Many young people grapple with the idea of Confirmation – and it can bring particular issues for children of interchurch parents who may feel uneasy about being seen to make a commitment to the church of one or the of other of their parents. How, for example, will the other parent feel?
What is Confirmation all about?
There are at least 3 different opinions about what Confirmation is for and how it is related to Baptism. And because the churches are all learning from each other it is possible to find all 3 of these views in all of the churches. Roman Catholics and Anglicans often put more emphasis on the first and second, while Free Churches are more likely to emphasise the second and third.
- A gift of the Spirit
Acts 8: 17 shows the gift of the Spirit being given to Samaritan people who had already been baptised and some teachers in the past suggested that this means that the Holy Spirit is only given at confirmation. But a look at other passages in the New Testament about Baptism or the Holy Spirit shows that the Holy Spirit is also an important gift of Baptism.
It is generally thought today that the gifts of the Holy Spirit can be received both when a person is baptised and when they are confirmed.
- A Profession of faith
If you were baptised as an infant your parents and godparents made a profession of faith on your behalf. Confirmation is an opportunity for you to do it yourself. Sometimes making a profession or affirmation of faith is seen as a kind of “coming of age” as a Christian.
- Church Membership
Some traditions see Confirmation as a time when you accept the full privileges and responsibilities of church membership or, for some of the Free Churches, of local church membership. Again, its like a kind of “coming of age” as a Christian.It is important to note that there is a difference between being a full member of a church and having all the responsibilities that go with being a full member. When you were baptised you became a full member of your church. But because a baby cannot accept the full privileges and responsibilities of church membership (for example, voting in church elections) you only take on these aspects of membership later.
Confirmation and Interchurch families
Many children of interchurch families have been baptised in a celebration in which the ministers of two churches participated. Many have been brought up and learnt to worship in two churches, and feel that they belong to both. Not surprisingly, many of them want both ministers to participate in their confirmation, so that they may have the full privileges and responsibilities of membership in both churches.
Until fairly recently most churches would have said that this is not possible. However, in some Local Ecumenical Partnerships, Anglicans and Free Churches have joint confirmation services, which recognise those confirmed as members of both churches. The Roman Catholic Church, however, does not permit this practice.
So what options are open to young members of interchurch families?
(These are general suggestions and do not take account of the rules of individual churches)
- Ask for joint celebration of confirmation
This is a tough option, because it means asking for something knowing that the answer is likely to be ‘no!’ But if it is something that you believe in, then it is important to ask. And if you ask, then the Bishops will know that this really is something that some young people want. If enough people ask, the Bishops will have to take a good look at the meaning of confirmation and think carefully about their policy on confirmation.If you choose this option and do not succeed, you can go on to choose one of the other options later.
- Not to be confirmed
This is a tough option too. If you choose this option you are bearing witness to the wrongness of denominational divisions and looking forward to their healing. You can still hope that one day you will be able to have the joint confirmation you desire.
- Confirmation in one church only
This option does not have to cut you off from the other church. You can still be active in both congregations. The local community will know that you are a committed and confirmed Christian, and will in many ways treat you as such.
- To do everything that is possible jointly
You may not be able to have a joint confirmation, but perhaps you can arrange a joint ceremony which includes some of the elements of a confirmation service. You may be able to involve both of your ministers in a celebration of your affirmation of faith, which perhaps includes a prayer asking for the blessing of the Holy Spirit.
- Confirmation in one church, followed by second confirmation or reception into membership
While this option does not have the same symbolism as a joint ceremony, you would be affirming your own experience and belief that you belong to two churches, in the hope that this might eventually be officially recognised by them.
How do I decide?
The most important thing is to PRAY about it – take it to God, and keep taking it back to God. And talk to other people such as your parents, your priests or ministers, and other people in the same boat. The Association of Interchurch Families has a Young Adults Group whose members have had, or are going through, the same experience – do contact us and ask us to put you in touch with someone who might be able to help.
You can find a few examples by clicking on the button below:Suggested Reading and Members Stories »