Dear Readers -
I was recently asked this question at an ASK THE PREACHER conference that I was doing with a group of Christian men. "When did evangelical Christians stop using wine and switch to grape juice in their communion services?" I surmised it had something to do with the Temperance Movement of the late 1800's and/or the Prohibition days of the early 1900's. After some extensive research I came up with the following. I hope you enjoy.
"The practice goes back to the late 19th century and a Methodist dentist named Thomas Bramwell Welch. (See http://www.welchs.com/company/company_history.html.) Apparently Welch had scruples about the use of wine and had heard of Louis Pasteur's process of pasteurization of milk. Welch was successful in applying the process to grape juice, and he began to use it in his church, where he was a Communion steward.
His son, Dr. Charles Welch, was an enterprising Methodist layman (a dentist, like his father) from southern New Jersey. He marketed the pasteurized grape juice to temperance-minded evangelical Protestants as authentic biblical "wine." As word spread and as the temperance movement grew among evangelical Protestant churches, Welch left dentistry and produced Welch's Grape Juice commercially.
The impact of the temperance movement and the availability of the "unfermented juice of the grape" can traced in the Book of Discipline and actions of the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Church of the United Brethren. - Daniel Benedict (author of this article) Copyright © 2004 The General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church, PO Box 340003, Nashville TN 37203-0003.
As I read this, it makes perfect sense! There was no relaible refrigeration until the early 1900's. Grape juice would spoil after only a few days unless it was fermented. The Prohibition days in the USA, would have made it ILLEGAL to have or to use the wine as well. This also answers the question as to if was real wine that was used in the New Testament days or some kind of "weak" wine or just grape juice. More than likely, it was, as I have taught allof my ministry...REAL WINE!