Can Epis­co­pal clergy con­se­crate bread, wine on­line?

The Saline Courier Weekend - - OPINION - TERRY MAT­TINGLY on re­li­gion Terry Mat­tingly leads Ge­tre­li­gion. org and lives in Oak Ridge, Ten­nessee. He is a se­nior fel­low at the Overby Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­sity of Mis­sis­sippi.

In the late 1970s, the Epis­co­pal Ad Project be­gan re­leas­ing spots tak­ing shots at tele­vi­sion preach­ers and other trends in Amer­i­can evan­gel­i­cal­ism.

One im­age showed a tele­vi­sion serv­ing as an al­tar, hold­ing a priest’s stole, a chal­ice and plate of Eucharis­tic hosts. The head­line asked: “With all due re­gard to TV Christiani­ty, have you ever seen a Sony that gives Holy Com­mu­nion?”

Now some Angli­cans are de­bat­ing whether it’s valid -- dur­ing the coro­n­avirus cri­sis -- to cel­e­brate “vir­tual Eucharists,” with com­put­ers link­ing priests at al­tars and com­mu­ni­cants with their own bread and wine at home.

In a re­cent House of Bish­ops meet­ing -- on­line, of course -Epis­co­pal Church lead­ers backed away from al­low­ing what many call “Vir­tual Holy Eucharist.”

Epis­co­pal News Ser­vice said bish­ops met in pri­vate small groups to dis­cuss if it’s “the­o­log­i­cally sound to al­low Epis­co­palians to gather sep­a­rately and re­ceive Com­mu­nion that has been con­se­crated by a priest re­motely dur­ing an on­line ser­vice.”

Ex­per­i­ments had al­ready be­gun, in some ZIP codes.

In April, Bishop

Jacob Owensby of the Dio­cese of

West­ern Louisiana en­cour­aged such rites among “priests who have the tech­ni­cal know-how, the equip­ment and the in­cli­na­tion” to pro­ceed.

Peo­ple at home, he wrote, will “pro­vide for them­selves bread and wine (bread alone is also per­mis­si­ble) and place it on a ta­ble in front of them. The priest’s con­se­cra­tion of ele­ments in front of her or him ex­tends to the bread and wine in each ... house­hold. The peo­ple will con­sume the con­se­crated ele­ments.”

Days later, after con­sult­ing with Amer­ica’s pre­sid­ing bishop, Bishop Owensby re­scinded those in­struc­tions. “I un­der­stand that vir­tual con­se­cra­tion of ele­ments at a phys­i­cal or ge­o­graph­i­cal dis­tance from the al­tar ex­ceeds the rec­og­nized bounds set by our rubrics and in­scribed in our the­ol­ogy of the Eucharist,” he wrote.

How­ever, sim­i­lar de­bates were al­ready tak­ing place among other Angli­cans. In Aus­tralia, for ex­am­ple, Arch­bishop Glenn Davies of Syd­ney urged priests to be cre­ative dur­ing this pan­demic, while churches were be­ing forced to shut their doors.

Dur­ing a livestream­ed rite, he wrote, parish­ioners “could par­tic­i­pate in their own homes via the in­ter­net, con­sum­ing their own bread and wine, in ac­cor­dance with our Lord’s com­mand.” While fol­low­ing the rite on­line, “their fel­low­ship with the body of Christ would be no less spir­i­tual and no less real. We must not fall into the er­ro­neous mind­set of think­ing that con­se­cra­tion of the ele­ments is only valid for us if we are phys­i­cally present to con­sume them, as if there were magic in the hands of the min­is­ter.”

These de­bates may seem strange, fol­low­ing decades of news about Epis­co­palians and some other Angli­cans vot­ing to mod­ern­ize church tra­di­tions in many ways -- from the ar­rival of fe­male priests and bish­ops to the de­ci­sion to al­low non­celi­bate gays and les­bians into the priest­hood and the epis­co­pate.

How­ever, churches through­out the global Angli­can Com­mu­nion have con­tin­ued to main­tain Eucharis­tic al­tar tra­di­tions com­mon in West­ern Christiani­ty, in­clud­ing the Ro­man Catholic Church.

Thus, the Amer­i­can church’s mod­ern Book of Com­mon Prayer states, when de­scrib­ing the con­se­cra­tion of bread and wine: “At the fol­low­ing words con­cern­ing the bread, the Cel­e­brant is to hold it, or lay a hand upon it; and at the words con­cern­ing the cup, to hold or place a hand upon the cup and any other ves­sel con­tain­ing wine to be con­se­crated.”

But these are not nor­mal times, stressed the Rev. Dana De­lap, in a Church Times es­say en­ti­tled, “How we shared the bread and wine on Zoom.” She is a vicar in the Dio­cese of Glouces­ter in Eng­land.

De­lap stressed that she knows Angli­can lead­ers are re­luc­tant to “make a the­o­log­i­cal state­ment without con­sid­er­a­tion.” Still, at Easter, she al­lowed what she called the “least-worst way” to have Mass.

After all, she wrote, “What is the essence of con­se­cra­tion? Surely, it is the work of the Holy Spirit, whose ac­tion is not con­tained within the crusts of a loaf, the walls of a church or the doc­trines of the Church, but who, through God’s grace, meets us in bread and wine. We unite with one an­other when we gather for com­mu­nion, but also with the saints and wit­nesses of our faith through his­tory . ...

“I want to be­lieve in a God who meets us in our homes and places of work, as well as in our churches.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.