CONFIRMATION


Is confirmation a sacrament? A “sacrament” is an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. In the early church, both baptism and confirmation were considered sacraments. As the church grew and divided over different issues, Protestant Reformation leaders limited their definition of a sacrament to the practices actually initiated by Jesus (baptism and communion).

     They rejected the idea of confirmation as a sacrament and deemed baptism alone sufficient initiation into the church. The
Catholic/Orthodox Church continued to understand confirmation as a sacrament. In place of the sacrament of confirmation, the Protestant denominations created a catechism (summary of principles of the Christian religion in the form of questions and answers) that children would learn before they were admitted to the sacrament of communion.

 

How has the UMC understood Confirmation? Although the Methodist Church grew out of the Anglican/Protestant Church, the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, did not encourage or recommend that the new Methodist Church in America should take part in confirmation. The church that Wesley started participated regularly in class meetings where members came together for accountability, acts of outreach and devotion, nurture, and spiritual growth. Methodists by design gathered often for the daily living of the faith. Wesley believed “Baptism was initiation into the church; (and that) Methodists would learn the faith in the discipline of the class meetings.” Confirmation as a catechism or time of instruction was not needed! The process of confirmation is a natural fit for the distinctive UM theology that emphasizes the need for justifying grace, repentance, and conversion later in life. In the process of time the Methodist Church grew as did the primacy of the class meetings. Beginning in the 1960s, the Methodist Church first returned to the idea of confirmation, and the process has changed a lot since then.

     Adults of today who grew up in the UM Church remember not being invited to participate in communion until they were confirmed,
while now baptized persons of any age are invited to the communion table. The newness of the rite, the changes that Methodists have
witnessed through the years, and the influence of other denominations and faiths often lead to confusion when we seek to understand what it means to offer confirmation now.