Nota Bene: In keeping with the parameters of the Koinonia Project, I will not be divulging any discussions from the Koinonia Project itself. The practice in question arose during a public worship service of a congregation of the LC-MS, which as noted below, is a practice that has received much wider acceptance in our synod.
One of the challenges for the success of The Koinonia Project is overcoming disparate practices that are not always merely matters of indifference (adiaphora). In 1944, the synod adopted the following statement:
We definitely reject intinction, because while distributing the bread, the Savior said, “Take, eat!” Matt 26:26; Mark 14:22, and while giving the wine, He said, “Drink ye all of it!” Matt 26:27; Mark 14:23.
Intinction would be a direct violation of the words of institution. (1944 Proceedings, p. 255)
You can not be clearer, or more succinct than that. The official position of the LCMS – based on the clear testimony of Holy Scripture – is that Intinction is “a direct violation of the words of institution.” Since 1944, this resolution has not been rescinded or altered, because our Lord did not rescind or alter the words instituting the sacrament between 1944 and 2015.
We were somewhat surprised therefore, to find a parish in our synod (and as we would discover anecdotally, more than one) that practices intinction as the normal mode of reception. Again, Jesus could not have been clearer. We don’t drink bread. We don’t eat wine. We eat the body AND drink the blood. These are two separate and discreet activities. We are not authorized, nor does the institution of the Lord’s Supper allow, merging these two activities into one.
Some may argue, “But there is a long history in the church of doing so.” Indeed there is. But not in the West, which is to say, not in the Lutheran Church. And the practice of Intinction in the East can not be instructive to our practice. It is not human traditions which define us, but the clear and certain word of our Lord, “Take, eat!” and “Drink of it all of you…”
In the West there is a tradition going back nearly a millennium that only the clergy receive the blood of our Lord. This, despite our Lord’s clear command “Drink of it ALL OF YOU.” No matter how clear the command of Christ may be, there will be some who refuse to follow that command. Early church sermons often commend the people for esteeming Baptism so highly, but then warn that they are esteeming it so highly, they are reluctant to actually undergo baptism themselves. No. Just, No.
Worse yet, after the Koinonia Project, it was reported to us that the Council of Presidents had a service of the sacrament where Intinction was the only method of reception offered. Some district presidents refused to receive it under these circumstances, and much discussion ensued. That this was even possible means that our synod officials are either unaware of the synod’s scriptural position on the issue, or they are aware, but unwilling to follow it. I am told that the issue has been sent to the CTCR for consideration. Since the CTCR is, like all other boards and officers, subject to the synod, I don’t know what conclusion they can come to, other than the conclusion the synod reached in 1944: “Intinction would be a direct violation of the words of institution.” Perhaps they can explain it in a way that will winsomely defend the clear command of our Lord. But they dare not add confusion where our Lord has made things clear.
And this is the real problem with Intinction. It muddies things; mixes that which our Lord has made distinct. It makes uncertain the proper reception of His body and blood, just as surely as withholding the cup from the laity did for a thousand years in the Roman church.
Yes, there are hard cases: Alcoholics, specific allergies, etc. Those are the result of sin. In the case of alcoholism, it is the specific prior sin of the communicant. Allergies arise because of our general sinfulness in this world. But what of it? He has said that this is for my good. Do we trust His word, or do we doubt?
Baptism might make a baby cry. I might slip on the ice and break my arm walking into the church. I should not for those reasons stop baptizing babies, or stop attending church for six months a year ‘just to be on the safe side’.
The command of Christ is clear. Two things: (Body, Blood) Two actions: (Eat, Drink.) But where God has spoken there is no adiaphora. And that’s the challenge.
On the one hand, some are saying that it is adiaphora, covered under the freedom of the Gospel. After all, God didn’t say not to do it that way. And yet, the very command “Take, eat” “Drink of it all of you” excludes all that is not eating and drinking. For this reason, we have also rejected Rome’s practice of withholding the cup from the laity, even though we have no compelling medical reason to argue against their claim that flesh always includes a certain amount of blood. That may be true. But Jesus said, “Eat… Drink”. He did not say, “Eat my flesh, and in eating also receive the blood.” Neither did he say, “Dip, mix, and consume both at once.” To fulfill the command of our Lord, we must eat and drink.
And if we aren’t doing that in our Life Together, it really does call into question whether we are agreed on Augustana Article VII, “The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.” If the sacrament is administered in a manner that directly violates the command of our Lord, is it rightly administered? If we answer that it still could be, our Lord’s Words become optional – with no real authority, and therefore of no real effect. If we say that it is not rightly administered under those circumstances, then we no longer have a church agreed on the Gospel teaching and Sacramental administration. Which is to say, we no longer have the “true unity” spoken of in Augustana article VII, which depends on “the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments.”
We can talk all we want about our common doctrinal subscription made in our ordination vows. We can send out missionaries to the four corners of the globe. We can give away thousands of cows, or have millions of dogs visit the sick and infirm. But if we do not follow the word of Christ, we do not have the God-given unity that is the blessing for those who hear the Word of God and keep it. Which is to say, we are no longer “Church” in the biblical and confessional sense of the term.
These are weighty matters. I debated for quite a while whether this should be a public statement or not. After all, to some extent we are trying to have discussions outside of public spotlights, so that we can speak honestly and openly to each other. But this was not a part of that discussion. It was a specific public act of a synod’s pastor. And I have seen intinction suggested and practiced by members and officers of the synod in various places and positions. Synod itself has correctly called the practice “a direct violation” of our Lord’s word. Which means that those pastors who practice it are not only in violation of their vows to keep the Word of God pure, they are also violating the bylaws and resolutions of the synod. Of course, the second is the far lesser offense. But those who engage in it show either a lack of knowledge regarding who we are and how we have spoken with one voice on matters doctrinal in the past, or they show a lack of integrity toward that voice, and to God’s word, which informed our speech. The latter arises from ignorance. It is excusable, and can be fixed with proper instruction. That is what I seek to do here. As for the former? I pray that God would “curb those who by deceit or sword would rest the kingdom from your Son, and bring to naught all He has done.”