Open communion

Open communion is the practice of Christian churches that allow individuals other than members of that church to receive communion (also called the Eucharist or the Lord's Supper). The phrasing and exact requirements in a particular local church may vary, but membership in a particular Christian community is not required.

Open communion is the opposite of closed communion, where the Eucharist is reserved for members of the particular church or others with which it is in a relationship of full communion or fellowship, or has otherwise recognized for that purpose. Closed communion may refer to either a particular denomination or an individual congregation serving Communion only to its own members.

In the United Methodist Church, open communion is referred to as the Open Table.


Some denominations, such as the United Methodist Church, offer communion to anyone, even the unbaptized. According to a church document, United Methodists practice "open table," inviting to Communion all "who seek to live in relationship with the triune God and with one another," it adds. "All who respond in faith to the invitation are to be welcomed. Unbaptized persons who respond by grace to the invitation are urged to be instructed in and receive baptism as soon as possible, as a sign of the conversion that has occurred in the reception of the Eucharist."

Other churches allow baptized members of other Christian denominations to receive communion, but advise non-Christians not to receive.

Generally, churches that offer open communion to other Christians do not require an explicit affirmation of Christianity from the communicant before distributing the elements; the act of receiving is an implicit affirmation. Some churches make an announcement before communion begins such as "We invite all who have professed a faith in Christ to join us at the table."

Open communion is generally practiced in churches where the elements are passed through the congregation (also called self-communication). However, it is also practiced in some churches that have a communion procession, where the congregation comes forward to receive communion in front of the altar; such is the case in the Episcopal Church and most other Anglican churches, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the United Methodist Church.

Supporting belief

Those practicing open communion generally believe that the invitation to receive communion is an invitation to Christ's table, and that it is not the province of human beings to interfere between an individual and Christ. Some traditions maintain that there are certain circumstances under which individuals should not present themselves for (and should voluntarily refrain from receiving) communion. However, if those individuals were to present themselves for communion, they would not be denied. In other traditions, the concept of being "unfit to receive" is unknown, and the actual refusal to distribute the elements to an individual would be considered scandalous.


Most Protestant Christian churches practice open communion. It is official policy in the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, Metropolitan Community Church, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Reformed Church in America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Seventh-day Adventists. The official policy of the Episcopal Church is to only invite baptized persons to receive communion. However, many parishes practice open communion. Amongst Gnostic churches, both the Ecclesia Gnostica and the Apostolic Johannite Church practice open communion.

Notable exceptions include the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, conservative Churches of Christ, and some Reformed tradition churches. All these typically practice some form of closed communion.

Baptist and other churches that practice congregational polity, due to their autonomous nature, may (depending on the individual congregation) practice open or closed communion.

See also

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