Good (and Bad) News from the Table

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So remember that time a few months ago, when Hester completely flipped her lid over Boerne Christian Assembly’s communion practices? (If not, then please go back and read that post now, since it contains essential background for this one.) Well, I won’t be doing that today, because for once I’ve actually discovered some good – but nonetheless revealing – news in the world of patriarchy. Like the revelation about BCA’s practice, it’s not new news; but also like BCA, it seems to have flown mostly under the internet radar. I discovered it by accident while looking up Voddie Baucham’s church, Grace Family Baptist, at this page specifically devoted to their beliefs about communion. (All quotes following are from that page.) Near the top of the page we read this (emphasis mine):

Despite our affirmation of the 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith, as a family-integrated church we often face scrutiny in the area of the Lord’s Supper because of a surmised emphasis (overemphasis) on family life. When we add this conjecture to the historical complexity of the issues surrounding the Lord’s Table in general, we end up with wrong assumptions made by those outside this local body about the observation of the Lord’s Supper at Grace Family Baptist Church. We’re also self-conscious of our duty as elders to anticipate misunderstanding by visitors and our own members regarding why we partake of the ordinances in the manner in which we do.

In other words, the author of the article – presumably one of the elders, and thus possibly Baucham himself – recognizes that FIC communion practices have been criticized in the past, and wants to head objections off at the pass by clarifying exactly what GFBC’s beliefs are. Frankly, given that some FIC churches practice like BCA, I can understand his concern. So what exactly are the “misunderstandings” the author fears might arise about communion? The answer is revealed two paragraphs down (emphasis mine):

We often receive questions on our practice of the Lord’s Table that assume we partake of the elements in some novel or unorthodox manner, especially as it relates to the role of fathers.

Aha – now we have it. GFBC wants to distance itself from other FIC churches that practice like BCA. In fact the author spends most of the rest of the article debunking the idea in no uncertain terms, from several different theological angles:

For the first consideration, the Lord’s Table is clearly a corporate ordinance. This is not a family event or private memorial. Christ instituted it and commanded its observation in his church. In fact when the apostle Paul gives correction regarding the Lord’s Supper to the church at Corinth, he uses the phrase “come together”…five times (1 Cor. 11:17-34). … This speaks of the whole assembly, not individuals or sub-groups, partaking together. … So does it make sense during this Lord’s Supper to divide the body in any way? No, therefore it is completely inappropriate for the Lord’s Supper to be observed by families only or for fathers to administer the elements to their respective families.

The Table declares the atoning work of Christ and the resulting unity of His people with Him and one another. The very point of Paul’s instruction to the church at Corinth regarding the Supper was to rebuke them for divisions, because these divisions dishonored the unifying work of Christ and hindered their testimony. By implication, we believe that churches today who neglect the corporate proclamation of the Table by allowing families to partake of the Lord’s Supper as a sub-group are condoning a practice prohibited in the first letter to the Corinthian church.

Well, I never thought I’d see the day when I would agree with an FIC church on anything beyond basic Christianity, but I guess it’s arrived. The above are all great reasons why BCA’s position is out of line. Personally I think they’re superfluous, as the fact that the practice puts fathers in a mediating position between their families and Jesus (either literally or symbolically) and gives them power to excommunicate their wives and family members, really ought to be enough for us to declare it heretical on its face and joyfully consign it to the garbage can where it belongs (see my previous post for a more thorough explanation). But they are decent objections nonetheless, and I’m glad to know that at least one of the major voices in patriarchy does not condone the kind of hogwash practiced at BCA.

That being said, however, let’s take a moment to reflect on what GFBC’s statement may imply. If BCA’s communion practices are supposedly so rare and unusual, why did GFBC feel the need to denounce them so pointedly? Such a lengthy and detailed theological rebuttal isn’t necessary when addressing one or two random individuals with odd ideas and no real influence. GFBC’s statement also has all the hallmarks of having been prompted by a lot of questions and criticism. Thus, I fear that while GFBC’s explicit rejection of “patriocommunion” – if I may coin a new word 🙂 – is good news in and of itself, it may be a disturbing indication of how common BCA-style practice is in FIC churches.

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6 comments on “Good (and Bad) News from the Table

  1. Nicholas says:

    Hester, is there a way I can e-mail you?

  2. raswhiting says:

    One small concern, that is not about your main point, which I agree with. I do not see how Paul’s instructions about corporate communion in any way ban the observance of communion in smaller groups, including families at home. Paul was correcting problems in the corporate commuinion, not setting rules for or against other occasions. The first Lord’s Supper was with only 11 real disciples, not with the larger body of believers in existence in Jerusalem, so it is hardly necessary to only observe communion on an occasion open to all of the local church.

  3. Shawn Mathis says:

    “patriocommunion”–useful word.

    What I see in Voddie church is what has happened elsewhere when people try to distance themselves from “patriarchal-ist” views. They want to be publicly identified with the movement, even to the point of signing a public confession but don’t want to be too identified less the quacker bring the wrath of their fellow non-FIC churches down upon them (or some such reasoing). It’s like a quasi-presbytery (can I call it that?). It’s a “eat-my-cake-and-have-it-too” approach. The NCFIC does *not* police who signs their confession. There are churches that have Sunday school (about 25%) but they are not removed from the list. Well that would make a 800 church movement smaller and thus less noticeable–or maybe I’m just being cynical.

  4. Shawn Mathis says:

    correction:…quackery…bring the wrath

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