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