(TLC's Covenant) Matthew Olver–Confirmation of ACNA's revolutionary theology?

The text of the Preface regarding Confirmation is brief enough that I’ll print the text of the first three out of four paragraphs as I go, one paragraph at a time, followed by a few comments. The statement begins like this:

Anglicanism requires a public and personal profession of the Faith from every adult believer in Jesus Christ. Confirmation by a bishop is its liturgical expression. Confirmation is evident in Scripture: the Apostles prayed for, and laid their hands on those who had already been baptized (Acts 8:14-17; 19:6).

I keep toying with this first sentence in my mind. If they mean this to be an accurate description of how the majority of Anglicans think about confirmation, I think they may be correct. But if this is meant to be descriptive of Anglicanism in any historical sense, than it is certainly misleading and probably just flat out wrong. Why?

At least one implication of the practice of requiring both baptism and Confirmation before reception of Holy Communion in the English and American BCPs (until 1979) is that God administers something in Confirmation (as opposed to it being simply a ritual acknowledgement that one is now mature enough to willingly give themselves to the Christian faith). Or at least that there is a sacramental encounter with God in that moment (which, by definition, would mean that it is an encounter unique to that sacrament). Otherwise, why does the bishop pray not only for a strengthening of the Holy Spirit at Confirmation, but for the seven-fold gifts of the Spirit? The petition that the candidate be defended “with thy heavenly grace” is also interesting, as it has no parallel in the baptism rites (that is, it’s not a repetition of something already requested in that ritual). In short, what the bishop petitions on behalf of the candidate are things not requested at baptism.

The rest of the ACNA statement reflects in many ways the tension that persists around this controverted rite, a tension that began in the twentieth century and endures into the twenty-first. While the adage that Confirmation is a “rite in search of a theology” is maybe a bit too cavalier, it is true that the intention of Confirmation and its relationship to baptism remain hotly contested.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Sacramental Theology, Theology

6 comments on “(TLC's Covenant) Matthew Olver–Confirmation of ACNA's revolutionary theology?

  1. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    [blockquote]How Anglican will they ultimately be?[/blockquote]
    I fail to understand the sniping at ACNA that The Catatonic Church goes in for while promoting the drivel from the latest TEC purchase of 2014, the accomodatingly flexible James Tengatenga.

    But I am sure there is some rationale or scheme somewhere behind it all, even it evades me.

    Meanwhile, talking of raising the dead…

  2. Pageantmaster Ù† says:

    I wonder if the Ecclesia Rigor Mortis will be applying the same critique to the CofE’s rewrite of the Baptism rite [without rejection of the Devil and his works] coming up for discussion at Synod in February?

    From the Revision Committee Report:

    34. The Liturgical Commission has consistently resisted the idea that it is helpful to refer to a personification of evil in the form of the devil, in these alternative texts. Those who work with young people gave consistent advice that references to the devil are likely to be misunderstood in today‟s culture.

    35. However, the Steering Group reconsidered the text of the Alternative Service Book at this point, which makes reference to „sin, the world, and the devil‟. In discussion, it was clear that this phrase was felt to be unhelpful, not only because of the reference to the devil, but in the identification of the world as a negative force.

    36. Although representations were made, both in the written submissions and personal attendance during the revision process, to reinstate a specific reference to personified evil, a clear majority of the Revision Committee supported the consistent view of the drafting and revision process, to give a clear mandate to the text presented for authorization

    So, the new revised sinless and non-Luciferian alternative Baptism rite is going to be voted in, if Bishops and Synod managers have their way.

    What is that smell? The sweet smell of hypocrisy wafting over us. Blehhh!

    How Anglican will that be?

  3. dwstroudmd+ says:

    Well, since the revelation of and disclosure of the inadequacy of all Christian teaching prior the 20th Century framers of the 1979 collection of alternative forms of religious activities (See WORSHIP POINTS THE WAY: A Celebration of the Life and Work of Massey Hamilton Shepherd, Jr. edited by Malcom C. Burleson, The Seabury Press/New York, 1981 – Urban T. Holmes “Education for Liturgy: An Unfinished Symphony in Four Movements” pages 116 – 141.), the alleged “theological education rooted in the new liturgy” is evident and bearing the fruit and their is “no way to insist upon uniformity of belief. In this period of explication of the book we must expect to live with the uncertainties and frustrations begotten of pluralism.”

    Urban, famous for “having no thought unpublished,” Holmes would apparently think this you describe as desirable and the necessary outcome of the intents and purposes of the revision of outdated theological understanding – “This means that it (the 1979 Book) both expects theological differences among those who participate in its rites and provokes those who find it necessary to be sectarian to reject its theological implications.”

    In short, all should kneel before ZodGeist. All those Christians before “us” were so mistaken, as are all outside TEc, the Episcopal collage. Apparently the cOE is playing catch-up. Alas that stench is not that of hypocrisy, it is the scent of the ordure of its proponents and the decay of the institution.

  4. Todd Granger says:

    Matt Olver, while a priest in The Episcopal Church (canonically resident in the Diocese of Dallas), is no apologist for the theological heterodoxies of The Episcopal Church. In fact, if you didn’t pick it up from this article and from the one published immediately before this, he is a critic of a great deal of the theology and liturgical practice of the 1979 Prayer Book. He’s no Peter Toon in his criticisms, but he’s also no Urban Holmes or Louis Weil in his approbation of the the book.

    Full disclosure: Matt and I are friends from his days in Chapel Hill, and we’ve remained friends since his departure for Dallas and my departure for PEARUSA/ACNA.

  5. David Keller says:

    The biggest difference I see between TEC and ACNA (and my branch of ACNA, PEARUSA) is all the ACNA clergy I have ever met believe the truth of the BIBLE and especially the atonement and Resurrection. In my experience, Confirmation doesn’t come up much. They all believe in it as far as I know, but we really don’t get in theological arguments about it. Ill take a room full of clergy who cheer out loud at the resurrection line from In Christ Alone (yes I actually saw/heard that happen) over all the General Conventions ever held. BTW I went to 3 and nobody ever cheered the Resurrection. The only time I remember cheering by TEC clergy was in Minneapolis in 2003.

  6. MichaelA says:

    Fr Olver’s analysis appears to be (using his own words) “certainly misleading and probably just flat out wrong”. I am not meaning to offend, just making a wry comment that sauce may be applied to both gander and goose… 🙂

    He takes issue with the historical accuracy of the sentence:

    “Anglicanism requires a public and personal profession of the Faith from every adult believer in Jesus Christ.”

    Let’s look at what the 1662 BCP Order of Confirmation says. Confirmation is administered:
    [blockquote] “to the end, that children, being now come to the years of discretion, and having learned what their Godfathers and Godmothers promised for them in Baptism, they may themselves, with their own mouth and consent, openly before the Church, ratify and confirm the same; and also promise, that by the grace of God they will evermore endeavour themselves faithfully to observe such things, as they, by their own confession, have assented unto.” [/blockquote]

    That sounds like a public and personal profession of faith to me. And its certainly “required”, because without it, a baptised member of the church is not to receive Holy Communion as the final rubric states.

    The bishop’s first question just reinforces the point:
    [blockquote] “Then shall the Bishop say,
    DO ye here, in the presence of God, and of this congregation, renew the solemn promise and vow that was made in your name at your Baptism; ratifying and confirming the same in your own persons, and acknowledging yourselves bound to believe, and to do, all those things, which your Godfathers and Godmothers then undertook for you?
    And every one shall audibly answer,
    I do.” [/blockquote]
    I would say that in their first sentence the ACNA theologians have nailed historically accurate Anglican theology of confirmation.