(ENS) Should confirmation be required?

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Anthropology, Episcopal Church (TEC), Ministry of the Laity, Parish Ministry, Sacramental Theology, Theology

33 comments on “(ENS) Should confirmation be required?

  1. Archer_of_the_Forest says:

    Aaargh…I hate that charge that Confirmation is a “rite looking for a theology.” It has a theology, and a very rich one. Just because the Episcopal church has negated it does not mean it does not have one.

  2. Ian+ says:

    True, Archer. Just look at the lessons from Acts included in the confirmation rite in any of the older versions of the BCP. There St Luke shows that the conferring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit came, not at baptism, but with the laying on of apostolic hands. What more theological clarity do we need than that? And what more debate? And what more explicit requirement for qualification to be fully participating laity? Based on these passages from Acts, one of my mentors calls confirmation the “ordination of the laity”.

  3. Cennydd13 says:

    Should Confirmation be required? [b]Yes……ABSOLUTELY![/b]

  4. Cennydd13 says:

    And with no exceptions!

  5. Paula Loughlin says:

    I honestly think that the TEC is moving away from being a sacrament centered church because when Grace is shoved aside for “vehicles” you really have no need for sacraments.

    That aside I believe Confirmation must remain a requirement.

  6. Frank Fuller says:

    One of the more ironic by-products of humanist rationalism is an irrational belief in our ability to tinker and make things better. I wonder if the first manifestation of that wasn’t the Tower of Babel.

  7. Undergroundpewster says:

    Even though it was defeated, they won’t let this one drop. It will be back. After all, it is an issue of “justice.” 😉

  8. Charles says:

    Paula, is there something in the RCC canons or other rules requiring that parish council members be confirmed? Or lay folks working as an employee of a parish?

  9. Teatime2 says:

    In both dioceses to which I’ve belonged, confirmation was required to be a lay reader and vestry member and to vote at the annual parish meeting. To my knowledge, no one has ever rebelled against that or proposed changing it.

    I swear that some in TEC just lie awake at night thinking up new challenges and controversies to bring up. I don’t understand it. Most of the comments, however, were valuable in support of confirmation. I did feel moved to respond to a bloke named Chuck who proposed making Confirmation into an oath of loyalty to TEC and I’m afraid I couldn’t resist asking if berets would be required, as well. 😉

    I think that Confirmation is very valuable and there needs to be time of study culminating in a formal affirmation of faith for adults. Our parish encourages Confirmation and also Reaffirmation, particularly around or after life changes.

  10. driver8 says:

    One doesn’t have to be a genius to notice that the proponents’ focus is entirely anthropological (God may as well not exist). Thus “it’s all about belonging”.

    I just want to say. Is it really? Is it really?

    Sociology, psychology and anthropology are standing in here for a theology that is wholly absent.

  11. D a v i d + says:

    No need to worry. When those pushing for the end to confirmation realize that a group of “Fundamentalists” (read bible believing Christians) could then infiltrate their congregation, attend three consecutive communion services, put money in the plate and then as a unified group nominate and vote in a vestry that would return the parish to a biblical orthodoxy they will soon rethink their need to be inclusive and change their mind.

  12. Catholic Mom says:

    It’s an interesting paradox (but one that has been proven statistically time and again) that as diminishing organizations seek to bolster their numbers by reducing their requirements for membership (or participation) their membership continues to decline, while the organizations whose membership continues to grow have the strictest requirements. I’m not sure it’s all that hard to understand. You set the bar high and people are motivated to achieve it, you set it low and people figure its a waste of time anyway so why bother.

  13. Teatime2 says:

    Hold on, CM. Orthodoxy (capital O) confers all of the sacraments of initiation on infants at once. The baby even receives his or her first communion with baptism and chrismation. There are legitimate options in this regard.

    Jesus didn’t “set the bar high” as to access to Him. He paid the most attention to the most miserable of sinners, teaching and healing them. I’m sorry, but your “organizational” model doesn’t work when the love and compassion of Jesus is applied.

  14. Paula Loughlin says:

    Charles, I honestly don’t know. I am basing my opinion on what has been the place of Confirmation in the TEC. My husband was not permitted to receive Communion until he had been Confirmed.

    Does the sacramental grace received in Confirmation give a person a better ability to serve on church councils and other official bodies? If one looks at such service as taking part in a ministry of the church I would say yes. I like to think the gifts of the Holy Spirit would come in handy.

  15. Paula Loughlin says:

    Teatime2, Eastern Rite Catholics do so also. I like the movement to reunite the 3 sacraments of initiation and would love to see Latin Rite Catholics place Confirmation before Communion with less of a divide between the times of receiving each.

  16. Catholic Mom says:

    Please note that I never said that there weren’t legitimate options with respect to Confirmation. In fact, I wasn’t necessarily even talking about Confirmation specifically. Just an observation about organizations. One which, statistically speaking, hold true for churches as well as dog clubs.

    As to the “bar being set high” with respect to Jesus, I would say that he set the bar as high as it could possibly be set.

    “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect”

    I’m trying to imagine what could be a higher standard. That doesn’t mean that he said “and if you don’t make that standard, I’m rejecting you” just “that is the standard which I am asking of you.” Which, as far as I can see, is not in conflict with my observation at all.

    “I have no demands or requirements — whatever you feel is adequte is fine by me. “I have high, indeed impossible standards, and I expect you to spend your entire life aiming for them, even if you consistently fail.” The first statement causes people to lose interest. The second statement inspires people and suggests that here, indeed, is a “pearl of great price” worth giving up everything for.

    BTW, just briefly reviewing what Jesus asked of his immediate followers, it seems to me I could make a long list. Right of the top of my head I think of:

    “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”

    As I recall the Gospel is full of followers “murmuring among themselves” that “this is a hard saying, who can listen to it?” or “returning to their previous way of living” because they found what Jesus asked of them too tough.

  17. Catholic Mom says:


    I’m not trying to be argumentative, but I honestly think the Catholic Church has it exactly right. Young children need to be brought into the life of the Church as soon as possible, which is why infant baptism is a good thing.

    Communion at as early an age as possible is also a good thing, but communion and reconcilation are not necessary before a child reaches the age of reason (or, let us say, the age at which the child can distinguish right from wrong.) I think the 7-8 age range we see in the Catholic Church is just about right. The Eucharist and the sacrament of reconcilation are lifelong supports which the child should have access to from the moment he or she can truly benefit from them.

    Confirmation, on the other hand, is just that — a confirming of something which has gone before. To my mind, Confirmation following infant baptism not only makes no sense (Who is “confirming” what? Not the child, certainly ) but also seriously undercuts the whole theology of infant baptism. Confirmation should supply that which is lacking in infant baptism — the full assent of the informed adult conscience. In the Catholic Church it requires years of preparation, which is good. The Chuch has actually pushed the age of Confirmation back several years in recent decades, trying to assure a full and mature Christian understanding. In addition, frankly, if Confirmation were to take place at an earlier age, many children would simply stop receving religious education as soon as they were Confirmed, (because neither they nor their parents would be sufficiently motivated to continue) leaving them with a childs-eye view of Christianity. If you think we have serious defects in our “faith formation” now, I shudder to think of the consequences.

  18. James Manley says:

    Hardly any American Anglicans were confirmed in the 18th century. No bishops.

  19. dwstroudmd+ says:

    [b]“With the change in theology in the 1979 prayer book, with baptism the root of everything we do, confirmation is a rite looking for a theology,” she added.[/b]

    Just like ordination and marriage and money and ………..Kaeton’s remarks were thus most interesting, confirming as they do the observations of Urban T. Holmes in “Education for Liturgy: An Unfinished Symphony in Four Movements” about the 1979 book.
    “Inasmuch as the 1979 Book of Common Prayer expresses a new emerging theological consensus, we should anticipate that it will shape the manner in which the church understands its experience of God. It is the source of our learning” (p. 139, WORSHIP POINTS THE WAY: A Celebration of the Life and Work of Massey Hamilton Shepherd, Jr., edited by Malcolm C. Burson, The Seabury Press, New York, 1981).

    My, my, see what we have learned! I’ll bet that Shepherd and Holmes are viewing what they never expected to happen. One does wonder if they find the sight illuminating or searing.

  20. Todd Granger says:

    With respect, Ian+, the instances in the Book of Acts when the gift of the Holy Spirit did not accompany baptism are exceptional and particular, including the narrative that historically is appointed at confirmation in the Prayer Book. Otherwise, the NT is quite clear that baptism is the rite that confers the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    I may be the only theological conservative posting to this thread thus far who agrees with the argument that confirmation as it developed in the Western Church is a theologically confused rite. Far better to adopt (return to?) the practice of Eastern Rite Christians and to chrismate at baptism, regardless of the age of the baptizand. That doesn’t mean that we couldn’t have a later rite of confirmation/reaffirmation, undertaken at some truly adult age (perhaps no sooner than 17 or 18 years old).

  21. driver8 says:

    Doesn’t 1662 admit to communion both those confirmed and those ready and desirous of confirmation. Presumably the original Restoration context is the thought that it might take time to confirm those thousands who had come of age during the time when there legally was no episcopacy.

    Contemporary Bishops should count themselves lucky, hard as it is to believe, John Kaye, the Bishop of Lincoln confirmed 1090 people at a single service in 1829.

  22. Teatime2 says:

    Got it, CM. No one is worthy except, perhaps, cloistered nuns and monks. And Jesus spent all of His time in the Temple debating Scripture with the chief priests and scribes because that’s why He came and because the common rabble wasn’t worthy of His time and teaching, yes?

    I’m not going to play Bible Battle with you, even though it’s tempting because I have a handy-dandy new Bible app on my tablet. We get it already — the RCC is the “One True Church” and has all of the answers so there’s no point in even discussing or considering anything different from what the RCC say, does, and promotes. I just happen to believe that Jesus saves, not the RCC. There is absolutely nothing that a church can add to His salvific action on the Cross. As Anglicans, the only two sacraments we recognize as being instituted by Jesus are Baptism and Holy Eucharist. The others are sacramental rites.

  23. Teatime2 says:

    #15 Paula,
    Our Rite of Baptism includes Chrismation and the words, “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.” In the discussion at the story site, someone mentioned that the second half is actually the phraseology used in the Orthodox Church for chrismation/confirmation. I can’t verify that’s true but, if it is, then it adds an interesting point for discussion.

    We have a number of rites for adult initiation — confirmation, reception, and reaffirmation, all conferred by the bishop. I suppose we could simplify but I think that each one serves a good purpose.

  24. DeeBee says:

    Should confirmation be required? Yes.

    However, on a purely practical level . . . If TEo decides to get rid of the confirmation requirement (and by extension the reception for non-cradles), local parishes would never again need to be bothered by a visiting bishop, or hear the often vapid and/or heretical sermon that comes with the package. 🙂

  25. Catholic Mom says:

    Teatime — you response is just so all over the place it’s impossible to respond. In brief:

    1. I made a simple point. I said that organizations that ask more, get more, not less. Organizations that ask less, lose members. You replied that Jesus gave access to everyone. I responded that Jesus did give ACCESS to everyone (the “common rabble” etc.) He ASKED a great deal of them, however. “No one is worthy but nuns and monks” seems a total non sequitor response to this. Can Jesus not ASK a great deal of uneducated people and common sinners? It seems to me he did. And does.

    2. I didn’t even touch on Confirmation as a sacrament. I simply said that I think the Catholic Church had it right on the timing of this one and I would not like them to change it to the practice of the EO. I even threw in a completely practical and perhaps somewhat cynical rational for this, being that many people stop taking their kids to religious education the instant they are Confirmed with the reasoning “there’s nothing more to get out of it, so why bother.” That being the case, it is important that Confirmation be set at a sufficiently mature age that ensures a reasonable period of “faith formation” in childhood. How this makes an argument for the Catholic Church as the “One True Church” I have no idea.

  26. drummie says:

    “With the change in theology in the 1979 prayer book, with baptism the root of everything we do, confirmation is a rite looking for a theology,” Just another example of a large part of the pro blem, NO theology.

  27. Ad Orientem says:

    With respect to the discussion of timing I would note that contemporary Roman Catholic discipline is something of a novelty. The practice in the ancient Church was that Chrismation was one of the mysteries of initiation. It was (and in the East still is) performed at the same time as Baptism and first Holy Communion.

    The current Latin practice of Confirmation being administered only after attaining the age of reason and after reception of Holy Communion is likely no more than 1000 years old. Indeed ordinary priests in the Latin Church continued the immemorial discipline of chrismating immediately after baptism and before reception of Communion until it was suppressed in favor of the modernist one at Lateran Council IV in the 13th century.

  28. Catholic Mom says:

    Well, I’m not sure exactly what is meant by “chrismation” but, as was said before, a person who is baptized is immediately annointed with holy oil and “marked as Christ’s forever.” What is unique about Confirmation is the repetition of the baptisimal vows, but this time made by the person themselves and not their godparents. There is an additional annointing as well.

  29. Ad Orientem says:

    That is precisely my point and I think the one that some others have been trying to make. “Confirmation” is a medieval invention of the Latin Church. The sacrament of Chrismation is the apostolic one.

  30. driver8 says:

    So most bases covered – Orthodox vs Catholic, Catholic vs Reformed Anglican, any Pentecostals want to chip in? Confirmation illuminated? Not so much.

  31. Catholic Mom says:

    Well…I’m trying to illuminate it! 🙂 I’m not discussing it at in terms of “we’re theologically right and you’re wrong — we had it first and then you changed it.” I’m saying that I think that 1) it seems to me to be a good and useful thing, 2) it complements and completes that which otherwise might be seen as problematic with infant baptism 3) it is probably best aimed at 14-15 year olds, and that (4) (in my opinion) it ties people tighter to the Church (certainly keeps them coming to religious ed longer) more than it drives them away. These are just my opinions I’ve thrown out there for discussion (or not). Haven’t seen any discussion of these points, however. Just “you guys made this up” and “you all think you’re the One True Church.”

    OK, I give in. I confess. I’ll say what I’m supposed to say: “We made it up because we’re the One True Church and we can do whatever we like.” There — now, that said — is it inherently a bad or a good idea?? Or, as my Israeli husband, quoting the old line about any piece of news that happened to reach the shtetl, likes to say — “Is it good for the Jews or bad for the Jews?”

  32. Sarah says:

    I’m with Catholic Mom [sputter . . . gasp . . . thunk] . . .

    In fact, what she is describing is a fairly common and much-respected aspect of Anglicanism as well. The parishes with which I’m familiar have also intentionally delayed confirmation a couple of years to make certain that the person is aware and intentional about his response.

    Further, I’m very pleased with the confirmation rite as it resolves the problem with the baby’s not having consciously affirmed submission to Christ. Baptism indicates God’s action, and confirmation indicates man’s response.

    [I say the above speaking only of the practical and logistical aspects of the ordo salutis, and not speaking of what’s right or wrong, true or untrue. Naturally those of other traditions think otherwise theologically, and that’s fine by me.]

    I’m also with Catholic Mom [snort . . . gasp . . . thunk] regarding organizational strength. The moment an organization starts just saying “y’all come . . . no strings . . . just come on . . . in fact, if you just set foot in our parish hall we’ll sign you up . . . no need to believe anything in particular, we’re Episcopalian!” then the organization becomes [ironically] less attractive, less credible, less respected, less influential.

    I think a part of the conflict between Teatime’s and CM’s ideas is that Teatime is talking about the standards that Christ applies towards union with Him — which is that Christ has already met those standards of perfection within His own body and work, and I heartily agree with Teatime on that. I’m a Protestant — grace alone — so naturally there’s a conflict between an Anglican and a Roman Catholic, those papists!!! [Had to add that, to make up for the stress and strain of my two previous agreements.]

    But CM appears to be talking not about the standards of *Christ’s acceptance of a sinner* but about the standards of a human organization for acceptance.

    Once you start a tennis club, but it’s not required that members should play tennis or indeed even care about tennis, and the skeet shooters become members and begin shooting skeet next to the tennis courts . . . then it’s all over.

    And that last analogy is precisely what’s happened to TEC. There’s a bunch of skeet shooters blasting away next to the tennis courts with actual tennis players on them attempting to play tennis. Not content with going on and starting their own, less fashionable, skeet shooting club, the skeet shooters “joined” the tennis club — with predictable results.

    Those are my two cents. I suspect that the Diocese of South Carolina, among others, will keep confirmation, and various other dioceses will delete it as “too rigid and boundaried, too divisive, too narrow and restricting, not open and inclusive” etc. And I have my usual level of respect for those positions and ideas, which is to say none. If they delete confirmation, they’ll be doing it for all the usual wrong reasons, and certainly not because they’ve suddenly become Eastern Orthodox theologians [although certainly those revisionist activists who fancy themselves intellects will bloviate grandly about various aspects of “the East” and fancy themselves “bridge-makers between the two” and lots of other farcically humorous nonsense.]

  33. Catholic Mom says:

    Well, we started out talking only about the standards of a human organization. But a comment was made that seemed to suggest that a Church could not impose standards on its members given that Jesus did not impose standards on his followers (or, I would guess the theological equivalent being that he offered them salvation for free, without the need to meet any standards at all). I responded that it seemed to me that he *asked* (indeed “demanded”) quite a bit.

    So here is my long drawn out and imprecise human organization (sports) metaphor.

    Augusta National Golf Course is taken over by Jesus Christ. The first thing he does is announce that EVERY SINGLE PERSON who applies to join will be accepted. You apply — bang, you’re in! You don’t even have to be able to play golf. You can be in a wheelchair, one-armed, you name it! You don’t have to pay dues, either. Free, for life, no dues.

    That said, Jesus cares very much for golf and the reason he is admitting everybody into the club is because he wants everyone in the world to play. In fact, he wants every single member to be able to shoot par (or better) for 18 holes. So when you join the club, you are asked to abide by a number of requirements. For example, you are asked to learn to play the game if you don’t know it and practice the game if you do. You are explicitly told that if you’re not shooting par for every hole, you need to improve. If you’re in a wheelchair, work on your putting. If you’re blind, get somebody to give you feedback on your shots. Just keep working on it. However bad you are, don’t let it be an excuse for not getting better. He wants other stuff too. For example, you are asked to volunteer to help run the Masters once a year as well as contribute in other ways. Jesus meets with the members regularly, he discusses their game with them, makes coaching suggestions, asks them how they could improve their game, what more they could do for the club, etc. etc. He is equally patient, equally encouraging, equally hopeful for all of them. He never kicks anyone out of the club no matter how badly they play or how little they contribute.

    Only problem is — some members start grumbling. “Hey, I just want to be a member to have some place to socialize with my friends and potential clients. They don’t care how bad I play and frankly I don’t see why Jesus does. Nothing I ever do is good enough anyway. I shot a birdie on a hole last week and my friends were all high-fiving me and Jesus comes up to me and says “why didn’t you get an eagle?” And another thing — I donate plenty of money to this club. Why do I have to show up to help with the Master’s and all that other stuff? You can go out and pay somebody to do that with the money I contributed.”

    Eventually, some members are so unhappy they quit.

    Now a debate arises in the Club. “Hey, we lost some members there. Maybe we should cut back on the list of requirements. It’s turning some people off. For one thing, maybe we should stop posting “par” for every hole. I mean, what’s par for you might not be par for me. Let everybody determine for themselves what’s a reasonable par for every hole, then when they turn in their scorecard, they don’t have to report how many strokes they actually took — just check off “I made par.” No more guilt and misery when you double bogie. And a lot of the other requirements are over the top too. Let’s just say everybody contributes a flat 40 hours a year to helping out with the club. In fact, thinking about it, maybe 10 is even more reasonable. I bet a lot more people would want to join with that constant obsessive drive for “par” off their back and with all those time demands cut down too.

    Prediction — when club stops posting par and cuts the membership requirements down to 10 hours a year, will they get more members or fewer?