I am considering transferring to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS). I have not done so yet and I am a WELS member still. But, my current pastor told me I could not partake of the Lord's Supper with my old church should I come back for a visit, but I could worship with them. I do feel snubbed and a little hurt by my pastor's answer. I was told the reason was a doctrinal belief of the WELS. My question is this: the LCMS and WELS have the same view of the Lord's Supper in that it gives the forgiveness of sin through faith, so why can I not partake of the Lord's Supper with my old church on a visit, but worship is allowed? And my second question is this: would it be a sin should I stay a WELS member and participate in the Lord's Supper at an LCMS church? I am struggling with the decision that my current pastor explained to me, and I believe it is because I feel some hurt and disbelief in the answer he gave. Thank you.
What you will want to keep in mind is that it is agreement on all doctrines of the Bible that establishes church fellowship. While WELS and LCMS both teach that God offers and gives the forgiveness of sins in the Lord’s Supper, the two church bodies are not in agreement on all doctrines of the Bible. That is why the two church bodies are not in fellowship with one another. That is why your pastor explained it would not be possible for you to receive the Lord’s Supper at your former WELS congregation if you joined an LCMS congregation.
This practice of WELS is similar to the practice of LCMS. You will find this statement on the LCMS website: “The official position of the Synod is that not only are members of other Lutheran churches with whom we are in altar and pulpit fellowship invited to commune with us, but also that in certain extraordinary cases of pastoral care and in emergencies members of churches not in fellowship with us may be given Communion.”
If you were to join an LCMS congregation, you could still attend the worship services of your former WELS congregation. Scripture does not place any restrictions on the proclamation of God’s word. On the other hand, Scripture does not direct Christians to commune everyone. Far from that, Scripture teaches that the celebration and reception of the Lord’s Supper is an expression of closeness in faith and unity with one another (1 Corinthians 10:17). That means we will ordinarily commune only those who are in doctrinal agreement with us. In addition, Scripture teaches that individuals can be guilty of receiving the sacrament to their harm (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). Concern for individuals is another reason for the historic practice of closed communion.
Scripture teaches that we are not to practice church fellowship with people who believe and teach what runs contrary to Scripture (Romans 16:17). It is wrong to go against what God says in his word.
I encourage you to have a follow up conversation with your pastor. Share your hurt feelings with him, and study the biblical principles of fellowship with him. God bless you.