Confirmation is the act in which a Bishop confirms the faith of a Christian and thereby affirms that they can fully participate in the life of the worldwide church. In this service the Bishop lays hands on the one being confirmed and prays for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on them. By making public vows to a Bishop (who is a figure of the unity of the worldwide church) and that Bishop accepting my profession of faith, any church in communion with that Bishop would have to honour my profession of faith, receiving me as a fully equal participant in worship, ministry and mission.
It is variously seen as a sacrament (an outward sign of an inward grace); a rite of passage; a false ordinance; divisive; unnecessary; or unimportant depending on the church background of those asked. In fact the movement of Christians who have shaped my faith, the Baptists, explicitly reject confirmation and call it a false sacrament. The church who have called me to ministry do not have a formal relationship with any overarching organisation of church unity. Theologically, I agree that the Church is constituted of the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ and no external sign or rite can create disciples, only the illuminating and new-life-giving unction of the Holy Spirit can create a Christian.
So why am I being confirmed?
Because I want to express that I am a part of one universal (catholic) church
Bishops, whether one believes in their scriptural validity or not, are the closest thing to a figure of unity in the Christian church. Is IS possible that there could be some other office of unity (such as a Presbytery or Session or Synod) but the whole church for the whole of its life has more or less agreed that a Bishop is a successor to the Apostles and thus has a role of unifying the people of God around the Gospel of Jesus Christ, just as the fist Apostles. Whether real or symbolic, the Bishop is a figure standing for the Apostolic teaching which has the power to save both me and you (this teaching being the news that Jesus died for sinners and was raised to life). By being received and affirmed by a Bishop, I get to express my commitment to belonging to a people who are in all times and places distinct from all other peoples.
I belong to the church by faith and not by birth or background. Confirmation gives expression to this reality, which is why it is an outward sign of an inward grace. The inward grace is my desire to submit to the discipline and doctrine of the church, the outward sign of which is being prayed for by a Bishop.
Because I want to have a place to call home
To submit to the discipline of a real earthly organisation called church is a scary idea. It is far more tempting to lean on my Baptism and claim that I belong to Jesus all by myself and I don’t need to really show up to public worship in the church or submit my life’s decisions to the judgement of the church. To be clear, Baptism is the sign that I have been born anew into Christ and thus belong to him eternally. Confirmation is perhaps more concerned with the earthly discipline which follows this decision.
By being confirmed I am communicating my intention to allow the people of God to speak into my life and that they can call me to account for failing to live up to the faith I have professed. In this way, I find my earthly home among the faithful people of Jesus. A place to be known, a place to grow to maturity.
Because God has something to give me
If Bishops are sacramental representatives or successors of the Apostles, then I suppose their prayers come from a unique authority reserved for those original Apostles. In the Acts of the Apostles, those called to that office go around praying for hose who have believed and the Holy Spirit is poured out (Acts 8:17, Acts 19:6). Ultimately, I am choosing to be confirmed because I believe that God has something unique to give me, as he was uniquely revealed to the people of God by the Apostle’s laying on of hands.
Please pray for me this week as I prepare, or better yet come and show your support!
Grant, Almighty God, that we, who have been redeemed from the old life of sin by our baptism into the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ, may be renewed in your Holy Spirit, and live in righteousness and true holiness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
-Collect for Confirmation, BCP 1979