As the Diocese of Central Florida searches for its fourth bishop, seven nominees reflect its primarily evangelical identity. Both Anglo-Catholic and broad-church piety also are evident, but the nominees’ answers to questions posed by the diocese’s standing committee leave few doubts on what they believe about blessing same-sex couples or offering the elements of Communion to the unbaptized.
The standing committee asked all nominees to answer five questions [PDF] (including those on sexuality, Eucharistic practice, and how the diocese relates to the Episcopal Church). It also asked nominees to choose three of seven questions that dig deeper on theology and pastoral skills. Most nominees chose to answer this optional question: “How might you respond if a friend who was not a practicing Christian approached you and said, ‘What would I have to do to be a Christian, and why would I want to do it?’” Most of the nominees cite specific and tangible moments of becoming Christian or deepening their relationship with God.
The nominees’ full profiles and brief videos are available on the diocese’s webpage about the search.
In answering the question on Communion (“There is s growing movement in TEC, as well as in other parts of the Anglican Communion, to openly give Communion to unbaptized persons. Do you believe this is a positive development? Why or why not?”), most nominees cited Saint Paul’s warning about partaking of the elements unworthily (1 Cor. 27-33). These are the seven nominees, along with portions of how they addressed that question:
- The Rev. Canon Gregory Brewer, rector, Calvary-St. George’s Church, New York. “While I am profoundly supportive of [parishes] that offer welcoming hospitality to all who would come, I think using that sentiment as a justification for open communion is wrongheaded, and a misuse of the Eucharist that Jesus gives us,” Brewer wrote. “Receiving the Eucharist is never a matter of ‘Try it, you’ll like it.’ Nor is it analogous to inviting strangers over for dinner. Instead, receiving the Eucharist is an intimate act of offering ourselves to Jesus our Host knowing that all is forgiven, and receiving freely what He mercifully gives.”
- The Very Rev. Anthony Patrick Clark, dean, Cathedral Church of St. Luke, Orlando. “The worship of the ancient Church underscored the sequence of initiation through Holy Baptism and then receiving Holy Communion,” Clark wrote. “Candidates for Holy Baptism did not even remain in worship during the Great Thanksgiving. The worship of the ancient Church was based on this doctrine and teaching, for according to Justyn the Martyr, ‘No one may share in the Eucharist except those who believe in the truth of our teachings and have been washed in the bath which confers forgiveness of sins and rebirth, and who live according to Christ's commands.’”
- The Rev. Robert Jonathan Davis, vicar, Church of the Incarnation, Oviedo; executive director, Canterbury Retreat and Conference Center. “I see Eucharist on one level as a ‘covenant meal’ approached from a posture of faith and commitment to Christ,” Davis wrote. “My pastoral concern, based upon scripture, is that if we allow people to participate in the Eucharist without this posture of faith, we are setting them up for judgment. Therefore it is a loving thing to restrict the administration of the Sacrament of Holy Communion to only those who have been baptized. Baptism is how we are grafted into the Body of Christ and made a member of the church. It is essential if we are to receive the Holy Communion in a ‘worthy manner.’”
- The Rev. Charles Lindley Holt, rector, St. Peter’s Church and School, Lake Mary. “An open invitation to Communion prior to Baptism represents the application of a pseudo-gospel of ‘inclusion without conversion,’” Holt wrote. “The Scriptures warn in 1 Corinthians 11:29 that we are not to feed on the Body and Blood of Christ without faith and recognition of Jesus’ body. Inclusion without conversion not only harms the body of Christ by jeopardizing our unity in the apostolic faith, it is also spiritually destructive to the individuals who receive the false gospel as if it were true.”
- The Rev. Timothy Charles Nunez, rector, Church of St. Mary, Belleview. “When we consider the gravity of the Last Supper and Paul’s cautions about sharing the body and blood of Christ, a sincere desire to show hospitality does not warrant breaking or changing rubrics and canons specifically meant to incorporate sound faith and theology into our sacramental life,” Nunez wrote. “All are welcome to repent, wash away the old self and rise to new life in Christ in baptism, the other dominical sacrament. From its earliest days, the Church did not allow people who had not yet taken that foundational step of faith to receive Holy Communion.”
- The Rev. Mary Alvarez Rosendahl, rector, Church of the Nativity, Port St. Lucie. “I believe [TEC] and the Anglican Communion have been doing this for years since there is no way to be certain that everyone at the altar has been baptized,” Rosendahl wrote. “I believe that Baptism is called for in scripture and is a vital sacrament in this church. I would encourage everyone to be baptized so that they can come to know and love the church as I have. At the same time, I cannot imagine Jesus denying his love and compassion to anyone who sought it.”
- The Rev. James August Sorvillo, Sr., rector, Church of the Ascension, Orlando. “I believe that a movement of relaxing the standards for participating in the sacrament of the Eucharist will only minimize the transformational power that the sacrament offers,” Sorvillo wrote. “My fear is that this extends beyond a simple relaxing of standards. My fear is that when we entertain this movement, we enable people in missing the Baptismal reality — the actual becoming part of Christ’s death and resurrection that is inherent in the sacrament. This further disconnects people from the meaning of the Eucharist.”