February 9, 2016

Pastoral Policies

From time to time, the clergy are asked questions about policy on particular topics. For the most part, we handle various questions on an individual basis, using Scriptural principle and pastoral judgment. However, we have been asked often enough about the topics below that we have formalized a response. At present, we have these four policies:

  1. Weddings
  2. Baptisms
  3. The Lord’s Supper
  4. Confirmation and Communion

In all cases, if you wish us to consider your situation, please feel free to call (215) 396-1970 or email us at info@toknowchrist.org and ask for a pastor, briefly describing your situation. We will be glad to discuss your specific circumstances.

Weddings

St. John’s typically only schedules or hosts weddings or funerals for members and regular attendees of St. John’s. Occasionally we may host events for others with whom we have a relationship, but schedules do not typically permit hosting private events for the general public.

If you wish us to consider your situation, please feel free to call (215) 396-1970 or email us at info@toknowchrist.org and ask for a pastor, briefly describing your situation. We generally will be able to return your inquiry within 2-3 working days.

Baptisms

Baptism, being a sacrament ordained by Christ himself, is a serious matter of discipleship and discipline. If you do not regularly attend St. John’s and would like to be baptized or would like your child baptized, please be aware that we typically will not baptize without a period of discernment and instruction, as well as requiring weekly church attendance.

If you wish us to consider your situation, please feel free to call (215) 396-1970 or email us at info@toknowchris.org and ask for a pastor, briefly describing your situation. We generally will be able to return your inquiry within 2-3 working days.

The Lord’s Supper / Holy Communion

Sometimes we are asked “who may participate in the Lord’s Supper at St. John’s?” Note these three caveats:

  1. If you are a baptized believer, in good standing in any believing church of Christ in the world, then we say: “Our fellow Christians of other branches of Christ’s Church, and all who love our Divine Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in sincerity, are affectionately invited to the Lord’s Table.”
  2. If you are not a baptized Christian, or if you are under church discipline in your own church, you probably should not participate in the Lord’s Supper.
  3. If you are uncertain, please feel free to consult with a pastor, and we will be glad to gently discuss and counsel with you regarding your situation.

Our desire is nothing less than to see “all who are weary and heavy-laden” come to Christ and find the rest He promises. As He himself says: “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt 11.28-30). In any event, you may feel free to come forward when the Lord’s Supper is served, cross your arms across your chest, and we will gladly pray with you at the rail or after the worship service.

Confirmation And Communion

An increasingly common question is whether unconfirmed people (of any age) may take the Lord’s Supper. We know that customs vary. While a paper will be forthcoming on this topic, until then, note of this Article from the 39 Articles:

“Confirmation is not to be counted for a Sacrament of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.” (Article 25)

Confirmation is an ancient and useful rite, virtually universally practiced in the universal church. It is part of Anglican polity and will not be set aside at St. John’s.

However, confirmation is not a mandatory Gospel rite, that is, it may not be imposed upon anyone as a matter of faith. Therefore, the clergy will serve the Lord’s Supper to the unconfirmed of any age, provided that the following are all true:

  1. That the person has been baptized,
  2. That the person is not under discipline in any part of Christ’s church for just cause,
  3. That in the case of a minor child, the parents agree with the minor’s participation in the Supper and at least one parent is a baptized and practicing Christian, and,
  4. That in the case of one who regularly attends St. John’s, the person either intends to be confirmed or demonstrates that she or he has been received into the larger church of Christ by some analogous method elsewhere. This discernment is to be done with a pastor.

If you are contemplating this matter and especially if you are contemplating a change in your family practice, please see the Rector. He will be glad to speak with you.