About “The Grape Juice Thing” — an ecumenical rant…
David Simmons

Note also that the alcohol policy adopted by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in 2015 includes this item: “13. We encourage clergy to acknowledge the efficacy of receiving the sacrament in one kind and consider providing non-alcoholic wine.”

Our parish, like many, bends over backwards to provide gluten-free bread to the tiny fraction of folks who cannot or prefer not to eat gluten, but until recently ignored the fact that a significant number of parishioners have issues with alcohol; twelve-step groups meet in our church seven days a week. About three years ago, we began talking about using non-alcoholic wine at Eucharist. After research, I was surprised to learn that neither BCP, canons, nor actions of General Convention say anything at all about wine.

Our bishop added two tweaks to the conversation: he gave permission to allow us to use wine from which the alcohol had been removed, but not grape juice. The reasoning had nothing to do with aesthetic snobbery or disinfection, but with the sacramental meaning of fermentation: that both bread and wine are not just fruits of the earth, but which have been enlivened by yeast. His other condition was that we avoid the “Communion buffet” phenomenon, whereby communicants are offered the choice of multiple kinds of bread or multiple kinds of wine. We are one Body because we share one bread and one cup.

We made the change before the new alcohol policy was adopted. A few people grumbled, one person swore that he would never take communion at our church as long as this policy was in effect, but otherwise it has been a non-issue. And we have not become appreciably more Methodist.

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