An Email Exchange with Wayne Grudem Over Election Day Communion

I sent the famous reformed systematic theologian Wayne Grudem an email in response to his editorial in the Christian Post about why he was supporting Pulpit Freedom Sunday, which I wrote two different pieces about here and here. Didn’t expect to hear back and when I did, I was pretty stung by what he had to say. I realize that some of you are going to criticize me for sharing an email exchange publicly, but I  feel that when you impugn the character of someone you don’t know, you lose the right to privacy. And I think that this email exchange epitomizes the difference between two ways of understanding the purpose and identity of evangelical Christianity.

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Dear Dr. Grudem,

Please forgive the presumption in writing you without prior acquaintance. I posted the following comment on your article in the Christian Post about Pulpit Freedom Sunday:

With all due respect, I am very troubled by the witness of Pulpit Freedom Sunday. It reveals that the church has gone completely worldly in its understanding of freedom, following the definition in American secular discourse that freedom is the absence of control by a higher power, usually the government. There is another event coming up, Election Day Communion, where Republicans and Democrats will take communion together on election night to show that the body of Christ transcends partisan politics. This event is based on the Biblical understanding that the freedom that matters is freedom from entrapment by the world’s social conventions and presumptions (James 4:4, Ephesians 6:12, Romans 12:2)., such as partisan identity. I am wondering if you would like to publicly support Election Day Communion as a witness of evangelism for the half of the country that has been leaving the church in droves over the last thirty years because of the Constantinian approach of the culture wars. Pulpit Freedom Sunday had plenty of megachurch PR departments backing it. Election Day Communion is a shoe-string effort on the part of a few Mennonites.

God’s peace be with you sir,

Rev. Morgan Guyton
Burke United Methodist Church
Burke, Virginia

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Dear Pastor Guyton,

My name is Jeff Phillips, and I am Dr. Grudem’s assistant as well as a student here at Phoenix Seminary. One of my jobs is to see to Dr. Grudem’s correspondence on his behalf (his current schedule prohibits seeing to it himself).

Dr. Grudem asked me to respectfully decline your invitation. While he is in favor of all genuine Christians having communion together, this event on election day seems to carry another agenda, that of sending a misleading  message that the deep moral and spiritual differences between the two parties on many issues are not all that important.

Sincerely,

Jeff Phillips
MA to Dr. Grudem
Phoenix Seminary

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It’s a shame that it’s so easy for you to make that dismissive judgment. God knows our hearts and He knows your heart as well. You used the phrase “genuine Christians” so I wanted to reflect on what that phrase means to me.

Genuine Christians confess Jesus as Lord which means that they scrutinize all their other fidelities to ensure that they have not made something else lord. Genuine Christians become all things to all people so that by all means they might win some. Genuine Christians use the structures of the world subversively for the sake of evangelism which can include marching with and supporting the causes of people with which they disagree strongly on other issues. Genuine Christians are very suspicious of worldly power since we believe in the foolish power of the cross. Genuine Christians are also suspicious of any theology that seeks to strip the Bible of its mystery since to do so is to make an idol of the human knowledge in our interpretive system. Genuine Christians believe that God’s goal for humanity is communion rather than correctness, which is the difference between a Savior who made a merciful heretic his exemplar for love of neighbor and the Pharisees who followed God’s law perfectly but lacked humility and mercy in their hearts. Those who gather on November 6th to partake in communion will be genuine Christians who refuse to receive their self-definition from the categories laid forth by the powers and principalities of this world.

I hope you will reconsider. May the peace of Christ which is conquering all the ways that Satan is trying to discredit the name of our savior be yours today and always.

Rev. Morgan Guyton
Burke United Methodist Church
Burke, VA

15 thoughts on “An Email Exchange with Wayne Grudem Over Election Day Communion

  1. Pingback: Looking Back on 2012: Oct-Dec | Mercy not Sacrifice

  2. Pingback: Communion or correctness? The underlying question. « Mercy not Sacrifice

  3. In Luke 24, Jesus is revealed in the breaking of the bread. If that’s even remotely possible, then we should WANT folks from both parties to commune. If Dr Grudem is troubled by the left wing’s emphasis on abortion or sexual sin or whatever, he should WANT leftists to commune. He’s displaying a rather inadequate and non-evangelical sacramental theology, IMO.

    • Exactly. Partisan fidelity compromises evangelism. That is my beef with it. We have to be the people who celebrate the feast of the Lamb, first and foremost.

  4. Reblogged this on christocentricity and commented:
    I ran across this post this morning. If you set apart the doctrinal difference those of us in the churches of Christ would have with Election Day Communion, and look at the under-lying principles they are promoting, this exchange is an interesting illustration of political divide in contemporary American Christianity. (And, aside from the doctrinal issues concerning communion, this divide is present in the churches of Christ as well.)

  5. I also appreciate that I am very removed and out of context and so recognise that my opinions may not be that relevant or that I really understand this whole thing very much. I was not trying to offend with what I wrote, more just say that from a distance in the UK this kind of debate and positioning seems very dated, very polarized and very hard to imagine ever changing. I hope it does and I do hope for more dialogue, but it seems that the more this goes on the more it seems to just create frustration and questions about what really matters?

  6. I do wonder how useful/helpful/necessary this exchange really is. Nothing new under the sun? Just can’t understand the extreme black and white nature of Grudem really. It’s not a turn off, Its just gone to far and I just think this kind of discussion is so old skool, so not worthwhile and seemingly so remote and unhelpful. Jesus would surely just dismiss it would he not? Wake up and smell/taste/live in the reality of the now and realise there is a whole lot more that people are far more concerned about than this?

  7. I just can’t understand why anyone would be against the idea election day communion. I can see churches not doing it because they don’t want to put in the effort, or they just had communion on Sunday, or whatever. But it seems to me that something that brings together many different people in unity and as a reminder that there is more to life than politics, is a *good* thing.

  8. Maybe I’m looking at this way too simply, but I think Election Day communion is an excellent idea!! The idea of all parties taking communion together “to show the body of Christ transcends partisan politics”, what could be better than that, especially in this particularly negative political atmosphere, hope to be there.

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