Impaired communion gets a new meaning

Coke and Bible“Eucharistic Food and Drink” is the topic of a new report just issued by the Anglican Consultative Council’s Inter-Anglican Liturgical Committee. While endorsing variances such as gluten-free bread and, in some cases, grape juice, the report continues to affirm traditional bread and wine as the normal stuff of Holy Communion. What I found interesting is the survey of regional variations to the 2000 year-old, near-universal standard of bread and wine. I quote:

In sections of Africa and the Far East the scarcity of wheat bread or wine had brought about the use of local substitutes. The Philippines reported the use of rice cakes and rice wine, while Uganda noted that Coke, banana juice, passion fruit or pineapple juice was used in some parishes. The practice had arisen, it said during the “difficult years of Idi Amin” when bread and wine were all but unobtainable. However, it could not say how widespread the practice was at present.  (emphasis added)

So let me get this right. The provinces that has declared “impaired communion” with ECUSA is itself using Coke or pineapple juice for the Eucharist. Talk about impaired communion!

Let me set two things straight. First, I’ve been to Uganda. Even the rural regions. Wine could be available anywhere, if it were important. Second, I’m aware of the Jesus-used-the-local-food-and-drink-of-his-time argument. I could be open to that. But then again, I’m a progressive revisionist. Surely a true traditionalist would insist on, um, the tradition?

All I’m saying is this. If there’s money to fly Archbishop Henry Orombi all over the world in business class, there’s money to buy wine for the Eucharist. And if you’re going to get all bent out of shape about someone else following the “tradition” then maybe one should first remove the beam from one’s own eye.

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3 Responses

  1. this one is in the lambeth quadrilateral too. grr.

    people sometimes forget the ecumenical implications of this kind of thing. our baptisms are (finally) recognized in practice by the RC church, and it doesn’t help when individual priests feed into RC fears of duplicity by altering the words of baptism on their own hook.

    in class here one student asked “why we don’t use grape juice at communion” (or rather, why isn’t it permitted), and i replied that it was an ecumenical commitment, at the very least. some were flabbergasted by the thought that such commitments should play any role. one student actually said we could just make the commitment to satisfy whoever, but then do something different. i think she thought that was an elegant solution.

  2. Phil says:

    “First, I’ve been to Uganda. Even the rural regions. Wine could be available anywhere, if it were important.”

    Well, then you also know that you could say the same for malaria drugs, clean drinking water, and basic primary education. And you know that the church in Uganda is in many places–particularly rural, remote, and conflict-torn regions–trying to provide these things. Church organizations provide something on the order of 30% of the health services in Uganda. Does that help put the “if it were important” in perspective?

    You also ought to have noticed that the agenda of the laity, or even the clergy, in rural areas is not necessarily the same as the Archbishop’s. The CofU is not a democracy.

    And did you ever talk to anybody about what things were like under Amin?

    How about using your experience in Uganda to show some real understanding, and maybe a little compassion for the disempowered?

    “Surely a true traditionalist would insist on, um, the tradition?”

    Surely a progressive revisionist would understand that a CMS missionary and an Anglo-Catholic might mean pretty different things by “the tradition”, and have pretty different understandings of what’s important in it?

    Look, I understand that there’s a lot of reasons to feel irritated by the CofU and its leaders, but I think you’re being unfair to some of the wrong people here. If you want to criticize Henry Orombi for jetsetting around the world while his churches lack very basic resources, fair enough. But leave rural Ugandans trying to have Eucharist however best they can out of it. I assure you that they use wine and appropriately sanctioned wafers in the Cathedral in Kampala.

  3. Scott Gunn says:

    Phil, I think you missed my point — or more likely I didn’t communicate it well enough. I don’t mean to rip on rural Uganda and its people. My point is that self-righteous preaching from Henry Orombi is revealed for what it is when he’s nattering on about this and that.

    Reading the Gospels, I have absolutely no doubt that Jesus would have used whatever was around to show God’s blessing at mealtime. And if Christ’s people do the same, I’m personally not going to get worked up.

    But it’s a little rich for their Archbishop to pretend that his church is all things bright and pure, and ECUSA is wholly corrupt. Cultural and socioeconomic contexts governs the use of pineapple juice instead of wine — and the same variations allow us in ECUSA to profess a different understanding of human sexuality.

    What I’d like Orombi to see is that, just as his own church makes allowances for who and where they are, so should other churches.

    Finally, I visited the cathedral in Kampala, and was received graciously. Sadly, I was unable to attend a service, so I could not verify for this blog that they’re not serving Stoney instead of wine. 🙂

    I’m glad you found your way here, and I’m grateful for your comments, which I hope have allowed me to clarify things.


    P.S. I think Uganda has something to teach the US about liturgies that respond to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and I’m sure there are all sorts of others ways we could learn from continued fellowship with them.

    P.P.S. I do think that if the good Archbishop really, really wanted wine to be used, he could make it happen. I’m just saying…

    P.P.P.S. Lastly, When I invoked tradition, I was being a bit ironic (as was much of this post). I understand the social and historical context of tradition, I think. I’m not sure that others do, however.

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