The World Council of Churches’ Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry (1982) brought communion to the ecumenical fore, especially with the Anabaptist emphasis in the 16th century. “The eucharist is the pinnacle of the communion of the church and the Christian, yet its transcendent reality is affected by the rudimentary elements of earthly existence, bread and wine. . . . The eucharist forces us to think about communion with a spirit, unbounded in any way yet mediated by the earthbound elements of natural existence” (p. 25). “In Jesus G-d took flesh.” Rempel explores how the doctrine of the eucharist was developed by each of three radical reformers: Marpeck, Hubmaier, Dirk, keeping a balance between sacramentalism and spiritualism, being more than just an act of remembrance.
Rempel stresses the commonalities of the three theologians: Christian life is primarily a life of relationship with G-d, i.e., a visible expression; connection between spiritual and material dimensions; the gospel of John was their major gospel; holding together faith and Spirit (Trinitarian emphasis) (pp. 199-201).
Rempel also summarizes four contemporary Anabaptist theologians: J.C. Wenger, Gordon Kaufman, Robert Friedmann and Thomas Finger. Key quotations focus the issue. “The community’s action of sharing bread and wine is transformed into a sharing of the body and blood of Christ” (p. 222). Rempel regrets that for Anabaptists the Lord’s Supper has all to often been an isolated point of doctrine. Anabaptist ecumenical theology emphasizes the Lord’s Supper as reconciliation with G-d and with each other, a sense of community and mission.
Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.