closed communion

closed communion
   Closed communion is the practice of limiting the Lord's Supper to members in good standing of the church. In denominations with an episcopal or presbyterial polity, communion may be limited to members of the denomination. In those with a congregational polity, participation is often limited to members of the local congregation. In the Roman Catholic Church, in those countries where citizenship and church membership were almost the same thing, one's first communion following confirmation was a significant event in a person's life, and excommunication, the withdrawal of the privilege of taking communion, was a serious matter. During the Reformation, the papacy issued many widely heralded pronunciations of excommunication of those who broke with Rome.
   Closed communion became a serious issue for Protestants as the movement split into various factions, and as congregations arose whose members saw themselves as formal converts to Christianity with a different status from those who had merely been born into the church. Within the Anabaptist movement, denial of participation in the communion service was an important means of discipline, short of full disfellowshipping.
   Most churches continued some form of closed communion into the 19th century, but it was often discarded on the mission field, to avoid the appearance of competition among various denominations working in the same area. Later in the century, as the Ecumenical movement emerged, closed communion was discarded by many groups in a spirit of harmony. Many churches have made formal agreements to be open to one another's members, a practice often tied to pulpit fellowship, in which ministers of one church are allowed to preach in the others. Still other churches have discarded closed communion as impractical in the highly pluralistic environment of the modern West.
   However, a number of denominations have continued the practice of closed communion, basing their arguments on 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, in which Paul warns against partaking of the Lord's Supper unworthily. It continues especially among churches that have grown out of the Radical Reformation (Mennonites,Amish,Brethren), and in many Baptist churches.
   Further reading:
   ■ Abraham Booth, An Apology for the Baptists: in which they are vindicated from the imputation of laying an unwarrantable stress on the ordination of baptism: and against the charge of bigotry in refusing communion at the Lord's Table to Pedobaptists (London: W Button, 1812)
   ■ J. W Kesner Sr., Credenda: (Being a Treatise of Thirteen Bible Doctrines) Fundamental or Basic Beliefs of Missionary Baptists, ed. by L. D. Foreman (Little Rock, Ark.: Seminary Press, 1950), see chapter on "Restricted Communion"; Paul T. McCain, Communion Fellowship: A Resource for Understanding, Implementing, and Retaining the Practice of Closed Communion in a Lutheran Parish (Waverly, Iowa: The International Council for Lutheran Confessional Research, 1992)
   ■ Elert Werner, Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries, trans. by Norman E. Nagel (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1966).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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