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.]