Open Communion - Open Membership

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by rlvaughn, Jan 4, 2002.

  1. rlvaughn

    rlvaughn
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    DOES OPEN COMMUNION LEAD TO OPEN MEMBERSHIP?

    First, I should define my use of the terms. By open communion I mean opening the communion service (the Lord's supper, the bread & wine) to anyone who professes to be a Christian by faith in Christ, regardless of his status concerning baptism or church membership. IMO, there is no truly "open" or "unrestricted" communion; all churches restrict it in some way. It's just a matter of how much it is restricted. By open membership I mean opening the church's membership to persons who have not been baptized by immersion (this varies in actual practice, and, I think, may be demonstrated sometimes as even receiving some who have only infant baptism). I believe Baptist Union of GB churches practice that, as well as some ABCUSA churches. But I believe most would only apply this in the case of one who received sprinkling or pouring after affirming faith in Christ.

    Second, it is my proposition that open communion leads to open membership. I do not propose that every case of open communion leads to open membership, but that the practice of open communion over a period of time will generally lead to open membership. I hope to post some evidence of the relationship between the two. I hope others who have such evidence will post also. Those who have some evidence to the contrary should post that as well.

    [ January 04, 2002: Message edited by: rlvaughn ]
     
  2. rlvaughn

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    THE CASE IN THE NORTH CAROLINA BAPTIST STATE CONVENTION

    The North Carolina Baptist State Convention had a controversy that was caused by some churches receiving as members those who had not been baptized by immersion as believers, and the reaction of other churches to this. In 1972 the Convention established a committee to report on the problem. The committee asked the "differing" churches to identify themselves. Although over 20 churches were thought to be involved, in 1973 only twelve churches voluntarily identified themselves and eleven of them presented their case to the committee. It can be seen in the churches' defenses of their practices that they definitely had made the connection between open communion and open membership. This is documented in Perspectives in Religious Studies 1977 - Documents Concerning Baptism and Church Membership: A Controversy among North Carolina Baptists (c. 1977 by Association of Baptist Professors of Religion). The cover also carries the heading, Special Studies Series No. 1. It should be noted that all the churches did not have exactly the same practice, and that they did not necessarily acquire it from one another. The general nature of the policies was that "we...accept into membership baptized believers from other Christian groups, whatever the form of their baptism...(p. 8)."

    The following is from pages 38 & 39: "Another determining factor for some of these churches moving to their present position was that they considered a discrepancy in the custom of Baptist congregations practicing 'open communion' but 'closed membership'. <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>What to us was the inconsistency of recognizing the Christian standing of so many while not opening to them the doors of membership was further impressed upon us as we considered our practice concerning the Lord's Supper. For many years we had given explicit recognition to the membership of other Christians in Christ's Body by sharing the Lord's Table with them in worship. If to invite them to the Table was to affirm our belonging to each other in Christ, how could we continue to refuse them membership if and when they sought it?...If we believed, as we did, that the Lord would receive them at His Table, how could we not receive them into our fellowship especially since that fellowship was ours only because we recognized that we were his.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE> <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>We extend to a Christian from another Christian body the right hand of fellowship as a brother in Christ and welcome him as we welcome any Christian to the Lord's Table. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE> <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>There is another way we may possibly differ from our fellow Baptist churches. We believe that no one is qualified to participate in the Lord's Supper who has not been baptized. One must be "in Christ" before he may receive Christ into himself as a member of a body of faith. Many Baptist churches across this state, however, practice "open communion" and "closed baptism." This means, in effect, that such churches offer the Lord's Supper to people whom they do not recognize as having been baptized. That may be a not-insignificant heresy. In any event, we know of no church of any denomination, which follows this practice, other than some Baptist churches. It is a practice which we are unable to embrace.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE> <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>There are only two ordinances of the Christian church - communion and baptism. Some years ago we realized that closed communion was a dividing rather than a unifying element among Christians. And so we took steps to invite all Christians to take holy communion with us. Our present policy regarding baptism tends also to divide rather than unify and the acceptance of this proposed change would tend to encourage unification. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE> <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>On the day of her organization by the Mecklenburg Baptist Association the proposed Statement of Faith was amended to provide for "Open Communion," the inclusion of all Christians in the observance of the exceedingly profound Ordinance of the Lord's Supper. Across the years we struggled with conscience in the contradictory demand that practicing Christians desiring to transfer from another Christian Church be required to submit to a re-baptism by immersion in order to share our fellowship.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
    It is interesting especially with the third church quoted that they held that baptism was a prerequisite to communion and thought this was the general belief of all churches except some Baptists. Of course, the discrepancy was resolved in their case by recognizing non-immersions as baptism.
     
  3. rlvaughn

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    THE BAPTIST UNION OF GREAT BRITIAN

    The following is copied and pasted from the Baptist Union website. It would indicate that some BU churches will accept persons without further baptism beyond infant baptism. <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>What if I were baptised as a child? Many people who turn to Christ have already been baptised as a small child. If this applies to you, be baptised again as a believer. Baptists believe that baptism without faith is not the baptism of the Bible. What if I have been confirmed? If at your confirmation service you meaningfully confirmed the promise made on your behalf by your godparents, then some Baptist churches will welcome you on your profession of faith.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    The bold emphasis is mine to show the point I want all to notice. I have not found specific quotes to show the BU churches' connection of thought between open communion and open membership. The quote above is just to substaniate the claim I made about the Baptist Union in the first post. It appears that at the point in time the BU is consistent in its view of open communion and open membership.

    [ January 05, 2002: Message edited by: rlvaughn ]
     
  4. Dr. Bob

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    Looks like a great topic. Glad to see it started so ably and will eagerly await everyone to join in.

    I am an opponent of open communion AND open membership. But the biblical basis is minimal; I am a historian and get my bent from that direction.

    Other opinions?
     
  5. Michael Wrenn

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    rl,

    Actually, the Methodists have a truly open communion; they do not restrict it in any way.
     
  6. Bro. Curtis

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    I like how our church does it. Only baptized members partake in the Lord's Supper.

    And our Pastor asks everyone to examine themselves, members included, to make sure their minds are clear and all sins confessed, before they take part in it.
     
  7. rsr

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    Thanks, rlvaughn, for a thought-provoking topic.
    In earlier years, I believed in closed communion. Now I'm not so sure. I think I prefer open communion, with these words prominently read:
    1 Corinthians 11
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    Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.
    28
    But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
    29
    For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly.

    I know that passage always made me sit up straight and think.

    BTW, perhaps there should be some discussion of the "atmosphere" of the supper. And whether Baptists should partake if they attend another church.
     
  8. Kiffin

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    Great post bro rjvaugn. I agree with you. In our Church only those who are saved and after conversion have been baptized by Immersion upon that confession by a Trinitarian Bible believing church are invited to the Lord's table. The unbaptized and paedobaptized are not regarded as proper recipients to receive the Supper.

    I know that Landmark churches generaly restrict it to only faithfull members of that local church and some Baptist churhes restrict it to only Baptists. I don't have major problems with either of those positions though I do have major problems to invite people without distinction to receive the Supper.

    I think open Communion can over time lead to the idea of receiving the unbaptized and paedobaptized into the ranks and in that case a Baptist church ceases to be Baptist.

    [ January 05, 2002: Message edited by: Kiffin ]
     
  9. TomVols

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    I believe in close communion. Lord's Supper should not be open to anyone and everyone, but I should not keep a fellow believer who doesn't happen to be a member of my local church from supping.

    As for membership, only regenerate persons who have been baptised by immersion as a symbolic act are considered valid in my opinion. A person immersed thinking the act was salvific is not valid, nor is the person who was baptised by another mode. I have no problem with someone being baptized by a non-Baptist, providing the baptism fulfilled the two standards above.
     
  10. rlvaughn

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    Michael Wrenn: <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Actually, the Methodists have a truly open communion; they do not restrict it in any way.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>Are you saying they do not even restrict it to believers only? The unsaved are invited as well as believers?

    to rsr: <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>It is always well to take this statement in context - Paul was telling baptized believers in the church of God at Corinth to examine themselves, not just everyone.

    Finally, I am interested in all opinions on open communion, but I don't want this to be just a discussion of open communion, but also of how open communion relates to or possibly leads to open church membership.

    [ January 05, 2002: Message edited by: rlvaughn ]
     
  11. Michael Wrenn

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    rl,

    In the United Methodist "Order for the Administration of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion," it says in the preface, "All people who intend to lead a Christian life are invited to receive this holy Sacrament."

    Wesley believed the Lord's Supper could be a converting ordinance; so, theoretically, a person seeking God and a relationship with Christ would be allowed and invited to partake of the Lord's Supper.
     
  12. rlvaughn

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    Michael, by modifying "all people" with "who intend to lead a Christian life", even the Methodists have closed it to some! ;)
     
  13. rlvaughn

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    AUSTRALIAN BAPTISTS
    Excerpts from the following article by Rowland Croucher discuss Open Membership in Australian Baptist Churches. I have given his categories of membership, as well as his "further reading," in which one may find interesting material on the subject. Croucher sees the open/closed communion/membership questions as being related. <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>(Paper presented to the School of Ministry, Whitley College Melbourne, July, 1992)...The relationship of a person's faith-to-baptism-to-church membership is one of the most complex issues in contemporary Baptist faith and practice. Most Australian Baptists have resolved the closed/open communion issue (in favour of open communion), but only a minority of our churches have moved to an open membership position...The key question: 'Why is it possible to be accepted into the family of God but not into the family of a Baptist church?' Baptists have given many answers, which can roughly be summarized into six broad categories:

    [1] HARD CLOSED: Here members are only those baptized by someone with authority in one's own Baptist denomination. Many U.S. Southern Baptists, for example, will re-baptize other Baptists.

    [2] SOFT CLOSED: These churches will not re-baptize someone already immersed as a believer, unless the baptism took place in a sectarian group.

    [3] MODIFIED CLOSED: This - with the 'soft closed' position - is the stance of most Australian Baptist churches. Here a believer who is unbaptized, or was baptized as an infant, is given 'associate' status, and may vote on secondary matters in church meetings, and generally will not be eligible for the office of deacon or elder.

    [4] MODIFIED OPEN: In these churches only those who are baptized can be members, provided the individual regards their baptism - of whatever kind - as valid for them. This is the position of about 70-80 of our Australian churches.

    [5] PLURALIST OPEN: These churches (eg. in parts of the UK and in North India) go one step further and allow options for either infant or adult baptism, choosing sprinkling, effusion or immerson.

    [6] WIDER OPEN: This position allows the individual, in consultation and prayer within the community of faith, to reach a conclusion about baptism that is valid for them, but may be a full member of the church during this process.

    Further reading: T. Bergsten, 'Baptism and the Church', The Baptist Quarterly, Vol 18 nos. 3 & 4 (1959), pp. 125-131, 159-171.

    D. Bridge and D. Phypers, The Water that Divides, IVP, 1977.

    A. Gilmore, Baptism and Christian Unity, Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1966, pp. 58-74.

    Thorwald Lorenzen, 'Baptism and Church Membership: Some Baptist Positions and their Ecumenical Implications', J. Ecumenical Studies, 18:4, Fall 1981, pp. 561 ff. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
     
  14. rlvaughn

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    AMERICAN BAPTIST CHURCHES IN THE USA

    The following represents the membership views of one Arkansas church in the ABCUSA: <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Membership Information

    Membership at Judson is open to baptized believers of all Christian denominations. Our baptism should unite, not divide us. When we baptize, we practice immersion.
    We welcome as Associate Members those who wish to continue membership in their home church.

    Our members come from many denominations and our communion table is open to all believers.

    A welcoming class is held for all who desire membership in Judson American Baptist Church.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>The church web site may be viewed here

    This is from an ABCUSA church in Colorado:
    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Calvary has open membership. In other words, if you have been baptized (regardless of the form) you are received openly as a member of this congregation based on your Christian experience. If you have been baptized as an infant and would find it meaningful to be immersed as an adult, you are encouraged to do so. Please talk to one of the ministers. Pastor’s classes are available for all ages.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>Their web site is here

    [ January 06, 2002: Message edited by: rlvaughn ]
     
  15. rlvaughn

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