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DETROIT (ChurchMilitant.com) - A star evangelical preacher has shocked Protestants after preaching on the Real Presence of Jesus in Holy Communion and rejecting the exclusively symbolic interpretation of the Eucharist.
"I didn't know that for the first 1,500 years of church history everyone saw it [the Eucharist] as the literal body and blood of Christ," Francis Chan, megachurch pastor announced to his congregation at Epiphany.
"And it wasn't till 500 years ago someone popularized a thought that it's just a symbol and nothing more. I didn't know that!" Chan exclaimed in his homily.
The pastor lamented the substitution of sermon for sacrament by Protestant reformers: "For the first time, someone put a pulpit in the front ... before that, it was always the body and blood of Christ that was central."
Pointing to himself, Chan observed that for 1,500 years it was "never one guy and his pulpit at the center of the church" but "the body and blood of Christ."
"I say that because the Church is more divided than at any time in history," he said, in his trademark jeans and checked shirt.
"We are so used to growing up at a time when there are literally over 30,000 denominations," bewailed Chan, attributing Church unity in church history to the Eucharist:
It wasn't a pulpit where a guy preached after studying in his office by himself for 20 hours. Right now, we've got guys like me ... we go into our room, study, other guys go into their room and study and we all started giving different messages; so many contradicting each other. ... there was something about taking communion out of the center and replacing it with a gifted speaker ... the 'Body' itself needs to be back at the center of the church.
A former Anglican priest and biblical scholar told Church Militant that his conversion to Catholicism was sparked by a discovery similar to Chan: "While researching for a sermon series on the Eucharist, I discovered to my shock that no one (except heretics) ever denied the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist for the first 1,500 years!"
I offered a reward to anyone who could prove me wrong, discovering how only in the ninth century the monk Ratramnus argued that Jesus is present spiritually but not literally. Only in the 11th century, Berengarius of Tours propounded the proto-Protestant heresy that since Jesus was in Heaven he could not be in the Eucharistic species. But nobody took him seriously until the Protestant revolt.
In his 47-minute sermon, Chan expounds Acts 2:42 stressing how the early church "devoted" themselves to the "Lord's Supper" and to prayer, teaching and fellowship. "We are 'devoting' ourselves to other things, but 'devotion' to communion? That's what's always bothered me, and it still does, because I don't feel like we're there yet."
Quoting 1 Corinthians 11:27-30, Chan asked his congregation why St. Paul warns the Corinthians that many of them are sick or have died because they partook of Communion in an unworthy manner.
It appears that Chan is now embracing Roman Catholic doctrine on a deeper level than most people previously would have expected. Chan — who once referred to himself as a Calvinist — several years ago rebuked an apologist who spoke at his church against the errors of Roman Catholicism. Now, Chan appears to be embracing one of the most horrific and idolatrous doctrines of the Roman Catholic Mass, transubstantiation.
However, Catholic commentator Patrick Coffin tweeted: "I pray Francis Chan comes all the way home to the Catholic Church, with its adherence to the words of Jesus and all. Too bad the Calvinists here treat him like an uppity colored lady on an Alabama bus, c. 1942."
Dr. Gavin Ashenden, who was recently received into full communion with Rome, told Church Militant that what led him to reject the "schizophrenic mishandling of eucharistic theology in Anglicanism were the Early Fathers and the recent eucharistic miracles."
"One of the great flaws of Anglicanism is that it tries to ride two horses at once. But the two horses are going in different directions. In the same phrase of administration during the liturgy, the Real Presence is affirmed and then denied," he explained, adding:
It was only in the sixteenth century, with the change in culture that made reason and empiricism the measure of reality, that protesting voices were raised claiming that no miracle took place and receiving the Eucharist was a subjective experience dependent on the pious imagination of the recipient. [Protestant reformer Huldrych] Zwingli insisted that all bread and wine did was to 'trigger' the Christian with pious memories about Jesus on the Cross. My conclusion was that Protestantism was a blind alley, constrained by its own culturally rationalistic presuppositions, that needed to be fled from rather than celebrated.
The former Queen's Chaplain recounted how the eucharistic miracles had influenced his conversion: "When in the 20th century hosts that bleed have been sent for blind testing in laboratories [as in the miracle in Buenos Aires in 1996] and pronounced to consist of cardiac tissue, Protestant eucharistic theology is wholly debunked."
Chan's book "Crazy Love" sold 2.2 million copies while remaining on the New York Times Bestseller list for more than 83 weeks.
In 2010, Chan and his family left the Cornerstone Community Church he founded in Simi Valley, California, in order to serve in the underprivileged Tenderloin district of San Francisco.
Cornerstone Church had attracted more than 5,000 congregants by the time Chan quit. He said he left to hide from "that weird celebrity thing."
His decision to leave Cornerstone Church, which he started in his living room, came as a shock to many, including fellow evangelical pastors.
Chan currently leads a house church movement in San Francisco called We Are Church with 15 house churches and 30 pastors (two pastors per church) — all of whom do it for free.