Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Useful Resources - Gluten Free Communion?

I have had several folks contact me about issues with Communion so I did a little research. As always, if you have ideas for topics on this blog, feel free to drop me an email and I will do my best to find you an answer.

Communion is a practice that is meant to be observed over and over throughout the life of a Christian. Communion is practiced in the following denominations; Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, Roman Catholic and Baptist. From, it is a holy time of worship when we corporately come together as one body to remember and celebrate what Christ did for us. If you are Christian and have taken part in this practice, you know that it involves Bread (meant to represent the body of Christ) and Wine (meant to represent the blood of Christ). For those of us who are Gluten Free, the Bread is an obvious no-no. So what's a good Christian to do?

Without getting into anything too religious here, I thought I would contact at least one of these denominations to inquire about Gluten Free Communion. I contacted the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh for more information. I received the following official response verbally "The altar bread is always made only from wheat and water. For those who suffer from Celiac Disease and cannot tolerate wheat gluten, specially prepared hosts with a minimum of wheat gluten may be obtained, or these individuals may choose to receive only the Precious Blood. It is not possible to use breads rice flour or other grains." I was directed to the following Diocese of Raleigh website for more information. The specific quote was found in the pdf file entitled "Review of the Norms Part IV".

It can be assumed that most Priests in the Catholic Church will tend to follow the above guidelines which were set forth by the Bishop of Raleigh in August of this year. I have heard rumors of certain priests who may be a little more flexible, albeit not "officially". If you are Catholic, I would suggest the following and you may have a little luck. If you speak with your Priest you can probably work out an arrangement where you can purchase GF Communion wafers and bring them to mass with you in a small pyx. If you give it to the Priest before Mass, they will bless it during Mass along with all the other regular Host. You must make sure you get in that Priest's line for Communion and he will recognize you when you come up and give you the GF Host you provided.

Word of caution - the wine may be contaminated as others who have received the regular Host have then drank from the chalice before you. Your Priest may also provide a separate chalice just for you to resolve this issue. As I say, it never hurts to ask, right?

Here is an additional article from Living Without Magazine on this topic.

Feel free to leave a comment or email me if you have had experiences around this topic at your church of preference.

UPDATE - 9/19/08 @ 1:50 PM
I have found the following link and link from the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) which is the official statement from the Roman Catholic Church.

Here is the Web Site for the Benedictine Sisters for more information on low gluten altar breads.

Here is the Web Site for the Catholic Celiac Society for even more information.

Here is more information from


Pam said...

I would encourage your readers to talk to the leadership of their particular congregation about gluten free communion.

As far as I know, the catholic church is the only church that will not make an exception. I am a local pastor, and our church actually provides individually wrapped, pre-packaged gluten free wafers for people who need them. yes, we acknowledge that communion was unleavened bread, but we also see communion as a symbol and would hate for followers of Christ to not be able to participate because of gluten intolerance. The wafers we provide are certified to be gluten free, and I use them personally as do many in our church community.

Kathy J said...

I believe Pam is right (about the Catholic church). I am Catholic and my priest said that receiving just the wine IS partaking in the sacrament, so I just receive the wine now. BUT I sit in the front row to reduce the chances of cross contamination.

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