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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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    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 live in Mid-Hudson Valley (Archdiocese of NY) and spoke to priest at Catholic church I attend. Priests there now have a separate chalice from which I take communion in the form of wine. This works out very well.

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    My church now offers gluten-free communion. My son partook of communion last Sunday for the first time in two years! Since I'm the one who did the research, etc., the pastor and communion servers are very aware of the restrictions to not touch the gluten-free wafers. Thank you, Keith Sexton, pastor extraordinaire!

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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.

    Our Catholic church has offered a gluten-free host for several years now, with the priest being the only server to have the gluten-free host. They are kept in a separate pic (sp) which sits inside his chalice with the rest of the hosts. Only problem we run into is when there is a visiting priest and he doesn't know to put the pic in with his hosts.

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    I didn't take communion for five years. Our new minister found out that I wasn't taking communion because of the gluten. I didn't want to make a fuss or require special arrangements, but he said "Even if it was only you that needs it, you're worth it, but also where there is one... there are more." He ordered special wafers for me, and separates the wine in a small cup just for gluten-free - keeps everything on a small table beside him and if you need gluten-free you mention it to him when you come up to take communion... we went through 50 wafers in three months! I thought I was the only one, but obviously not.

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    I know churches need to have gluten-free wafers for people. One in every three people is a large number of people. People will leave the church if they can't get the wafers in gluten-free.

     

    "Do you want to grow, or do you want to fold?" is the question for the churches. Word will spread by word of mouth as to who does and does not accommodate them.

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    I don't take communion. I have allergies to at least 5 of the gluten-free flours too. My pastor knows why I don't do communion. If people ask me, I tell them. The hand cleaner they use to break the bread off too makes me sick too.

     

    It is great some churches are recognizing celiac disease. The number will grow, I believe.

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    Guest Libby Troutman

    Posted

    Our church has offered gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, preservative-free bread for about a year now. Very labor intensive, cutting up all these loaves into bite size cubes. The wafers you can order online are WAY too expensive. It would cost our church $150 every Sunday if we bought those wafers. Now we spend about $7 a Sunday for a loaf and 1/2 of bread cubes.

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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?

    Exactly! Who cares about the gluten content of the bread (or the alcohol content of the wine for alcoholics)? According to the judgement of the Council of Trent, "The Thirteenth Session, ON THE MOST HOLY SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST," the bread and the wine aren't actually bread and wine when consumed, but are ". . . truly, really, and substantially, the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ . . ." So a real, believing Catholic, and of course the Catholic Church itself, should have no truck with gluten-free wafers, celiac disease or not, because how much gluten is in the body of Jesus anyway? If transubstantiation is real (and a true Catholic cannot believe otherwise) then the gluten in the wafer shouldn't even cause a problem for those with celiac disease. The fact that it does cause problems brings us to an obvious conclusion that I'll leave unsaid...

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    Guest Clifford Krajewski

    Posted

    I have not received communion for 3 years because of my celiac diagnosis. Recently I found out that some churches (catholic) in the area do indeed serve the gluten free host. It requires some extra effort from the people that prepare the communion ahead of time and the people that serve it. I'm uncomfortable with the whole process, but I have no other recourse. I cannot believe that Jesus Christ would tell me that I am unworthy to receive the host because I happen to have celiac disease. In His time celiac disease probably didn't even exist. Nor did the word 'gluten' for that matter. Why can't the catholic church wake up and join the 21st century?

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    I am part of Altar Guild. This is the first I heard someone in our church who need Gluten free communion. I am willing to give this option. I need to know how are some church served it without being cross contaminated. I am ordering wafers but need to bag it. Do we have another paten (plate to put gluten free wafer on??? How did you word it in your bulletin that we offered Gluten free??? Do we have to have Gluten free wafer or can we use gluten free cracker type???

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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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