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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    More Churches Offering Gluten-free Communion Bread Options

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    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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    I visited a Lutheran church that offered gluten-free communion bread as an option. Unfortunately the priest was using the same hands to offer both! The people officiating need to understand the cross-contamination issue or offering gluten-free bread for communion is pointless.

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    Jesus was a very poor Jew. He relied on the charity of others. We really do not know what kind of peasant bread he ate at that time. If it is turned into body and blood, it no longer is bread. What difference does it make what it was before?

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    Christmas Eve of 2011, our future daughter in law could not receive communion (celiac) making her feel like an outsider and awkward. Fall of 2012 I mentioned it to a minister and asked if they could have one gluten-free station. The ministers decided to have all gluten-free bread and noted it in the program. Two weeks ago, the communion bread was gluten-free, this past week it wasn't. We are Baptist and communion is offered by intinction most of the time.

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    I visited a Lutheran church that offered gluten-free communion bread as an option. Unfortunately the priest was using the same hands to offer both! The people officiating need to understand the cross-contamination issue or offering gluten-free bread for communion is pointless.

    Additionally, in the Catholic church, the priest breaks bread over the wine chalice and people are allowed to dip the host in the wine during communion. So even though the church says parishioners can receive full communion with wine only, that too is sadly cross contaminated. Celiacs are the new lepers of the Catholic community; we are unworthy to receive the sacrament.

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    I am currently in a church that does not offer gluten-free communion. I did visit a church locally that offered gluten-free communion in small baggies which were sealed and that seemed to work. The church we attended before moving offered gluten-free communion, which was served separately by the pastor (who had not touched bread with gluten) to those who indicated their need. That worked well and was most appreciated. I was not able to take full communion for over 25 years before that option was offered!

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    I have complications from celiac disease - I have collagenous sprue and I can tolerate the low gluten host with no problems. It only has a minute amount of wheat - 0.01. I assume it would work for almost anyone.

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    I go to a small, country Methodist church which always offers gluten-free wafers. Unfortunately, same issue as above comment - same hands used to give them out as is tearing pieces for the bread.

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    Additionally, in the Catholic church, the priest breaks bread over the wine chalice and people are allowed to dip the host in the wine during communion. So even though the church says parishioners can receive full communion with wine only, that too is sadly cross contaminated. Celiacs are the new lepers of the Catholic community; we are unworthy to receive the sacrament.

    I've had the same experience with the Catholic church. I was offered a 20ppm gluten-free host, but since I am very sensitive to gluten, I wasn't comfortable with that. The Priest told me that should be sufficient. He wasn't open to changing the way the wine was handled so I could receive a truly gluten-free communion.

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    Los Altos United Methodist in Los Altos, Ca used to offer gluten-free bread as an option but I had to get my own elements from a small plate on the altar. Now all of the elements are gluten-free as part of the belief that all should be welcome at the table.

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    Guest carol.maghakian@gmail.com

    Posted

    I am a Catholic, and my church in South Carolina order wafers with very little gluten. It is not what I am supposed to eat, but I do want to receive communion. It is very important to me.

    I can only hope it does not cause a problem with my celiac disease.

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    Guest Jean Mascarenhas

    Posted

    Additionally, in the Catholic church, the priest breaks bread over the wine chalice and people are allowed to dip the host in the wine during communion. So even though the church says parishioners can receive full communion with wine only, that too is sadly cross contaminated. Celiacs are the new lepers of the Catholic community; we are unworthy to receive the sacrament.

    I am a Catholic from Pakistan. The congregation there only receive the host, except on special feasts when they dip the host in the chalice. I contacted the bishop with my problem and he gave my parish priest permission to consecrate a little wine in a separate small glass at the time of the consecration so that the host was not broken into it.

     

    I was happy to see that in the U.S., in the churches I've been to, the priest only breaks the host into the main chalice from which he receives so the other chalices are free of contamination.

     

    The low gluten host is not a good option. Actually, Christ may well have broken bread made of barley which was the grain of that area, but that is gluten too!

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    My sons are celiac and we are Catholic. Our church consecrates both the main chalice and a pitcher of wine. Then the pitcher is poured into glass cups so my kids know that it is free of wheat. Also, our priests put the low gluten host into a pyx. When my boys go up to communion, they pick the pyx up themselves, open it and receive communion, put it in their pocket and after mass return it to the priest. I truly believe that Jesus would never ask someone to eat something that would make them sick, nor would He ever ask someone born as a child of God with a disability to not receive communion. I truly think the Pope is missing something requiring low amounts of gluten. Hopefully it will change in the future. However, our Dr. at the University of Chicago Celiac Research Center feels that the very low amount of gluten in the Benedictine Sisters hosts is safe and my boys haven't had any problems as well as clean yearly blood tests

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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