Worship, Evangelism: More on Closed vs. Open Communion
Tripp has hit on a very interesting point over at his blog today about worship and the connection to evangelism. And the discussion on this issue over at Jeff's blog is in full force!
The early church (and the Orthodox Church today) *never* saw worship as a forum for evangelism...only in modern times do we see this phenomenon. Liturgy and the sacraments are, as the Liturgy says, "for the faithful." I think is why there is a disconnect between East and West in terms of the issue of "closed" communion. We just have radically different ways of understanding what worship is.
Now in the West, with the rise of "concert style" worship, PowerPoint presentations, and emotionally manipulative "altar calls," worship has lost its original purpose. It was never meant to woo non-believers in. Now, it seems, that in many cases that is *all* it is for....how things change...
It is through living a life of holiness that one brings people to Christ...not by allowing them to participate in something they have not already pledged their lives too....
A weak analogy: My sister-in-law has worked with lots of orphans. She loves them. She "includes" them in her life. But only those who she has adopted (or will adopt) and have chosen to be adopted by her get to participate in her family life. She doesn't let them come over to the house, eat all of her food, and live in the house. They have to accept the *responsibility* that comes with being a family member before they get to participate in the privileges of that family life. That is just how family life works.
Bottom line: family privileges come with family responsibilities. It is a package deal. Confession, communal life, acceptance of common creeds .... these are the responsibilities that come with the privilege of partaking of the Holy Mysteries. Always has been in the history of the Church. I still would love to see a pre-Schism patristic defense of open communion. (Any takers?)
And again, the doors are locked from the inside. We pray every Liturgy for the "union of all." The doors of the Church are always open for those who wish to become "part of the family." So the "exclusiveness" is always the result of the individual excluding themselves, not the Church imposing its will on them! This is why the Orthodox don't view excommunication as a "penalty" as such. It is simply the declaration and acceptance of the *fact* that the person has willingly left the communion.
As my dad always said to me as I was growing up: If you don't want to do your chores, that is fine. Just don't expect to have a place set for you at the dinner table! It isn't fair, to you, or to the rest of the family."
The amazing thing is that the "responsibilities" of life in the Church become privileges themselves! EVERYTHING about life in the Church becomes a sacrament, a feast, a blessing, and an out pouring of the love of Christ on us. But we have to accept the WHOLE of the Faith and PRACTICE its truths and ways with our whole heart.