Holy Communion on the Web Returns

May 1, 2010 -- Holy Communion on the Web Returns. Like John Wesley himself, who was barred from preaching and performing the sacraments in Anglican churches as a result of innovative efforts to spread the Gospel (field preaching, worship in Methodist meeting houses, and later, extraordinary ordinations for America, Ireland, Scotland, and finally, for England itself), Dr. Tom Madron was required by Bishop Richard Wills to suspend Holy Communion on the Web.

Here is what happened:

  • January, 2008. Madron started designing a website with two objectives in mind:  1) to provide an authentic worship experience via the web for people unable or unwilling to attend services of the institutional church; and 2) start a dialogue about the viability of the web as a medium for authentic worship, especially the administration of Holy Communion which is the most sacred of Christian rites.
  • January, 2008. To experiment with this approach Madron established a website, http://holycommunionontheweb.org. November 3, 2008. Madron had some minor success with the website.
  • November 3, 2008.  The November 3, 2008, issue of Newsweek, in an article entitled, “Click in Remembrance of Me,” reporter Lisa Miller quoted Madron about the possibility of providing Holy Communion over the web.  That article, of course, increased the visibility of holycommunionontheweb.org. (Read Newsweek article at  http://www.newsweek.com/id/165676). 
  • November 20, 2008. On November 20, 2008, at the direction of Bishop Wills, my District Superintendent, the Rev. John Collett, called Madron and requested that he “take down” the Holy Communion website. After discussing the reasons for doing so, and with protest, Madron did modify the website so that anyone going to it received a message to the effect that “This site is not available at this time.” While Madron did not “erase” the website from the web, he did make it normally unavailable pending further discussion with the Bishop. Through Mr. Collett Madron made an appointment to meet with the Bishop the evening of November 21. That appointment was subsequently cancelled by the Bishop.
  • November 24 - December 3, 2009. Madron left away from Nashville on a Thanksgiving holiday with members of his family.
  • December 2, 2008. On December 2 Madron received a phone call from Mr. Collett’s administrative assistant, on behalf of the Bishop, demanding that Madron remove all elements of the website from the web. Tom refused to do so since he was not in an environment where he could actually do that. Tom again agreed to meet with the Bishop on December 4 or December 5, when he would be back in Nashville.
  • December 3, 2008. Madron received a followup call from Mr. Collett on December 3 reiterating the demand from the Bishop that I “erase” the website from the web. Apparently some knowledgeable students at Boston University had discovered that they could “get around” my “unavailability” notice.
  • December 2, 2008. Mr. Collett provided the additional information that the Bishop was threatening to revoke Madron’s appointment as pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church if he did not comply.
  • December 4, 5, 2008. The Bishop, in effect, refused to meet with me on December 4 or 5. Madron did agree to make the website wholly unavailable pending a meeting with the Bishop and as of this date have done so. Mr. Collett was able to set up a meeting with the Bishop on December 10 at 4:00 p.m.
  • December 10, 2008. Attending the meeting were Bishop Wills, John Collett, Roger Hobsen, and me. The Bishop indicated that he had received complaints from at least Professor Karen B. Westerfield Tucker at Boston University and had at least discussed it with Bishop Willimon. The Bishop indicated that he thought that Madron had exceeded his authority as a licensed local pastor (the Bishop did not discuss the substance of why Madron was trying to offer Communion on the web) and again directed Madron to stand down.   Bishop Wills did suggest that I communicate with Bishop Willimon concerning Communion on the web in order to start a substantive discussion.
  • February 3, 2009.  Madron sent Bishop Willimon a copy of the paper found elsewhere on this website with a request that  there be an attempt at substantive dialogue regarding the administration of Communion over the web.  To date, however, Madron has not received a reply from Bishop Willimon. 
  • February 27, 2009. Madron wrote a formal letter to Bishop Wills sent through USPS requesting permission to reinstate holycommunionontheweb.org. As a compromise Madron offered to “eliminate from the website the explicit tie to United Methodism and to make the approach to Holy Communion more generic.” To date Madron still has yet to hear anything at all from Bishop Wills.
Madron's appointment to Trinity United Methodist Church comes to an end the end soon. His intent is to reinstate Holy Communion on the Web in the near future, and continue to minister to those who need or desire such a worship experience.