When I saw Frank Lockwood noting that a dog had been given communion at Anglican Church in Canada (“An unbaptized dog, to make matters worse.“) my first thought was, “What are those crazy Anglicans up to now. . . ”
According to those in attendance at the historical church at 188 Carlton St. in downtown Toronto, it was a spontaneous gesture, one intended to make both the dog and its owner – a first timer at the church — feel welcomed. But at least one parishioner saw the act as an affront to the rules and regulations of the Anglican Church. He filed a complaint with the reverend and with the Anglican Diocese of Toronto about the incident – and has since left the church.
“I wrote back to the parishioner that it is not the policy of the Anglican Church to give communion to animals,” said Bishop Patrick Yu, the area bishop of York-Scarborough responsible for St. Peter’s, who received the complaint in early July. “I can see why people would be offended. It is a strange and shocking thing, and I have never heard of it happening before.
“I think the reverend was overcome by what I consider a misguided gesture of welcoming.”
After reading the article, I’m more inclined to cut the interim priest some slack. The article says Rev. Marguerite Rea is justifiably embarrassed about the whole thing so I don’t want to be too hard on her personally. But what troubles me is the the attempt by some people to justify the act as something Jesus himself would approve of.
Peggy Needham, the deputy people’s warden, said that she received a complaint saying that Christ wouldn’t have liked it, but that in her opinion, “Christ would have thought it was neat. It was just being human. And it made everyone smile.”
This is the sort of claim made by people who form their opinion about what our Lord would approve of by from watching Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. I’m not sure where the idea came from that Jesus was some happy-go-lucky hippie that just liked to see people smile as they shake off their uptight bougie religious inhibitions. That certainly isn’t the picture of Jesus found in the Gospels.
And while I can appreciate not letting elective religious practices get in the way of welcoming a newcomer to church, disrespect to the Lord’s table is not something to be taken lightly. The intention might be to make a visitor feel comfortable, but the real message being sent is that they members of the church don’t take communion seriously—so newcomers shouldn’t take it seriously either. But if nothing is sacred, then you no longer have a church; you just have a religious club that is going to the dogs.