I was recently chatting with another brother in the ministry. He is an older gentleman and serving his second parish. He told me something that was bothersome: he doesn’t think that he will be able to remain in The LCMS. Upon hearing this, I asked him why. He proceeded to tell me that he has some personal issues he’s been struggling with. The doctrine of The LCMS is not the issue. It’s the practice; namely, the practice of the Lord’s Supper.
With regards to the Lord’s Supper, we practice close(d) communion. That means that if you are not a member of a congregation of The LCMS or another Lutheran church body that we are in altar/pulpit fellowship with, then we do not permit you to come to the Lord’s Table. Why do we take such a stance like this? “The Lutheran church believes, teaches and confesses that the Lord’s Supper is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, given to us Christians to eat and to drink. We hold that the bread and the wine in the Supper are the true body and blood of Christ and that these are given and received into the mouths of all who commune.”1 This is the official policy and doctrine of The LCMS. We look at what Holy Scripture says with regards to the Lord’s Supper. St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:26-29, “Whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore,whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”
Unfortunately, not every LCMS congregation abides by that. That is where this pastor’s troubles lie: doctrine and practice do not match. As far as he sees it, no one is doing anything about the issue of open communion. Open communion is the practice of allowing members of another church-body (or sometimes even faith) to commune. In short, it’s a “Y’all come” mentality, regardless of a person’s beliefs.
Including his current circuit, he has served in three different circuits (1 as a vicar, 2 as a pastor). Unfortunately, this is the “best” circuit he has served in. In this circuit, open communion is rampant. He has even had discussions with his district president with regards to open communion. Unfortunately, those discussions did not go well. Serving in the Wyoming District, open communion is not an issue. I do not have to worry about the kind of church a member of mine will visit while on vacation in Wyoming. However, that cannot be said for all of the districts, including the district in which this fellow brother serves.
Last time I checked, the congregations of The LCMS all had to abide by the synodical constitution. That also meant abiding by our policy of the Lord’s Supper. I must have missed the memo that said pastors and/or congregations were free to choose which parts of our doctrine they wanted to follow and those parts they want to throw out.