At the 40th General Assembly, the Review of Presbytery Records Committee (RPR) debated the issue of paedo-communion — whether or at what age baptized children may receive communion (Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 177 and Book of Church Order 58-4, et al.)

Throughout the PCA’s history, ordained officers have been allowed to hold to the concept of paedo-communion, but not allowed to practice it. This practice —allowing this exception to the PCA’s Standards — is now being challenged.

In your opinion, should paedo-communion be an allowable exception? Please take our brief survey here.

25 Responses to ByFaith Survey: Should Paedo-communion be an Allowable Exception?

  1. John Wade Long, Jr. says:

    Should be allowable for believing covenant children on the same ground that the other covenantal ordinance, baptism, is applied to the infants of believers. “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of God.” “Unless you (disciples) become as these children (childlike in faith) you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Our theological inconsistency on this point has troubled my conscience for over forty years, though I have faithfully enforced the position in accordance with my ordination vow.

  2. Mary Moser says:

    It seems to me that children should be instructed re: the sacrament of the Eucharist and, if they show understanding, be welcomed to receive it. –BTW, I wonder if adults who receive communion have been instructed regarding the sacrament.
    I myself, raised in a non-PCA church, received communion from the age of six, and was greatly blessed by it. I’d hate to think of growing up without communion.

    • Jedidiah Slaboda says:

      You don’t have to understand the sacrament to receive it. Not even our standards require that.

  3. Don Clements says:

    I find the question itself problematic. Should not the question be phrased “Do the Confessional Standards allow churches to practice paedocommuinion.” I don’t think this issue is open to popular opinion from church members who have not taken vows to uphold the confessional standrards of the church. That might be valid in congregational forms of government, but not in the PCA.

    • Douglas Bond says:

      Good point, Don. Which underscores the grave danger to our confessional standards when we approach these in a populace fashion. This whole controversy is part of the much larger and more pernicious one, increasing distaste for confessional standards. It is the theological hubris of the day to take ones stand as a critic of the standards. It seems to be practiced as an intellectual rite of passage that one will take exceptions with the standards, and the more the better. I know Pmen who announce to their congregations that they have “pages of exceptions,” “thirty and counting exceptions,” “fifty and counting exceptions.” The trajectory of this stance must and will take us further away from our confession, the Reformed faith, and the…

    • Jedidiah Slaboda says:

      Don, I don’t understand why anyone would ask this question. Everyone agrees on what the standards teach. The disagreement is about 1. whether or not the standards err on this point or 2. whether or not a paedocommunion position is such a grave error that it can’t be held in the PCA.

  4. Mark Rowden says:

    I think the Apostle Paul was very clear in 1 Corinthians 11, “a man must examine himself.” Part of identifying with Christ in His death, which is the central thrust of this sacrament, is understanding what the elements signify. With that as a criterion numerical age is not the relevant issue, real understanding is. I’ve known young children, whom I believed to be true believers and not engaged in “magical” thinking when looking at the sacrament, who were, in my opinion, prepared to take. On the other hand I’ve known full grown adults of many years who didn’t have a clue. Even in the O.T. economy the youngest child in the house had to be able to ask, “What do these things mean?” The critical criteria are profession of faith and…

    • John Musgrave says:

      Mark, bummer your last sentence was cut off! I’m a non-paedo Lord’s Supper guy, & I agree with your point about it not being about age, but about understanding & faith. I walk lightly with this position, though, because Paul’s “a man [Greek “anthropos” = “man”] must examine himself” could indeed come with some implied understandings, such as: women can take the Supper, too (we all agree that this is so, but it’s understood, not stated) & the paedo position of “Paul was writing to adults & concerned that adult nonbelievers were taking the Supper; he wasn’t addressing whether kids could take because kids of true-believer parents were taking, that was valid, & Paul didn’t, therefore, need to address it.”

  5. Art Sartorius says:

    I think that the survey question mischaracterizes the debate of the GA. The RPR dealt with several Presbyteries, but there was a focus particularly on one Presbytery that allowed an exception to the Standards for a difference which stated that the only thing that should stop a infant from partaking the Supper was the ability to eat solid food. The Presbyery granted as part of the exception, the freedom for the minister to preach and teach his view. This is in opposition to many sections of the Standards and would mean that either the minister could not fence the table according to our consitution, or would do so contrary to his conscience. This is less a question of what age, but whether the Supper should be given to the undiscerning.

    • Bill Walker says:

      Unless his conscience also dictated that he submit to his brothers, in which case he could actually fence the table without violating his conscience.

      • John Wade Long Jr says:

        I think mine were the first two posts here, but I’ve seen no substantive discussion of the biblical/covenental issues I raised, only appeals to the WCF.
        Despite my being troubled by the thought that we may have erred in restricting children from the table, my practice, and that of any presbyter similarly troubled, should be strict compliance to our ordination vows. If any of us believes that the paedo-communion issue should be pursued, he should not trouble his congregation with it, but have his presbytery establish a study committee on the subject with a GA. overture if merited.
        Our fathers in the faith were not infallible, nor are we. May we not search the Infallible Word and be ever reforming our hearts and minds accordingly?

        • John Musgrave says:

          Way to be a good presbyter! Submission to the brethren, order, and peace-producing discourse is what you (and presbyterianism) rightly and Biblically are promoting. Again, hear, hear!

  6. Rob Moller says:

    Paul is correcting selfish behavior exhibited by the adults bringing the wine and bread to the Supper. That’s the universe of discourse in 1 Cor 11; children are not the concern. The failure to share the elements shows the lack of discernment of the unity amongst the brethren that Paul has been admonishing throughout the letter. That’s the Body of the Lord that is to be recognized.I don’t think it was Paul’s intent to set up a division between children and adults at the Supper but rather to stop the outwardly unworthy behavior which did foster more division. The tone and attitude of Jesus towards children is one of welcoming them into his presence. I can’t envision Him barring covenant children from table the He provides for all his…

  7. Andrew Barnes says:

    Rob, If that is the case would you not still say that what Paul lays down is what each who comes to the LS and partakes should be doing? Children are not addressed specifically in most of Scripture, but it still applies in all areas. Paul is saying, this is what you must do based on what the Lord has instituted in the LS. “WHOEVER (general), THEREFORE, eats…or drinks…in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body/blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, THEN, and so eat of the bread/drink.” Because of verse 27, because anyone who partakes can eat/drink in unworthy manner, a person who partakes must examine himself. If one holds to PC, one must take exception to: WLC 168-175, 177 WCF 27.1,3 29.1,7; WSC 92, 96-97

  8. Jedidiah Slaboda says:

    Andrew, the idea is that Paul is addressing an abuse, not making a prescription for ‘worthy’ participation. If that’s the case, then no. In the same letter Paul instructs the wealthy to eat and drink at home if they are hungry so that there will be plenty for the poor. Once again, a specific abuse is singled out and a prescription is given that addresses it. “Let a man” is broad, and it assumes that a man can do what follows, “examine himself.” It does not mean that one incapable of examining oneself cannot come. Especially when the same persons would be incapable of committing the particular abuse he is addressing. It is not an open and shut case for either side and that’s why the view should be permitted in our churches.

  9. Jared Nelson says:

    CON: 1 We do not allow credo-baptism, though we confess our credo-baptist brothers to be Christian though not allowed as ordained elders. Similarly, the confusion of paedocommunion is nearly as great and divides the church in the sacrament of unity.
    2 paedo-communion gives communion to those that are drinking judgment on themselves, a worse offense than withholding from someone that may be ready.
    3 Agitators on this issue are dividing the church on an issue that our confessions clearly speak to, and is clearly unbiblical.
    4 Those holding to this practice must take exception with many places in the confession, and understand the communion of the church in a fundamentally different way much at odds with our system of doctrine

  10. Jerry Koerkenmeier says:

    The matter is inherently tied to the meaning and import of the sacraments themselves. The meaning and import of both sacraments are a key part of the Westminster Standards and thus the PCA’s system of doctrine. As the PCA has considered paedobaptism as a fundamental of our system of doctrine and credobaptism as hostile to that system, we ought also consider credocommunion as a fundamental of our system of doctrine and paedocommunion as hostile to that system.

    • Jedidiah Slaboda says:

      Jerry, I can tell you why credobaptism is condmened as hostile to (even “sinful” in) our standards. But I would ask you to spell out why paedo-baptism must be condemned in the same way. The views are categorically different. In fact, the irony here is that paedocommunion advocates have, for many of us, successfully argued that paedocommunion is a good and necessary consequence of our doctrine of baptism. Stating that a view is just like another view is one thing. Saying how they are the same is another thing.

  11. Jerry Koerkenmeier says:

    Further, it would be unloving to grant an exception to ministers holding the paedocommunion. They will be unable to practice their view under our constitution (BCO 58-2), and they will be required to teach contrary to their own view in fencing the table (BCO 58-4). As a result, we would be tempting our brothers to sin against their own conscience by granting such an exception.

    • Jedidiah Slaboda says:

      I agree with you a little bit on this one. I think it is horrifying that any Presbytery would ordain a man and then tell him he can’t teach what he believes the Scriptures teach.

      First, if the view isn’t hostile to the Gospel, let him teach it. The PCA needs more diversity on non-central issues, not less. Second, trust the guy to teach well and wisely enough not to be a trouble maker even if he has some eccentric views or don’t ordain him yet. But don’t try to do both. Difference does not always equal division. However, let the minister determine when his conscience is being violated. It doesn’t violate my conscience to be three office in a two and a half office church. I think two-office polity is lacks biblical support.

    • Jedidiah Slaboda says:

      58-4 does not require a minister who believes in paedo-communion to say anything that would be contrary to his view.

  12. Jedidiah Slaboda says:

    Is it possible that there are some issues and views that fall into a category other than hostile or non-hostile? Not everything is a ‘here I stand’ issue for us. If 2.5 office or credo-communion, male only ordination etc. ever become violations of my conscience, I will leave. But until then, I’m glad to do church with and in the PCA. This seems like a good arrangement to me.

    • Jared Nelson says:

      Female ordination, 3-offices, paedo-communion? There’s a church for that called the Episcopal Church. Why be PCA if your theology is obviously at odds with it on many points that are a better fit for another communion? I have a good many friends that are ministering peaceably and happily in the Episcopal Church, good gospel proclaiming men, but they know they aren’t Presbyterian, and they don’t agitate to make the PCA into the Episcopal Church. I’m in the PCA because I’m not Episcopal. Why is an Episcopalian in the PCA? Would it make sense for me to go to the Episcopal Church and try and change them to Presbyterian? Trying to make the Presbyterians be not-Presbyterians is not promoting the peace and purity of the church, is it?

      • Jedidiah Slaboda says:

        I never said anything about wanting to make the PCA something else.

        I also never said I thought any of these issues are at the heart of our system of doctrine or worth dividing over. In fact, they have a rich pedigree in the Reformed and Presbyterian churches.

  13. John Harley says:

    Whether or not an exception to the standars may beheld and taught or not seems to be determined by whose ox is gored. Many, many,many have taken exception to the standards as regards the Sabath issue. If one were of the stripe of those who formulated the standards, one would surely say that Sabatarianism is certainly central to the standards. Look at all of the practices and thoughts that are disallowed, nevertheless, these exceptions are not only allowed to be held but also practiced. Those of us who have take exception on the paedocommunion side of things have done so agreeing to the stipulation that we will not practice such because we are men under authority. Our disopedience to the dictates of Scriture we lay at the feet of GA.