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Liturgy to Welcome Members into the Local Church
Based on the 2019BCP Baptism, Reaffirmation, and Confirmation liturgies.
This liturgy is for pastoral use in a local congregation, wherein a desirous candidate by reaffirmation of baptismal vows and the teaching of the Church (as expected in confirmation), is publicly welcomed as a full member of the local parish or congregation. If the member has not received the oil used in a Baptismal liturgy, it is offered, regularising non-confirmed baptised Christians with the baptismal chrism. This supplies two expectations in 20th century prayer book liturgies: that a communicant be anointed Holy Chrism following baptism (which is an ancient prerequisite found in East and West, with no firm agreement on age, faculty, or maturity1), and that the communicant “be ready and desirous to be confirmed.”
More practically, this offers a public, formal declaration of membership (and therefore is eligible for ministry participation/leadership, vestry, lay licensure). Membership in this context is public affirmation and personal reception of those things which are the teaching of the Church.2 This is the same declaration as found in the confirmation liturgy, but since not all who have been confirmed presently adhere to the teaching of the Church, such may become a safety measure for the local membership. No part is written to conflict with Confirmation or Baptism, whether in liturgical redundancy or in theology.
The rational for this liturgy is as follows:
The 1979 and 2019 Books of Common Prayer have inconsistent practice and theology of confirmation (“a rite in search of a theology”) and operate in tension with the classical Anglican tradition of the 1662 and 1928 Books of Common Prayer. The former books frame the imposition of Chrism at baptism as a soft-Chrismation, borrowed from the East, and practically instituted as part of the justification of unconfirmed baptised communing.
The 1662 BCP, as with 1928 BCP, charges that only those who are confirmed by a bishop, or ready and desirous to be confirmed, should be welcome at the communion table.3
While modern Anglican practice welcomes baptized Christians to the table, only those able to commune in the church according to the practice of the classical Anglican tradition should be serving in the leadership or vestry of a parish or congregation.
As written this regularizes concerns related to confirmation and communion in those churches that welcome baptized Christians to the communion table. More importantly, it allows churches a formal procedure for recognizing those who desire membership and therefore would be eligible for service in the church, whether already confirmed or awaiting confirmation.
I’ve been thinking about writing this up for a few years now, and presented it to a few clergy for feedback. This is to address two issues.
First: It is expedient to have a public process for the adding of new members to a church, as a way for the congregation to know that the person, who may be volunteering or eligible for election to vestry, is publicly affirming the beliefs of the church and of the orthodox, Creedal Christian faith. Not all who are baptized, nor all who have been confirmed, would publicly affirm these, even as they may be communicants within the church.
Second: Conversations I have had over the last year have sparked the motivation to formalise this, owing to the difficulty of some churches—especially those in non-geographic dioceses or diocese with severely spread out geographies—in having a bishop visit for confirmation. One church has had their bishop visit twice in ten years, both only recently, and neither for confirmations.
Without changing the rites of the church, and since the church is currently hesitant to increase the number of assisting bishops, there needs to be a recognition for those who wish to be full members of the local church—in communing, in church discipline, in leadership & vestry roles—while those who are not confirmed wait for a bishop to visit. In some cases this might take—has taken—years of waiting.
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RECEPTION OF NEW MEMBERS
with RENEWAL OF BAPTISMAL VOWS
Person(s) to be received stands.
The Celebrant says,
Dearly beloved, it is essential that [those who wish to be welcomed as members of this church,] publicly confess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior; become his disciples; know and affirm the Nicene Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments; and have received instruction in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and the Catechism of the Church.
Now, these Candidates desire publicly to confess their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and their commitment to follow him as Lord.
[Those not yet confirmed by a bishop] also desire the strengthening of grace through the laying on of hands, that the Holy Spirit may fill them more and more for their ministry in the Church and in the world, [and therefore publicly commit their readiness and intention to be confirmed at the next opportunity.]
Do you, here in the presence of God and the Church, renew the solemn promises and vows made at your Baptism and commit yourself to keep them?
Answer I do.
Question Do you renounce the devil and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
Answer I renounce them.
Question Do you renounce the empty promises and deadly deceits of this world that corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Answer I renounce them.
Question Do you renounce the sinful desires of the flesh that draw you from the love of God?
Answer I renounce them.
Question Do you turn to Jesus Christ and confess him as your Lord and Savior?
Answer I do.
Question Do you joyfully receive the Christian Faith, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments?
Answer I do.
Question Will you obediently keep God’s holy will and commandments, and walk in them all the days of your life?
Answer I will, the Lord being my helper.
The Celebrant continues
Let us now reaffirm our faith in the words of the ancient baptismal confession, the Apostles’ Creed.
Celebrant Do you believe and trust in God the Father?
People I do.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
Celebrant Do you believe and trust in Jesus Christ?
People I do.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Celebrant Do you believe and trust in the Holy Spirit?
People I do.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
If the candidate has not been confirmed, the Celebrant says,
[Since you are not yet confirmed,] you are to come to the Bishop to be confirmed [at the next opportunity,] that you may be further strengthened by the Holy Spirit to serve Christ and his kingdom.
If the unconfirmed candidate has not received the Oil of Chrism at Baptism, the Celebrant uses the Oil of Chrism to make the sign of the Cross upon the forehead of the new Member of the church, saying
N., receive the sign of the Cross as a token of your new life in Christ, in which you shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, to fight bravely under his banner against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and to continue as his faithful soldier and servant to the end of your days. Amen.
Let us pray.
Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
[Please welcome N. as a member of this church]
The liturgy continues with the Prayers of the People.
1662IE, p. 311; 1928 BCP p. 299: “And there shall none be admitted to the Holy Communion, until such time as he be confirmed, or be ready and desirous to be confirmed.”
1662 BCP is ”a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline, and, with the Books which preceded it, as the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship.” (ACNA Constitution Article 1) and “a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer” (Jerusalem Declaration)
“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. The age of the recipient was immaterial; it could be applied to infants immediately after baptism.” D.N. Keane
This liturgy as it relates to the implementing standards for membership in the local the church is consistent with Title 1, Canon 10, Section 3 of the Anglican Church in North America: “Dioceses and congregations may establish the norm and standards for membership in good standing.”
It is also consistent with Title 1, Canon 10 of the Canons of the Convocation of the West, and Title 1, Canon 5, Section 1 of the Missionary Diocese of All Saints.
Adapted from BCP 2019 Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows, Baptism, and Confirmation, and in conformity to the teaching affirmed in the 2019 BCP. Brackets enclose non-rubrical portions newly written.