Briefly on Confirmation

Too many irons in the fire to write anything comprehensive at the moment, but I just need to connect some dots on the whole Confirmation thing. Yes, Confirmation is under attack now too… For one of the angles, check out Scott Gunn’s bit on the Life-long Christian Formation resolutions and Chris Arnold’s thoughts on those.

One more time, folks: Baptism is full initiation into the Body of Christ. The Body of Christ is, among other important senses, the “company of all faithful people” who are heirs of God’s promises in Christ as our Rite I post-communion prayer says. Got that?

One of the things that the Episcopal Church is quite serious about is that the boundaries of the ecclesial Body of Christ do not end at our borders. We recognize that Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox—heck, even Lutherans!—are part of the Body of Christ. Baptism joins us into this mystical communion.

As a specific socially-incarnate part of the Body of Christ, we Episcopalians gather together in specific ways and have specific beliefs about how and why we do what we do to live into the life of God and learn to love God and neighbor. This organization is structured around our bishops and our sacramental understanding is that the sacraments flow from the bishops who have received the laying on of hands and who stand in apostolic succession.

[Bishops are an essential part of the Episcopal polity (hence our name), are fully biblical, and—since the days of at least the Apostolic Fathers if not the Pastoral Epistles if not the missionary efforts to which Saint Paul joined himself—are the visible teachers and sacramental actors of the church. Bishops are connected to dioceses but are bishops of the whole church. Or, at least, the parts of the church that recognize them and that’s where things start breaking up and getting fuzzy. Nevertheless, bishops are the chief structural elements of the visible Church which is the outward form of the invisible Body of Christ.]

Note this well: to be a priest in the Episcopal Church, you need to have the bishop’s hands laid on you. This is what binds you into the structure of the Episcopal Church and connects you to our sacramental understanding. This is called Ordination (it’s in the prayer book).

Alright—one little step from there: to be a lay person in the Episcopal Church, you need to have the bishop’s hands laid on you.  This is what binds you into the structure of the Episcopal Church and connects you to our sacramental understanding. This is called Confirmation (it’s in the prayer book).

Baptism is full initiation into the Body of Christ; Confirmation is full initiation into the Episcopal Church.

[…More importantly it is incorporation into the visible Church of which the Episcopal Church stand as as a particular instantiation. However, the difficulty of speaking of it as incorporation into the visible Church simpliciter is the broader lack of agreement about the nature and boundaries of the visible Church.]

52 Replies to “Briefly on Confirmation”

  1. It is the confirmand’s incorporation in the Episcopal Church, perhaps, but it is also the Church catholic’s recognition — confirmation — of the confirmand’s standing. In the rite of confirmation, the confirmand engages the whole church (reflected in the office of the bishop) and the whole church engages the confirmand.

  2. You add an important corrective, AKMA, but my emphasis on the “Episcopal Church” here is deliberate for two reasons: 1) we’re arguing about whether the Episcopal Church should junk Confirmation or not; 2) connecting “bishops” and “whole church” seems to ignore the very real ecumenical realities concerning the fractured state of the visible church.

    I have added two bits in brackets to better reflect part of what you’re getting at.

  3. Just because one is a full Christian does not mean one is a “mature” Christian (the language used by the 1979 BCP’s catechism to speak of confirmation) to be entrusted with all the responsibilities of living an adult Christian life. So to argue against confirmation on the basis of “full initiation” is a red herring. We are not talking about being a full Christian, but about being a mature one. And only “mature Christians” should be entrusted with certain responsibilities. My daughter is a full human being, but at 10 years of age she is not a sufficiently mature human being for me to give her the car keys. The confirmand “expresses a mature commitment to Christ and receives strength from the Holy Spirit through prayer and the laying on of hands by a bishop.” Officeholders need to make a mature Christian commitment, receive the strength and grace for that commitment, and have that connection with the larger church provided by a personal sacramental contact with the bishop.

    So, in the midst of the present challenges the Episcopal Church faces, why are these people wasting time with such resolutions?

  4. Thank you Dr. Olsen. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about all the things the Episcopal Church seems ready to consider throwing overboard.

    Baptism…symbolic and optional. Eucharist…. just a friendly, shared meal. Confirmation… redundant. Governance by bishops… who needs ’em? Book of Common Prayer…outdated. Anglican Communion… too centralizing. Creeds….

  5. I’m starting to see a recurring motif in a lot of what’s happening: efforts at “inclusion” seem to end up undermining “commitment.” And I wonder why this is; the two things don’t seem in any way in opposition, to me.

    Perhaps we’re using a flawed concept of “inclusion”; this seems to mean, at this point, a “radical egalitarianism” that needs to flatten things out. Thus, no hierarchy – of anything. No values can be better than others; no people can be thought of as “higher,” in any way, than others. These two things are combining in the situation with Confirmation, I think; people who have been confirmed shouldn’t be thought of as any better than those who haven’t been – and of course there’s the usual reaction against bishops, too!

    I think maybe it’s a good thing that Christendom is over, actually. I mean, bishops are now thought of as high muckety-mucks in purple, sitting in sanitized office towers – but then I think of that story about the gathering of bishops at Nicea. Hundreds of them, sitting together – many with eyepatches and crutches and scars, all from having been tortured on account of their faith. That wasn’t the end of it, either; we have a calendar full of martyrs to the faith from all eras. (Interesting, too, that most of these feast days have gone by the wayside in most places.)

    Commitment is, I think, one of the most difficult things for people to do. We’re flighty and changeable and we want what we want when we want it – and if something else starts to look better, we wander over that way. Without commitment, though: we are again becalmed – unable to move, stuck in the same place, forever. I suppose a rigid commitment is just as bad as none at all – but “rigidity” doesn’t seem to describe the spiritual life at all. At least, it doesn’t, to me; commitment is hard and you have to adjust yourself to achieve it.

    Anyway, the key Scriptural motif is, precisely, commitment.

    Just as a point of interest: A.A. has, since its founding, included non-alcoholics on its governing board. At the beginning, in fact, its charter required that there be more non-alcoholics than alcoholics – 8 to 7! Pragmatic reasons for this aside – people were afraid alcoholic board members might get drunk and do something crazy – it does seem to me an interesting idea to specifically provide for “outsiders” to help govern….

  6. I certainly thought about it that way when considering my own confirmation last autumn. I was baptised as an infant — but confirmation made me an Anglican.

  7. Same for me, artsyhonker. When I decided to get confirmed a few years ago, it was exactly because I wanted to be Anglican. I did see confirmation as a boundary – and it was one that I wanted to cross. It made a difference to me.

    For myself, I’m actually not sure why anybody who’s pointedly not part of an organization would want to become part of the leadership of that organization. I mean, I get the idea that we’re all Christians – but why help run something if you have no particular commitment to it? Just be a member, in that case – what’s wrong with that?

    This whole thing doesn’t make any logical sense to me at all. I think people are way overthinking it, actually…!

  8. (The A,A, situation I mentioned above is a bit different, because the charter actually requires non-members to be part of leadership – and there is a sound reason for this. That makes a lot more sense to me, in fact!

    It’s actually not a bad idea, I don’t think, for any organization to have outside input, by design. But there seems to be no particular reason at work here….)

  9. That’s interesting. I think I had not realized how important for becoming Episcopalian confirmation is. But it is, I suspect, how most people join the Episcopal Church.

    My story is a little different. I was baptized Episcopalian as a baby, and confirmed as a teenager in the Episcopal church—late actually, as I was 17. (The deed was done by Bp. Terwilliger at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas, and I remember the occasion vividly.) For me it was more part of growing up, and taking my faith seriously, and strangely since that time I have never ceased its practice. I actually think being confirmed when I was almost ready to leave home was a good idea, as I took it far more seriously than I would have when I was even a few years younger.

  10. Let’s review: “confirmation” was originally the final blessing of the baptismal rite (aka “missa” or sending) by laying on of hands in a common Roman gesture of blessing. When Charlemange asked for the Roman liturgy to impose it in his Empire, they sent him the books of the bishop of Rome, which had the rubric, “here the bishop lays hand on the neophyte”. Oh, shit, they thought, we’ll have to wait for the bishop to show up to do that. thus confirmation began wandering through liturgical history, a fragment of a sacrament, in search of a theology.

    Once torn from its original location within Baptism, we began trying to rationalize it. “it gives you the Holy Spirit”. NOT. baptism does. “it makes you a soldier of Christ” — militaristic bull.

    Luther and Cranmer, trying to make sense of it, saw in it useful pedagogical tool and turned it into a pastoral service, a mature affirmation of the Batismal Covenant. This is how our Prayer Book envisions it. It does not add anything to Baptism, It does not make you an episcopalian, though ktmay MEAN that to some confirmands. It is simply a pastoral tool to help the confirmand explore and own the implications of her baptism. I highly recommend it.

    The issue coming before General convention is not whether we should abolish confirmation –no one is proposing that– but whether it should be required to hold office. We are serious about Baptism conferring FULL membership in the church. The proposal before GC is a response to some hysteria among some bishops shocked to have met vestries that did not understand Episcopal polity. But as the proposal points out, confirmation classes, however wonderful they may be, should be directed to making a mature reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant, NOT to studying the canons or Henry Viii’s divorces. What the hysterical bishops needed, suggested the liturgy professors at a joint meeting with the theology committee of the HOB, is a way to instruct people in Episcopal identity and polity. THAT is what the proposal is about.

    no one should worry. if it passes, confirmation will still continue its travels,looking for a theology, until it is restore to the place from which it was so rudely yanked, the end of the water rite.

  11. Yeah – the bishop’s laying hands on laypeople is just too ridiculous. That kind of stuff should be left for priests, where it really means something.

    But hey! Maybe this explains why there are fewer and fewer Episcopalians every year….!

  12. (P.S. See Acts 8:14-17. Also Acts 19:1-7.

    Anyway: how do you become an Anglican? Inquiring minds want to know. In Reception, people are “received into the fellowship of this Communion.” That the same might be true of Confirmation seems just a short logical step sideways, to me….)

  13. Full membership is, perhaps, not the end of requirements for office-holding, and there is after all membership in The Church and membership in a parish or this church. I also have to say that I am not one of those who has a great deal of trouble with the traditional Anglican understanding of the rite, being one who was confirmed into the Episcopal Church as a teenager.

    Be that as it may, this is yet another example of the problematic way in which these theological changes are proposed to this church. Once they get this passed, the next step probably will be to get rid of the rite altogether, with the fait accompli of removing it as a requirement being used to justify skipping ahead of all the actual theological discussion and just dropping the rite because “we don’t expect anyone to do it anymore,” embedded in some rationalization about “radical hospitality” because, somehow, it’s held to be off-putting to some entirely abstracted class of people. The theology needs to be discussed and resolved first.

  14. You become an anglican by joining an anglican parish or mission and worshipping in that assembly. (“Being is being-in-community”). You can do that by being baptized there, or transferring your baptism as a new member for the theological basis for membership in the Episcopal Church is baptism-eucharist, together, NOT Baptism-confirmation-Eucharist (that is Roman Catholic). The theological basis is right there in the Prayer Book. The proposal is going to GC precisely because the canons DO NOT currently agree with the theological basis. It has very wide support from not only the Standing Commission on Life Long Formation and Education, but also Liturgy and Music, and the Consultation for Social Justice (an umbrella organization of other groups like Episcopal Peace Fellowship and the Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission) to name just 3.

    Pedagogically, you CAN learn what Anglicanism is. BUT CONFIRMATION IS NO GUARANTEE OF BEING AN INFORMED ANGLICAN: Most confirmation classes ( I have inspected many syllabi) come nowhere near to doing this, and they should NOT, anyway: they should be designed to assist the confirmand in making a mature reaffirmation of the baptismal covenant.

    The proposal before GC seeks restores confirmation to the BCP´s place for it as a pastoral office of reaffirmation of baptism. This is a good an necessary thing for people have left the church for a short or long time, and/or desire to re-commit in a mature affimation of the commitment made at Baptism. It´s pastorally good and needed, but it does not guarantee any expertise in Anglican or Episcopal polity, which was the reason some bishops wanted to require it for office.
    Instead, the proposal provides better ways of making sure that persons seeking parish, diocesan or national office will be adequately equipped for that ministry. It´s an improvement.

    NO ONE IS TRYING TO DO AWAY WITH CONFIRMATION. THAT is a misrepresentation IMO.

  15. I forgot to add, from the Consultation´s web page: (http://www.theconsultation.org/id11.html),
    The Consultation is a coalition of thirteen independent organizations in the Episcopal Church committed to peace with justice. …We give thanks for our Church’s baptismal identity and common life embodied and expressed in the ministry of all the baptized in the governance of our church. This governance by all the baptized has enabled this Church to respond to the challenges of the times for generations and serves as a model of inclusive and responsive governance to the entire Anglican Communion. … Therefore, we challenge The Episcopal Church, gathered in this 2012 General Convention, to live more fully into the five promises of our Baptismal Covenant… [and] affirm our baptismal ecclesiology and restore Confirmation as a effective pastoral response to response to significant turning points in the Christian life.

    The relevant resolutions coming up are: (go to http://www.generalconvention.org/gc/resolutions to read them.)
    A041 Amend Canon I.17 to read,
    Each congregation shall provide instruction in the history, structure and governance of The Episcopal Church and opportunities for lifelong faith formation as described in The Charter for Lifelong Christian Formation adopted by the 76th General Convention in 2009.
    Sec. 9. Any person accepting any office in this Church shall… have completed instruction in the history, structure and governance of this Church and in the duties and responsibilities of their office.

    A042 Amend Canons: Canon I.1.1(b), Canon I.1.2(a), Canon I.2.5, Canon I.4.1(c), Canon I.4.3(d), Canon I.9.7, Canon III.4.1, Canon IV.17.3 (too long to include here) concludes:
    These amendments bring the canons into conformity with the baptismal theology of the Book of Common Prayer, which teaches that “Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church” (BCP p. 299). They will extend to all members of the Episcopal Church opportunities for serving as appointed or elected leaders. These amendments will equip members of the Episcopal Church with the knowledge and understanding to lead effectively. Amending these canons clarifies that rather than being a prerequisite to holding office in the Church, Confirmation is a “mature public affirmation of faith and commitment to the responsibilities of…baptism” (BCP, 412) through which each confirmand is strengthened,
    empowered and sustained by the Holy Spirit (BCP, 418). The canons will continue to require individuals holding office to be “communicants in good standing,” ìe., “those who have received Communion three times in the previous year,” and “have been faithful in corporate worship unless for good cause prevented and have been faithful in working, praying, and giving for the spread of the kingdom of God.”

    A043 Amend Constitution Article I, Section 4 (removes “confirmed” from requirements for GC deputies)

    A044 Review Confirmation Requirements in Title III Ordained Ministry. Calls for an examination of the requirement for Confirmation for ordination of deacons and priests and consideration of any revisions to the canons needed to conform them to the baptismal theology of the Book of Common Prayer.

  16. You become an anglican by joining an anglican parish or mission and worshipping in that assembly.

    I’ve belonged to two Episcopal parishes, neither of which put any restrictions on “joining” the parish. I personally know Lutherans. Baptists, and (non-practicing) Jews who’ve become members of Episcopal parishes; none of them wanted to become Anglican.

    The Lutheran pointedly did NOT want to become Anglican, and was quite adamant about that. So, let me ask again; how do you become an Anglican?

  17. (BTW, the Lutheran did serve on the Vestry, even though she often evidenced quite a bit of contempt for the Episcopal Church itself – and, as I said, had no intention at all of joining, ever.

    It’s all working out just great for TEC, isn’t it?)

  18. (Also, Juan Oliver, please do explain: why would anybody bother to be confirmed in the future? According to you, it has no meaning whatsoever. It doesn’t join you to the church; it doesn’t give you the Holy Spirit; the “laying on of hands” is merely some old crap Roman custom – and an Imperial one, no doubt! (Fortunately, this bit of misinformation is rather easy to argue with.)

    Further, we make “a mature affirmation of the Baptismal Covenant” at every service of Baptism. So what in the world is the point of Confirmation at all? If I want to be “welcomed into the Communion of this church,” I guess I need to become Catholic or Orthodox first? That certainly seems like the long way around.

    Well, anyway: my Confirmation certainly DID join me to the Episcopal Church – after I’d been attending for about 3 or 4 years, which BTW had not thrown the switch in my head.

    Fortunately, nobody else has a thing to say about that….)

  19. Bls, if you are asking an ontological question like when did you become a man, I have no answer. Anglican is not an ontological status. One is an anglican by being in communion ie, participation in eucharist), through one’s bishop, and priests, with the see of canterbury. But more importantly,, if you mean, when does a person come to maturity reagrding anglican liturgy, spirituality, governance, mission, history, etc, the answer would take pages. It’s a life long process.

  20. Bls, read my first post. Confirmation is a fragment of a sacrament looking for a theology. The BCP’s theology of it is that it, like Reaffirmation and Reception, is a mature affirmation of faith. You may want, and ar efree to, add theological interpretations to that, of course. I would heartily recommend The Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers book on the subject. Btw, a curiosity: in the RC church priests areable to confirm with permission from the bishop. In orthodoxy it was never sundered from baptism. Does that throw any light on our discussion?

  21. People would want to be confirmed because they might want to reaffirm their baptismal covenant receiving the laying n of hands by a bishop. .i have said now more then four times. Believe it or not, this is the pastoral situation i find most times.

  22. One is an anglican by being in communion ie, participation in eucharist), through one’s bishop, and priests, with the see of canterbury.

    Not true, as I just pointed out. Lutherans, and others, are in Communion with Canterbury, but have not become Anglicans. Furthermore, we are church based in Sacramental rites; things actually do happen at certain times, and in certain ways; one would think that becoming a member of the church (or Communion) – since it’s not, in fact, defined the way you say it is – would be one of them.

    Just as an interesting data point: women DO know when they become women….

  23. People would want to be confirmed because they might want to reaffirm their baptismal covenant receiving the laying n of hands by a bishop. .i have said now more then four times.

    I don’t think you’ve said anything like that even once; others here have mentioned the laying on of hands, but you haven’t (except rather disparagingly). This doesn’t answer the question though: why would anybody want to do this?

    You seem to have missed a rather important aspect of the instructions for Confirmation, BTW. From page 412:

    In the course of their Christian development, those baptized at an early age are expected, when they are ready and have been duly prepared, to make a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism and to receive the laying on of hands by the bishop.

    Same goes for “those baptized as adults.”

    Are expected is the key phrase there, I’d say; apparently Baptism is not, in fact, all that’s necessary for life in the church; other things “are expected.” So why is Baptism being made the crux of this argument? And what’s the problem with expecting “leaders” in the church to be Confirmed – since everybody is? Shouldn’t “leaders” be the first ones to step forward to do what’s “expected”?

    I think you should re-read the Reception section, too; it’s clearly meant to be an acknowledgement of membership in the wider church, and also a break from a different tradition and the entry into a new one.

  24. This Resolution is an utter joke! Here’s what it says:

    Resolved, the House of _______ concurring, the 77th General Convention affirm that the Book of Common Prayer teaches that Baptism is full initiation into Christ’s Body the Church and Confirmation is an occasion for those baptized at an early age “to make a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism” (BCP 412); and be it further Resolved, that the baptismal theology of the Book of Common Prayer understands Baptism and not Confirmation to be the sacramental prerequisite for leadership in The Episcopal Church; and be it further Resolved, that Canon I.1.1(b), Canon I.1.2(a), Canon I.2.5, Canon I.4.1(c), Canon I.4.3(d), Canon I.9.7, Canon III.4.1, and Canon IV.17.3 be amended to read as
    follows….

    Nowhere does the word “expected” appear in this Resolution; Confirmation is now “an occasion.” A plain instruction in the BCP, in black and white (and it couldn’t be plainer), about Confirmation itself, is totally ignored, in order to put forward a particular interpretation of the theology of Baptism. That’s just plain unbelievable.

    I’m gobsmacked, seriously. I can’t believe what I’m reading; do they really think we’re this stupid?

    Surely this is just too ridiculous to get past the first 10 minutes?

  25. “BUT CONFIRMATION IS NO GUARANTEE OF BEING AN INFORMED ANGLICAN”

    Neither is ordination. Can we dispense with that as well? Frankly, I feel excluded when there’s a person up front who is supposed to be able to do all this magical/mystical stuff that I’m not allowed to do. Is baptism full and complete membership, or isn’t it?

  26. Bye bls , i don’t see the point of continuing this, God bless + . BTW, please consider signing our name. Inquiring minds want to know you!

  27. “Confirmation” means different things. But while that and its history is interesting, in the Anglican Tradition it has developed as a sign of “mature Christian commitment”. It has done so because there was a need (one might say an basic human need) to have a ceremony making such a commitment, and we have taken this piece of baptism to do it, and it serves a useful purpose, and has done so for quite some time. Mocking confirmation on the basis of its history while ignoring what it actually does misses the point. The argument that office holders do not need to be confirmed because Baptism confers full membership is simply not germane to the question of office holding and confirmation: it is a nonsensical argument, because all agree tha baptism is full Christian initiation, and Confirmation is about somethign else. Nor is the question about whether officeholders should have a good grasp of Episcopalian governance: That would be an additional requirement for officeholders. The Anglican Church sees Confirmation as an expected sign of Christian maturity, so the question with regard to office holders and confirmation is not whether of not Baptism is full Christian initiation (about which no one disagrees), but whether the Episcopal Church want office holders to be mature Anglican Christians. ‘Nuff said.

  28. Yes, I think that’s enough said, too. It doesn’t seem difficult, to me: for at least some Orthodox, Chrismation does incorporate you into that body. It happens at baptism, whether you’re a baby or an adult. The churches in the West saw it differently, and have done it differently. TEC clearly sees it as “living out the responsibilities of Baptism” – and, in Reception, about becoming part of a new church family. (It’s really not very difficult to extrapolate this to others, as well.) As you say, people have a need for this kind of thing – so why not just recognize this? The church is, in fact, divided, and has been for over a thousand years. What’s so difficult about simply accepting all this, and living with it?

    And then: why pretend the BCP doesn’t make a clear statement about Confirmation and what it’s about, and that it’s expected of everybody? What’s the impulse behind the Resolution? Why do people so need to get rid of anything that seems to smack of “requirements” that they’ll go to the lengths they have? I really just don’t get it.

    Is it really just because people find it impossible to say “No, you need to do this first”? That’s just plain bizarre, to me. And it doesn’t make any logical sense, either – it’s just riding on the back of some “theological” platform people seem desperate to advance. (I don’t think it’s really “theology,” though, to say “I don’t particularly care for this, or think it makes any sense – so let’s do something else.”)

  29. Hmmm. I think I understand now. All of these blatant attempts at manipulation are aimed at getting around having to deal with the fact that the BCP says one thing, while at the same time TEC gets lots of refugees from other churches who are attending services at TEC parishes but won’t give up their other allegiances.

    Also the fact that Episcopalian kids leave the church and don’t come back. And the fact that people aren’t joining institutions anymore. So, confirmed Episcopalians are starting to be thin on the ground these days – and parishes are running out of people eligible for Vestry, etc.

    If they’d only just say these things directly, rather than trying to pull the wool over all our eyes, it might be easier. My God, the passive-aggressiveness of it all! How about something called “making an exception” in such cases, rather than attempting to do stealth “theology”?

    (And then, how about actually doing something about the above problems – like offering some semblance of a spiritual life to people, rather than a DYI “faith experience”?)

  30. This is a great point. In subsequent discussions with Scott Gunn+ I do agree with him that the point of the prayer book office is just this—the movement towards (if not the complete attainment of) full maturity. I still aver that my main point here is present in the deep structure of an episcopally oriented church, however.

  31. Bingo.

    And I have a piece in progress precisely on the martyrs and what they bring to this conversation. As I’m folloing both this track and the HWHM track, I’m realizing that a coherent concept of Christian maturity within our church has completely collapsed.

  32. It is simply a pastoral tool

    No—it has been understood consistently in the Western Church, including within Anglican circles (though not all Anglicans naturally), as a sacrament. That means that it’s quite a bit more than a simple pastoral tool.

  33. Just because it’s written in caps doesn’t make it the case. I believe that there is a party that is focused on altering Confirmation to the point of making it optional with a view to disposing of it entirely. They seem to be working on the lines that it’s just another exclusive barrier…

  34. Um, inquiring minds do know her; bls is probably my most prolific commenter having started doing so when the blog was established over six years ago. Not to mention that we’ve worked on several outside projects together and I consider her a good Anglican friend. She’s very much a part of this online community.

    You, we don’t know so well. If you’d like to comment and be part of the community feel free, just don’t expect everyone to agree with you. (Especially as many of my favorite readers frequently don’t agree with me!)

  35. All of these blatant attempts at manipulation are aimed at getting around having to deal with the fact that the BCP says one thing, while at the same time TEC gets lots of refugees from other churches who are attending services at TEC parishes but won’t give up their other allegiances.

    Right again! And then want us to change our ways to conform more closely to the churches they were in—but left…

  36. …. I’m realizing that a coherent concept of Christian maturity within our church has completely collapsed.

    Yep. I might even leave out the adjective there, myself.

    That goes for the whole society, though; what a bunch of whining babies we all are….

  37. Derek, it’s not about agreeing with me. It’s about theological method, and the abilty to enage in intellectual discussions about liturgical theology and practice. I’d be the last person to deny the impprtance of personal theological meaning ( i’ve written about the utter necessity to construct one’s own reflection on the datum of faith, both scripture and sacraments for Christian maturity) But confusing personal meaning with meaning-to-the church is IMO, a big mistake. This meaning-to-us (church) is enshrined in the BCP, and should be reflected in canons. That individuals will find this or that scramental experience meaningful in this or that way FOR THEM is fine, but to allow that to shape canons at the expense of the BCP is just not very wise. (this applies also to Communion before baptism, for example).

  38. You know, it seems fine to me to say: “Confirmation in some branch of the church is required to be eligible for lay leadership in TEC.” A reasonable accommodation, to my mind; certainly those wishing ordination in TEC, though, should be required to be confirmed in TEC first.

    Instead, we have this absurd pretense about reality, the attempt to sell unreality to everybody else – and in the end, to toss out what already exists, without making any effort to do any real theology – or to try to deal with what things actually mean in any other way. (cf “Communion Regardless of Baptism”).

    It gets so old, this playing in the shallow end of the pool….

  39. Derek, there is, actually, something on page 412 that I think lends support to what you’ve said above. Here’s the first section again:

    In the course of their Christian development, those baptized at an early age are expected, when they are ready and have been duly prepared, to make a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism and to receive the laying on of hands by the bishop.

    But here’s the next section, in full (I”m bolding the interesting part):

    Those baptized as adults, unless baptized with laying on of hands by a bishop, are also expected to make a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism and in the presence of a bishop and to receive the laying on of hands by the bishop.

    I don’t know who gets baptized with the laying on of hands by a bishop – it can’t be many people, can it be? – but it does make the “laying on of hands” by the bishop the absolute crux of the thing.

    Which means that both these things seem to be at work here. I would say the compilers of the book wanted to be sure to include Confirmation as part of the sacramental system, and to be faithful to the early Biblical witness of the “laying on of hands” – even as they may have been unsure how to deal with the state of the divided church!

    It’s all pretty interesting, in fact….

  40. This meaning-to-us (church) is enshrined in the BCP, and should be reflected in canons.

    Right. So why, again, does the Resolution leave out entirely the BCP’s plain statement that people “are expected….to make a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism,” and instead refer to Confirmation as an “occasion”?

    In other words: what’s ” enshrined in the BCP” on the topic of Confirmation is already “reflected in the canons”….

  41. Derek, just so. But that’s my point, snarky though it was. What’s *not* another exclusive barrier, or at least can be construed that way if one has a mind to? If you really want radical egalitarianism you need to go to the Quakers. Any form of Christianity with a hierarchy and a concept of a sacerdotal ministry will ultimately be repellant to these people.

  42. I don’t think that the explanation of the origin of Confirmation by Mr Oliver makes much sense: it certainly doesn’t explain how this supposed Roman gesture of dismissal morphed into the Orthodox corollary of Confirmation, Chrismation.

    I honestly don’t see all the confusion about Confirmation that I often read about – how it is a rite in search of a theology, for example. I was taught, and it seems to me to be pretty clear from the liturgy, that Confirmation consists of an adult “owning” of your Baptism (if baptized as an infant) and the strengthening gifts of the Holy Ghost conferred by (in the West) the laying on of hands, usually by a Bishop (RC missionary priests are sometimes given faculties for Confirming people). Dropping it, it seems to me, weakens Baptism by potentially making it a completely passive thing done for people while still infants, and which they never formally have to affirm or receive help in carrying out in adulthood.

    Neither do I see the necessity or advisability of dropping it as an expectation of those who seek leadership positions in the Episcopal Church.

    But seriously, WTH is happening to the Episcopal Church? Now that a large block of conservatives have left and are not in a position to object, and former moderates find ourselves relocated to the Far Right fringes of Episcopalianism, is there simply the idea that it’s time to change EVERYTHING simply because it’s politically possible? How can we think of making all these changes without taking into consideration those Churches we’ve entered into formal agreements with, like the Lutherans and the Moravians, much less our sister Churches in the Anglican Communion? We give the Romans a lot of grief for claiming to be The One True Church™, but we act an awful lot like we think that we are exactly that – that our Faith and practice are things that apply to us alone, and to which we are free to make such modifications as we see fit without regard to other Christian bodies.

  43. We give the Romans a lot of grief for claiming to be The One True Church™, but we act an awful lot like we think that we are exactly that – that our Faith and practice are things that apply to us alone, and to which we are free to make such modifications as we see fit without regard to other Christian bodies.

    I was thinking exactly the same thing. But actually we’re worse than the RCC; we can’t even follow our OWN rules.

    For my part, I now find it very difficult to believe or trust the leadership of the Episcopal Church – and things like this are a perfect example of the reason why. Don’t people realize mistrust is the logical outcome of what’s going on? I mean, the rogue CWOB movement is bad enough, with everybody doing whatever they feel like doing, no matter what the canons say – but pretending the Prayer Book doesn’t say what it does say may even be worse, and more deeply damaging to faith and trust.

    I also wonder what people plan to say when they’ll have to try to make sense of the incoherent mess that will be our alleged “theology” in the future. The Prayer Book will say one thing – yes, it will still require self-examination before Communion, and it will still say that Confirmation is “expected” – and the canons will say something else entirely.

    At least with the Quakers, you get blessed silence…..

  44. I think there is a great danger here of the Episcopal Church simply taking itself apart and ceasing to exist — that is, I fear, where things are headed. The fact is that there are examples of truly welcoming and inclusive parishes that also embrace the ascetics and discipline of the Anglican tradition — and they thrive (for example St. Mark’s here in Philadelphia). These disprove the contention that that women or openly gay clergy or welcoming people who are “different” will empty churches and drive away men or families. So why are these folks with their resolutions trying to prove ACNA right? Because that is what they are doing: this deconstruction of the faith just empties pews (Why would people want to belong to a church that believes nothing and has no identity? ), and proves the contention of your critics that you cannot be inclusive and keep your faith. So why, having created a welcoming atmosphere, then proceed to destroy the institution that welcomes?

  45. The problem, again, I think, is that nobody has the first idea what the church is actually for – so none of the things you mention – “the ascetics and discipline of the Anglican tradition” – have any meaning to people. I mean to say: these things are not valuable in and of themselves; they’re valuable for people in living their lives – but nobody knows it.

    One of the best things about Anglicanism is that it emphasizes daily prayer as well as Sunday mass – but not anymore. You can’t find the Daily Office in the parishes anywhere; prayer for its own sake is not thought important. Nor are TEC priests are required to pray the Offices daily on their own (as priests are in England, for example). Very few people go to Confession on any sort of regular basis, either. No techniques for self-examination are taught; at least, I’ve rarely if ever seen this. Nobody even knows that the Catechism prescribes certain actions and conditions prior to reception of Communion. On this thread, we’ve had another Sacrament re-branded a “Pastoral Tool,” and made an optional, “spiritual adventure” sort of thing.

    In other words: nobody ever has a chance, or any way, to do any real spiritual work – or to have any sort of real spiritual/mystical life (because that requires a “letting go” of the ego’s stranglehold – the real goal of all the above practices). No techniques or methods for these things are taught or expected; no “experience, strength, and hope” is shared between people. “Mystical experience”? Forget it; you can’t get there from here.

    It’s interesting, too, that the minute the gay issue seemed to die down a bit, people starting picking up on the CWOB and Confirmation issues. It seems, to me, like an awfully desperate attempt to fiddle with surface things and create distractions – and another great way to avoid even the slightest bit of introspection.

    The sad part is, the Spong era seems to be over – there was really starting to be some movement away from the whole “rationalist/modernist” thing. I was hopeful for awhile there – but it really does look like things are spinning out of control now.

    Well, look on the bright side: the BCP is in the public domain, so we can always just pick it up and start again on our own, if it comes to that….

  46. (Also, I do think it’ll take awhile to kill off the whole church – so maybe even as widespread partial death is occurring, places like St. Mark’s can be vital examples for all of us. Maybe they can show people the way back, just by being what they are. Hope so, anyway….)

  47. Well, my hope is that places like St. Mark’s, (which does MP and EP Mon-Fri btw), will start founding missions, or move to revitalize dying parishes. That way there can be be growth to take the plave of the loss.

  48. From your lips to God’s ears, as they say. A Google search on “Episcopal Church” and “missionary parishes” brings up only historical references; I agree it would be great to see that happening again today….

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