This is part of my commentary series on The 39 Articles of Religion. Article 30 states:
XXX. Of both kinds
The Cup of the Lord is not to be denied to the Lay-people: for both the parts of the Lord’s Sacrament, by Christ’s ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all Christian men alike.
This may seem like an odd point to be made into its own Article of faith. But in the context of its time it came off as revolutionary. For several centuries in Western practice, lay people had received Communion “in one kind” – only the bread. The wine came to be denied them, only drunk by the priests and bishops, for a variety of reasons. Part of it was financial: supplying wine to communicate an entire congregation requires a great deal more wine (especially coupled with the more frequent lay reception of Holy Communion that the Reformers demanded, this proved an enormous shift in church budgets). Part of it was logistical: wine is much more prone to spillage than the bread. Part of it was excessive piety: some supposed the Blood was more sacred than the Body, and thus fitting only for the clergy to receive. And this practice was protected by the Doctrine of Comingling: the understanding that the Body and Blood of Christ are mutually present, such that to receive Communion in one kind is to receive both. Although not “needed” under regular conditions, this doctrine remains a comfort to those who are unable to receive either the bread or the wine due to poor conditions of health.
In the mid-20th century, the Roman Church also adopted this point of reformation, and the laity there now regularly receive Communion “in both kinds.” It would seem that the issue behind this Article has been concluded.
But now there is trouble from the opposite side: many Protestant traditions have done away with the use of wine in favor of non-alcoholic grape juice. A small minority of them do this under the very faulty belief that the “wine” in our Lord’s last supper was not actually alcoholic; their folly in twisting the Scriptures is their own condemnation on this point. The majority of Protestants who forsake Communion wine do so for purely practical reasons: wine is more expensive, no longer considered appropriate for children (although perfectly legal and safe in its miniscule sip), and a stumbling block for alcoholics. Rather than alienate anyone, they elect to alter the Communion element itself.
A primary issue this runs up against is noted here in Article 30: “both the parts of the Lord’s Sacrament, by Christ’s ordinance and commandment, ought to be ministered to all…” The bread and the wine are not mere symbols that can be swapped out for other substitutes at will, but are God-given instruments of his Body and Blood. What Christ has ordained and commanded, man is at peril to alter. The Anglican tradition has stuck to the biblical instruction of Christ: we use wine (or some form of wine like port) in the celebration of Holy Communion. We do not have a definitive authoritative statement banning the use of grape juice outright, such as the Roman Church has, but we take it as sufficient to say that if Christ said wine, we are to use wine, and not to speculate on the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of using anything else in its place.