Confirmation, Reception and Reaffirmation in the Episcopal Church
Through Baptism we are made a member of the household of God, forever bearing the mark of Christ. However, being a Christian is a journey that never ends. Confirmation is a choice people make to renew their Baptismal Covenant; it is a mature affirmation of Christian faith. Those being Confirmed freely answer, “I do,” “I believe,” and “I will, with God’s help.” Family, friends and the congregation offer their support, but the choice to say those words and make that commitment is entirely up to each person. The community—the household of God—will help those making promises keep them.
What is Confirmation?
Confirmation, as defined in The Book of Common Prayer is “a mature public affirmation of faith and commitment to the responsibilities of Baptism.” A person is a full member of the Church through Baptism. At Confirmation, an individual receives the laying on of hands by the bishop, thereby affirming their own faith and visibly connecting to the broader Body of Christ.
What is the difference between Confirmation, Reaffirmation, and Reception?
Confirmation is “a mature and public affirmation of faith and commitment to the responsibilities of Baptism” (BCP). Reaffirmation means that you choose to re-state your
commitment to Christ in The Episcopal Church, honoring your growth in faith throughout your spiritual journey. For many people, their path has wandered in and out of various denominations. Reaffirmation is a way to honor their journey and their previous public commitment as an adult while also making this definitive sacramental gesture. Reception is common for people who have been active throughout their lives in other denominations. Often, individuals who made a public profession of faith in another Christian denomination will choose to be Received into The Episcopal Church.
What is the meaning of the bishop laying hands on those who are confirmed, reaffirmed, or received?
The bishop is the individual who, symbolically, represents the unity of the entire diocese. The basic “unit” of The Episcopal Church is the diocese, and the bishop as a person is a visible means of reminding us of our common bond in Christ within The Episcopal Church. When the bishop lays hands on your head during the service, it is a very tangible way for you to experience your own faith journey being welcomed into the larger journey of the Body of Christ. For many people, this portion of the sacramental service is very meaningful. A sacrament is “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.” In this way, the touch experienced in the laying on of hands forever remains in your memory as an experience of grace through the Church.
Am I a “full member” of The Episcopal Church without being confirmed?
Yes. The Book of Common Prayer defines Baptism as “full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church. The bond which God establishes in Baptism is
indissoluble.” Confirmation is a pastoral rite; it is an initiatory rite. This means that the sacramental nature of confirmation connects with our growth in faith and in relationship with God. Through Holy Baptism, we join Christ’s Body, either as infants or adults.
Is confirmation ever required to participate in certain aspects of the Episcopal Church?
Yes. God may call some individuals, through the Church, into positions of guidance and leadership. For example, The Canons of The Episcopal Church state that Confirmation is required for certain leadership positions, such as Vestry members, and for some servicepositions such as Eucharistic Visitors, but this in no way precludes an unconfirmed individual from being considered a full member of the Body of Christ. Confirmation, in cases of leadership and guidance, emphasizes one’s public affirmation of faith within the tradition of The Episcopal Church.