Debate continues on confirmation in New Zealand

Posted May 26, 2016

[Anglican Communion News Service] The traditional Anglican initiation rite of confirmation has “lost its pivotal role” for many Anglican churches in New Zealand, a report to this month’s General Synod of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia said. But proposals to replace it with a new rite of The Laying on of Hands for Affirmation, Renewal and Reception, were postponed to allow further consultation.

A bill containing the new rite, together with proposed new formularies for the baptism of adults and the baptism of children, were let to “lie on the table” when the Synod met earlier this month.

The report accompanying the bill said that the changes in the understanding and status of confirmation has mainly occurred since the 1970s when baptism became the sole rite required for Christians to receive communion in Anglican churches in the country.

“This work on confirmation has identified a crisis in our church,” the Rev. Michael Wallace from Dunedin said. “But I believe the crisis is not with the rite of confirmation itself, but with our church’s approach to catechesis and formation.”

The Rev. Anne van Gend, director of Anglican Schools, opposed any shift from confirmation, saying that “Confirmation is an important rite of passage for our students and I am loathed to see anything that would weaken that.”

Bishop of Waikato Helen-Ann Hartley spoke of the long-standing, worldwide role of confirmation in the Anglican Communion. “I would hate to see it go,” she said, “there are deep historic and pastoral aspects to confirmation.”

But other speakers supported the changes. Assistant Bishop of Auckland Jim White, who had completed the research leading to the proposals on behalf of the house of bishops, said that there was little in the concerns and questions that suggested a present-day rationale for confirmation.

“‘That is our tradition’ is not sufficient answer, nor that ‘it is in the Book of Common Prayer’,” he said. “We have jettisoned other parts of the Book of Common Prayer.

“We no longer hold to the same view or doctrine on baptism and that is key. “There is nothing to ‘confirm’.”

The dioceses and hui amorangi (the areas of the Maori part of the Province) have been asked to discuss the report on baptism and confirmation over the next two years and report back to the liturgical committee ahead of the next General Synod in 2018.


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Comments (1)

  1. John Lanier says:

    This is not unlike the struggles that TEC has dealt with over the past few years. There are many ways a dirty, old and muddy boot can be stuck in a freshly filled swimming pool, and “confirmation” can indeed muddy up fresh water. Aidan Kavanagh wrote many years ago that what eventually became “confirmation” in the Western Church had its origins in the dismissal of the neophytes from the Baptistry on their way to the Consignation (post-baptismal anointing), and “Ite Missa Est” perhaps should remind all of us of both the change that comes to us in our own baptism, and the promises we make in bearing witness to that newness of life…

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