So last week, by a margin of fourteen votes, the 40th General Assembly voted to send a proposed amendment to BCO 58 to the Presbyteries that will effectively ban the practice of intinction. The church plant I serve does not practice intinction, but I am not opposed to it. I do believe the practice should be allowed because I believe it to be adiaphora. I realize there are differing opinions and fears but I think a bigger conversation is to be had that addresses other widespread practices rather than targeting twenty or thirty churches, affecting our military chaplains and senior ministries. I am not writing this to change “hearts and minds,” but to offer a few thoughts from last week’s debate.
First, I appreciate that both sides used Scripture. So often we weigh our debates down in policy and BCO articles to the neglect of the Scriptures. This was great to see.
Second, I was disturbed by a couple of things. One pastor made a comment about “liturgical anarchy” and said the Directory of Worship should have full constitutional force. Essentially, the argument was for conformity, not unity. Odd to hear something like that stated in an allegedly grassroots denomination and extremely neglectful about the historical realities of multi-culturalism. I think it is arrogant to think that one slice of the history of redemption worshipped to near biblical perfection to the exclusion of the creativity and diversity present in God’s people throughout time and culture. That was the thrust behind the “liturgical anarchy” statement – the PCA should have one form of worship for all. I also think the African American TE sitting two rows in front of me did not seem to like that comment based upon his body language. It also felt weird to me to hear Nadab and Abihu brought into the debate. I have not heard them brought up in a worship context since my fundamentalist days when we were told electric guitars were strange fire and the old paths were our Baptist hymnals and King James Bibles. Flashback!
Third, one gentleman who supported the change made a great point, we are supposed to reform and be always reforming. I thought to myself, “yes!” and it seems the weekly, joyful, intinction guys are starting that conversation by bringing back the common cup and emphasizing the corporate nature of communion that takes into account cultural realities like germ fears, etc. We also know that intinction occurred in the RPCES, PCUSA and probably the UPC. Those are our immediate predecessors, not the Puritans.
Fourth, much was made of “separate actions” and “eat and drink.” Awesome. For a room full of M.Divs, MAs, STMs, ThDs and PhDs, we never engaged how much of a descriptive passage becomes prescriptive. Should we sit around a table? One loaf even for our large churches? One cup? Locally-sourced unleavened bread? The order in which we sing songs the way the first communion occurred? What do we do about that pesky Judas taking the supper?
Fifth, the Bible, Westminster Standards and BCO clearly state “wine” for the sacrament. Why don’t we start there? Grape juice is a pragmatic, 19th century innovation that is widespread among our American, pietist Christian culture. Why do we allow that?
Lastly, one of the issues raised by opponents of intinction is pragmatism. The bottom line for me is this: which is more pragmatic? Adopting individualistic American practices of infrequent memorialist communion with Welch’s and a chiclet-sized pressed bread substance or something that makes attempts to do justice to the corporate nature of the sacrament and done weekly, reverently, joyfully and differently than the widespread Fundamentalist/Evangelical status quo?
We say the sacraments are important. If our practices look more like the memorialist traditions, then they are not. I think there is a conversation to be had concerning the PCA and how we view and practice the Lord’s Supper, and it is not about intinction.