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Unity through Communion

Throughout much of my childhood, I possessed my home congregation’s three unofficial requirements to serve communion: a sport coat and tie, a family that arrived on time, and a Y chromosome. Therefore my brother (who not surprisingly met the same criteria) and I served communion almost every Sunday morning and evening from seventh grade well into college. As a result, when I am asked to serve the Lord’s supper today, I usually give no more than passing notice to the high privilege that such service is. In contrast, I know several women who never served communion until their 30s or 40s, and without exception they were deeply appreciative of the opportunity when it finally came their way.

Helping to distribute the elements of the Lord’s supper is service, not leadership. No biblical text discusses who may or may not do so. Congregations that believe “men and women have equal value but different roles” should allow women to serve communion (as some indeed do). Such service could be a point of agreement between complementarians and egalitarians. Even leading complementarian Wayne Grudem, in his book Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth (Multnomah, 2004, p. 64) affirms these points:

“What about women serving communion? In some denominations, there is a strong tradition that only elders (or the equivalent to elders) help in serving the Lord’s supper. In such churches, I understand that it would not be possible to have women serving communion unless the policy that allows only elders to serve communion is changed. And that is a matter for an individual church or denomination to decide. But I see no persuasive reason why only church officers should serve communion. In churches where there is no such restriction, surely it would be appropriate that both men and women join In serving communion together, (as they do at Scottsdale Bible Church in Arizona, where I am a member), though the pastor or some other elder should officiate. Where this is done, it becomes a regular, highly visible testimony to our equal value and dignity before God.”

Though I don’t agree with everything the above quotation states and implies, I and most readers of The Scroll wholeheartedly affirm that women may indeed serve the Lord’s supper. Unfortunately, most complementarians are unaware that one of their most prolific and high-profile leaders agrees with us!

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20 Comments

  1. Lamar Wadsworth
    Comment #96351 posted May 28, 2012 at 5:53 am

    In 1992, my then-18 year old daughter told me exactly how it made her feel to see only men serve the bread and the cup. She will not take communion where women are excluded from serving. Now, as a Baptist minister, I will not preside over a communion observance where only men are allowed to serve the bread and the cup.

  2. Don Johnson
    Comment #96353 posted May 28, 2012 at 7:27 am

    I see that the question is even being asked as tragic. It is just so obvious that every believer can serve.

    Every believer is to have a ministry of service and some of those happen to be leadership ministries as gifted by the Spirit.

  3. Comment #96355 posted May 28, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Just wondering about the word communion.

    The word communion; What does it mean in the Bible?
    Not from a religious standpoint, or a religious tradition,
    or a religious sacrement, or a religious ritual…

    But – What does the Bible have to say about communion?
    Can you name anyone who served communion in the Bible?

    And have you ever noticed this,
    In 1st Cor it says, Jesus said,
    “this is my body which is broken for you.”

    And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said,
    Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you:
    this do in remembrance of me.
    1 Cor 11:24 KJV

    BUT – NOT a bone of His body was broken
    in order to fulfill prophecy.

    He keepeth all his bones: NOT one of them is broken.
    Ps 34:20 KJV

    For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled,
    A bone of him shall NOT be broken.
    John 19:36

    If NOT one bone was broken; What did Jesus mean when He said…
    “This is my body which is broken for you?”

    And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold:
    them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice;
    and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
    John 10:16

    One Fold – One Shepherd – One Voice.
    If Not Now, When?

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  4. PS anafterthought
    Comment #96358 posted May 29, 2012 at 9:17 am

    Our church must have a pastor presiding or if not an ordained person, then the person presiding has to be authorized by the bishop. This happens when we have the pastor away for meetings with required attendance. We had “communion assistants” who are lay people, men, women, teens, who do such things as set up the communion, hold the trays, collect items, and also pass out the elements, as needed, depending on the way communion is served on a particular week and how many people are present. One time my job was just to hold the tray, but I was a “communion assistant.” I mentioned that on a blog comment and the pastor, writer of the blog, jumped all over me about how no one but a pastor could serve communion. Excuse me? Do you really think that those at the Last Supper left the dishes to be cleared and washed up by Jesus? There were undoubtedly women who were serving that supper and cleaning up, surely a privilege when the honored guest was Jesus. And perhaps some of the men carried some of the dishes as well.

  5. Red
    Comment #96359 posted May 29, 2012 at 10:17 am

    In my home church, only men served communion (or collected the offering). I don’t remember ever hearing that this was based on theological beliefs; it was just simply never questioned (maybe it was questioned behind the scenes, who knows?)

    Teen girls, however, served communion along with the boys on Youth Sunday. It was the only time I ever saw women serving communion.

    I think that’s a pretty good illustration of the pattern I’ve seen practiced in many soft-comp churches; gender differences are played down when kids are teens, but there’s a sharp learning curve for ladies once you graduate college and get married.

  6. Liz Trevor
    Comment #96363 posted May 29, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Yes Red, your comment reminds me of our own experience in ministry in the mid seventies. That men should always be the ushers, readers, announcers, offering takers and communion servers wasn’t questioned in our conservative church scene. In fact, if some churches of that era dared to depart from that accepted norm, they were regarded as liberal. The question arose for me, as a pastor, when one of our young women, at that time a Bible College student, asked if she could take up the offering. She also suggested that we consider more current Bible translations. At first I simply dismissed her questioning because ‘this is the way that we do things’ but it started me on a search for Biblical justification and I found none.

  7. Comment #96368 posted May 30, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    I attended a church during my undergraduate studies that had a rotation on who was introducing communion. It included the pastor, members of the congregation (men and women), and any special group at the church. The most powerful week was when the children lead communion.

  8. Maureen
    Comment #96383 posted June 8, 2012 at 2:27 am

    “I see that the question is even being asked as tragic. It is just so obvious that every believer can serve”

    So true Don, the things that ‘Christians’ waste their time arguing over must make God weep sometimes.

  9. Frank
    Comment #96427 posted June 24, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    I think it was Amos who questioned the KJV rendering of 1 Cor. 11:24, because it apparently contradicted what OT prophecy predicted about Messiah being like a sacrifical lamb whose bones were unbroken. This is the case where, unfortunately, the KJV follows an inferior Greek text. Most modern translations–RSV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, and TNIV–following a superior Greek text, render it either as “This is my body which is for you. Do this in rememberance of me,” or as “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And the actual saying of Jesus that most closely approximates Paul’s version is found in Luke 22:19:

    And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19, RSV)

  10. Comment #96428 posted June 25, 2012 at 10:27 am

    Hi Frank

    You write…
    “This is the case where, unfortunately, the KJV follows an inferior Greek text. Most modern translations–RSV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, and TNIV–following a superior Greek text,”

    Was wondering…
    How do “you” know which Greek text is “inferior?” Which text is “superior?”

    When I Googled – “Is the KJV translated from a superior text or inferior text?”
    I found many conflicting opinions.

  11. Comment #96429 posted June 25, 2012 at 10:28 am

    And Frank

    No one would answer the original question about the word “Communion.”
    Maybe you would take a stab at it… I wrote…

    —————
    “Just wondering about the word communion.

    The word communion; What does it mean in the Bible?
    Not from a religious standpoint, or a religious tradition,
    or a religious sacrament, or a religious ritual…

    But – What does the Bible have to say about communion?
    Can you name anyone who served communion in the Bible?”
    ——————

    I ask this because – This article seems to be about – Who can “Serve Communion?”
    And – I can find – NO one “Serving Communion” in the Bible – Male or Female…

    I can find – No one… “Serving Communion” – “Giving Communion”
    “Celebrating Communion” – “Taking Communion” – “Receiving Communion.”

    NO matter which Greek text is used. ;-)

    WOW!!! – Just did a word search for the word “communion” in the versions you
    said were from a so-called “Superior Text.” RSV, NASB, NIV, NRSV, and TNIV.

    Guess what I found? – “Communion” is NOT even in the versions you mentioned.

    Well, “Communion” is once in the NRSV…

    2 Cor 13:14 – NRSV
    The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God,
    and *the communion of the Holy Spirit* be with all of you.

    Does that mean – When someone uses modern versions…
    They really have NO biblical support – for “Communion” as it is taught today?
    And – It’s really a “Tradition of men” that nullifies “the Word of God?” Mark 7:13

    Hmmm? Why would these texts be superior – If “Communion” is NOT mentioned?

    Jer 50:6
    “My people” hath been “lost sheep:”
    *their shepherds* have caused them *to go astray,*

    1 Pet 2:25
    For ye were as *sheep going astray;*
    but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

    I’m Blest… I’ve returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul…

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

  12. Comment #96433 posted June 27, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    In answer to your question re the word ‘communion’, you are correct in that it is not a biblical word. The practice of celebrating and remembering the last time Jesus ate with his disciples is called by many different names throughout the Christian community. Some use the term Lord’s Table, The Lord’s Supper, The Eucharist, Holy Communion, Breaking of Bread etc.

    It is generally recognised that these are traditional terms, rather than biblical terms.

  13. Comment #96437 posted June 28, 2012 at 8:09 am

    Liz

    Thanks for your response about “communion.”
    Yes – Those were all terms I learned from “The Religioius System.”

    I’ve noticed that most folks don’t do their own research
    and just go along with what they are taught from the pulpit.

    I believe that is how “the traditions of men” that “nullify”
    “The Word of God” get started – That Jesus warned us about. – Could be? Yes?

    Mark 7:13
    KJV – Making the word of God of “none effect” through your tradition…
    ASV – Making “void” the word of God by your tradition…
    NIV – Thus you “nullify” the word of God by your tradition…

    So – Now I’m challenging the understanding of this “Tradition” many today call…
    “Lord’s Table, The Lord’s Supper, The Eucharist, Holy Communion, Breaking of Bread”
    And what Jesus meant for us – When He broke “The Bread.”

    Maybe you would answer the next part of my first comment also.

    ————-

    Liz – And have you ever noticed this,
    In 1st Cor it says, Jesus said,
    “this is my body which is broken for you.”

    And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said,
    Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you:
    this do in remembrance of me.
    1 Cor 11:24 KJV

    BUT – NOT a bone of His body was broken
    in order to fulfill prophecy.

    He keepeth all his bones: NOT one of them is broken.
    Ps 34:20 KJV

    For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled,
    A bone of him shall NOT be broken.
    John 19:36

    If NOT one bone was broken; What did Jesus mean when He said…

    “This is my body which is broken for you?”

    ————

    Liz – Does your understanding come from man? Tradition?
    Or – From God/Jesus? The Bible?

    John 6:45
    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be ALL taught of God.

    Deuteronomy 4:36
    Out of heaven he made thee to **hear His voice,**
    that *He might instruct thee*…

    Why not ask Jesus what he meant…

    When He broke “The Bread” and said – this is my Body…

  14. Don Johnson
    Comment #96438 posted June 28, 2012 at 9:04 am

    It is a different thing when a body is broken and bones in a body are broken.

    • Michelle
      Comment #96557 posted August 4, 2012 at 11:42 am

      Yes. This exactly. A body can be broken without any bones being broken.

  15. Comment #96442 posted June 28, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    Hi Amos

    We are travelling right now but will email you personally when we return home.
    Some of your questions are off-topic so will talk later, rather than on this site.

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