Open communion is the practice in some Christian churches by which a non-member who presents himself for Holy Communion will be served. In most cases, it is expected—or explicitly stated—that such persons be baptised members in good standing of another Christian denomination and hold a belief about the meaning of the Lord's Supper that meets the requirements of the church being visited. Some denominations which practice open communion do not restrict communion based on denominational affiliation, baptismal status, age, membership, or belief in Christ but rather leave the decision to receive communion to the individual.
Arguments for and against
Arguments for Open Communion
- The Apostle's Paul's statement (I Corinthians 11:28) "[b]ut let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup" places the responsibility on the individual, not the congregation or its leaders, to determine whether one should or should not participate.
- Scripture records several instances in which Christ shared meals with people who were not disciples of His.
Arguments against Open Communion
- The "Last Supper," upon which the Communion ordinance is based, involved only his closest followers, the Apostles. In addition, Jesus was careful to not initiate the Supper until Judas Iscariot (the unbeliever) had left.
- The Apostle Paul's statement (I Corinthians 11:29, immediately after v. 28) that "he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself" indicates that unbelievers should not partake in Communion.
Churches which practice open communion
- United Methodist Church
- United Church of Christ
- Disciples of Christ
- Some Evangelicals and Pentecostals
- A large portion of Baptists (but not including most Independent Baptists and some Reformed Baptists)
- Non-Confessional Lutherans
- The Episcopal Church
Technically Churches of Christ practice closed communion as it is restricted only to those who are members of the Church of Christ; however, in practice the churches leave it to individual attendees (members and visitors) to decide whether or not to participate, and therefore the practice is more in line with open communion.