A Brief Historical Overview of Children at the Lord’s Supper in the CRC

Historically the Christian Reformed Church admitted baptized members to the Lord’s Supper after they made public profession of their faith. Such a profession usually took place during the latter years of high school.

In 1988, synod encouraged churches to allow younger children to profess their faith and come to the Lord’s table. Synod said, “Covenant children should be encouraged to make public profession of faith as soon as they exhibit faith and are able to discern the body and remember and proclaim the death of Jesus in celebrating the Lord’s Supper.” And then it added, “Since the Bible establishes no specific age requirement, the common practice of delaying profession of faith, even though faith is present, has no biblical warrant” (Acts of Synod 1988, Art. 74, p. 559). In 1995, synod reaffirmed and strengthened this approach.

In 2006, in response to an overture, synod allowed “for the admission of all baptized members to the Lord’s Supper on the basis of their full membership in the covenant community” (Acts of Synod 2006, Art. 71, p. 730). However, because this decision involved a major policy change, it required a ratification by the following synod before it could become official.

Since Synod 2007 did not ratify this decision of 2006, it did not take effect. Instead, synod created the Faith Formation Committee to guide the denomination through a study of this issue.

The Faith Formation Committee formulated the following principle (which was adopted by Synod 2010 and ratified as a Church Order revision by Synod 2011):

“All baptized members are welcome to the Lord’s Supper for age- and ability-appropriate faith and obedience to biblical commands about participation, under the supervision of the elders. The elders have responsibility to nurture grateful and obedient participation by providing encouragement, instruction, and accountability in the congregation. Requiring a formal public profession of faith prior to participation in the Lord’s Supper is one pastoral approach to consider, but is not required by Scripture or the confessions.”

The following appears in the Acts of Synod 2011, Article 36:

B. Recommendations

1. That synod accept the revised version of “Children at the Table” (Agenda for Synod 2011, pp. 577-612) as fulfillment of the mandate of the Faith Formation Committee to formulate “a clear statement about the participation of baptized children at the Lord’s Supper and the practice of public profession of faith for use in the churches.”

Grounds:

a. The document is consistent with Scripture and the Reformed confessions.

b. Synod 2010 endorsed an earlier draft of the document as sufficient basis for approving a principle to guide further work on the topic.

c. The revised document includes the changes requested by Synod 2010.

d. This action will allow the document to be received by our congregations and by our ecumenical conversation partners as a document accepted by synod.

—Adopted