Spiritual Communion: An Ecumenical Outlook

It has been said before, but it needs to be said again, we are living in unprecedented times. Not since the flu epidemic of 1918 have, we witnessed the worldwide closing of Church buildings and the suspension of in-person worship. All of this has led to questions surrounding themes of pastoral care, worship, and the Sacraments.

For some Churches, moving to an online style of worship does not really pose a Sacramental problem but for others there are many unanswered questions. Churches are grappling with the idea of Virtual or Spiritual Communion as a limited substitute for in-person worship.

There have also been some extraordinary developments:

The Bishop of the Diocese of Chichester in the United Kingdom, has suspended English Canon Law to allow for the solo celebration of the Eucharist in his Diocese. See Letter.

Metropolitan of Pergamon John Zizioulas implies that under these circumstances it is permissible for an Orthodox Christian Priest to celebrate the Divine Liturgy with a Congregation present. Read the Interview.

The Presbyterian Church USA has updated its previous guidance given in early March to now allow Elders and Sessions to celebrate Holy Communion. Read the Guidance here.

Although there is a division between some United Methodist Clergy and Bishops there was a study launched in 2013 on this very subject.  More information here.

With all of this in mind, I have asked several pastors and theologians to weigh in on this idea of Spiritual Communion and the issue of Online or Virtual Communion. They come from very diverse backgrounds, Church of Scotland, Greek Orthodox, and United Church of Christ.

The Very Reverend Dr. Derek Browning – Church of Scotland
The Rev. Gregory Nicholas Christakos – Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Boston
The Rev. Ian Lynch – Old South Church Kirtland, Ohio, United Church of Christ