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Altar Fellowship.

The practice of communing at the same altar, which in the Luth. Ch. is a correlate of restricted or close* Communion. acc. to which only those who have been instructed, explored, and absolved are admitted to the Lord's* Supper. Restricted Communion was also a protest against those who denied the Real Presence (see also Grace, Means of, IV.3). The practice was followed until the establishment of the Prussian* Union 1817. Luth. state chs. continued to observe restricted Communion after 1817, though Ref. were increasingly admitted to their Communion.

Among early Luths. in Am., altar fellowship with Ref. was widely practiced. Reactions to the Prussian Union as well as the emigration of strict Luths., esp. in the 19th c., led to more conservative practice. Restricted Communion was practiced by the Joint Syn. of Ohio, the Syn. of Iowa, the Syn. Conf., and Scand. syns. The Gen. Council expressed its position in the Galesburg* Rule. The Gen. Syn., believing “that the unity of the Church must be outwardly expressed,” adhered “to the practice which marked the prevalent sentiment in America from the beginning, opening the privilege of the Lord's Supper to members, in good and regular standing, of other orthodox churches.”

Gen. speaking, men prominent in the struggle for confessionalism also advocated restricted Communion (C. Porterfield Krauth,* C. F. W. Walther,* C. S. Fritschel*), and the rising emphasis on Luth. confessionalism was marked by a stricter altar practice. In the last decades of the 19th c. and early in the 20th c. most Luths. in Am. tended to follow organizational lines in the practice of altar fellowship. Later in the 20th c. inter-Luth. altar fellowship increased. Representatives of Luth. and Ref. groups met 1962–65 for several theol. consultations (“dialogs”), fund “no insuperable obstacles to … altar fellowship,” and recommended to their parent bodies that they “encourage their constituent churches to enter discussions looking forward to intercommunion.…”

See also Fellowship; Lutheran Confessions; Selective Fellowship; Unionism.

W. Elert, Abendmahl und Kirchengemeinschaft in der alten Kirche hauptsächlich des Ostens (Berlin, 1954); H. Sasse, This Is My Body (Minneapolis, 1959); Church in Fellowship, v. 1 ed. V. Vajta, v. 2 ed. P. E. Hoffman and H. Meyer (Minneapolis, 1963–69).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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