How do Evangelicals
and Protestants justify the use of grape juice and non-alcoholic
wine for holy communion, given the Lord's use of wine and his
command to "Do this in remembrance of me"?
Several Free Churches give
communicants only non-alcoholic grape juice in individual glass
cups. This can be seen as not being biblical in several ways. The
usage arose from their active ministry among alcoholics, and
extended to all church members' being required to "sign the
It was and is considered
that the continuing ministry to former alcoholics was more
important than pedantic interpretation of the biblical narratives.
Jesus said, "You ought also to wash one another's feet. For I have
set you an example" (John 13.14-15). If one is to be pedantic about
"wine", then why not be pedantic about washing the communicants'
feet in advance of reception?
In Jesus's time, wine was
healthier than juice, as the alcohol killed off bacteria. Free
Churches would argue that since this can be done by modern
processes, there is no need to ferment the juice. They also take
comfort that Jesus sometimes referred to "the cup" and "the fruit
of the vine" rather than to wine (e.g. Matthew 26.27 and 29).
There is a difference
between Free Church usage where everyone drinks grape juice and so
all are equal, and Anglican usage where everyone drinks "the
fermented juice of the grape" (Canon B17.2) except for a few who,
presumably by dispensation, have a special chalice of grape juice
reserved for them. In my experience, some former alcoholics simply
refuse the cup, believing that Jesus is truly and fully received in
either element. Both these approaches have the disadvantage that
not all are treated equally.
Christopher Haffner (Reader)
People who are not familiar
with Temperance history may well find it strange that some church
traditions do not use alcohol in the communion elements. Before
they decide that this is contrary to scripture, however, perhaps
they may reflect on how peculiar it feels for those used to
receiving something that is recognisably bread at communion to be
presented with a small hard disc stamped with a crucifix.
I suspect that the number of
such wafers on the table in the Upper Room was no greater than the
number of bottles of grape juice.
John G. Ellis (Moderator-elect of the General Assembly of
the United Reformed Church)
It all hinges on what "do
this" means. We don't believe that the physical bread and wine are
by themselves the complete essence of holy communion; and Article
XXVIII says that the body and blood of Christ are received "only
after an heavenly and spiritual manner" and "by faith". Nor do we
believe that the bread has to be unleavened as it was at Passover:
Canon B17, for example, specifically allows either.
St John's Gospel does not
mention bread and wine, and puts Jesus's eucharistic teaching in
the context of loaves made of barley instead of wheat, and fish
instead of wine.
It is not surprising that
different Christians have adopted different customs. What unites
them is the principle that "Do this" means "Take them, give thanks
over them, and share them as a participation in Jesus, particularly
in his death."
(The Revd Dr) John Hartley
Is there a reason
why the word "visit", so powerful in the Authorised Version (e.g.
Genesis 21.1, Exodus 3.16, Ruth 1.6, 1 Samuel 2.21, Luke 1.68,
7.16) is not used in the same way in the New Revised Standard
Version? It is used also in the collect for Advent Sunday (1662),
but not in Common Worship. Why is this?
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