Alter the Altar

At AHUMC we do not call it the communion table. We do not call it the communion rail. Rather we fall into a historical theological position when we reference these things however, because we call them the altar and the altar rail.

As I read the publications from the UMC, I understand this is 'altar' language is incorrect language for those areas. I for one agree.

Catholics celebrate the Eucharist and in that ritual Christ is sacrificed again (as I come to understand it), thus to call it the altar is correct. However, the UMC does not affirm this theology and instead affirms the Communion as a symbolic ritual of remembrance. Therefore communion table is the correct label.

But this seems like semantics.

However, for those Christians out there who do not affirm that Christ died as a substitutionary atonement for sin, to call it an altar can be troubling at best. The UMC has room for you who do not affirm this theology of the atonement.

Thank God it does because then I am not sure where I would be.

Rather my atonement theology is not so much Anselm as it is Girard. While Girard does not address the atonement much at all himself, his disciples have. In fact my wife did just that.

In her research in the class we shared, it became evident to each of us that Girard might fall more in line with 'Ransom' theory of atonement (which is the first atonement theory the church put forth).

This theory states that humanity was set free by God by paying a ransom to the Satan. This ransom was Jesus.

This sounds very archaic and fundamentally conservative. However, Girard's lens on this statement would in fact allow liberals and conservatives alike to claim this statement. While some of the terms need to be defined for a fuller understanding (such as Satan and ransom), Girard is one who is able to bring the left and right together.

Such a rare gift indeed.

So to all my UMC friends out there. Let us not continue in a tradition we do not understand by refereeing to the communion table as an altar.

Alter our language and we might just be able to alter the current course of the church.