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Communion Wine, Ordination, and Me

Thomas Whitley

Baptist consider returning to using wine for communion. Some baptists anyway. I'm all for it, though I do also fully understand the concern for recovering alcoholics. Beyond the simple issue, this article stirred up a memory of mine from long ago.

Historian Seeks Return to Communion Wine: “Here we are talking about retaining immersion, but we gave up wine at the drop of a temperance hat,” [Bill] Leonard said.

Many years ago I went before an ordination board seeking to be ordained in a baptist church. The process was going quite well until the issue of alcohol came up. I wasn't even of legal drinking age yet, but knew that alcohol could be consumed moderately and didn't believe the very act to be a sin. This was clearly not the right answer. And when I explained, as Bill Leonard has here, that the baptist aversion to alcohol was as clear a holdover from prohibitionist attitudes as there could be, I was scolded by a minister who I thought was a friend and told that that was just something that I needed to "check at the door."

At that point the meeting turned south and never recovered, with this one issue being the catalyst. The committee ultimately suggested that I be licensed instead of ordained. I never decided again to seek ordination and that was an important turning point in my relationship with the church (I was on staff at the church at the time and would go on to be on staff elsewhere afterward, but it was never the same) and especially the baptist church.

I am still struck by the sway that the norms of a particular subculture can have and the ignorance that subculture can have of its own past, though I guess at this point I really shouldn't be.