Celiac.com 01/25/2013 - Faced with calls to accommodate rising numbers of gluten-free parishioners, more Christian churches and are increasingly offering a gluten-free option for those rising numbers of gluten-free members who seek to take communion.

Photo: CC--Jeremy VandelA number of churches in the US and the UK have already taken measures to accommodate gluten-free members with gluten-free and low-gluten offerings.

And while there is still a bit of wrangling in the Catholic church in the US about the acceptable gluten-content of communion wafers, it looks like more traditional Catholic and Anglican churches in Australia are now joining ranks in offering a gluten-free communion option for their parishioners.

According to Mike Grieger, whose Australian Church Resources organization sells gluten-free and low-gluten altar bread to more than 2000 churches of different denominations, the trend is changing the way churches practice communion.

Generally, for Protestants, offering gluten-free bread for communion seems to pose little, if any, religious difficulty, as the bread and the wine are regarded as mere symbols of the body and blood of Christ.

Because Roman Catholics believe that the bread and wine, with the priest's blessing, actually become transformed into the savior's body and blood, the adoption of completely gluten-free offerings has caused issues.

That is because church doctrine requires bread made from unleavened wheat, as they believe Jesus used at the Last Supper.

To address the issue, nuns at the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Missouri have created an extremely low-gluten wafer that is now being offered by numerous Catholic churches.

It appears that official policy in the Catholic church can differ across geographic regions. For example, the Catholic Diocese of Columbus recently said that gluten-free wafers don’t meet Vatican standards because they don’t contain wheat, but that parishioners can still receive full communion by taking the wine.

However, in Australia, Father Ken Howell, Catholic Dean of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Brisbane, says that gluten-sensitive parishioners could now bring their own gluten-free wafers.

Meanwhile, more Protestant churches are moving to accommodate not just gluten-sensitivity, but other dietary sensitivities as well. One example is Ashgrove West Uniting Church in Brisbane, which began to offer their congregation bread that gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free and vegan friendly about a year and a half ago, according to church secretary Julie Hultgren.

What to you think? Should churches accommodate their gluten-sensitive members with gluten-free communion options? Share your comments below. Meantime, stay tuned to hear the latest in gluten-free trends in communion.

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