This will not be a long post, because the topic of online communion is almost worth not having. Yet, it is a theological one and frankly, this is great because it means United Methodists are talking about something more important that genitals.
Chad Holtz, with whom I disagree vehemently regarding inclusion has written one of the best send ups in favor of online communion. I disagree with his proposal, but I do recommend his piece. I will not offer a rebuttal of this proposal, but simply state why I feel it is not theologically sound to do this.
In my opinion, an online communion — taking the bread and the wine over the internet — is a form of gnosticism. It allows one to create a false persona, to hide behind it, and to live apart from the real, physical community.
The world is separated into two spheres. One, the physical, is regulated to non-necessary. Our physical community is now no longer necessary. Rather, what is elevated is the spiritual, or cyberspace. No longer do we try to have physical contact, but we are satisfied with an image on a screen.
If the Eucharist represents/is the real presence (or, flesh and blood) of the ascended and divine historical Jesus then it must be taken in person — to phone it in or to suppose one can simply throw blessings around from the Aeon of cyberspace relates back to the notion that non-material supplants material, that our material world is inconsequential.
If the act is nothing but a memorial, an act meant to remember something, then an online communion is fine. However, biblically, theologically, and traditionally speaking the Eucharist is not merely about “remembering” a past event. Rather, the Eucharist is about breaking bread, which is the body of Christ, so as to enjoy the real presence of Christ. The official United Methodist Church stance can be found here. It is a mystery of the Christian faith with therapeutic inclinations. It is more than that, I believe.
This is not short-sighted, but Christocentric-sighted.
Worship, bible study, etc… are not official sacraments of the Church. The Eucharist is. It is not merely about taking it, but about receiving it, and then receiving it in a community or presence.
We are entering into a place where the intimate can not be replaced with the inanimate.