Friday, January 25, 2008

On the Episcopal-Hindu Hoo-Rah

I haven't weighed in on this one up until now but maybe it's time to say a word or two about what I've come to think of as "The Hindu Hoo-Rah."

BACKGROUND: From our Diocesan News Service:

"Indian Rite Mass celebrates ties between two

In a colorful rite that honored the traditions of both the Christian and Hindu faiths in India, some 260 participants gathered for an Indian Rite Mass on January 19 at St. John's Pro-Cathedral. Bishop Chester Talton, who attended the service, read a statement from Bishop J. Jon Bruno that offered friendship to the Hindu people of the Indian community and apologized for past harsh treatment of the Indian people by Christians.

During the service, trays of flowers were offered to God, as is traditional in India. At the Eucharist, Hindu attendees were invited forward to take a flower as a sign of friendship: Indian Christians, some of whom were also in traditional garb, took part in the Eucharist. Indian, Orthodox and tradition Western church music were offered by the choir of St. John's and two Indian bands.

Sounds like fun. Sorry I missed it. What I didn't miss, however, was the furor by the Communion Police who were horrified that a Hindu might have snuck through and received the bread and wine made holy. (If you missed it, it's been blogged on here and here and here and here ... and the subject of much coversation over at the HoB/D (AKA "House of Bishops & Deputies") List.

My, my, my!

Now, the debate about "open communion" is a lively one throughout the Episcopal Church at the moment and I'm all for lively debate. Gary Hall (of Seabury-Western fame) wrote a great piece in the Living Church a few months back (the link to the TLC page seems to be broken but you can read excerpts here at Episcopal Cafe) and I commend it to you.

But in this case, what got the Communion Police going was a line in the L.A. Times report on the event that read:

All were invited to Holy Communion, after the Episcopal celebrant elevated a tray of consecrated Indian bread, and deacons raised wine-filled chalices. In respect to Hindu tradition, a tray of flowers was also presented. Christians and Hindus lined up for communion, but since Orthodox Hindus shun alcohol, they consumed only the bread.

Turns out the reporter got it wrong, as noted in this correction issued by the Times yesterday:

An article in Sunday's California section about a joint religious service involving Hindus and Episcopalians said that all those attending the service at St. John's Cathedral in Los Angeles were invited to Holy Communion. Although attendees walked toward the Communion table, only Christians were encouraged to partake of Communion. Out of respect for Hindu beliefs, the Hindus were invited to take a flower. Also, the article described Hindus consuming bread during Communion, but some of those worshipers were Christians wearing traditional Indian dress.

"Secular reporter gets it wrong on finer details of Episcopal liturgy. Film at eleven" ... NOT! Hardly breaking news, so why all the fuss?

Here's my favorite commentary (used with permission) from a contributor to the HoB/D list discussion:

Given the midrash of going out to the highways and byways to bring in people to the wedding banquet, I have never refused Communion to those who desire to share with the Lord in the Lord's Supper. There is precedent in the "ready and desirous" rubric from the days we thought Baptism was not complete until Confirmation. If, erroneously, we thought that those not truly baptized could receive in that they desired confirmation in order to receive Communion, and given that the desire was not for confirmation but what confirmation conferred, then anyone desirous of partaking of that which symbolizes common union with those present have put on the appropriate garment for the wedding banquet.

Further, just as stated in Article XXVI of the XXIX, that the unworthiness of the Minister does not hinder the effect of the Sacraments, so the Eucharist will be what God intends it to be regardless of the unworthiness of the receiver---meaning that those we may consider unworthy may receive and the determination of their unworthiness is made at another time. It is sad to have to strain gnats in order for God's children to swallow the Sacred Elements.

The Rev. Tim Solon
Cheyenne, WY
Not likely to be the end of the conversation, but enough for today. Because when it really comes down to it, this squabbling is getting as much done for the kingdom as Clinton & Obama's squabbling in the South Carolina debate did for the country.


LilBearSings said...

It's really ok if some of the Hindus take communion thinking it is a good way to honor God in the Christian's tradition. It won't poison them, God will not strike them dead for acting outside their own traditions or strike Christians dead for giving it to them. Really. And if God's not that touchy then what's our excuse?

It's a ritual to help us stay mindful not a magic Christian pill.

DavidJustinLynch said...

Mother Karen Macqueen is the Associate Rector at st. Paul's Pomona where I am a parishioner, vestry member, thurifer, Newsletter Minister, chorister and subdeacon, and I hope one day, postulant/candidate/ordinand. My wife, Sharon Talley aka "Beeper" is the Clerk of the Vestry, acolyte, subdeacon, and Coffee Hour Minister. Beeper was an acolyte at the Indian Rite Mass and I was a spectator. It was truly one of the most moving spiritual experiences I have known in my 50+ years in the Episcopal Church, even though I did not agree with everything that was said and done and even though I was not selected to participate despite my wanting to do so. Yes, Communion was in fact offered by general invitation with each person invited to participate in whatever manner their conscience permitted. I myself took the customary Bread and Wine which as a Transubstantiationist I believe is the actual Body and Blood of Jesus. I also took a flower. Of course we should have open communion since that is what Our Lord practiced. He in fact ate with tax collectors and prostitutes at the same table. I don't think He really minds a few LA Hindus. Who knows, some of them may see the Light and become followers of Jesus.

Bateau Master said...

Did Jesus practice open communion? He shared the bread and wine with very select few and directed them to carry on and "Do this in remembrance of me."

He performed open ministry and association, but I would say he reserved sharing his body and blood with those that knew and believed in him. Acceptance, baptism, communion seems like the minimal order of things to ask of recipients.

edav38 said...

The Only way that it would be wrong for a Hindu to take communion would be if GOD Himself could not tell the difference between someone who is a Christian and thus Mono-theistic, and a Hindu and thus poly-theistic.

I was brought up in the Roman Catholic faith. At age 9, I ask my mother if i could go up to get communion. She said to me: "what is the purpose of communion?", I answered. "what does communion represent?", I answered, "how did Jesus pay for our sins?" I answered, "what was the purpose of Jesus' death and resurection?" I answered. From that moment, I have gone up to get communion. I am 41 years old now, I confess to Christ nightly, and often throughout the daytime. Have never attended a "Confessional" or a "Confirmation", yet I can take communion any time and anywhere I like, because the Only entity for whom can tell me if I can take communion is CHRIST/God/Holy Spirit, who is also the ONLY ONE who knows my Heart and thus can answer for my worthiness for taking communion.

Communion is for the SOUL, and not for Judgement of mankind of our worthiness thereof. And thus, ONLY God can say whether a Hindu taking communion is proper or not, and I have not heard Him say one way or another.

If the hindu's Soul is for God, then them taking communion is a good thing, if their Soul/Heart is not For God, then they got a little bit more sustenience, no big deal.

Lets worry about something "Important" for once........

edav38 said...

Bateau Master said: "He performed open ministry and association, but I would say he reserved sharing his body and blood with those that knew and believed in him. Acceptance, baptism, communion seems like the minimal order of things to ask of recipients."

Just remember something about the Holy Sacrement. It is STILL Bread and Wine Until it touches the Lips and tounge of the Faithful, Only Then does it become the "Body and Blood" of Christ. No human, priest or otherwise, has the ability to Transfigure the Bread and Wine Into Flesh and Blood, only Christ has that ability, The priest only has the ability to Bless the Bread and Wine, and it is Not the Body and Blod of Christ until it is ingested by the Faithful.

If the UnFaithful ingest it, then it is only bread and wine, and never becomes "The Body and Blood of CHRIST".

But, regardless, it is metaphorical and Philisophical, for the only time it (the bread and wine) actually Becomes Flesh and Blood is after you have ingested it, digested it, and absorbed into your "body and blood" what is needed.

But yet, no faliable or sinful human (and there is no human who is without sin), has the right to expect another to conform to their wishes and stipulations in order to receive that which CHRIST Offered to the Faithful Freely and without reservation.

Mark said...


So, clearly Communion should be closed to all but the Disciples.

Thanks for clarification, Bateau.

Old Verger said...

When the Baptists celebrate their memorial Meal, they remember Our Lord's sacrifice. When Episcopalians celebrate the Eucharist, they invite Christ to be present at the table. I cannot see how Our Lord would be offended by either. Nor can I imagine that either group believes in the Real Absence.

My business partner is an American Hindu. I'm an Episcopalian. And we have as much in common with each other as the Baptists and the Episcopalians do. In fact, much more in common than differences when it comes to the Universe and its Creator.

The world in changing fast, and the learning curve about such things is steep. But, new occasions _do_ teach new duties.

Jim said...


Well, no, David, Jesus was rather selective for His last supper. The meal was recorded and discussed precisely because it was special and different.

Bateau, we do not live in Jesus's day. That is, there are no Roman legions intending to interrupt and desecrate our sacred life. So, we can be a bit more open, and besides, in most parishes (and all "Anglican" rejectionists I know here in Chicago) we have nothing else to share. Jesus ate with the people we avoid. So that example has its own problems. Besides, after the retraction from the journalist, this was not a violation of our standards.

Rev. Susan, I was in agreement with your post until the last sentence. I think you were a bit hard on the Senators!


Paul said...

I concur with edav38's sentiment that God is capable of discerning and of dealing appropriately with those who receive. I must demur about a common western misconception, however.

Hindus believe that all deities and all realities are ultimately only Brahman. Their vision of reality is far more monist than that of most westerners. To believe in the mystery of the Trinity and then call Hindus polytheists is a grave oversimplification of Hindu ways of believing.

edav38 said...

Paul said: "and then call Hindus polytheists is a grave oversimplification of Hindu ways of believing."

Actually, Paul, no it is not an over-simplification. If you want to get a good listing of the gods, deities, family and pantheon of the Hindu faith, a Small listing that is:

There are more than 25 deities in this listing, and not all of them are listed there. Almost every animal, plant and insect that is native to the Indian region is represented as a god as well. As well as a combonation of Man/animals. Also, a Human can become a god for a time as well. The most heavily populated pantheon in world religion is the Hindu religion.

The Trimuti:
is the Hindu form of the "Trinity" which can in NO WAY be confused with the CHRISTian Trinity

No, I am not disrespecting them, just stating Fact, that anyone who researches the Hindu religion, as I have for the past 20+ years, and even read a few of their religious texts just to try to get a better understanding of them and their beliefs, can do.

Many people think and believe that the ancient Greeks and Romans had alot of gods that were worshiped, but even combined, the Greeks and Romans had nothing compared to Hindu. You could actually take the Greeks, Romans, Norse, Celtic and Gauls gods, combine them all together, and you would still not have a total number of gods that is larger than the Hundu faith. Thus, "Polytheistic" is the proper term for the Hindu religion. Dress it up however you like, and call it some other name, but it will Still be "Polytheistic."

DavidJustinLynch said...

Edva, YOUR Eucharistic theologyis bald Receptionism as taught by Zwingli, who in my opinion is one sorry excuse for a theologian. Just read him and you'll see what I mean. Simply put, he and others like him sought to exterminate from the liturgy the sense of the sacred, the sense of awe, that we get from the transcendent presence of our Lord that is so precious and still has a role in our contemporary Church in motivating Christians to go out into the world and bring about God's kingdom where the mighty are put down and the poor lifted up, to paraphrase Our Blessed Mother Mary. My Eucharistic theology is based on Thomas Aquinas, who taught that when Mother Susan (or any other Priest) consecrates the Bread and Wine, they become the Body and Blood of Jesus, even though they retain the physical properties of bread and wine. I realize this is a bit simplistic and a minority view in the Anglican Communion, but it is one that is simple and logical, easily grasped by children and non-Christians. In contrast to Receptionists, I believe Jesus is present in the form of bread and wine, the opinions of those in the pews (or at the Altar) not withstanding. The message: Jesus is a REALITY for us. He is not what we perceive Him to be. He just "is". Our message to the world is, "He's here. Deal with it."

edav38 said...

David, I understand your position, and that of Thomas Aquinas, but I disagree with it.

I do not subscribe to any one person's view of how consecration of communion occurs. I do know this though. When CHRIST multiplied the Fish and Loafs of bread, He did not stop to ask the masses if they subscribed to His philisophical or Religious teachings.

Also, when He, at the Last Supper and passed the bread and wine as sembelance of His Body and Blood to the Disciples to commune with Him, He said to do so in "Rememberance of Me",

John 13:12-17 states:
"12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. 13"You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them."

Then in John 15:5-8:
"5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."

Also in John 15:12-18:
"12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17This is my command: Love each other."

If we are Not Willing to wash the feet of others, if we are Not Willing prune the garden so that it "Bears Much Fruit", if we are Not Willing to consider others as friends, then how can we call ourselves CHRISTians?

CHRIST did NOT tell us to keep to ourselves and Not spread the Message. HE Told Us to "Bear Much Fruit." That is to Expand HIS Kingdom, to Invite the Non-Believer's IN and to Invite them to imbibe.

I have personally SEEN a person's whole outlook on life and his view of afterlife Change just by taking communion, without anyone realizing that he was not baptized, not "saved" and NOT, by any stretch, a follower of Christ until that moment.

CHRIST changes the Hearts that HE has Chosen to change when HE Chooses to change them, and it is NOT for us to impede Him from doing so.

By Restricting communion to ONLY CHRISTians, then you are telling the Poor, the needy, the prostitutes, the GLBT's, the Muslim, the Hindu..........That God could Never love or accept them into His loving embrace, and that they have No Place stepping a foot into our houses of worship.

Granted, Communion MAY be wasted upon them. But is it not worth it if just One More decides to accept the change that God can bring into their lives, from a SMALL piece of bread and a SIP of Wine?

Heaven is Big Enough for untold Billions of souls. The Bible tells us that there are INFINITELY More Angel's In Heaven then there will ever be man on earth. Thus it stands to reason that there is Enough Room up there for a few Hindu's who could possibly accept the Lord as their Lord.

Thomas Aquinas was a MAN, a Human, and thus falible (e.g. just as sinful as you and I), and thus he Could have been wrong.

I do not know who this "Zwingli" is, but then I have never been one to just accept what some Theologian, or Saint for that matter, says.

The Bible says it ALL for me, "Bear Much Fruit."

RonF said...

When one sees people getting all worked up that some Hindus may have taken communion, it pays to be skeptical until the actual facts get laid out.

However, I'm amazed to read the rather tortuous reasoning by which people are actually trying to justify giving non-Christians the Eucharist. The matter has been both considered and settled some time ago in our Church. Read Title 1, Canon 17, Section 7 of the Constitution and Canons of the National Church:

"No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this Church."

Seems pretty clear to me. Clergy who violate this should be educated about it. If they continue to violate this canon, it should be reported to their Bishop for action.

RonF said...

Susan, do you support "open Communion"? Would you have any idea how the adherents justify violating TEC's Canon on the matter?

RonF said...

One thing; I don't advocate someone being the "Communion police". At our parish we announce and print in our bulletin every Sunday that Holy Communion is open to all baptized Christians. Then, if someone comes to the rail they get the Eucharist, no questions asked. But we issue the invitation precisely in accord with the Canons, and in accord with the intent and purpose of the Eucharist.

edav38 said...

Susan, this is my LAST comment on this topic, because I am ready to get quite belligerent with RonF.

Don't even allow this to post if you feel so, it is ok with me.

Next, people like RonF are going to be asking that we post Guards at the rail in order to make sure that the UnBaptized do not take communion.

Personally, under His opinion, i would not be allowed communion, as I have never been baptized in the Episcopalian Church.

RonF, Please inform my priest that you are telling him that "I" may not receive communion. I attend St. Albans at the corner of 46th and Emerson Ave. in Indianapolis.

Stuart said...

A lively debate on the issue of "open" Communion is a good and healthy thing for the Church. But adherence to the Canons is a necessity, especially at this time in the life of the Episcopal Church. Our Church can't depose Bishops who violate Canons or fire Standing Committees who violate Canons and then turn around and violate Canons ourselves because we think it's right. The Episcopal Church only allows Baptized Christians to receive Communion. Full Stop. Until General Convention determines otherwise, that's the rule. That doesn't mean we act as Communion Police, but it does mean we avoid liberal hypocrisy: the canons are valid when we agree and oppressive when we disagree. The Canons apply to all of us and are part of our common life.


p.s. Susan+, I thought a lot about what you wrote in response to my comment about the weakness of the Democratic candidates on glbt issues. So, I'm going to vote for Obama in the primary and hope to vote for him in the general election. If Sen. Clinton gets the Democratic nod, I can always vote for Cynthia McKinney and the Green Party.

RonF said...

Susan, this is my LAST comment on this topic, because I am ready to get quite belligerent with RonF.

Go for it. As will become obvious below, people who react emotionally instead of with reason to a reasoned discussion usually get the facts wrong.

Next, people like RonF are going to be asking that we post Guards at the rail in order to make sure that the UnBaptized do not take communion.

A point that I addressed in a post immediately afterwards. But to rephrase; you tell people what the rules are, and it's up to them to follow them. If a priest happens to know for a fact that someone presenting themselves at the altar is not baptized, he or she is forbidden by Canon to give them the elements, although in my personal opinion a blessing would seem to me to be in order. But if someone presents themselves at the altar after the rule has been announced, and the priest has no idea of whether or not they've been baptized, he or she should provide the Eucharist to them.

Personally, under His opinion, i would not be allowed communion, as I have never been baptized in the Episcopalian Church.

Well, we keep claiming that everything that General Convention does is inspired by the Holy Spirit, so I supposed that "under His opinion" would be a proper usage, although a little paternalistic for this blog. However, I suggest that you re-read the canon. "Unbaptized" does not refer solely to the baptism via the Episcopal church. Baptism in any Christian church qualifies.

RonF, Please inform my priest that you are telling him that "I" may not receive communion. I attend St. Albans at the corner of 46th and Emerson Ave. in Indianapolis.

I have no basis for doing so given the information you have provided me. Besides which, does your priest know who "edav38" is?