Liturgical Department

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Please read this report in conjunction with Resolution 11.06 of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations (IASCER) and Resolution 12 of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates and Moderators of the Anglican Communion, February 2007.

Eucharistic Food and Drink

A report of the Inter-Anglican Liturgical Commission to the Anglican Consultative Council[1]


To prepare a report for the Inter-Anglican Liturgical Commission (IALC) to forward to the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) concerning the use of elements at the Eucharist, especially deviations, and to make recommendations on guidelines for the same.

At its Hong Kong Meeting in 2002, the ACC adopted the following resolution:

This ACC:

  1. awaits the survey by the IALC of the practice in relation to the elements of Holy Communion in the Churches of the Anglican Communion, and of some of the reasons given for any departure from dominical command; and
  2. requests that the results of such a survey be presented to the Joint Standing Committee upon completion.


Paul Gibson sent out a letter with the survey questionnaire attached (see Appendix 1) to all Provincial Secretaries. He followed up this correspondence with those Churches that did not respond by the deadline. In April 2005 Ron Dowling e-mailed all the Provincial Secretaries who had not yet responded.

The subcommittee consulted about the results and also with the Revd Dr Andrew McGowan of Trinity Theological School, Melbourne, Australia, a noted scholar and author in this area..


For the results see the Table in Appendix 2.

There were responses from 29 Provinces/Churches. In the Table a complete blank indicates no response.

7 respondents indicate that the question of substituting for bread and wine has arisen.

10 respondents indicate that substitution has taken/takes place or may have done so unofficially.

The reasons for substitution include allergies, concern for alcoholics, cost, desire to avoid alcohol, unavailability, legal situation.

Commodities substituted include rice or gluten-free bread, grape juice, de-alcoholised wine, biscuit, round cake, Coca-Cola, Fanta, banana juice, pineapple or passion fruit wine, raisins boiled in water with a little sugar added, rice cakes etc.

Sources and Formularies

The New Testament
Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-21; (John 6); 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.

Canon Law
            The Canons of 1603-4, as revised in the various Provinces.

The Book of Common Prayer (1662)
…it shall suffice that the Bread be such as is usual to be eaten; but the best and purest Wheat Bread that conveniently may be gotten.[2]

The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral 1886,1888
That, in the opinion of this [Lambeth] Conference, the following Articles supply a basis on which approach may be by God’s blessing made towards Home Reunion:
(c) The two Sacraments ordained by Christ himself – Baptism and the Supper of the Lord – ministered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.

Other documents included the Statement by the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations (IASCER) (see Appendix 3) and the ‘Kanamai Statement’ (see below). Several other articles have also been listed because of their particular relevance.


The responses to the questionnaire give some reasons for substitution of wheat bread and grape wine. These could be described as those positively embraced and those factors forced upon a particular Province.

The major factor for embracing a substitution is that of cultural adaptation. For some Anglicans their local culture reads very different meanings into bread and wine as these are ‘foreign’ imports. Other elements from the local culture convey the notion of celebratory meal far more than bread and wine.

There are a number of factors forced upon various Provinces. Evidence from the questionnaire, the discussion at the Berkeley IALC (see No. 6 in the Minutes of the Berkeley IALC 2001), and other anecdotal evidence suggest that these factors include the unavailability of wheat bread and/or fermented grape wine. The latter is more of a problem. Some Provinces find themselves governed by (Islamic) governments who have outlawed all alcoholic drinks. It is virtually impossible for these churches to obtain grape wine, or have it in their possession. In other Provinces wheat bread (wafers) and grape wine must be imported and this is far too expensive. In yet other places alcohol is associated with drunkenness and the local church teaches (and insists on) total abstinence. Other reasons offered include ministering with (recovering) alcoholics and also with those who have gluten allergies.

It is our view that health issues should be dealt with at the local level (parish/diocese) and, although important, are not really within the province of this report. However, it should be noted that de-alcoholised wine is now available more readily, and that gluten free bread is far more readily available as well. Roman Catholic arguments about the licitness of gluten free bread (or leavened bread for that matter) hold no authority in Anglicanism, especially when placed beside the BCP rubric.

The responses to the questionnaire do raise a couple of other questions.

  1. What constitutes cultural authenticity? When does an import become part of the culture? The gradual globalisation of trade over the past few centuries means that many ‘imports’ are now seen as being part of the culture. The use of carbonated soft drinks in some parts of Africa is a case in point.
  2. Is it the eucharistic elements themselves that carry the dominical tradition, or the eucharistic action, or both together? Does the breaking and sharing action carry the tradition as much as, as well as, or more than the use of wheat bread (whether leavened or unleavened)? Is the breaking and sharing of a rice cake outside the tradition while the sharing of small individual wheat wafers acceptable? (See Ruth Meyers’ material.)

What does it mean to, “do what the Lord did”? Andrew McGowan points to the variations from within the New Testament (e.g. barley bread in John’s Gospel) and to post-pasteurisation[3] view of the distinction between grape juice and grape wine. (See Appendix 4.)


In respect to the responses reported in the survey, and the considerations set out above:

  1. We reaffirm that the normative principle and practice of the Anglican Communion has always been and continues to be the use of the elements of bread and wine at the Eucharist.
  2. We do not think that it is necessary or helpful to define ‘bread’ or ‘wine’ in precise detail. It is enough that the elements should be realistically capable of being called ‘bread’ and ‘wine’ in the context of the celebration of the Eucharist in a particular culture at a particular time.
  3. We note that in some Provinces the Eucharist is celebrated with elements other than bread and wine. This is because it is very difficult for them to obtain either bread or wine, or it is because those particular communities use other elements for reasons to do with local culture or pastoral necessity. We consider these to be exceptional circumstances best dealt with by the Province concerned, giving serious consideration to the effect of such variation on other Provinces. We do not think it necessary, at the level of the Communion as a whole, to do other than reaffirm the general principle in 1. above.


Prepared by
Cynthia Botha
Ron Dowling (convenor)
Ian Paton

in consultation with
Paul Gibson
Andrew McGowan

Books and Articles

“African Culture and Anglican Liturgy: The Report of the Kanamai Consultation” on this theme
(1993) in Liturgical Inculturation in Africa: The Kanamai Statement with Introduction, Papers from Kanami and a First Response, David Gitari, ed., 1994, Alcuin/GROW Liturgical Study 28.

Gibson, Paul, “Eucharistic Food – May We Substitute?” in Worship Vol 76, Number 5, Sept
2002, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN, 445-455.
________ Report of IALC Berkeley 2001 on Eucharistic Elements

Holeton, David, ed, Our Thanks and Praise: the Eucharist in Anglicanism Today (Toronto, Anglican Book Centre, 1998).

Meyers, Ruth, “The Common Cup and the Common Loaf” in David Holeton, ed. Revising the Eucharist: Groundwork for the Anglican Communion, 1994, Alcuin/GROW Liturgical Study 27.

_______“One Bread, One Body” in David Holeton, ed. Our Thanks and Praise: The
Eucharist in Anglicanism Today (Toronto, Anglican Book Centre, 1998).

McGowan, Andrew “Notes on the Elements of the Eucharist”, unpublished paper prepared for IALC, 2005.

________ Ascetic Eucharists (New York, Oxford University Press, 1999)

Quevedo-Bosch, Juan, “The Eucharistic Species and Inculturation” in David R. Holeton, ed., Revising the Eucharist.


1. Endorsed by the International Anglican Liturgical Consultation 2005. Copyright © 2005 by the Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the written consent of the Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council.

2. The Book of Common Prayer (1662). Rubric at the end of the Service of Holy Communion.

3. It is only after the invention/discovery of pasteurisation and similar processes that it has been possible to stop grape juice from fermenting naturally.