Conscience

I thought that this summary of some of Pope Francis’ comments recently about the Lord’s Supper were very interesting.  Coming on the heels of a recent Bible study discussion on our polity’s practice of close(d) Communion (very similar to the Roman Catholic position), I thought the article touched on a lot of interesting points.

I’ll admit that I struggle at times with the practice of close(d) Communion.  Not because I don’t think that what we say about what happens at the Lord’s Supper isn’t important, but just because it functions as a dividing point in Christianity.  I find it not surprising that the things which our loving Heavenly Father provided to us as sustenance during our time together have become central matters of division between Christians.

How do we balance our responsibility to teach Biblical doctrine to the best of our ability, with recognizing both our inability to truly know what is in another’s heart, and the ecumenical creedal statements emphasizing – as Pope Francis does – our common baptism?  How do we demonstrate unity in our faith while acknowledging that there are honest and not-simple matters of difference among us?  Is it possible to throw out the bathwater without the baby?  History seems to show us that it isn’t.  But I continue to wonder.

My wonderings are further complicated by the reality that says that our pastors serving as chaplains in certain institutions and the military can function differently in matters of the Sacrament than parish pastors.  How do we legitimize this distinction?  Perhaps this is the blessing of pastoral discretion, allowing the pastor some leeway in working with individuals and situations that require additional grace.

As I told my congregants, every time I exercise pastoral discretion I ask myself afterwards – repeatedly – whether I’ve done the right thing or not.  I never know the right answer, regardless of what my polity tells me the right answer is.  I deal, as part of my vocation, with the continued angst of never knowing if I’m doing enough, and recognizing that the answer is always, out of necessity, no, you aren’t doing enough.  Which drives me briefly towards despair and then flings me to the cross and the empty tomb and the forgiveness that is promised me there, even as I bear the extra weight and higher expectations placed upon my vocation.

Perhaps that is where we are supposed to be, caught in the ambiguity and the tension between unity in Christ and serious, honest theological inquiry and study.  Never certain that we are perfectly correct and therefore humble in our dealings with one another in the faith.

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2 Responses to “Conscience”

  1. J.P. Says:

    I struggle with this, too, given the nature of international congregations.

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