By Sarah Pulliam Bailey
(RNS) As online worship becomes more common in some churches, leaders within the United Methodist Church are debating whether the denomination should condone online Communion.
About 30 denominational leaders met last week after Central United Methodist Church in Concord, N.C., announced plans to launch an online campus that potentially would offer online Communion. Some nondenominational churches already offer online Communion, according to United Methodist News Service, but leaders urged the denomination’s bishops to call for a moratorium on the practice and do further study of online ministries.
The majority of the leaders agreed with the statement that Communion “entails the actual tactile sharing of bread and wine in a service that involves people corporeally together in the same place.” Not everyone, however, agreed that congregants must be in the same place.
The debate raises fundamental questions at the heart of the church experience: the definition of community, individual participation, the role of tradition and basic theological understandings of the meaning of Communion.
United Methodists practice open Communion, meaning all who worship are invited to partake. Many churches celebrate Communion once a month, though each church decides how often to serve it.