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21 November 2012

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Catriona

Thanks David, wise words, graciously spoken

Simon

Thank you David. So very easy to criticise others and not think about things closer to home.

Jane

Echoing what Catriona and Simon said...thank you, David. A very thoughtful and compassionate post which I am so glad I took the time to read. We've been looking at the 'Baptist Basics' series at my church during the Autumn and we end with 'Lifestyle' this Sunday. Your comments will be very helpful as I continue to prepare.

serena

An excellent post, thank you. As a former Baptist recently turned Anglican I feel rather delicately balanced at the moment and appreciate your words of wisdom.

Jenny Few

Bravo and amen David!

anon

can I ask why, in your opinion, at a national gathering of Baptists, people were made to feel excluded from the Lord's Supper if they were not in good standing with their local church? If Jesus is the sole and absolute authority in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, is this something Jesus would say? Are we all perfect when we come to the table? I understand totally that we should forgive our brother and avoid judgment, but what does "good standing" mean? If my minister is cold towards me for a reason I don't know, does this mean I am not in good standing?

Is there a theological reason for "the good standing" comment?

I ask it here because I don't know where I else can ask this.

David K

Hi Anon (sorry I cant use your name - but Anon is OK), I'm trying to be sure I understand the question. I assume you're saying that at the last London Assembly, the invitation to come to the table included some reference to 'those who were in good standing with their local church'. That'll be my assumption for now - tell me if I'm wrong.

I think if it was me I wouldn't use those words because it sets a conditionality that can make people feel excluded. In Patterns and Prayers for Christian Worship (OUP BUGB 1991) there is a beautiful prayer of invitation which reads in part "We invite all who are seeking him and all who are weary of their sin and doubt to come and share in the feast. If you do not feel able to take a full part you are welcome to remain amongst us without receiving bread and wine"

When I first read that it spoke so much to my heart - it isn't a table just for the family of faith, its a table for the outsider who isn't even sure they want to be in the family, or don't believe they're good enough to be in the family. Of course, they're not good enough - none of us are (with or without faith). I long for the communion table to be a moment of holy grace in the life of the community as it was in Soham some years ago (follow my link in the paragraph six from the end above). Extending the table literally allows more people to sit down and eat.

Extending the table demonstrates heavenly hospitality.

David Kerrigan

Me again! Anon, I forgot to touch on your last point. Sadly there are times when church discipline is appropriate. I have not been in such a situation in any church where I have been pastor, but I do know that at times churches has asked such a person not to take communion as a sign of penitence. After all, the Eucharist is a privilege we sometimes take too lightly.

Whether I would use those words at an Assembly, I'm not sure. The danger is that such words might exclude people I might otherwise like to know 'you can come'. I don't think this would have been intended at the last Assembly if those words were used.

Simon

I am thinking of the story of the pharisee and the tax collector. Jesus exalts the tax collector because of his repentance. It doesn't matter who he is or what he's done, but it clearly matters what his attitude to God and to his life is.

The pharisee seems to believe he has a right to God's forgiveness, and I would be concerned with any approach that encourages anyone to think that forgiveness is a consumer product, whether they be dyed-in-the-wool churchgoer or first-time attender. Paul's angry sermon on communion in 1Corinthians 11 is of course directed at Christians, but I think it covers a non- or near-believer too. Alan Kreider has obviously done a lot of work on the early church and how closed the table was - I'm challenged and confused by that because the practice in my own church is completely open - we have meals together and anyone is welcome...

David Kerrigan

Simon, can you expand on "Alan Kreider has obviously done a lot of work on the early church and how closed the table was" - I'm not familiar with his work on this area... or anyone else?

Paul Lavender

Thank you David - more theological leadership of this sort is needed in our Baptist family...

Simon Woodman

Thank you David - well said.

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