Confirmation, Reception, and Reaffirmation are rooted in the baptismal covenant. Confirmation/Reception/Reaffirmation may be done at the service of Holy Baptism or at the Easter Vigil when a bishop is present (BCP, pp. 292, 309-310). When there is no baptism, the entrance rite for Confirmation/Reception/Reaffirmation follows the entrance rite for baptism (BCP, p. 413). Candidates for Confirmation, Reception, and Reaffirmation are presented in separate groups by their presenters. Candidates may have individual presenters who will support them in their Christian life by prayer and example. It is not necessary that the presenters be members of the clergy. The candidates reaffirm their renunciation of evil, and renew their commitment to Jesus Christ. They reaffirm the promises made by them or for them at the time of baptism. Those present in the congregation promise to do all in their power to support the candidates in their life in Christ. The bishop leads the congregation in renewing the baptismal covenant. The Prayers for the Candidates from the baptismal liturgy may be used as the Prayers for the Candidates for Confirmation/Reception/Reaffirmation (BCP, p. 417). The bishop lays hands on each candidate for Confirmation. The BCP provides specific prayers to be said by the bishop for Confirmation, for Reception, and for Reaffirmation. The bishop may shake hands with those who are being received to welcome them into this communion, and the bishop may lay hands on them in blessing. The bishop may also bless those who reaffirm their baptismal vows.
The Episcopal Church’s theology of Confirmation has continued to evolve along with its understanding of baptism. Confirmation is no longer seen as the completion of Christian initiation, nor is Confirmation a prerequisite for receiving communion. Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s body the church (BCP, p. 298). Accordingly, Confirmation has been increasingly understood in terms of a mature, public reaffirmation of the Christian faith and the baptismal promises. Some dioceses require that candidates for Confirmation be at least sixteen years old to insure that the candidates are making a mature and independent affirmation of their faith. There is considerable diversity of understanding and practice concerning Confirmation in the Episcopal Church. Confirmation has been characterized as “a rite seeking a theology.”
Reception (Christian Commitment)
Baptized persons who have been members of another Christian fellowship and who wish to be affiliated with the Episcopal Church may make a public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their baptism in the presence of a bishop. The bishop lays hands on each candidate for reception and says, “We recognize you as a member of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, and we receive you into the fellowship of this Communion” (BCP, p. 418). Candidates for reception normally have made a mature commitment in another Christian fellowship. Some dioceses have reserved reception for those candidates who have previously received sacramental confirmation with laying on of hands by a bishop in apostolic succession.
Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows
The BCP refers to those persons already baptized who are presented to the bishop in the context of a service of Baptism or Confirmation to reaffirm their baptismal vows. These might be persons returning to the church after a period of unbelief or those who have entered a new level of spiritual life. The BCP does not specify who these persons are, and a variety of interpretation exists. The BCP provides a form to be used for reaffirmation of baptismal vows instead of the confirmation formula (BCP, p. 419). The word “renewal” rather than “reaffirmation” is used to describe the reaffirming of the baptismal covenant by the entire congregation at Baptism, Confirmation, or the Easter Vigil (BCP, p. 292).