Which Sacrament Comes First?

I was interested last week to see a little storm blowing up on the Facebook horizon. As I looked at my Facebook feed it was obvious that friends in the Episcopal Church in the USA were getting themselves into a bit of a fankle about something which is apparently going to be raised at their General Convention in the summer.

It seems that the Diocese of Eastern Oregon is putting forward a motion which would change the Constitution and Canons and the [USA] Prayer Book to ” invite all to Holy Communion, ‘regardless of age, denomination or baptism.’

Now their canons are different to ours in that they explicitly say, “No unbaptized person shall be eligible to receive Holy Communion in this church.” Our canon law in Scotland doesn’t say quite that although there are those who believe that it does. Instead, ours says something along the lines that baptism offers full sacramental initiation in our church. (I’m quoting from memory, but perhaps someone could post the exact text in the comments).

It was obvious from what I saw on facebook that this was very controversial in the USA. I’m not sure whether this is because they have emphasised something they call the Baptismal Covenant in a strong way, something that most of our folk here would be entirely unaware of.

I’m thus aware of the horror that people feel towards the idea that communion might come before baptism.

Here I have to declare an interest. Communion came before baptism for me, though neither came for me initially in any of the Anglican Churches. I grew up without access to either sacrament (there’s no baptism or eucharist in the Salvation Army) and consequently, when I did discover them the idea that one sacrament was a gateway to another did not really occur to me and doesn’t make much sense now.

Furthermore, I think that I’ve found in my ministry that God is capable of using any of the sacraments (and the liturgies associated with them) as means of initiation into divine grace and love. Not merely eucharist and baptism but also penance, confirmation, marriage, ordination, unction and yes, all the rest.

I’ve preached about this in the past. You can read what I said here.

All of which makes me very interested in the post that Anne Tomlinson has put up on her ministry development blog this morning. And in particular the extract that she quotes from Rick Fabian.

The time will come when Christians stop obsessing about which sacrament comes first and let God roam free and the Holy Spirit blow where God wills.