Confirmation in Classical Anglicanism

At the conclusion of the 1662 baptismal liturgy, the minister charges the godparents:

Ye are to take care that this Child be brought to the Bishop to be confirmed by him, so soon as he can say the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, in the vulgar tongue, and be further instructed in the Church-Catechism set forth for that purpose.

Confirmation, then, necessarily follows the baptism of a child.[1] The liturgy and the ritual action of baptism make clear that the new life into which it initiates us is one of struggle. Baptism as such symbolizes death and rebirth; as a sacrament, it is a divinely ordained pledge of the metaphysical reality it symbolizes as well as an instrument for receiving the same.[2] Baptism commits its recipients to “continually mortifying all our evil and corrupt affections and daily proceeding in all virtue and godliness of living.” The Epistle to the Ephesians vividly depicts the struggle constitutive of the life of the baptized:

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.[3]

The new life into which we are born is characterized by spiritual conflict and requires spiritual armour. Confirmation developed out of the experience of the Western church as a means to equip or arm the baptized for the challenges of Christian life.

The classical Anglican practice of confirmation and its place in the process of Christian initiation was sharply criticized by the twentieth century liturgical movement. Since the promulgation of the 1979 Prayer Book it has frequently been called “a rite in search of a theology.”[4] In fact, many contemporary Anglican liturgical scholars and theologians would like to see the rite altogether eliminated, despite popular attachment to it. I, however, think the rite not only has a theology, but a sound one presented in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and will sketch out a case for it here.[5]

The Anglican formularies do not count confirmation among the sacraments ordained by Christ our Lord; rather, it is a rite or ceremony of the Church. Article XX of the Articles of Religion maintains that any particular Church has the authority to alter or abolish a rite if it is found to be repugnant to the scriptures or inexpedient. These considerations have primacy when considering offices that the scriptures do not record the author of our faith to have instituted, but rather developed out of the experience of the church. What reason, then, does the Prayer Book give for the rite? At the opening of the service, the bishop explains that the purpose of the rite is the edification or building up of the mature Christian person. There are four elements to the historic Anglican doctrine and practice of confirmation, each of which highlights a way in which it contributes to the edification of the candidate or, in other words, how it functions as a means of grace: first, catechesis; second, reaffirmation; third, spiritual strengthening; fourth, admission to communion.


Before she is brought before the bishop to be confirmed, the child must first be instructed in the Christian faith, for which the Prayer Book provides a means. The Prayer Book Catechism — a form of instruction in question-and-answer format intended to be memorized[6] — teaches children the Apostles Creed, Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and an overview of the sacraments.[7] Bishop Beveridge remarks in a popular manual The Church-Catechism Explained,

[It] is so short, that the youngest children that can learn anything at all, may learn and say it by heart: And yet so full, that the oldest Christians that are, need know no more than what they are there taught to believe and do that they may be saved. For it contains all things necessary to Salvation, and nothing else.[8]

The Apostle’s Creed, the baptismal creed professed on the child’s behalf by sponsors, sums up that in which Christians place their trust and confidence. The Commandments introduce the moral law, the standards or code of behavior by which those who affirm the creed are characterized. Abiding by it means continually turning away from the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil and manifesting in our behaviors the faith we have professed in the Lord Jesus. The catechism teaches that we are unable to perfectly fulfill these commandments; and, therefore, it teaches us to turn to Almighty God, whom we may now, by baptism, approach as sons and daughters, calling him “Our Father.” The Lord’s Prayer is the model prayer given by Christ, the paradigm for all other Christian prayer. Prayer orients us in humble supplication, asking for the fulfillment of God’s precepts and forgiveness for violating them. Learning these key texts is itself a means of grace, the memorization of which equips the Christian for the struggles of life.

Finally, the catechism introduces the sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, particular means of grace, given by Christ himself, as effectual signs and seals of salvation. The first, baptism, the child learning the catechism has already received; the second, the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion, the child will receive for the first time after learning the catechism and personally affirming, in confirmation, all these things which constitute a Christian.

The Prayer Book Catechism has sometimes been criticized for its simplicity. But this simplicity is no accident or shortcoming. The catechism is, as many Anglican divines have called it, “milk for babes.” Which means, of course, that it is not intended to be the only instruction a Christian person receives, but to be the foundational instruction. In the Prayer Book system, the person who is learning the Catechism, should also be reading the Daily Offices, and hearing sermons, and studying the Scriptures. Milk must give way to meat. The Christian is, after all, a disciple, that is to say, a student. Learning the catechism means more than simply memorizing it; memorization is only the first step. As Bishop Beveridge says “it is indeed a very hard and difficult duty to do it effectually. It is easy enough, I confess, to hear children or others say their Catechism by rote. But that signifies very little, unless they understand what they say.”[9]


Baptism is the pledge and token whereby we may be assured that we have been adopted and made heirs of God, co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:14-17). When babies and young children are baptized, their situation is similar to that of a child who, through the death of a parent, inherits a great estate.[10] Though the estate belongs to her, her youth requires that the estate may be managed on her behalf by trustees until she reaches maturity. The wise trustees teach her how to care for the property that already belongs to her and for which she will someday assume personal responsibility. When that day comes, she will be no more or less the owner of the estate than ever before, but the trustee will officially hand over to her the responsibility to manage the estate for herself. Confirmation is a ritualization of this transition.

In confirmation, baptized “children now come to the years of discretion” publicly assume responsibility for the commitment to Christ Jesus made in their names by their godparents. In a Church where the baptism of infants is normative, many Reformers thought it expedient that once the child had learned the catechism there should be a public ceremony in which the baptized person publicly ratifies (as the Prayer Book puts it) or assumes responsibility for the vows made on her behalf in baptism.

Prior to the Reformation, confirmation in the Late Medieval West was a ritual anointing with oil associated with the gift of the Holy Ghost; it did not involve reaffirmation of faith by the recipient.[11] The age of the recipient was immaterial; it could be applied to infants immediately after baptism. The Reformers of the English Church significantly modified this understanding of confirmation. No longer were infants to be confirmed. This change had the potential to cause anxiety on the part of parents, so the first edition of the Prayer Book (and down until the 1604 edition) this rubric was included before the Order for Confirmation:

And that no man shall think that any detriment shall come to children by deferring of their Confirmation; he shall know for truth, that it is certain by God’s word, that children being baptised, have all things necessary for their salvation, and be undoubtedly saved.

From this rubric it is clear that reformed confirmation serves a practical function. It does not take away from baptism; rather it flows from baptism, providing a practical means for baptized children to come to terms with who they are. Thomas Rogers’s The catholic doctrine of the Church of England, an exposition of the Thirty-nine articles (1587)[12] insists it is a “dangerous and very damnable doctrine” that “men cannot be perfect Christians without Popish Confirmation” and that by it “the grace of Baptism is made perfect.”[13] In responding to Puritan complaints against confirmation, Archbishop Whitgift responded:

You know that Confirmation now used in this Church is not to make Baptism perfect, but partly to try how the godfathers and godmothers have performed that which was enjoined them when the children were baptized; partly that the children themselves (now being at the years of discretion and having learned what their godfathers and godmothers promised for them in Baptism) may, with their own mouth and with their own consent, openly before the church, ratify and confirm the same, and also promise that, by the grace of God they will evermore endeavour themselves, faithfully to observe and keep such things as they, by their own mouth and confession have assented unto.[14]

The personal ratification of the baptismal faith is the core or essence of the Reformed doctrine of confirmation. By means of this public ratification, the child has made herself a greater a target for spiritual foes.[15] The corollary, therefore, of this declaration is prayer for the strength to stand by it.

The Strengthening of the Holy Ghost

Confirmation means both to ratify and to strengthen. While the concept of a mature ratification of the baptismal identity was not a part of the doctrine of confirmation prior to the Reformation, the prayer in the liturgy for the seven-fold gift of the Holy Ghost is one of the ancient threads that lends some continuity between the Reformed rite and the pre-Reformation rites:

ALMIGHTY and everliving God, who hast vouchsafed to regenerate these thy servants by Water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given unto them forgiveness of all their sins: Strengthen them, we beseech thee, O Lord, with the Holy Ghost the Comforter, and daily increase in them thy manifold gifts of grace; the spirit of wisdom and understanding; the spirit of counsel and ghostly strength; the spirit of knowledge and true godliness; and fill them, O Lord, with the spirit of thy holy fear, now and for ever.

While confirmation is first and foremost a ritual for reaffirmation, it also aims to bestow a blessing upon the recipient: strengthening in the Holy Ghost. The two are tied together, for apart from the Spirit’s power we are weak and helpless. The combination of the public assumption of responsibility with the ceremonial enactment (through the laying on of hands) of the reality that all of the strength necessary to keep this commitment comes from God alone echoes the twin foci of baptism (a commitment assumed and a grace received) and vividly depicts that memorable passage from Philippians,[16] “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” As already noted, the grace prayed for in confirmation is not understood as implying the insufficiency of baptism. Rather, in baptism the Spirit is active to regenerate; in confirmation to strengthen.[17]

The timing of this strengthening is not insignificant, as the rubric before the liturgy in the pre-1662 editions of the Prayer Book explains:

it is most meet to be ministered when children come to that age, that partly by the frailty of their own flesh, partly by the assaults of the world and the Devil, they begin to be in danger to fall into sundry kinds of sin.

When exactly the “years of discretion” (in the Prayer Book’s phrase) are reached, when one becomes aware of one’s self as a moral agent, it is not possible to pinpoint. This gradual awakening coincides with the end of childhood and the beginning of adulthood.[18] It has in all cultures been recognized as a time of transition in which patterns are erected that give shape to future life and, as a result, a time of particular vulnerability to the pull of vice. The equipment provided by learning the catechism, the responsibility assumed by publicly ratifying the commitments of baptism, and the invocation of Spiritual aid in the laying-on-of-hands by the bishop (who represents personally a connection to the church universal) are all aptly timed.

The Laying on of Hands

The Reformers thought that confirmation developed out of certain instances described in Acts, namely Acts 8.14-17 and Acts 19.5-6. We now know that this explanation of the origin of confirmation is incorrect for two reasons: first, these are exceptional cases in the early expansion of the Church rather than a normative pattern; second, a distinct rite of confirmation does not appear until many centuries later and only in the West. Nevertheless, these passages from Acts remain relevant to describing the Anglican understanding of confirmation, not least since all Anglican divines up until the twentieth century looked to these passages as the paradigm for the rite for two reasons. First, in these passages the apostles accompany prayer with the laying-on-of-hands, providing a precedent and authorization for the manual ceremony. This prompted the revision and simplification of the late medieval ceremonial of confirmation (eliminating both the anointing with chrism and the buffet — i.e., slap on the cheek[19]). Second, these scriptures associate a hand-laying ritual with both post-baptismal teaching and spiritual gifts or strengthening, both of which are constitutive elements of the reformed understanding of confirmation. In other words, there is a theological affinity, despite the lack of a historical connection between the hand-laying in Acts and the later ritual of confirmation. So the secondary name the Prayer Book supplies to confirmation, “Laying on of Hands upon Those That Are Baptized and Come to Years of Discretion” seems still to be quite appropriate.

Relation to Communion

The Prayer Book stipulates that “none be admitted to the holy Communion, until such time as he be confirmed, or be ready and desirous to be confirmed.” As a rite of passage in the household of the Christian faith, confirmation both looks backwards to baptism and forward to the Lord’s Supper. It is the passage between the font and the table.

The Prayer Book requires that all who come to the holy table must not only be baptized, but must also examine their own lives, repent of their sins, and affirm in good conscience that their relationships with others are characterized by Christ’s love. In the first exhortation[20] in the Communion liturgy, the minister bids the people,

Search and examine your own consciences, and that not lightly nor after the manner of dissimulers with God: But as they which should come to a most Godly and heavenly banquet, not to come but in the marriage garment required of God in scripture, that you may (so much as lieth in you) be found worthy to come to such a table.

Confirmation, and the process of which it is the culmination is not an obstacle standing between the baptized and the Lord’s Table, it aims to provide the equipment and guidance one needs to approach the table. Drawing from the analogy of the marriage feast given in the exhortation, it is as if one who has been admitted to a house for supper (by baptism), after which a servant (a minister) of the host (Christ) provides that guest (in catechesis culminating in confirmation) the attire required by the host for all who come to his supper. In this case, the required garment (repentance, faith, and charity) spares one from grave harm, for the table is the Lord’s and will not be profaned. As Moses was told to remove his sandals to approach the fiery theophany in the bush; so Christians are bid to examine themselves or else not approach. The third exhortation in the liturgy warns:

For as the benefit is great, if with a true penitent heart and lively faith we receive that holy Sacrament… so is the danger great, if we receive the same unworthily. For then we are guilty of the Body and Blood of Christ our Saviour; we eat and drink our own damnation, not considering the Lord’s Body; we kindle God’s wrath against us.

To adapt a phrase from C.S. Lewis, the Lord’s Supper is not safe, but it is good; indeed, it offers communion with Goodness himself. By certifying that one has learned the Catechism, ratifying one’s baptismal identity, and praying for strength from on high, the process of catechesis and confirmation ensures (at least a level of) preparation for worthily receiving the holy communion for the first time.

The Role of the Bishop

In the preceding sketch of a case for the historic Anglican doctrine and practice of confirmation, the reader will undoubtedly have noted that the rite is administered only by a bishop. Whether or not the administration of the rite ought to be limited to bishops has frequently come into question, so it warrants consideration before I conclude. Anglicans are now unique in limiting confirmation to episcopal administration, however, despite that, this limitation provides another thread of continuity with pre-Reformation practice.

Canon XL of the 1604 Canons of the Church of England requires:

all Bishops should lay their hands upon Children baptized and instructed in the Catechism of Christian Religion, praying over them, and blessing them, which we commonly call Confirmation, and that this holy Action hath been accustomed in the Church in former Ages, to be performed in the Bishop’s Visitation every third Year.

While throughout Anglican history there have been objections to this requirement and challenges to its practical implementation (especially in large dioceses where annual episcopal visits may not be possible); nevertheless, the unique role of the bishop in administering confirmation has, by and large, been treasured by Anglicans.

Responding to objections, Bishop Benjamin Hoadly describes the episcopal administration of confirmation “a very becoming thing” and says it is “highly reasonable” that “all Persons should in the most solemn manner take upon themselves their Baptismal Covenant… in Presence of the highest Officer in the Church.”[21] In a sermon given before the Bishop of Durham in 1701, Nathaniel Ellison maintained:

And indeed, if we consult primitive and uncorrupt antiquity, we shall find this sacred and solemn office perform’d non nisi per manus Episcopi, by the hands of none but the bishop, as (St. Hierome testifies) out of honor and regard to the order, because the safety of the church depends upon the dignity of chief officers, to whom if some special prerogatives were not reserv’d, there would be in the church as many schisms as priests.[22]

Cornwall notes that Ellison’s sermon is broadly representative of the views of most English churchmen. Ellison’s argument is not merely one about episcopal prerogative, but one about unity — the bishop serves as an instrument of unity in the Church (a theme as old as Ignatius and Irenaeus). Along with ordination, it is one of the two rites in which the special ministry of bishops is summed up. However, ordination is reserved only for those in whom the Church discerns a particular divine calling. Confirmation, on the other hand, provides the fullest, most beautiful picture of the place of the bishop in the church, since it involves a direct connection between the bishop and every member of the Church. Without the requirement that confirmation be administered by the bishop alone, there would no doubt be many who never meet their bishop, the chief pastor of their diocese. The responsibility to meet, touch, and pray with and for every baptized person in the diocese is a burden, but one which a bishop ought to take up with joy, as puts him in direct contact with all the people whom the Lord has called him to serve.

Confirmation also epitomizes the office of the bishop not only as shepherd, but as guardian of the doctrine and good order of the Church — episcopos means “watcher” or “overseer.” It offers an opportunity for the bishop to ensure the basic catechesis of baptized children and that those coming to the Table for the first time will be able to “consider how Saint Paul exhorteth all persons diligently to try and examine themselves, before they presume to eat of that Bread, and drink of that Cup,” as the Exhortation requires. In order to carry this out practically, the bishop must inquire into the means being taken by the parish clergy to teach the Catechism. So important was this duty perceived to be that the Canon LIX of the 1604 Canons of the Church of England stipulate:

If any Minister neglect his Duty herein, let him be sharply reproved upon the first Complaint, and true Notice thereof given to the Bishop or Ordinary of the Place. If after submitting himself, he shall wilfully offend therein again, let him be suspended. If so the third time, there being little hope that he will be therein reformed, then Excommunicated, and so remain until he will be reformed.

That confirmation has the potential to sum up the office of the bishop in this way and that this potential is valuable is, I must note, quite a different question than whether or not confirmation (and the catechesis that must come before it) has been consistently realized, implemented well. Bishop Beveridge is not alone in acknowledging the real challenges to effectively carrying out these episcopal duties, which he does in the Preface to his Exposition of the Church-Catechism; nevertheless he asserts,

Unless a Bishop doth his duty, or, in case of necessity, procure it to be done by another, both his Clergy and the people will be apt to neglect theirs; and the fault will, in great measure, lie at his door. Which therefore cannot be supposed of any who are sensible of the strict account they must give at the Last Day of all their actions, and especially of this, wherein the glory of God, the good of His Church, the Salvation of the souls committed to their care, and by consequence their own, is so highly concerned.[23]

Bishop Kennett, in a sermon given on the occasion of the consecration of William Wake in 1705 observed

It is a work….that requires patience, and strength, and time, and travel; and the greatest difficulty, that of obliging the parochial clergy to prepare and present unto the Bishop such (and only such) as are fit to be Confirmed, and then admit none to the Holy Communion, but those who have been confirmed, or be ready and desirous to be confirmed.[24]

Despite the difficulties, Anglicans have generally regarded the special role of the episcopacy in confirmation to be a valuable aspect of the historic ministry of bishops and a positive benefit to the church.

  1. The Prayer Book’s pattern of initiation — baptism, catechesis, confirmation, and first communion — assumes infant baptism. It is not, however, unreasonable for use with an adult convert. The adult convert, of course, speaks on his or her own behalf in the ritual, rather than having sureties make the vows in his or her name. Catechesis then offers a season of reflection on the implications of the identity assumed in baptism, and confirmation offers at least three benefits: (1) a reaffirmation of faith following a period of further reflection on the baptismal identity; (2) the spiritual strengthening prayed for in the service; (3) the opportunity to meet one’s bishop. The Prayer Book rubrics authorize the minister to admit a baptized adult to Lord’s Supper if he or she desire and be deemed ready (which, minimally, means familiarity with the catechism), or the baptized may choose to wait to receive until after confirmation.
  2. Article XXVII. Of Baptism. Baptism is not only a sign of profession, and mark of difference, whereby Christian men are discerned from others that be not christened, but it is also a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth, whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church; the promises of the forgiveness of sin, and of our adoption to be the sons of God by the Holy Ghost, are visibly signed and sealed, Faith is confirmed, and Grace increased by virtue of prayer unto God.The Baptism of young Children is in any wise to be retained in the Church, as most agreeable with the institution of Christ.
  3. Ephesians 6.10-13
  4. The phrase is often attributed to Aidan Kavanagh, OSB. Perhaps he said this in his lectures, but in print Kavanagh said “It is sometimes noted that confirmation seems to be a rite in search of its meaning” (in 1989 “The Origins and Reform of Confirmation,” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 33:1, p. 8). This suggests he repeated rather than originated (a version of) the quip. However, in 1983, six years earlier, David Holeton, wrote “What has been called a rite in search of a theology has been doing more searching over the past decade than at any time since its appearance” (“Confirmation in the 1980s,” in Max Thurian’s (Ed.) Ecumenical Perspectives on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, p. 68). Holeton’s comment too makes it sound as if the line was already well known.
  5. The brief case presented here is explored more fully in my article “A Reconsideration of the Continued Practice of Confirmation in the Episcopal Church,” in Anglican Theological Review. Spring 2018, Vol. 100, Issue 2, pp. 245-266.
  6. Why should it be memorized? This question always reminds me of a story told by a dear friend of my family of when she was teaching her daughter to drive. On the occasion of the first driving lesson, before they embarked, the girl asked, “Now which one of these pedals is the break again?” Then she looked down, remarking, “Oh! How convenient; it says “break” right on the pedal.” To this her mother replied, “When you need it, you don’t have time to read it!” That’s precisely why memorization matters.
  7. This last section was not added until 1604
  8. Works, Vol VIII, pg. 17.
  9. Works, Vol. VIII, p. 12. The pedagogical task has led to the preparation and publication of countless manuals written by Anglican pastors in the centuries since the Reformation to promote better catechesis, sharing the methods of instruction that proved useful to them. The definitive study of these is Ian Green’s 1996 The Christian’s ABC: Catechisms and Catechizing in England C.1530-1740.
  10. The analogy of a baptized infant to a child who is heir to a great estate was employed by the 17th Century English Diarist Elizabeth Isham (see Ryrie, 2013, p. 332).
  11. On the history of confirmation see J. D. C. Fisher, Confirmation Then and Now (London: SPCK, 1978); Aidan Kavanagh, Confirmation: Origins and Reform (New York: Pueblo, 1988); Robert L. Browning and Roy A. Reed, eds., Models of Confirmation and Baptismal Affirmation: Liturgical and Educational Issues and Designs (Birmingham, Ala.: Religious Education Press, 1995); Richard Robert Osmer, Confirmation: Presbyterian Practices in Ecumenical Perspective (Louisville, Ky.: Geneva Press, 1996), Theodore R. Jungkuntz, Confirmation and the Charismata (Eugene, Ore.: Wipf and Stock, 1997).
  12. A work frequently re-published and widely regarded as a standard expression of Anglican doctrine down through the eighteenth century.
  13. From an 1854 re-print by Cambridge University Press, pp. 253, 254. See also F. J. Taylor, “The Anglican Doctrine of Confirmation in the Sixteenth Century,” The Churchman 60 (1946): 6. Richard Hooker (along with some other notable Anglican Divines) characterizes Confirmation this way: “to confirm and perfect that which the grace of the same Spirit hath already begun in Baptism” (Laws V, lxvi, 1). So too, Jeremy Taylor, calls confirmation “the consummation and perfection, the corroboration and strength, of baptism and baptismal grace” (quoted from Philip Tovey, Anglican Confirmation 1662-1820, Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2014, p. 10). It is possible to harmonize this language with Whitgift and Rogers with recourse to the regeneration/strengthening distinction discussed below.
  14. Taylor, “The Anglican Doctrine of Confirmation,” 10.
  15. The truth of this is apparent to anyone who has ever made public a commitment or resolution that one had previously decided upon in the privacy of one’s mind.
  16. 2:12-13
  17. Faustus of Rietz (in a Pentecost homily, c. 465 included in the Pseudo-Isidorean Decretals) first popularized (or perhaps originated) this way of distinguishing the grace of baptism from confirmation, which became the standard explanation.
  18. The best age for this remained and remains open to consideration and a subject of debate. Neither the Prayer Book nor Canons specified a particular age, nor that all candidates be the same age. Different approaches were adopted (see, e.g., Tovey’s (2014) Anglican Confirmation: 1662-1820, pp. 14 and 27). Parallel variation and difference of opinion continues within credo-baptist traditions as well. It seems worth noting here that the concept of adolescence as a distinct developmental stage was not proposed until 1904.
  19. The ceremonial of the buffet was also removed from the Roman rite in 1971.
  20. There are three exhortations provided in the liturgy. The first is for use during Ante-Communion when the minister announces an upcoming date on which the sacrament will be offered. The second is also for use during Ante-Communion upon the announcement of an upcoming opportunity to commune, but is to be used when the minister observes that many are reluctant to come or neglectful of the sacrament. The third is to be read on the Sunday when the communion is administered.
  21. Works, Vol. I, p. 362, from “A Defense of the Reasonableness of Conformity to the Church of England, &c., in Answer to the Objections of Mr. Calamy, in his Defense of Moderate Non-conformity.” Hoadley (1676-1761) was successively chaplain to George I, Bishop of Bangor, of Hereford, of Salisbury, and Winchester; leader of the lowchurchmen and defender of the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
  22. Quoted from Cornwall (1999) “The Rite of Confirmation in Anglican Thought during the Eighteenth Century,” The American Society of Church History, p. 363.
  23. Works vol. 8, pg. 16.
  24. Quoted from Cornwall (1999) “The Rite of Confirmation in Anglican Thought during the Eighteenth Century,” The American Society of Church History, p. 363.

Drew Keane

Drew Nathaniel Keane is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Writing and Linguistics at Georgia Southern University and a PhD candidate in the School of English at the University of St. Andrews, writing a thesis (tentatively) titled The Use of the Prayer Book: The Book of Common Prayer (1549-1604) as Technical Writing for an Oral-Aural Culture. With Samuel L. Bray, he edited the 1662 Book of Common Prayer: International Edition (IVP Academic, March 2021). From 2012 to 2018 he served on the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. More of his work is available at

'Confirmation in Classical Anglicanism' have 4 comments

  1. September 9, 2020 @ 4:31 pm Ben Jefferies

    An excellent article, Mr. Keane. Thank you for it! I shall rely on it when the inevitable questions come up in the parish. I am so grateful for that our Reformation Fathers gave us such a valuable discipleship moment, and didn’t sever the laity’s direct connection with the bishop as the Eastern Chrismation does. Also, FWIW, here is a PDF of the 1662 Catechism with the slightest adjustments of wording for readability and comportment with the creedal phrasing of the BCP-2019:


    • September 10, 2020 @ 3:52 am Drew N. Keane

      Thanks for your kind words, Mr. Jefferies. I hope that it will prove helpful to you and your parishioners.


  2. September 11, 2020 @ 6:01 pm Robert Kanary

    The challenges of life are as weighty and serious as ever. In my opinion the minister needs to look the parent(s)/godparents full in the face and emphasize the specific lines referred to in your opening paragraph, and then give them a copy of the catechism. Incidentally, although I am not Anglican, I am quite enamored with the new ACNA edition.


  3. September 19, 2020 @ 4:47 pm Diogenes

    Thank you for this article; I appreciate this distillation of the issue. Since it is embedded with the ‘classical’ qualifier, perhaps this question is moot:
    “By [1] certifying that one has learned the Catechism, [2] ratifying one’s baptismal identity, and [3] praying for strength from on high, the process of catechesis and confirmation ensures [4] (at least a level of) preparation for worthily receiving the holy communion for the first time”
    In ACNA and TEC, confirmation is no longer a prerequisite for taking communion, rendering #4 inconsistent or redundant.
    This practice has presented a continual challenge with every Anglican inquirer I’ve talked with/guided: “Why do I need to be confirmed? I already take communion here. I uphold my baptism [at a baptist/nondenom church]. I’m even a catechized *member* of this church?!
    In practice, I see in some churches that it is a (3-stream) charismatic laying on of hands (with so-called tongue speaking, in some cases), but this is not ‘classical.’
    Based on this, it seems that it is now a prerequisite for “worthily receiving the holy communion,” but not communion in general. I’ve never seen a priest function as a confirmand gatekeeper like Orthodox might with charismated Orthodox.
    While I agree with what is presented here in the article, and for me is consistent with Catholic tradition, it is a challenge to teach when the parish practice for ACNA and TEC is the opposite. It seems to me that ACNA’s mission model, especially in the C4SO , Charismatic, and Broad -Church squares would feel this is against inclusion and not ‘seeker-friendly’


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