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:
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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
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
- 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.