Affirm Confirmation as Formation
Affirm Confirmation as Formation
The meaning of confirmation in the Episcopal Church today varies depending on one’s personal experience, knowledge of the history of the practice of confirmation, and one’s understanding the role that baptism plays in the church’s polity. What does it mean for one “to make a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their Baptism”? (BCP1979, 412)
A larger percentage of the membership of Forma is very involved in the preparation of candidates for Holy Baptism as well as the Rite of Confirmation. We have seen the confusion in our own parishes of the different meanings and purposes of confirmation for youth as understood by clergy, educators, and parents. It is time for the Episcopal Church to embrace the ecclesiology of our Book of Common Prayer (1979) in understanding that baptism is full membership in Christ’s Church and confirmation is one’s reaffirmation of those baptismal vows, part of one’s lifelong faith journey. Confirmation does not make one an adult member of the local faith community and it is not graduation from Church School. Seen by many as a rite of passage, it does not contain those sociological elements that would make it such and experience for the individual.
Forma affirms the Standing Commission on Ministry Development’s call to recognize that confirmation offers a distinct and valuable opportunity for further exploration of the meaning of our Baptismal Covenant and how each of us reaffirms our baptismal promises throughout the year during the service of Holy Baptism as well as designated times on our church calendar. The Episcopal Church would benefit in the gathering of a team from ten dioceses to engage in intentional conversation about confirmation with the goal of strengthening and articulating best practices to share with the Church three years from now. In addition to the gathering of ten diverse dioceses, we also recommend every diocese to have diocesan-wide conversations on the subject of youth confirmation as well as adult reaffirmation, including all adults (whether new to the faith or not) in our congregations. In all of these conversations, we recommend local members of Forma to be specifically invited to such diocesan and local gatherings.
For many in our congregations, the renewing of our Baptismal Covenant has become a rote recitation of “I will, with God’s help” in answering the baptismal questions posed at certain points of our liturgical cycle. Parallel in statement with the Five Marks of Mission, what better way to spend the next triennium in our parishes than rediscovering what it means when we are asked:
- Do you believe in God the Father?
- Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
- Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
- Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?
- Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent, and return to the Lord?
- Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
- Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
- Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
Download Forma’s Forma Position A080 and share it with your bishops and deputies.
A080: Affirm Confirmation as Formation
Resolved, the House of _____ concurring, recognizing that confirmation offers a distinct and valuable opportunity for Christian formation, That the General Convention request the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget, and Finance to consider a budget allocation of $43,500 to the Office of Formation and Congregational Development to convene representatives from 10 dioceses, including a bishop and two appointed leaders, to engage in intentional conversation with the goal of strengthening and articulating best practices around confirmation; and be it further
Resolved, That these gatherings address the significance of confirmation as a creative opportunity for the reaffirmation of baptismal vows in the life of The Episcopal Church and report back to the 79th General Convention; and be it further
Resolved, That all dioceses engage in similar conversations on confirmation with attention to diverse cultures and their contexts, and report back to the Office of Formation and Congregational Development on their findings.
As stated in the Book of Common Prayer [p.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.”
Additionally, the second Mark of Mission calls us to teach, baptize, and nurture people in their journey of faith. Confirmation is an important step in that journey for youth and adults.
Among Christian traditions, the Episcopal Church recognizes a unique role of bishops in confirmation. The bishops on this Standing Commission have led us in deep conversation about confirmation and encourage the House of Bishops to continue the dialogue.
The following resources are commended to promote conversation on confirmation, including Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Theologies of Confirmation for the 21st Century (Morehouse Publishing, 2014), which includes a process for congregational conversation about confirmation — the Lilly funded ecumenical study on youth confirmation called The Confirmation Project, as well as Episcopal resources from dioceses, schools, and congregations.