|Closed Communion is the Scriptural and historic Christian practice of communing only those who confess the corporeal presence of Christ in the sacrament of the altar, and who are joined to an altar which is in confessional Church fellowship with our own. Hence we understand individual Christians according to the altar to which they are joined in their home congregations and not as "lone rangers."
Sometimes people will call this practice Close rather than Closed Communion. But the proper word can be seen by testing out what the opposite is. The opposite of close is far. The opposite of closed is open. The terminology of closed comes from the early church practice of having a little benediction for those still receiving instruction (catechumens), those under church discipline, and any visitors. Immediately following the sermon those were dismissed and a deacon would cry out, the doors, the doors! and the doors to the sanctuary would be CLOSED and locked for the Service of Holy Communion for communicants, which was never a public spectacle. The term is also drawn from the parable of the wise and foolish virgins in Matthew.
Closed communion has historically been practiced by all the churches which teach that Christs body and blood are truly given and received in the Holy Supper. It is not exclusively a Missouri Synod practice. Most protestants do not practice it because they view the Lords Supper as something we do and which is only a symbol or simply a vague spiritual presence of Christ. Holy Communion is not only an individual matter. Not only do individual Christians have a responsibility to examine themselves (I Cor. 11), but pastors also have a responsibility in addition to this. The Apostle Paul writes of the responsibility of pastors in this in I Corinthians 4:1: Let a man so consider us, as ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Paul also wrote in Romans 16: Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned and avoid them. Therefore pastors and communicants each have responsibility in seeing to it that individuals commune with benefit and with integrity within the confession of the church.
The famous German Lutheran theologian, Hermann Sasse, once wrote: "There is actually more unity of the church present where Christians of differing confession honorably determine that they do not have the same understanding of the Gospel, than where the painful fact of confessional splintering is hidden behind a pious lie."