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Official Church Responses
to Baptism, Eucharist & Ministry (BEM)
and Its Suggestion of Eucharist Every Sunday

 

United Methodist Church (USA)

"The Wesleyan renewal movement within and beyond the Church of England was as much sacramental as it was evangelical. The Wesleys had highest respect for eucharistic worship, and expounded in sermons and hymns a substantial eucharist theology. IN American, however, during a century and a half after John Wesley's death in 1791, the place of the holy communion in Methodist worship declined, and the beliefs about it lost continuity with the traditional doctrines which the Wesleys espoused. In United Methodism during recent years a remarkable recovery of this tradition has been conjoined with the vigorous renewal of liturgical theology and practice in the ecumenical movement. As ecumenical encounter and dialogue have forced Methodists to rediscover their own history, they have been amazed at the richness of it.... As we United Methodists regard the church's practice through the ages, we can recognize how our own usage has fallen short of the fullness of the holy communion. Now, without minimizing at all the preaching of God's word, we more clearly recognize the equivalent place of the sacrament. As BEM rightly shows, the eucharist is 'the central act of the Church's worship' because it effectively unites word and sacrament. God's effectual word is there revealed, proclaimed, heard, seen and tasted." ...

 

"We have noted our agreement that the eucharist 'continues as the central act of the Church's worship' and affirmed our intent to observe more frequent celebration.... BEM encourages our generation of Methodists to recover our own Wesleyan heritage while experiencing the theological convergence with many other Christians."

[Churches Respond to BEM II.187-88,191]

 

Reformed Church in America

"... it is a matter of historical fact that Calvin, on the basis of his studies of the Bible and the early church, recommended a weekly celebration of the Lord's Supper. This recommendation is a matter of record both in his proposed ordinances for the church in Geneva, as well as in his Institutes (Cf.4:17; 44ff, 4:14:7ff). However, that which is theologically appropriate may not be helpful within a given situation. Pastors and elders must judge what will strengthen Christian faith in a given congregation. At the same time, in view of the witness of the Church of the apostles, as well as of Calvin, we can hardly find fault with the observation that 'As the eucharist celebrates the resurrection of Christ, it is appropriate that it should take place at least every Sunday.' [quoting BEM] ... To say that it is 'appropriate' is not to mandate." [CR BEM II.146]

 

Presbyterian Church in Canada

"Much Reformed teaching has encouraged frequent celebration. It should be noted that in most of our congregations communion is observed more often than it was a generation ago." [CR BEM II.156]

 

Presbyterian Church (USA):

"The call for eucharistic celebration as frequently as each Sunday (E.31) supports the increasing emphasis upon more frequent communion evidenced in our Book of Order (S-3.0500). The text reminds us: 'Many differences of theology, liturgy and practice are connected with the varying frequency with which the Holy Communion is celebrated' (E.30). We in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) should enter into the study and discussion of our own varying local practices and traditions to explore what doctrinal issues may be at stake."[CR BEM III.196-7]

 

United Church of Christ (USA)

"There is great diversity in the United Church of Christ with respect to the frequency of celebrating holy communion. We read with care the admonition that it 'is appropriate that it take place at least every Sunday.' Our own guidelines for worship concur in making this recommendation. Our published liturgies for Sunday are services of word and sacrament, and are offered with the hope 'that our Church will grow into this practice.' However, a weekly celebration of holy communion is not our predominant custom. Our study of 'Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry' discloses that the frequency is increasing.... We are challenged by the document to rethink the question of the frequency of the eucharistic celebration." [CR BEM II.330]

 

American Baptist Churches in the USA:

"Although many Baptists would be sympathetic to the statement that the Lord's Supper should be celebrated frequently (Š30), most would not be ready to affirm that this must mean weekly (Š31). We recognize, however, that we need to retain a sense of the Supper as a crucial part of our worship. Many of our churches identify the service of prayer, testimony and confession of sin as preparation for the Sunday service of communion. Others are liable to the peril of making the Supper appear to be either an 'add on' or marginal part of the church's life." [CR BEM III.261]

 

Church of the Brethren:

"The text's articulation of this rich understanding of eucharist as the sacrament of Christ's real presence has enhanced Brethren belief and practice, encouraging congregations to celebrate with bread and cup more often than at the semi-annual Love Feast." [CR BEM VI.109]

 

Moravian Church in America, Southern Province:

"We would ... like to underscore the last sentence of III,28: 'The affirmation of a common eucharistic faith does not imply uniformity in either liturgy or practice.' In this light, we do not oppose the celebration of the sacrament every Sunday (Š31), but would be reluctant at this time to attempt to make it the norm for all our churches." [CR BEM II.257]

 

Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod:

"Much in this section [on Eucharist] is congenial to us. Especially commendable, from a functional standpoint, is the recommendation that, because of its centrality, the eucharist be celebrated frequently -- 'at least every Sunday' -- and that the faithful should be encouraged to receive it frequently. We must admit that our own contemporary practice falls short of meeting this ideal, which the Lutheran confessional writings also encourage." [CR BEM III.135]

 

Lutheran Church in America
(now Evangelical Lutheran Church in America):

Reference to "earlier documents," incl. The Communion Practices Statement of 1978. [CR BEM I.33]

"The document offers a spirituality rooted in baptism and nourished by Word and sacrament. A particular concern is 'renewal of the eucharist itself' (par.28).... Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry is a pastoral and prophetic call to Lutherans to celebrate the eucharist 'frequently' and to receive it 'frequently.' The emphasis on deepening of faith (par.30) must not be overlooked. As for celebration 'at least every Sunday,' some Lutheran congregations have this practice, and many do not. Attention needs to be given to the rationale for frequency of communion, along with other forms of being nourished by the Word." [CR BEM I.36]

 

American Lutheran Church:
(now Evangelical Lutheran Church in America):

"We further affirm the manner in which the document raises the issue of the frequency of the celebration of the sacrament." [CR BEM II.82]