Saturday, May 02, 2009

Bishop Jenkins: I might ban intinction

This from the Episcopal Bishop of Louisiana as regards swine flu:

This is an opportunity for us to undertake some basic teaching about the Eucharist. I have been asked to issue a policy statement against intinction but I shall refrain from doing so at this time. If the pandemic worsens, such may be necessary. The practice of dipping the consecrated host into the chalice, whether such is done by someone administering the sacrament or by the communicant, does not constitute a more hygienic practice than drinking from the common cup. In fact, such dipping may well pose a threat to those who receive after us. The faithful receive the fullness of Christ in either species. Receiving both bread and wine is part of our Anglican tradition; however, if one is concerned about disease, I think it better to receive only the bread than to dip the host into the chalice. It should be noted that we who share the common cup are no less hearty than those Christians who do not do so. It is better to introduce this subject now as a pastoral matter rather than waiting for something more to happen.

Banning intinction? Really? Telling people how they have to take Communion? Since when is this the authoritarian RCC? Is there any reason to believe intinction is actually unhealthy? Pleeease.


Ken said...

Well, I personally preferred intinction until I was diagnosed with celiac disease. For me, intinction by others definitely poses a health risk.

Lynn said...

I was addicted to alcohol for three years and it this caused and incredible array emotional complications at the rail. After about a year, intinction seemed possible and it was the only compromise that worked. Too Episcopalian for just the host, but I refuse to take the cup (the smell no longer smacks me, though).

Ken, I never considered those with celiac disease - something to ponder. I have a neighbor who landed in the hospital a few times before being diagnosed. Knowingly causing harm to another will make me rethink intinction; perhaps I'll remember that somewhere, someone like you is completing the full celebration without the host.

Nathan Empsall said...

Oddly enough, I also never considered those with celiac disease - and I say oddly because a single cookie will make my little sister break out in a rash, and nearly killed her when she was an infant. It does put a new twist on intinction.

That said, this is a sacramental thing, and it does strike me as silly to be making episcopal decreeses about how to take a sacrament based on a public health concern that will probably come to nothing. More general policies about more general concerns, however, would make sense.

The bishop of NH (yes, that one) instructed our priests to warn congregations today that intinction is indeed less sanitary, given how germy fingers are. Makes sense; I just don't understand why people are dipping so far in that their fingers hit the wine. I think the accompanying announcement that if you take just the host you've still completed communion is probably the key.

Cany said...

I am an intinction only person as I get every upper respiratory disease within a mile. I do it not only for myself, but for those behind me.

I, personally, feel better about it.

Elizabeth said...

There are gluten free communion hosts. At St. Pauls Bellingham WA we have a separate chalice and paten for the people who need gluten-free. So the wine has had nothing dipped in it save gluten-free wafers. The communicants just present a little blue token on their hands at the communion rail. (Of course, we know the regulars). During the communion, an acolyte stands and holds the gluten-free chalice and paten at the ready so it barely even noticeable to others that the change was made. The bulletin always has a notice giving the information.

We consider it part of being available to all.

Ken said...

It's a very interesting discussion overall. Elizabeth, thanks for your comments and for the email that you sent. I don't currently worship regularly at an Episcopal church, though I did check our neighborhood church tonight online and found that they have gluten-free wafers at all services.

I've personally never had problems with the common cup related to celiac disease, but I realize that there is a theoretical risk. I'm not as sensitive as some celiacs, though my sensitivity seems to be increasing over time spent on a gluten-free diet (which is fairly typical for celiac disease).

I think it is important that we are all aware of any issues that may cause awkwardness or lack of inclusion in the Eucharist. This certainly affects the quality of one's experience in the Church. I'm not sure of the position of the Episcopal Church on non-alcoholic wine, but I've certainly known others who shared Lynn's concerns.

Years ago, I attended a Mennonite church with an active Episcopal community within the congregation. (Yes, it is odd but I found the mix of low church and high church traditions to be wonderful!) Some Mennonites abstain from alcohol on moral grounds, so we used a common cup Communion with two chalices - one with wine and the other with grape juice. As part of the welcome instructions, the process was briefly explained and people joined one of the two lines down the center aisle of the church - one for each chalice.

Anonymous said...

Drinking the wine is just as much of a health risk as intinction. If the church is going to cater to those with Celiac disease they must cater to all who have health issues. Those who can't for health reasons drink from the chalice but can intinct are no less deserving. How about those who are alcoholic? They should be catered to by offering an alternative of grape juice. How about the church sponsored pot luck dinners and coffee hours? I think they should be sugar free to cater to the diabetics, salt free to cater to those who have high blood pressure or heart issues, dairy free for those who are lactose intolerant and the list goes on. If you have a medical issue it is your issue to deal with and not infringe on anyone else's rights. IMO the Episcopal Church can no longer state all are welcome at God's table. If there is such a health risk why doesn't the church ban the wine for all not just a few and then ban the handshaking at the peace. Handshaking is known to spread germs.

Nathan Empsall said...

I've never liked the all-or-nothing, everyone-or-noone approach. You do what you can, even if that isn't everything.

Nathan Empsall said...

Also, you can hug, or bow, or whatever you want at the peace. Nothing in the BCP says it has to be a handshake. And all ARE welcome at God's table - as numerous bishops are being quick to note, including both +Jenkins and +Robinson, that Sacramentally, taking just one of the elements is the same as taking both. Can't take the wine? The Sacramental element of Communion is in no way lessened by just taking the host.

Lynn said...

Anonymous, I know much of what you said was in fun. I hope I'm not misinterpreting your comment. Yes, we can go overboard; and yes, also Nathan is right that we do what we can. I don't advocate making the rail a "have it your way," Burger King experience.

I think if you read back, you'll see that Ken and I do think protecting our health is mostly our own responsibility. I can't even claim that my way is correct for others who avoid alcohol - many avoid even the small amount in the non-alcoholic wines. And truly the smell of the wine in the cup repelled me the first year after I quit - who could have accommodated that? I didn't expect personal delivery of the host in my pew, Sundays are for community worship.

Perhaps I should have mentioned a little time and maturity has taught me a bit about compromise and alcohol. That includes communion. If time finds me avoiding alcohol and gluten, I would go to the rail for a blessing. The sacrament is what you make it, and that goes for all seven.

Blessings on all - Nathan, thanks for hosting an interesting discussion.