Many people who attend Trinity have questions about confirmation. As a priest, I often get asked, “What is confirmation? And why should I be confirmed?” Both of these are great questions. If you are coming from another Christian tradition or are new to the Christian faith, the meaning and purpose of confirmation might seem elusive. There are three purposes for confirmation in the Anglican tradition: confession (affirmation), commission, & connection.
The apostle Paul writes, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Confirmation is a way to personally and publicly confess your faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Christian faith has always been about a deeply personal relationship with God and a public commitment to Jesus. If you were baptized as an infant or you are just returning to the Christian faith or maybe you have just never had an opportunity to confess your faith in Jesus, then confirmation is for you.
Confirmation is also a way for all believers to be commissioned for ministry. Not everyone is called to ordained ministry, but God has ordained all believers to some sort of ministry in the body of Christ. The bishop lays hands on those being confirmed and prays for them to be filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered for ministry. In the New Testament, the laying on of hands was considered a foundational teaching (Hebrews 6:1–2). It was practiced for blessing (Mark 10:16), healing (Luke 4:40), and imparting the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14–17). The bishop continues a practice started by Jesus and the apostles of laying hands on believers and commissioning them for ministry. (For a more complete biblical theology of the laying on of hands, check out these Scriptures: Numbers 8:10, 27:18; Acts 6:1–6, 13:1–3; 2 Timothy 1:6.)
Confirmation connects believers historically and globally. When the bishop lays his hands on your head, you are being physically connected to the historic and global church. As I said above, the apostles felt it was important and necessary for believers to be connected to the one church through their hands. Today, you can be connected historically to the apostles of Jesus through confirmation. More importantly, you are connected to the historic faith of the apostles in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Confirmation also connects you to other Anglican Christians around the world. Anglican Christians around the globe practice confirmation as a means of being visibly connected to one another. Each Sunday we confess that, “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.” Confirmation is a visible act to connect you with that historic and global church.
You might be coming from a tradition that practices confirmation, where you were confirmed. For those already confirmed, we offer reception and reaffirmation. Reception is for those who were confirmed in another tradition and wish to be received into the Anglican church. Reaffirmation is for those who were confirmed at some point in the past, but would like to reaffirm their faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
Some people ask me, “So, do I have to be confirmed?” Of course not! But confirmation is expected of all members of Trinity and is a way to confess your faith, be commissioned for ministry, and be visibly connected to the historic and global church.
Still have questions about confirmation? Come to the Introduction to Anglicanism course starting on January 18.