OUR CLOSE COMMUNION POLICY
Every guest and visitor who worships with us at St. Paul's is an answer to our prayers. You are always welcome to join us to hear the gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. To give you a better understanding of the faith that we at St. Paul's confess, we wish to take this opportunity to explain our communion practice.
In keeping with the clear teachings of Holy Scripture and the policy of the Missouri Synod, St. Paul's practices close communion (also called closed communion or close(d) communion). What we mean by this is that we normally offer the Sacrament of the Altar only to those with whom we agree in all articles of Christian doctrine. Therefore, except in cases of emergency and pastoral discretion, our practice is to invite only those who are communicant members of congregations that are part of, or in official fellowship with, the LCMS to join us at the Lord's Table. Visitors from sister LCMS congregations who wish to commune are asked to announce themselves to the pastor prior to the service. One of the ushers will be happy to take you to the pastor to speak with him briefly. All others are respectfully asked to refrain from taking the Sacrament and encouraged to speak with our pastor about registering for an Adult Instruction Course that will prepare them for a future, informed reception of the Sacrament.
We are aware that many congregations -- including unfortunately some Lutheran ones -- allow essentially unrestricted access to the Sacrament of the Altar. Open communion has sadly become the norm in the majority of American churches. This unscriptural practice has come about because we live in an age and society in which significant differences in doctrine are minimized as unimportant. It is our sincere desire that all Christians could commune with us. However, unity in doctrine must come before unity at the altar. The Bible consistently teaches that God commands His children to remain faithful to His Word. We here at St. Paul's desire above all to be true to our Lord's instructions concerning His Supper. In the Sacrament of Holy Communion, Christ gives us His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sins and the strengthening of our faith. By His precious body and blood, which are truly present in, with, and under the earthly elements of bread and wine, our Lord unites Christians with Himself and with one another. When we bring doctrinal division and disagreement to the Lord's Table, we go against His gracious intent. In fact, we disrupt the Sacrament to such a degree that those who do not properly discern what they are partaking of actually endanger themselves. This scriptural warning is something we take very seriously (see 1 Corinthians 11:17-34). We are not in any way questioning the personal faith or salvation of any brother or sister in Christ. Nor are we saying that Christians outside of our fellowship are somehow "unworthy" to commune with us. Far from it! We realize that our practice of close communion will offend and hurt some as it seems an inhospitable practice at first glance. Please understand that we follow this policy in obedience to our Lord's clear commands regarding His Sacrament and to show love and concern for our fellow Christians whom we believe to be in serious error. We ask that you respect our practice in this matter. If you have any questions at all, we welcome and encourage you to discuss this with us. You can also call the office at 410-592-8100 or send us an e-mail. Thank you and God bless you.