I see in The Living Church that newly-consecrated Bishop Beisner said, “At this moment in our Church there are two seemingly contradictory principles. On the one hand we are seeking to strengthen the understanding of our baptismal covenant and on the other we want to practice open commensality. I don’t believe these two need to be in conflict.” I’m glad to see him put these pieces together; the apparent contradiction has been grating on my nerves as well.

I’d be interested in how the high doctrine of baptism explicit in contemporary “baptismal theology” can be reconciled with communion of the unbaptized. If “baptism” constitutes a defining sacrament of identity, is not eucharist appropriately understood only in relation to baptism? And if baptism “doesn’t matter” relative to the eucharist, what makes it matter so much in other spheres of church life?

“Open communion” looks to me like a weightier issue of theology and tradition than do the more visible controversies over sexuality, though it has drawn far less public attention. I admit to a certain ambivalence about the soundness of “open communion,” but until such time as I have seen arguments that treat patiently and respectfully the monumental warrants from Scripture, tradition, and reasoning through a consistent theological account of baptism, I can’t see a responsible basis for disregarding the canons on this one (especially when those who practice that disregard ever wish to enforce other canons on anybody else).

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