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Debate continues on Confirmation in New Zealand

Posted on: May 26, 2016 4:39 PM
The Bishop in Europe, David Hamid, confirms candidates at St Augustine of Hippo Church in Rabat, Morocco. Confirmation is a rite of initiation throughout the Anglican Communion as candidates affirm for themselves the faith into which they were baptised and their intention to live a life of committed discipleship. But this could change under a review being conducted in New Zealand.
Photo Credit: Bishop David Hamid’s Eurobishop blog
Related Categories: baptism, Liturgy, New Zealand, Synod

[ACNS] 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 in May.

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 Revd 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 Revd 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.”

The Bishop of Waikato, the Rt Revd 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. The Assistant Bishop of Auckland, the Rt Revd 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.