Friday, July 06, 2012

2012 PCA GA (5) Intinction and Paedocommunion

Two other issues addressed at this year's GA are intinction and paedocommunion. The first is a liturgical oddity in which  the Lord's Supper is taken by dipping the bread in the wine (or grape juice), thus taking both elements together. It is apparently practiced in a number of churches in the denomination.Overture 30 from Savannah River Presbytery proposed amending BCO 58-5 with the addition of the words, "Intinction, because it conflates Jesus' two sacramental actions, is not an appropriate method for observing the Lord's Supper." The Overtures Committee proposed that this amendment be rejected. A minority report from the Overtures Committee proposed an amended form of Savannah River Presbytery's overture, replacing the addition given above with the statement, "As Christ has instituted the Lord's Supper in two sacramental actions, the communicants are to eat the bread and drink the cup in separate actions." This proposal passed by a vote of 348-334. The next step for this change to be introduced into the BCO is for it to be approved by two-thirds of the presbyteries. Given the apparently widespread character of the practice, achieving passage in two-thirds of the presbyteries seems unlikely. I will be posting more on intinction in later posts.

Paedocommunion is the idea that very young children, perhaps even infants (the age varies with regard to the advocates of the position), ought to be given the Lord's Supper. This issue came to the GA from the RPR Committee, which brought reports (including minority reports concerning three presbyteries). Since the responses of the RPR did not appear to be consistent with one another, the whole thing was sent back to the RPR, to bring a new, self-consistent report next year. The issue is that some presbyteries allow men to hold this as an exception, but not allowing them to teach it. Other presbyteries have allowed it as an acception that men are allowed to teach, but they may not practice it, because it is contrary to the theology of the sacrament as that is expressed in the Westminster Standards. The question arising is whether a man ought to be allowed to teach that which is contrary to the standards he professes to be guided by.

These issues are not going away, and while they may not be as deleterious to the health of the church as the teaching of theistic evolution, they are nonetheless deleterious to the unity of the church. It would be good for all PCA members to make these things a matter of serious prayer in the year ahead.

11 comments:

Lee said...

So...what is the argument in favor of intinction?

Benjamin Shaw said...

I don't know, Lee. I will be looking into that in the next few weeks.

smpitts77 said...

Hi Dr. Shaw...it's Scott Pitts. I practice intinction as a chaplain in my unit. It is a very efficient way to get all my soldiers through the line. I only have 30 minutes to do an entire worship service per the commander's orders. It works well.

Benjamin Shaw said...

Scott, I understand the demands of your situation, but I didn't realize that pragmatics was the major determiner of liturgical practice.

TJ Turner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TJ Turner said...

I'm curious what you would suggest to Rev Pitts. If pragmatism has no place of consideration would you prefer that communion not be performed for lack of time to be done in the most theologically correct manner? Is intinction really so theologically destructive or deleterious that it would be better to forgo the sacrament altogether?

Benjamin Shaw said...

Mr. Turner, I don't have enough detail on Mr. Pitts' situation to say for certain. But if the situation is that every service is only to be 30 minutes long, then I would certainly not do the Lord's Supper every service. At those services where I did do the Lord's Supper, I would have a brief exposition of the Word, perhaps focusing on aspects of the Supper, then perhaps do one trip through the line the bread, and a second trip through for the cup. I think the commands regarding the Supper in 1 Corinthians (which I consider to be prescriptive, not descriptive) requires the bread and the cup as two separate acts, not one combined act.

PGR said...

Of course pragmatism is some (not the major) determiner of liturgical practice, or else no one would use grape juice, which is a changing of the element used altogether; or they wouldn't use multiple individual cups, instead of a common cup that Jesus seems to employ, etc.

Benjamin Shaw said...

PGR, it's not clear at all to me that Jesus and the disciples used a common cup. As far as we can tell from the historical record, Jewish practice in the first century was that each participant in the Passover feast had his own cup. No common cup is implied in either the Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, or in Paul's directions regarding the Lord's Supper.

PGR said...

Benjamin,

Thanks for your reply.

You are the "rabbi," so I trust your assessment of 1st c. Jewish practice!:-) While that was the case with Jews in the Passover meal, unless they were also describing the wine and bread as the blood and body of Messiah then the point is moot, I believe. Jesus inaugurated a change in this meal due to his own Messianic work, with the sacramental focus moving to bread and wine (not the lamb and bitter herbs, for example). It is not a stretch to see a change in form as well, e.g. common cup.

Likewise, there is no plural, i.e. "cups," in any of the Gospels. In each one Jesus took a cup and gave it to them to drink. Similarly, Paul in describing the Lord's Supper refers to the "cup" singular (10:16, 21; and throughout in 11:25-28). If this is prescriptive and not simply descriptive, then cup - and not cups - it is. Right?

Even Dabney says that the oneness of the cup partaken by all signifies the unity in one spiritual body of partaking Christians (p. 805, ST).

I suspect that the use of multiple cups is a concession to the realization that germs are communicated easily by a common cup. A recent and "pragmatic" concession.

Thanks, Benjamin. I genuinely appreciate the opportunity to interact on this with you.

Grace & Peace,
PGR

Benjamin Shaw said...

PGR, a large part of the reason that I think a common cup is unnecessary is because Paul does not mention it at all in 1 Cor 11. I have no objection to a common cup per se. My objection is to those who think it a necessity. If you notice, Dabney does not base his preference on a biblical mandate, but really on the basis that it expresses a unity.