Should rules regarding membership/sacraments be more flexible?

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Caroline

Puritan Board Sophomore
Ok, I've been commenting on other posts like crazy, trying to work up the nerve to start my own thread.

*deep breath* Here goes. The first ever question from Caroline (please don't kill me).

Is anyone other than myself concerned about the lack of flexibility regarding church membership and sacraments in Reformed churches?

Before everybody yells at me, please let me explain. There are actually a couple of reasons for my asking. Here is the one that I will start with ....

I have mentally challenged children. My son (13 y.o) is autistic, my daughter (10 y.o.) has some milder autistic traits, and another (adopted) daughter (18 y.o.) is mentally retarded. We are a really fun family, between that and my Parkinsons/connective tissue disease and my husband's diabetes. I always say that, in this family, if you want sympathy for your disability, you have to get in line and wait your turn.

But the problem here is this ... according to the BOCO, before my kids can take communion, they have to make a profession of faith, which involves taking vows.

I submit that my children (particularly my son) are unable to comprehend the significance of vows. In the language in which they are currently structured, they would not even comprehend the vows themselves. But even if reworded to be easier to understand, I am not certain it is proper to ask the mentally challenged to take vows, considering that it is a sin to break them, and they might not always remember that they took them or comprehend the seriousness of breaking them.

So if my son takes a vow promising to obey the church leaders and then five years from now, he breaks his vow, then I caused him to stumble by encouraging him to take the vow in the first place, which brings up the whole millstone-around-my-neck-and-cast-into-the-sea concern for me.

On the other hand, if I do not permit him to take the vow, then he can never be allowed to take communion his whole life, and, since he loves Jesus very much and witnesses to his teacher and all of his classmates, I think it is his right as a Christian to take communion. (His teacher told me that they have the most 'religious' class that she has ever seen because of my son. She said that whenever anyone is mean to him, my son says, "I will pray for you", and then goes over to the window and looks up and folds his hands and says, "Jesus, please help my friend Nate to understand that taking my scissors was wrong ... etc") I do not think God would approve of me denying him the Lord's supper for his whole life just because he was born with a disability.

I wish there was some way to simply get the requirement waived due to special circumstances. Quite honestly, I am not sure what to do.

Thoughts?
 

Theognome

Burrito Bill
Mental capacity has nothing to do with Holy Spirit capacity, and I can't imagine a godly church council not wanting to work with you and your family to allow such fruit to partake.

Theognome
 

ww

Puritan Board Senior
Caroline,

I look forward to answers from Elders and Ministers who have actually have experience with these issues in their own church but just wanted to say how encouraged I am with your testimony of God's Grace in your life and the life of your very special children. Having a 6 year old nephew with Autism and Epilepsy this hits very close to home.
 

Curt

Puritan Board Graduate
Mental capacity has nothing to do with Holy Spirit capacity, and I can't imagine a godly church council not wanting to work with you and your family to allow such fruit to partake.

Theognome
I agree. I have had this situation several times. The best we can do is to seek to find out whether the Holy Spirit is present - giving much grace in our discernment.
 

Caroline

Puritan Board Sophomore
Mental capacity has nothing to do with Holy Spirit capacity, and I can't imagine a godly church council not wanting to work with you and your family to allow such fruit to partake.

Theognome
I agree. I have had this situation several times. The best we can do is to seek to find out whether the Holy Spirit is present - giving much grace in our discernment.
Well, just to be clear here ... I think my church IS willing to work with me (they have always been very kind to my children), but they have to work within the limits of the BOCO. I do not want to put words in their mouths, so please remember that this is my understanding of the matter, and it is always possible that I have misunderstood them. But I don't think that taking communion without taking the vows is an option available to them to approve whether they wanted to or not.

Hence my concern about the lack of flexibility in the rules.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Caroline,
I can't help but admire your character and fortitude. Grace and Peace.

My first question would be: Does your 13 y.o., your 10 y.o., or even your 18 y.o. ever (aside from curiosity maybe right after a Communion) express desire to take the Supper? And if so, how has that desire been cultivated and nurtured by you?

The reason I ask is: I wonder if your desire to see them partake isn't yours more than theirs. That would not be unusual for ANY parent. Just think of the parent who wonders about her children, who aren't disabled at all, but even though they claim to be Christians, and give correct answers, still leave the parent with longing, as they seem unconcerned to take the next step.

Clearly, with them there is no limitation in mind, only lack of motivation in spirit. That parent might wonder how much to push her children, because she's concerned about getting a false signal from them, just a desire to please Mom.

The two sacraments have different natures. Baptism represents everything that is monergistic about salvation: God's one-sided regenerating work. Baptism happens to people. And that is one reason why we believe that children are eminently fit recipients. They are most helpless; we are supposed to become "like them" just to enter into the kingdom.

We believe that God shows us how willing he is to receive them by appointing his ordinance for them also. And the promises declared in the baptism of our children are also for YOU, at that time when it is administered. It is for THEM when they show their faith for themselves. So, please remember that God has already given demonstration of his bringing in and welcoming your offspring in his gates.

Those who are not able to partake of the L.S. in faith should not. The "not able" is a function of Providence. It is an enforced waiting period that takes longer with one person than another. And with those who wait ON them. It will only be a "temporary" wait for ALL believers. You will reap, if you faint not.

******************
Be encouraged by what God has already promised you, and your children, in his Word and baptism.

Be encouraged by the fact that I suppose your Session will gladly work with those of your children who are ready, or who desire to be made ready. It might take extra labor, but I think that elders who love the Lord and his sheep want to do the right thing.

Also, let me encourage you that I know a pastor whose "mildly" (whatever that means!) disabled son was, when he was older than most of covenant-youth, maybe 18+, was (after patient working with his father) able to articulate his faith and understanding of the Supper convincingly. And was brought to the Table.
 

Guido's Brother

Puritan Board Junior
Is anyone other than myself concerned about the lack of flexibility regarding church membership and sacraments in Reformed churches?
Hi Caroline,

I'm glad you asked this question. But I would rephrase it to say "some Reformed churches." I can only speak about my own church federation, but I know of many cases in the Canadian Reformed churches where individuals with varying levels of disability have been admitted to the Lord's Supper and full communicant membership. These individuals did not go through the normal process leading up to Profession of Faith, and in some cases there wasn't an actual formal profession of faith before the church, but just a visit with a couple of elders.
 
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