Thoughts on “open table” Communion in the Episcopal Church

No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church. (Canon 17.7)

One of my spiritual languages is that of ritual. Through a symbolic and metaphorical representation of Divine realities, such as is available through participation in the Eucharist, I am often able to feel God’s presence strongly, and usually more so than is the case in most other contexts.

It occurred to me today that if the Episcopal priests I have known in my life had rigorously adhered to Canon 17.7 of the Episcopal Church’s Constitutions and Canons, I may never have found my way to this church as an avenue for spiritual growth and expression.

I attended the Episcopal Church periodically for several years as part of my spiritual ‘diet’ of liturgy and ritual and was always welcomed to receive Communion, despite not having received a traditionally orthodox Trinitarian Christian baptism (although I had been baptized with water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…). It was through this participation in Holy Eucharist, administered by Episcopal priests, that I had frequent mystical, transcendent experiences that led me to continue to explore and strengthen my faith in God and personality spirituality through the rituals and liturgies of the Anglican tradition.

Had these priests said “sorry, we appreciate your enthusiasm and you’re welcome here with us, but Holy Communion is only for those who have been baptized, and especially for those who have been baptized the right way” I likely would have sought out other communities and avenues to experience spiritual growth.

I understand the importance of tradition and the theological questions surrounding an “open table” Communion policy, but it seems that Canon 17.7 is counterproductive to the Church’s mission to share God’s presence with the world. For seekers hoping to strengthen their relationship with God and feel God’s presence in their lives, inviting them (one and all) to participate in the Banquet of the Kingdom through experiencing God’s presence in Holy Communion is, in my view, a natural expression of Jesus’ message and invitation to the Kingdom.

After all, how often did Jesus check people’s religious credentials before inviting them to the Banquet? Who did he turn away and why?

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