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Confirmation

We can finally talk publicly about a debate that may end confirmation in the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.

Yesterday the Reports, Bills, and Motions came online for the 62nd General Synod Te Hinota Whanui (GSTHW), which will be held in Napier, 6-13 May, 2016. This includes

I have introduced some background to this discussion here: To Confirm or not to Confirm? In November last year, chaplains in Anglican schools received the Report (“A Recommended…”) and the Draft Liturgy Laying on of Hands (but, interestingly, we did not receive the Draft Liturgies Baptism). I made a request that this material be public to enable discussion but was informed we would need to wait until the GSTHW documents went online (regulars here know I have long pressed for public, online availability of GSTHW material, and we achieved agreement on this – see 23 May Update).

I would have liked to have seen far more information disseminated – education and discussion about baptism and confirmation. Do many people even know that removing confirmation is a discussion/debate? How informed on these theological and liturgical discussions will the GSTHW members be?

If GSTHW made the changes to the Draft Liturgies Baptism that I suggest below, I would be happy to support it as a formulary of our church.

But now, first, to confirmation:

Claytons Confirmation

The confirmation you have when you don’t have confirmation.

Download this draft liturgy from here. [I am not sure why, once again, the Church has made this material available as a Word Document rather than a PDF. Nor, why it has such a ridiculous name: “2016 Draft Liturgy for Laying on of Hands ARR 5”! – “Arr! The Pirate Liturgy” 😉 ]

Aside from removing the term “confirmation”, and some relatively minor alterations, essentially the Draft Liturgy Laying on of Hands is our current Prayer Book confirmation rite extracted from the liturgical snakes-and-ladders, pick-a-path rite of pages 383-399.

This Draft Liturgy Laying on of Hands is a rite that may only be led by a bishop. Why?!

The draft rite begins:

From the earliest times the role of the Bishop has been central to nurturing the life of the Church. Likewise, the liturgical laying on of hands has been a part of the church’s ritual from the beginning.

Confirmation is still deeply entrenched in Anglican consciousness. Although confirmation has not been required to receive communion for about half a century, older Anglicans often still think confirmation is required (NB Anglicans are disproportionately older). Although baptism has been the rite of admission to communion for quarter of a century, a rite of “Admission to Communion” still occurs in many places. I recently attended one in a cathedral, presided over by a bishop. It seems that “baptism = admission to communion” still has a way to go before it is the default position within our church.

Confirmation is tightly associated with Christian education and formation – so much so that, in the little discussion I’ve seen, removing confirmation is equated with removing the opportunity for education. Confirmation is, for some/many, the graduation ceremony of an education programme. For some/many, removing confirmation is removing the opportunity to make a public declaration of faith.

People, all the way to bishops, still teach and preach that one receives the Holy Spirit in confirmation.

Confirmation is a canonical requirement for ordination – although it is one of the requirements that is sometimes omitted, it is unclear whether it is merely a discipline or a doctrine. Is confirmation understood by any/many/most as a theological requirement for valid ordination? If we remove confirmation – will this affect the interchangeability of ordained ministry of some of our clergy even within the Anglican Communion? This is not a discussion whether or not bishops, in fact, currently follow the canonical requirements or not. This is a discussion about whether or not we no longer need to.

My Presuppositions

Let me put my own presuppositions (my prejudices if you like) down – both positive and negative:

Baptism is full initiation into the Church.
Confirmation is not a completion of Baptism.
Participating in the Eucharist and receiving Communion completes initiation. The Eucharist is the repeatable part of this initiation.

You are Baptised. Full stop. Period.
You are not ‘baptised an Anglican’ or ‘baptised Roman Catholic’ or ‘baptised Orthodox’…
You are baptised into the Church, the Church Catholic, the whole Church.
Nor are you baptised Christian and then confirmed into a denomination. Confirmation does not make you an Anglican, or a Roman Catholic,…

One receives the Holy Spirit in Baptism.
Confirmation does not give the Holy Spirit – as if one didn’t receive the Holy Spirit in Baptism. Confirmation doesn’t give ‘more’ of the Holy Spirit.

Baptism is once only.
There are any number of ways to reaffirm/ renew baptism: in the Eucharist by receiving communion, by reaffirming verbally the baptismal promises, by a public form of testimony, by actually going and living the Christ-life in the world – putting the baptismal covenant into practice.

Confirmation is not ‘lay ordination’. It is not a ‘first ordination’ – as if we are collecting postage stamps, and the best, the goal, is to have the whole set.

I am open to the discussion but have yet to be convinced about the Russian Doll theory of Christianity: inside every archbishop is a bishop, inside every bishop is a priest, inside every priest is a deacon, inside every deacon is a confirmed person, inside every confirmed person is a baptised person, inside every baptised person is a human being.

We do not delay sacraments until they are fully understood by the recipient. Just as we do not delay feeding a child until s/he fully understands the biology of nutrition, so we don’t leave nourishing the Christ-life in a person until they can articulate that to a certain standard of competency.

We can and should revisit the Kiwi eccentricity that parents/godparents/caregivers cannot make promises on behalf of the one being baptised. I think the faith into which a person is baptised and the declarations and promises by the one being baptised (or on behalf of this person) are best prior to baptism. Not the NZ Anglican version of pouring water over someone and then seeing if they believe anything now! [Remember that the declaration-before-baptism option is now authorised].

I think that education, formation, and renewal is lifelong.
Abandoning or altering confirmation is not abandoning or altering catechesis and mystagogia (going deeper into the Christian teachings) – the educational and formational opportunities the church offers.

2016 Draft Liturgy of Baptism of Children Adults 5

Download this draft liturgy from here.

Please note, these are only initial thoughts – yesterday was the first day I had access to this draft rite.

The Minister of the Services

The bishop, when present, is the celebrant… In the absence of a bishop, a priest is the celebrant

I do not like the term “the celebrant” for someone leading a service. I would suggest that nowhere in our Prayer Book is the one presiding termed “the celebrant.”

If a priest uses Chrism in signing the newly baptized, it must have been previously consecrated by the bishop…The sign of the cross after baptism may be made with oil set apart for this purpose by the bishop. It is appropriate for the bishop to do this on Maundy Thursday, or some other day in Holy Week.

Currently, the oil at baptism may be set apart by a bishop or priest. This draft rite distinguishes oil for baptism from oil for healing and refers to it as blessing oil. There appears no change suggested to who may set apart the oil for healing which is currently done by a bishop or priest and referred to as consecration (page 746).

Baptism follows the proclamation of the Word

This may be unclear. We do not have a definition of “the proclamation of the Word”. In our formularies “The Proclamation” includes “The Sermon” – yet in this draft it has “The service may continue with The Sermon“.

Two rites of Baptism are presented: The Liturgy of Baptism Of Children [which, oddly, has the rubric “Each candidate for baptism is presented individually by a sponsor or, in the case of a child, by a parent or godparent, who says” (my emphasis)]; and then there is a second rite, The Liturgy of Baptism Of Adults. At first glance, I cannot see instructions for baptising children and adults together in the same service – certainly a regular occurrence. I am struggling to see why the two rites of Baptism cannot just be simply combined into one.

Why, for example, would you say the following at baptism of an infant and not of an adult. The words, to me, seem just as appropriate for adults:

The bishop or priest says to the congregation

As the community of faith, we rejoice at this baptism and will share with N what we ourselves have received: a delight in prayer, a love for the word of God, a desire to follow the way of Christ, and food for the journey.

The bishop or priest then says to the child

N, you are now a pilgrim with us.
As a member of Christ’s body, the Church,
may you grow in the Holy Spirit,
fulfil your ministry
and follow Christ your whole life long.

I see absolutely no justification for having a separate rite for children and for adults. Theologically, I think it is confusing, to say the least. Liturgically, it is totally unnecessary.

The “Baptismal Covenant” is not (as might be thought at first glance) the “Commitment to Christian Service” that we are used to (our Prayer Book page 390), but TEC’s BCP Baptismal Covenant, complete with USA spelling of “neighbor”.

It is good that some memorised, regular responses are used (“The Lord is here…”). The middle and end of the Thanksgiving over the Water still require people to have heads in books or eyes on projector screens rather than towards the font/water. Worst is the draft rites continue to require a lengthy congregational response (“Amen. God receives you by baptism…“) right at the moment of baptism. This merely continues out church’s deficient understanding of liturgy. At the very moment of baptism people are focusing on words rather than action. [This inadequacy is again evident with the addition of a new congregational response to presenting a candle].

IN CONCLUSION I think this draft baptism rite is a huge leap forward from our current Prayer Book rite. It doesn’t have the liturgical-snakes-and-ladders instructions of our current rite which feels like it was designed by a “pick a path” author. Nor does it have the pour-water-on-them-and-see-if-they-believe-anything theology. Combine the adult and child rites; tidy up a few things and pass it. If I, personally, was writing it de novo, you know I would use the regular, memorised responses, and have people participating fully, having their eyes on the action. But heads in books and heads looking at screens is what I am stuck with in our church.

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