Come, Let Us Eat Together: Sacraments and Christian Unity provides something not often seen in the polemics of our day: a call for Christian unity even over those things which are of most import. Here, the issue of the sacraments is evaluated regarding what they may have to do with Christian unity. A number of from scholars in various denominations (from what I can tell, included are Roman Catholic, Baptist, Reformed, Methodist, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutheran writers, though there may have been more represented) present essays reflecting on ecumenism and the sacraments.
Topics in these various essays go across a wide range. Whether it is ecumenism presented through the arts or the notion of closed communion in some Baptist churches (something I didn’t realize existed anywhere in the Baptist tradition), any reader will find something of interest to them related to the Sacraments.
I found a few essays of particular interest. First, “A Way Forward: A Catholic-Anabaptist Ecclesiology” by D. Stephen Long caught my eye simply for the title. Few theological systems could be more at odds than that of the Roman Catholic and that of the Anabaptist. In the essay, we find a few broad steps that can be taken to see some areas of agreement between these divergent strands of theology. Second, “Visual Ecumenism: The Coy Communion of Art” by Matthew J. Milliner invites readers to see the Lutheran view of Law-Gospel distinction in other denominational perspectives as well. Multiple essays that focused more exclusively on ecumenism as a possibility were quite interesting. I already mentioned in passing Marc Cortez’s “Who Invited the Baptist?” for its introducing me to the idea that some Baptists practice closed communion. I’m still trying to figure out exactly why a Baptist would do so, but had I not read this book I’m not sure when I would have been exposed to this differing and unexpected practice in the Baptist community.
As a Lutheran in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a body that practices open communion while also affirming baptismal regeneration and Christ’s “real presence” in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, I found a number of points of agreement and disagreement here. That is, of course, exactly what this collection of essays (originally lectures) is all about: finding those points of division and seeking to heal–or at least address–them. It’s a fascinating work.