By Matt Townsend
The subject of confirmation stirred passionate testimony July 5 before General Convention’s Education Committee. Clergy and laypeople addressed the committee on Resolutions A041, A042, A043 and A044, all of which address the nature of confirmation as a necessary step in becoming Episcopalian.
The Rev. Canon Robert Brooks, vice president of Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission, said the canons conflict with the Book of Common Prayer (1979), which describes Holy Baptism as full initiation into the Church. The resolutions seek to resolve that conflict, he said.
The Rev. Danielle Morris of the Diocese of Central Florida opposed the resolutions, saying confirmation helps create loyal members of the Church through education. She cited an example of a woman in her parish who wanted to serve on the vestry but had not been confirmed. “She said, ‘I’ll go through the classes,’” Morris said. “By the time she ended those classes, she said, ‘I had no idea. I’m an Episcopalian because I am now a part of all of that inheritance.’ She will be an Episcopalian for life.”
The Rev. Ruth Meyers supported the resolutions, saying confirmation is a pastoral rite and that requiring it for leadership within the Church undermines the Book of Common Prayer. “The proposed canonical changes would free confirmation to be the rite envisioned in 1979, that we agreed on over 30 years ago: a pastoral occasion marking renewed commitment to one’s bapismal faith.”
Liza Anderson, lay deputy from Connecticut, opposed that point. “I don’t just want leaders in the church who have instruction in structure and governance,” she said. “I want leaders who have a mature commitment to their faith in Jesus Christ and to their baptismal covenant. We could invent something that would somehow establish that, but that seems unnecessarily excessive, given that we already have this thing called the sacramental rite of confirmation.”
Photo: The Rev. Canon Robert Brooks addresses the Education Committee. Matt Townsend/TLC