Sunday, July 16, 2006

What Say You to This?

GC2006 approved "Eucharistic Sharing" [Warning: link to Titusonenine] with the United Methodist Church, stopping short of full communion including interchange of ordained ministries, but clearly intending such full communion and interchange some time in the future. We already have full communion with the Lutherans of the ELCA, and recently their Assembly approved "Interim Eucharistic Sharing" with the UMC. On the face of it, these three churches seem to be drawing together, and full communion between them cannot be far off.

Of the TEC/UMC move, a TEC representative said,

...we can stand together at the Eucharistic table, but not interchangeably. There must be ordained members of both churches at the table.

However, he claimed "The ultimate goal, as with the Lutherans, is full Communion and interchangeability of ministers and ministries."


Some objected at GC2006; Bishop Ackerman of Quincy said (same link as above) "I cannot comprehend that we can be serious about this;" the Methodists, he noted, deny the Real Presence. Having never studied Methodist doctrine on the Eucharist, I cannot second Ackerman's concern (if you have more time to read carefully than I, here is a UMC link to a PDF giving their eucharistic doctrine).

We seem to be living out Huntington's dream partially, at least--or at least we could do so. If we can hang on to our catholic doctrine long enough we might be an adequate bridge between Protestant and pre-Reformation Christianity. But of course, can we hang on to our catholic doctrine? For instance, might there be a way of reaching full Communion while getting the UMC to admit Real Presence? Or at least its possibility and cogency? Or does it make a diffrence? What say you to this?

9 Comments:

At 12:00 AM, Blogger Kevin M said...

Well, re: Ackerman's statement, I have a few things to say. On one hand, he obviously has not read the Weslesys, who had an extremely high sacramental theology regarding the Eucharist, even referring to it as a *gasp* sacrifice! Unfortunately, the American Methodists (for the most part) did not retain this view. So, on the other hand, the bishop is correct, to an extent. The average Methodist on the street probably wouldn't have the foggiest idea what Real Presence is. (Mind you, a lot of Episcopalians wouldn't either.) However, since this pdf is of a document approved by their General Conference as a statement of eucharistic belief, that's probably what's going to count in the discussion. If you look at "This Holy Mystery," you'll find pretty much the standard ecumenical post-Vatican II consensus regarding the rich and varied meanings of the sacrament of the Eucharist. As for "real presence," here's a line from the section on the meaning of Holy Communion: "This dynamic action [anamnesis] becomes re-presentation of past gracious acts of God in the present, so powerfully as to make them truly present now." You'll also find this line in the epiclesis of several eucharistic prayers on the UMC website: "Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, and on these gifts of bread and wine. Make them to be for us the body and blood of Christ. . ."
(Our own Prayer D doesn't even go THAT far, only rendering the phrase as "showing them to be holy gifts. . .") As for the question "Is the Real Presence a Methodist beliefe?" that all depends on what the meaning of the word "is" is. (50 points to the one who can correctly identify this reference, and I'm afraid that there is no little blue cocktail dress involved.")

Kevin

 
At 7:10 PM, Blogger *Christopher said...

Todd,

While the Wesleys themselves had quite a high understanding of Eucharist and were known for regular celebration of said, many Methodists I know tend toward a Zwinglian understanding.

I'd be curious to know your thoughts on my latest post.

 
At 4:17 PM, Blogger Kevin M said...

Yes, unfortunately, most everyday Methodists (at least in this country) are more Zwinglian in the way they view the Eucharist. Of course, most of my experience (esp. as a former Methodist) has been in the South, where Southern Baptist is the dominant Christian paradigm.
Re: the United Methodist view of the Eucharist, I guess it goes back to the question of who you talk to. If you talk to the average Methodist churchgoer, you get one answer; if you talk to a Methodist professor of worship, you'll probably get another. On the official level, though, the General Conference in 2004 did pass "This Holy Mystery" as the denomination's position on the meaning of the Eucharist.

Kevin

 
At 8:16 PM, Anonymous Joseph said...

Yes, absolutely. It makes a huge difference, and this has many Catholics like myself in the Episcopal Church very concerned. The miracle of the Real Presence in the Mass is the essence of what it is about to me. That is connected to the priest ordained by a Bishop in the continuous Apostolic Succession. I am not as concerned about what Methodists think is going on in the Eucharist. I am more worried that they don't have the Historic Episcopate. If they get it in the future like the Lutherans seem to be doing, that is fine, but I think that with this agreement we are jumping the gun and taking for granted Catholicity. I fear that we losing our belief in the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church and are thus becoming just another Protestant sect.

 
At 8:54 PM, Blogger Kevin M said...

Joseph,
I would also like to remind you that we are not at this point entering a full communion agreement with the Methodists. This is simply an early stage that could (hopefully) lead to full communion some day. Given the history of the process with the Lutherans, it could take several decades to work out all of the details.

Kevin

 
At 12:24 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...

It seems to me that the Methodists are developing or have developed a doctrine of "true presence" where the eucharistic elements become body and blood-for-us. This sounds like receptionism of the Anglican sort, or at least it is logically consistent with receptionism. Ie for the faithful, the body and blood of Christ are really present. "For the faithful" meaning an objective presence less than what is understood in Tridentine Catholic theology because the receiver's proper disposition is a necessary condition, but still objective and thus "Real."

Is a minister in the apostolic succesion normally needed for the eucharist? I would like to see the argument for this. That is: "the very being of the eucharist requires a minister in apostolic succession." Yes--it would be easier to show the full being or the well being of the eucharist requires a minster in apostolic succession, but the very being?

Also: what is apostolic succession? Must there be a continuous line established by--aming other things--laying on of hands that we can know goes back to the apostles? If so, we are in trouble; there seem to be epistemic blocks to such an understanding.

Recall the Quadrilateral permits local variation in apostolicity; could we not conceive Methodist bishops as falling within the limiits envisioned by local variation? I suppose then apostolicity would come to something else in fact, other than a continuous line etc: carrying on the Kerygma, the apostolic teaching.

No? Am I off here?

 
At 1:53 PM, Anonymous Joseph said...

Anglican Scottist, the traditional Catholic understanding of apostolic succession does not have to do so much with belief as with incarnation. It begins with Christ and the Holy Spirit he blows on the Apostles. It is passed on to the Bishops, who have been properly consecrated in continuous succession. They are the successors to the Apostles. It is sacramental, and it is the foundation of our understanding of the other sacraments. This may sound magical or silly, but is no more so than the idea that God would become incarnate in a 1st century Jew. The Church is his body incarnate.

Fortunately, there is no doubt that our Bishops are in apostlolic succession. Even when the English Bishops were exiled in the 17th century, the same Bishops returned with the restoration of the Church.

So, in from the perspective of Anglo-Catholic faith, an ordained Methodist is a lay person. For her or him to concelebrate with a priest is very problematic in and of itself, but I think it could start the Church down the dangerous road of lay presidency.

 
At 10:43 AM, Blogger Kevin M said...

Scotist writes: ". . .where the eucharistic elements become body and blood-for-us. This sounds like receptionism of the Anglican sort . . ."

I would also contend that the bread and wine being the body and blood of Christ "for us" can mean something more than just receptionism. I tend to see it as indicating that the presence of Christ in the bread and wine is not the end result. Instead, the end result is the transformation of the gathered assembly into the True Body of Christ through the partaking of the Mystical Body (and Blood) of Christ at the altar.

Kevin

 
At 10:53 AM, Blogger Kevin M said...

Scotist,
As for the Quadrilateral, it does specifically call for the "historic episcopate," locally adapted, not just apostolicity. Of course, the idea of an unbroken line of succession of bishops with laying-on-of-hands from the time of the apostles, isn't exactly a historical fact, or at least a provable one. (Although, it does make a useful ecclesiastical myth that illustrates a larger reality of apostolicity.)

Kevin

 

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