Sarah Wilson 11

Speaking the Truth about "Radical Hospitality"

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To the Conference of Bishops of the ELCA: We bring before you our concerns regarding “radical hospitality,” which we understand to propose the invitation of the unbaptized to the Lord’s Supper as a matter of principle. We are informed that such “radical hospitality” is already practiced in some ELCA congregations and is being advocated in others by certain leaders and teachers.

1. “Radical hospitality” disregards in principle the stringent warning against unworthy reception in the Scripture, as in I Corinthians 11:27–28.

2. It further disregards in principle the repeated emphasis of the Lutheran Confessions that the sacrament of the altar is for those who have received the Lord Jesus Christ in faith and public profession—a faith and confession whose first act is holy Baptism into the Lord’s death and resurrection. See especially The Large Catechism on “The Sacrament of the Altar” and The Formula of Concord 7, “Concerning the Holy Supper.”

3. It discards the age-old rule of faith by which the church has always understood Baptism as the entry into the cross-carrying Christian life, for which holy Communion is the nourishment.

4. As such, it also discards the ELCA’s own teaching in “The Use of the Means of Grace” (1997) as expressed in Principle 37 and Applications 37E and 37G.

5. The proposal of “radical hospitality” misleads by falsely suggesting that identifying the addressee of the promise of holy Communion as the baptized is an act of anti-gospel exclusion.

6. “Radical hospitality” fails to recognize Baptism itself as the truly radical act of inclusion. All people in every nation are called by the gospel to join themselves to Christ, who “has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (Ephesians 2:14), by baptism into a community in which “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female” (Galatians 3:28).

7. Under the cover of inclusivity, “radical hospitality” in fact deceives the unbaptized, encouraging them to participate in the sacrament without recognizing the entailed commitment to the cross of Jesus Christ and without discerning His body, both in the blessed bread and wine and in the holy community of those who take and eat it.

8. Baptism, repentance, and faith are not legalistic preconditions for grace, but the form grace takes as the Holy Spirit draws persons into a lifegiving new relationship with God.

9. As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we call upon the ELCA to remember in principle and in power the opening words of the Ninety-Five Theses: “When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent,’ he meant for the entire life of the Christian to be one of repentance.”

10. We exhort pastors and laity of the ELCA to self-examination as to whether our own lives reflect the way of the cross, the life of repentance, and the joy of faith, which are our proper witnesses to the unbaptized and in themselves an invitation to Baptism.

11. And we ask the Conference of Bishops to reiterate clearly the teaching of the whole church, the Lutheran Confessions, and the ELCA: holy communion is intended for the baptized, just as baptism is intended for the world.

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