essay, I’m reflecting on and lamenting a painful experience in the life of my church to illustrate this point. The real people who were involved are good and honorable, and I remain friendly with many of them. My intention in telling the story isn’t to call them into question or rehash the decisions our elders made. It is simply to lament the divisions in the church—locally and globally—and to help other churches and pastors who may be facing similar difficulties.

The Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) congregation in which I serve as a pastor regularly solicits elder and deacon nominations from our members. The nominees are trained and examined by the current elders to ascertain their fitness for ministry. Those who are found qualified are put forward to the church for a vote. Over the years, our elders have occasionally disqualified men for a variety of reasons: an insufficient grasp of theology, biblical or doctrinal issues, personal issues, or otherwise. Recently, we disqualified two men because of their commitment to paedocommunion.

Adherents of paedocommunion reject the traditional practice of admitting children of believers to the Table only after making a profession of faith to the elders. Some churches set a minimum age for such an interview, while others require children to attend a communicants’ class or participate in a confirmation class. Although my church admits young children to the table, our elders interview every child and evaluate their age-appropriate profession of faith before admitting them to the Supper.

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Eric Landry | “One Bread, One Body? A Pastoral Reflection on Divisions in the Local Church” | May 1st, 2023


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3 comments

  1. Speaking as a PCA father who invertedly led his family into the Mirkwood of Federal Vision and the alluring promises of “Covenant Communion” only to be snatched from the depths of its grip just before picking up and moving to a certain enclave of its most loyal proponents, I hardily endorse not admitting PC leaning men to office. In fact, Sessions would spare themselves much pain by weeding out and, if necessary, bringing formal disciplinary process against men who hold to any semblance of the FV/Covenant Moralism tendencies early on. Allowing it to fester in your congregation runs the risk of relationships being established between, and even proselytizing of, other members.

  2. As though the issue of paedocommunion isn’t divisive enough, I once belonged to a confessional Lutheran congregation where arguments erupted over the use of the common cup (Lutherans walk to the front, kneel at the chancel, and are served the elements by either a pastor or assisting elder). Some in the congregation wanted to eliminate the common cup for hygienic reasons and use only individual cups or “thimbles.” Those against the elimination threatened to leave and join another congregation where the use of a common cup was still intact.

  3. I was in a PCA church in Texas in the early ‘aughts and discussions of PC were all the rage. Wilson, Schlissel, Leithart, Wilkins, and their ilk were hitting the bookstores with new books claiming to be Reformed and a number of men, including a few elders and deacons, were sucked into the whirlpool. As noted by William Duncan, PC was one of the ways they sought to lure people, especially large families, into their lair. One of the papers I wrote for Presbytery was on the subject of PC and its biblical and confessional rightness/wrongness in the church.

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