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Views of other churches on transubstantiation

Eastern Churches
The Eastern Catholic, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches, along with the Assyrian Church of the East, agree that the bread and wine truly and actually become the body and blood of Christ. They have in general refrained from philosophical speculation, and usually rely on the status of the doctrine as a “mystery,” something known by divine revelation that could not have been arrived at by reason without revelation. Accordingly, they prefer to say too little about the details and remain firmly within Holy Tradition, than to say too much and possibly deviate from the truth. However, they do speak clearly of a “change” (in Greek μεταβολή) or “metousiosis” (μετουσίωσις) of the bread and wine.

During the reign of Henry VIII, the official teaching of the Anglican Church was identical with the Roman Catholic Church’s doctrine, in defence of which the king wrote a book for which the Pope rewarded him with the title of Defender of the Faith. Under his son, Edward VI, the Anglican Church accepted a more Protestant theology, and directly opposed transubstantiation. Elizabeth I, as part of the Elizabethan Religious Settlement, gave royal assent to the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, which sought to distinguish Anglican from Roman Church doctrine. The Articles, declared: “Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.”

Anglicans generally consider no teaching binding that, according to the Articles, “cannot be found in Holy Scripture or proved thereby.” Consequently, some Anglicans (especially Anglo-Catholics and High Church Anglicans) accept Transubstantiation, while others do not. In any case, the Articles are not considered binding on any but Church of England clergy, especially for Anglican Churches other than the Church of England. While Archbishop John Tillotson decried the “real barbarousness of this Sacrament and Rite of our Religion”, considering it a great impiety to believe that people who attend Holy Communion “verily eat and drink the natural flesh and blood of Christ. And what can any man do more unworthily towards a Friend? How can he possibly use him more barbarously, than to feast upon his living flesh and blood?” (Discourse against Transubstantiation, London 1684, 35), official writings of the Churches of the Anglican Communion have consistently upheld belief in the Real Presence. Some recent Anglican writers explicitly accept the doctrine of transubstantiation, or, while avoiding the term “transubstantiation”, speak of an “objective presence” of Christ in the Eucharist. On the other hand, others hold views, such as consubstantiation or “pneumatic presence”, close to those of Reformed Protestant Churches.

Theological dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church has produced common documents that speak of “substantial agreement” about the doctrine of the Eucharist: the ARCIC Windsor Statement of 1971,[1] and its 1979 Elucidation.[2] Remaining arguments can be found in the Church of England’s pastoral letter: The Eucharist: Sacrament of Unity.[3]

Lutherans believe that within the Eucharistic celebration the body and blood of Jesus Christ are objectively present “in, with, and under the forms” of bread and wine (cf. Book of Concord). They place great stress on Jesus’ instructions to “take and eat”, and “take and drink”, holding that this is the proper, divinely ordained use of the sacrament, and, while giving it due reverence, scrupulously avoid any actions that might indicate or lead to superstition or unworthy fear of the sacrament. However, Luther explicitly rejected transubstantiation, believing that the bread and wine remained fully bread and fully wine while also being fully the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Luther instead emphasized the consubstantiation.

Other Protestants
Many Protestant denominations hold that Holy Communion merely symbolically commemorates or memorializes Jesus’ Last Supper with the disciples; this belief is known as “symbolism”, “memorialism”, or “transignification”. Some fundamentalist Protestants see any doctrine of the real presence as idolatry, worshipping mere bread and wine as if it were God. Protestant churches that hold strong beliefs against the consumption of alcohol go so far as to replace wine with grape juice during symbolic Last Supper commemorations. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also referred to as Mormons), a restorationist sect, uses bread and water to commemoratively symbolize Christ’s body and blood.

Others, such as some Presbyterian denominations, profess belief in the Real Presence, but offer explanations other than transubstantiation. Classical Presbyterianism held the Calvinist view of “pneumatic” presence or “spiritual feeding.” However, when the Presbyterian Church (USA) signed “A Formula for Agreement” with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, both affirmed belief in the Real Presence.