Statement on the Lord’s Supper
Introduction to the Statement
The 1970 edition of Doctrinal Statements of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod did not contain a statement on the Lord’s Supper since there had been no controversy among us on this doctrine.
In September of 1977, however, a communication from President Wilhelm Petersen of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod expressed a desire of the ELS Doctrine Committee to meet with the WELS Commission on Inter-Church Relations in order to discuss a doctrinal question regarding Holy Communion which had arisen in the Lutheran Confessional Church in Sweden. This meeting was held on June 9–10, 1978, in West Allis, Wisconsin.
In the West Allis discussion on Holy Communion attention was given to questions dealing with the moment of the real presence, the function of the pastor’s words of consecration, and the relationship between the pastor’s recitation of the words of institution and Christ’s original institution of the sacrament. Following this discussion the CICR felt that further elaboration and clarification was needed on some of the points under discussion. The CICR then drew up a lengthier statement on the subject titled “Lord’s Supper: Consecration and Moment.” Copies of this statement were forwarded to the ELS Doctrine Committee in January 1979, and a second joint meeting was held in Minneapolis on November 8–9, 1979.
In a third meeting between the two groups in Milwaukee on April 24, 1980, it was resolved to appoint a subcommittee from the ELS Doctrine Committee and the WELS CICR to draw up a statement of agreement on the subject under discussion.
Although each group formulated a separate statement, agreement was reached by the subcommittee on the basis of Thesis Nine of the ELS Doctrine Committee statement: “We hold that we cannot fix from Scripture the point within the sacramental usus when the real presence of Christ’s body and blood begins, yet we know from Scripture and acknowledge in the Confessions that what is distributed and received is the body and blood of Christ.” In this statement the sacramental union of Christ’s body and blood and the bread and wine during the usus (consecration, distribution, reception), a matter which was not under discussion, is presupposed.
At its June 1981 convention in Mankato, Minnesota, the ELS adopted the following resolution:
the theses on the Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper composed by the Doctrine Committee of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod and the Statement on the Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper composed by the Commission on Inter-Church Relations of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod are in agreement with each other, and with the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, therefore, be it
that we gratefully acknowledge the unity which continues to exist.”
The CICR expressed its agreement with the foregoing resolution in a supplementary report to the 1981 WELS Convention held in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, in August. The convention endorsed the agreement with the adoption of a resolution of wider scope: “WHEREAS
discussions with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod on the Lord’s Supper and the Doctrine of the Church have been blessed by God; therefore, be it
a. that we thank God for these past discussions; and be it further
b. that we ask the Lord to continue to bless these contacts in the future.”
Additional discussions on this matter between the ELS Doctrine Committee and the WELS CICR were held from time to time also in the years following 1981. These discussions have deepened the understanding and led to an ever-growing appreciation of this doctrine by our two synods.
The following is the Wisconsin Synod statement. It has been used by the CICR in discussions with other church bodies.
Statement on the Lord’s Supper
In the matter under discussion we need to study Christ’s words of institution in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and in 1 Corinthians, as well as St. Paul’s additional statements about the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11 and 10. On that basis we can establish the following concerning the essence of the usus of the Lord’s Supper (consecration, distribution, reception):
1. The real and substantial presence of Christ’s body and blood during the usus.
2. The sacramental union of bread and wine and of Christ’s body and blood during the usus.
3. The oral manducation of bread and wine and Christ’s body and blood by all the communicants during the usus.
4. The real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the usus is brought about solely and alone by the power of Christ according to the words of institution, that is, by His command and promise. We accept this statement (Point 4) with the understanding that:
a. The real presence is effected solely by the original words of institution spoken by our Lord (causa efficiens) and repeated by the officiant at His command (causa instrumentalis).
b. While we cannot fix from Scripture the point within the sacramental usus when the real presence of Christ’s body and blood begins, we know from Scripture and acknowledge in the Confessions that what is distributed and received is the body and blood of Christ.
c. The Confessions do not assert more as a point of doctrine than the above, which is clearly taught in Scripture.