Comments: opinion

I hope Bishop John Flack doesn't mind my quoting him here, but when I was getting ready to be ordained he told me that when he was a small boy he had asked his priest for Holy Communion and the priest had replied, No, you don't know what it means. "Right he was too", John continued, "and I still don't."
I think the Eastern Church has got it right in this instance; our baptism should be all we need to receive HC. And then again, maybe not, for at one Church where I served, a young man who was raised a Muslim was preparing for baptism, confirmation and Christian marriage, and we certainly never turned him away from that table where we are not the hosts in any case; Amen.

Posted by Sara MacVane at Saturday, 20 June 2015 at 1:43pm BST

What the author of the CT article appears to forget is that Readers may take funerals in most dioceses. However, some clergy are reluctant to share this ministry- a newly arrived incumbent in my diocese told his reader at their first meeting 'you will never take a funeral as long as I am the incumbent.' Nothing like collaborative ministry - and that was certainly nothing like it.

Posted by Charles Read at Saturday, 20 June 2015 at 7:18pm BST

On the one hand, I can see the attraction of offering Holy Communion to everyone in its reflection of God's boundless love. On the other hand, I go back to Dietrich Bonhoeffer's words in The Cost of Discipleship: 'Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross... Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.' I wonder whether very young children are old enough to make an informed choice.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Saturday, 20 June 2015 at 8:46pm BST

I agree (mostly) with Savi's comment. I was baptised when only a few days old as I was born prematurely, in a small country town, in the early 1950's and so was not expected to live. I'm grateful my parents chose to do this. Parents who want to baptise children shouldn't be turned away but perhaps a more rigorous approach has long-term benefits.

Posted by Pam at Saturday, 20 June 2015 at 11:24pm BST

To me, baptism is passing through the Red Sea (in other words, the entire community of a faith, including babes in arms. It marks the priority of the saving act of Jesus on the Cross (what He does for us, not what we do for Him).

Confirmation (the mark of growing into our salvation) is the crossing of the Jordan, into the inheritance.

Not everyone who left Egypt actually entered the land, but the entire community was shepherded by God on the journey there.

To me, infant baptism is symbolic of this priority of God's action of salvation. As to who should receive communion: maybe let God be the judge, and leave each person to come to the altar/table with their own conscience.

Who else can judge the human heart, really?

Posted by Susannah Clark at Sunday, 21 June 2015 at 10:20am BST

I was also baptised as a child, Pam. I think the journey of faith can start as a child, especially if one is part of a community that following Christ can be costly.

But the version of Christianity that the article seems to convey is one where nothing is asked of disciples that a small child cannot sign up to; there is no acknowledgement for instance that 'Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.' Instead it is no more painful and risky than having a birthday party or playing with paint.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Sunday, 21 June 2015 at 1:40pm BST

Susannah, with regard to your suggestion to 'leave each person to come to the altar/table with their own conscience', I am not sure that would work well with young children. I think when I was five, say, if there had been an expectation from the adults around me that I would take communion, I would have done so. But, though I knew a fair bit about Christianity by then, I do not believe I would have been able to give informed consent, so to speak.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Sunday, 21 June 2015 at 4:23pm BST

I doubt whether or not confirmation really gives anyone (lay or ordained) some Aquinas like insight into the nature of the Eucharist. Also, and I'm not being cynical, there are all sorts of Eucharistic theologies in Anglicanism, depending on one's level of churchmanship, etc. At its most extreme, your priest who celebrates at the shrine of Walsingham is going to have a radically different take than your average Sydney Anglican presbyter.

Finally, I wonder what the historical background of the differences between ECUSA and the CofE are with regards to this. Is the CofE's perspective of being more deferential to the bishop something inherited from Oxford Movement/Tractarian times, or something that the CofE has kept undiluted since the 16th century?

Posted by Amanda Clark at Sunday, 21 June 2015 at 4:46pm BST

Savi,re: cheap grace. You need not think of communing a child as cheapening God's grace. It was God who paid a very high price; it's not our doing. Our appreciation of what God did for us (through our confession)does not add to the value of that grace, nor would our failure to fully appreciate the cost diminish it's value. If what Bonhoeffer really wanted is for us to take our relationship with God seriously, then parents who still bring their children to church when the culture around them says it's a waste of time are serious indeed. As far as I'm concerned that is enough.

Posted by Tom Downs at Sunday, 21 June 2015 at 5:14pm BST

We don't expect small children to be able to give informed consent to eating the food we set before them at mealtimes, to understand the precise calorie and vitamin content of the bowl of cornflakes etc. We feed them because they are hungry and we know that the food (and the sharing of it) will be good for them.
I don't see communion as a statement of faith, but as nourishment for growing Christians, who find in it a sign of God's love and acceptance.
In the early days of admitting children to communion in the C of E I led various Deanery discussions on the subject, and often started by asking those present what the eucharist meant to them. They often said things like "Closeness to God", "strength for the week ahead", "sharing with others" "an awareness of God's presence in all creation" etc. I would then ask, "which of these things do you think children don't also need? I never found anyone who could then argue that children should be denied communion.
No one understands communion, but all need it. In John's Gospel the model for communion is the feeding of the 5000, at which the only "qualification" for receiving was that you were hungry, and this seems to me to be a healthy place to start.

Posted by Anne at Sunday, 21 June 2015 at 8:46pm BST

Well said, Tom. I read Bonhoeffer's book many years ago and it made a great impression on me. But we need to also remember the context in which it was written in the same way as understanding the times of persecution the church was going through affected Mark's gospel. I don't think we can apply this to children receiving communion. Jesus had table fellowship with all sorts that were considered undesirable. Is anybody in a better position so as to be a judge of who is worthy to come to our Lord's table or not, and what their motives may be? Are children expected not to eat at the family meal? One of the great joys of my parish ministry was giving communion to children at the altar rail. They showed just as much reverence and seriousness as any adult, and more than some.

Posted by Roger Antell at Sunday, 21 June 2015 at 9:29pm BST

As Margaret Pritchard Houston's article noted, admitting baptized children to communion is widespread in TEC. This resulted from the serious reflection of the meaning of baptism connected with the 1979 BCP -- baptism makes one fully Christian while confirmation is an adult reaffirmation of that fact; confirmation does not make one a super-Christian.

Giving communion to baptized children is not the same as giving communion to "everyone," something with entirely different considerations. These children are being raised in Christian homes by Christian parents.

I love giving communion to children. In my experience, they have not only a trust that we're not giving them scorpions and snakes, but a recognition that something profoundly holy and Godly is going on. This is something deeply instinctive, something children often have that gets lost when we adults want to intellectually analyze things so much. The trust (which is included in the meaning of the Greek word for faith) in their lifting up of hands and eyes is quite moving -- and quite real.

In addition, I think it never hurts to remember the words of Jesus, "Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs."

Posted by dr.primrose at Monday, 22 June 2015 at 1:18am BST

I think it was Colin Gunton who, defending the paedobaptist position, remarked that the Kingdom of God would be a very strange place if it didn't include among its number babies and small children. Likewise I think that it is a very strange church that doesn't envisage a place for children at the eschatological banquet. Accepting the Eucharist is not a reward for meeting a certain standard of maturity or theological education, but is rather about letting your life be shaped by the experience of the sacrament. And nobody is ever too young for that. "Informed consent" (and what a very modern preoccupation that is!) doesn't have much to do with the God who commands us to let the children come to him.

Posted by rjb at Monday, 22 June 2015 at 2:07am BST

Giles Fraser The Guardian "Pope Francis is a bit like Naomi Klein in a cassock"

Well, the title is certainly click-bait, but can anyone quickly summarize what Fraser means? [He just repeats the line in the essay, w/o any other explanation. I get that Klein is an author and social critic, but more than that, Fraser seems to assume we know.]

Posted by JCF at Monday, 22 June 2015 at 5:38am BST

The discussion about children and communion is going down the predictable, Protestant route of worthy reception to, somehow, validate an understanding of the meaning of the sacrament. It is a very utilitarian view. It suggests a lack of confidence in the divine initiative (as if we have to 'protect' God from all these children who are deemed not to understand). It's about time we regained some confidence and put our sacramental theology into action - i.e. if someone is baptized, they are baptized and admitted to the full sacramental life of the Church.

My cousins in Spain, who received their first communion aged 7, have never been confirmed. Yet they regularly attend Mass (now in their 30s) and receive communion. It's a wonderful example of implicit theology at work. It is as if their baptism is enough. If only we muddled Anglicans had such confidence!

Posted by Will Richards at Monday, 22 June 2015 at 7:33am BST

While there are indeed among Anglicans a variety of Eucharistic theologies within Anglicanism, if we pay attention to the authorized formularies of our Church they do set certain parameters.It shouldn't be simply what I make it! As a Church we have engaged with many different Churches...RC, Lutheran, Reformed,Orthodox and signed up to ecumenical agreements.Was this in vain?
As someone who has been involved in ministerial education and latterly post ordination training I am depressed by how little ordinands seem to know about Reformation disagreements and Ecumenical convergence.

Posted by Perry Butler at Monday, 22 June 2015 at 8:22am BST

I recognise that there are varying views about whether all the baptised should participate in Holy Communion or indeed whether even baptism is required. But the reasons why offering the bread and wine to infants has not been the general practice in the Western churches should be taken seriously - not because children are any less worthy of God's love but because sharing in the life of the crucified and risen Christ, being his hands and feet in the world today, involves risk and pain as well as joy. While we may share ice-cream with young children, we might not necessarily offer them whisky and, while we might go on a trip to a museum or funfair with them, we might not invite them to join us in volunteering in a war-zone!

Above all the possibility should be considered that, at some stage in the Christian life, young people might be taught about the invitation to love Christ more than our earthly father and mother, take up the cross and be willing to lose our life for his sake (Matthew 10), to lead the countercultural life described in the Sermon on the Mount and be granted the privilege of not only believing in Christ but suffering for him as well (Philippians 1).

While it might be thought that the persecution of the church in the gospel-writers' and Bonhoeffer's time is irrelevant to present-day members of the Church of England, rather a lot of us originate from countries where Christians risk imprisonment or death either for their religion or because they stand with the poorest and most oppressed, or have parents or grandparents from those parts of the world. In the Eucharist, participants experience a flesh-and-blood link to those celebrating in very different circumstances. And the comparative outward peacefulness in England perhaps obscures the challenge of living in a country where mistreatment of the poor, refugees and most vulnerable may yet tear society apart. Christian formation should prepare us for the exhilaration and pain of being joined with, and serving, One present in the least of our brothers and sisters (Matthew 25) and seeking to bring about God's realm of justice and peace on earth.

Posted by Savi Hensman at Monday, 22 June 2015 at 12:45pm BST

"if we pay attention to the authorized formularies"

If you're referring to the 39 Articles (relegated to the back of the 1970 BCP in teh historical document section), they aren't binding for Americans, and lots of Catholic CofE clergy tend to ignore them.

Posted by Amanda Clark at Monday, 22 June 2015 at 12:59pm BST

"I hope Bishop John Flack doesn't mind my quoting him here, but when I was getting ready to be ordained he told me that when he was a small boy he had asked his priest for Holy Communion and the priest had replied, No, you don't know what it means. "Right he was too", John continued, "and I still don't."

A bishop who doesn't understand his own eucharistic theology sounds like a Catholic/Orthodox paraody of an Anglican.

Posted by Amanda Clark at Monday, 22 June 2015 at 1:00pm BST

I don't think there's any issue with John Flack's understanding of Eucharistic theology. Just last Sunday (8 days ago) he presided at a celebration of the Eucharist at which I was MC, so I have first-hand experience of seeing him in action. Pretty good sermon on the Eucharist too. The comment above was surely about what we can actually *know* about a mystery.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Monday, 22 June 2015 at 1:40pm BST

I'm pretty sure St Thomas Aquinas felt the same as Bishop Flack.

"Dogma datur Christianis,
quod in carnem transit panis,
et vinum in sanguinem.
Quod non capis, quod non vides,
animosa firmat fides,
praeter rerum ordinem."

("This the truth to Christians given:
Bread becomes His Flesh from Heaven,
Wine becomes His holy Blood.
Doth it pass thy comprehending?
Yet by faith, thy sight transcending,
Wondrous things are understood.")

Posted by Robin at Monday, 22 June 2015 at 2:29pm BST

In the Cof E Amanda the 39 Articles are part of a package that includes the BCP and the Ordinal.I also mentioned ecumenical convergence to which I would want to add significant liturgical convergence. I was simply making the point that we have a body of Anglican Eucharistic theology...a useful primer would be the book by Archbishop McAdoo and Bishop Kenneth Stevenson whose title currently escapes me. Sadly all this is somewhat Terra incognita to many Cof E ordinands and clergy. Things may be different in TEC.

Posted by Perry Butler at Monday, 22 June 2015 at 7:17pm BST

Very movingly expressed and very challenging Savi. Thank you.

Posted by David Runcorn at Monday, 22 June 2015 at 7:17pm BST

Talk of "cheap grace" has always reminded me of the very human interest in categorizing people into groups, of the very human fear that some people might be getting a better deal in life than we are, and of the very human desire to be among the elect.

The basic fact of life is that there is no such thing as "cheap grace," that the very gift of life costs every one of us absolutely everything.

I can see why Bonhoeffer sought rhetorical tools to challenge those willing to acquiesce to the spread of madness. Also, why early Christians facing ostracism or martyrdom would remember Jesus as saying things that seemed to privilege some people over others.

But it does seem to me that grace is chiefly for those who are weary and are heavy laden, not just for the spiritual athletes among us.

Posted by jnwall at Monday, 22 June 2015 at 8:19pm BST

To Amanda: Bishop John didn't say that he didn't understand the theology of the Eucharist (he taught me a lot about that),what he meant (I believe) was that all sacraments, and perhaps most of all the Eucharist, are never totally comprhensible to our intellectual understanding, because they partake of the salvific mystery of God. That's my understanding of his story in any case. +JF very welcome to intervene and correct me of course. I love the story and often tell it,sorry Amanda doesn' go for it, but then I know the teller and worked with him in Rome.

Posted by Sara MacVane at Monday, 22 June 2015 at 8:44pm BST

A lot of quoting Bonhoeffer here (or rather referencing the one big idea he is now remembered for). When, exactly, did Bonhoeffer become one of the normative sources of our beliefs and actions?

Closer to home, and perhaps more valuable to us, is (fellow Anglican) John Wesley's idea of communion as a "converting ordinance." (The result of which is the open table practiced in many Methodist churches today.)

Wesley held a rather high theology of the sacrament for his day, which was probably why he was so willing and open to sharing it.

Posted by Dennis Roberts at Monday, 22 June 2015 at 11:55pm BST

I appreciate this courteous, thought-provoking discussion of a subject that has been very much talked and written about throughout my 55 ministerial years. It is, of course, related to much weightier issues and to the great challenges increasingly facing our Church in this last decade. I have given Communion to people of all sorts and conditions, from an old Mormon lady in a hostel to the unconfirmed members of my family on a special occasion, but I am inclined to think the pattern of the 1662 BCP is still the best in practical terms – that is Baptism (which in the case of infants the BCP relates to our Lord blessing the children) followed at some stage by Confirmation, and then Communion for the confirmed (and those ready for and desiring Confirmation if a bishop is not available) – yes, and Confirmation with memorable adornments (white shirts, and white dresses and veils, etc). In my last post, as a Rector for 22 years in a lower middle class/working class parish, we followed this pattern although needless to say by itself it is certainly not enough.

As a child I attended Sunday School and Morning Prayer (on some Sundays shortened Morning Prayer and Ante Communion), leaving before the sermon and the Sacrament. I attended (and received) Communion for the first time only after Confirmation. Among other things I gained a lifelong love of Morning Prayer. Matins is still simply sung at the historic St John's, Canberra on two or three Sundays a month and I go down - 170 miles by train - to attend whenever possible.

Things have of course vastly changed in many places where Communion has become the only Sunday service (especially in the US, but in much of Australia - except in my Sydney Diocese where often little Anglican liturgy remains - and to some extent in the UK), this development itself helping to create the problem. It has brought benefits but it has also un-churched many who have identified as C.of E. or Anglican (or Episcopalian?). By far, the majority of such people here in Australia are not confirmed and not church attenders and are never likely to come to the Holy Communion. Yet in the hospital where I have met perhaps 14,000 of them over the last 17 years as an honorary chaplain (and about 3000 other Protestant patients) , they still identify with their Church and almost always welcome its representatives.

I have argued the case for the restoration of Matins in one form or another, not least for some such people, in a little book, Morning Prayer Matters, but now in a much shorter, 9 page article developed from that, “Morning Prayer Matters Waking Up” which I should happily send as a Word attachment to anyone interested. Its thesis is generally in line with much that has been written about the situation of our Church today by some of all "traditions" who question aspects of the Liturgical Movement's paradigms and presuppositions. My email address is bunyanj@tpg.com.au

Posted by John Bunyan at Tuesday, 23 June 2015 at 12:30am BST

Amanda: "I wonder what the historical background of the differences between ECUSA and the CofE are with regards to this ... "

Before the Revolution, American Anglicans were Episcopalians-without-Bishops. They were theoretically under the oversight of the Bishop of London, but in practice this was a hands-off episcope to say the least. They therefore became accustomed to being governed by powerful lay "vestries" (what we Canadians would call a parish council: for us "vestry" is the annual general meeting of a parish).

This de facto Congregational mindset has its hangovers in parts of the U.S., such as Virginia, and in parts of Canada largely settled by American refugees from the Revolution, such as Nova Scotia. Indeed, Church of England parishes in colonial Virginia were so cut off from the "mother church" that they remained loyal to Prayer Book doctrine and discipline even during the Commonwealth and Protectorate!

Posted by Geoff McLarney at Tuesday, 23 June 2015 at 2:09am BST

If one believes that the sacraments are formative, then providing them for children would be pretty important.

I think it's possible that in receiving the sacraments, and exploring their meaning, over time children will grow to learn about concepts like "cheap grace," and make their choices accordingly.

The dangerous places I've been in have also been terribly impoverished. The sacraments, and the community around them, are nourishing and sustaining in my experience. In the Haiti earthquake, there were many acts of compassion and heroism. All of the people I know (because I teach at a faith-based, Episcopal, school) felt that they acted out of their faith. In one instance, about 5 guys tried to lift a wall that was trapping a fellow student, they failed and left out of safety concerns to weigh their options and possibly get more help. It became clear that there was never going to be help. One young man prayed, walked alone back into the dangerous building, and lifted the wall that he and 4 others couldn't lift moments before. He saved that fellow student. This was faith based, by a student participating in church and the sacraments. Could it have happened without the sacraments and faith? Who knows. I only know what did happen.

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 23 June 2015 at 3:15am BST

Margaret Houston links to the policy of the London Diocese on this topic and as a Southwark resident I was interested to read it.

1. Canon B15A, which allows Synod to make Regulations about who receives Communion, became law in 1972, and the Regulations themselves came into effect in 2006. [Reference: Taking the Long View by Colin Buchanan, chapter 5.] In both Regulations and the London policy, permission is given or refused by the Bishop or Area Bishop on a parish-by-parish basis, and there is no mention of age 7 or any other age.

2. The London policy begins with "Since ‘communion before confirmation’ is a departure from our inherited norm it requires special permission" - a somewhat negative tone. The Regulations have merely "permission", without "special".

3. Where a receiving child moves from one parish to another, the London policy is that "It should be made clear that admission to Holy Communion before confirmation is 'for this parish only'" (ie for the original parish only). However the Regulations themselves have (at para 10) "A child who presents evidence in the form stipulated in paragraph 9 that he or she has been admitted to Holy Communion under these Regulations shall be so admitted at any service of Holy Communion conducted according to the rites of the Church of England in any place, regardless of whether or not any permission under paragraph 4 is in force in that place".

Interesting.

Posted by Jamie Wood at Tuesday, 23 June 2015 at 8:37am BST

Geoff McLarney writes: 'They therefore became accustomed to being governed by powerful lay "vestries" (what we Canadians would call a parish council: for us "vestry" is the annual general meeting of a parish).'

No it isn't, Geoff. I know that is the case in the Diocese of Toronto, but I have worked in four dioceses in western Canada (Saskatchewan, the Arctic, Athabasca, and Edmonton), in all of which the 'vestry' is what you call the 'parish council', and the AGM is, well, the AGM. I believe I'm right in saying that the Diocese of Toronto is in the minority here in the Canadian church.

Posted by Tim Chesterton at Tuesday, 23 June 2015 at 11:41am BST

From the Canons of the Scottish Episcopal Church
CANON TWENTY-FIVE
OF ADMITTING TO HOLY COMMUNION

1. The Sacrament of Baptism is the full rite of initiation into the Church, and no further sacramental rite shall be required of any person seeking admission to Holy Communion. Subject to any Regulations issued by the College of Bishops concerning the preparation of candidates, the admission of any baptised person to Holy Communion shall be at the discretion of the cleric having charge of the congregation of which that person is a member, always providing that a person who has been admitted to Holy Communion in one congregation shall be accepted as a communicant in any other congregation of this Church.

2. The Scottish Episcopal Church recognizes as eligible to receive Holy Communion any baptised person who is a communicant of any Trinitarian Church.

3. Any person baptised and duly admitted as a communicant in another Trinitarian Church wishing to become a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church shall be accepted upon receipt of evidence of that baptism and admission in the said Church as a communicant-member of this Church

Posted by Kennedy at Tuesday, 23 June 2015 at 11:47am BST

@Geoff-I was thinking more along the lines of why does the CofE apparently have stricter rules about communion before confirmation than ECUSA, and possibly the history of such a practice in the CofE.

Posted by Amanda Clark at Tuesday, 23 June 2015 at 12:28pm BST

The book Perry Butler refers to is: _The Mystery of the Eucharist in the Anglican Tradition_, H R McAdoo and Kenneth Stevenson, Canterbury Press Norwich, 1995.

It's a long time since I read it (20 years ago probably) -- probably ought to re-read it.

Posted by Simon Kershaw at Tuesday, 23 June 2015 at 12:56pm BST

"Finally, I wonder what the historical background of the differences between ECUSA and the CofE are with regards to this [reception of the Eucharist by the baptized, regardless of confirmation]."

A couple of thoughts in addition to those that Geoff McLarney offered.

Another result of American Anglicans being Episcopalians-without-Bishops before the American Revolution was that no episcopal acts -- confirmation or ordination -- occurred in the American colonies. One had to go to England for them. The result of this situation was that virtually no Anglicans in the American colonies were confirmed. Which meant, as a practical matter, confirmation was not required to receive Communion. This was the situation for almost two centuries.

This apparently changed after bishops were ordained in the American Church. When I grew up in the pre-1979 Prayer Book days, confirmation was the norm for receiving communion.

As I noted before, the norm changed in connection with the adoption of the 1979 Prayer Book. Its theology is essentially based on the idea that baptism, not confirmation, makes one a full Christian and that all baptised people, as full Christians are eligible to receive Communion. This has come to include baptized children, who are recognized as full Christians.

Posted by dr.primrose at Wednesday, 24 June 2015 at 1:21am BST

@dr.primrose:
Fascinating. Don't most magisterial Protestants only recognize two sacraments, baptism and communion? With confirmation being in some sort of nebulous 2nd tier of not quite sacraments? It seems like you might as well recognize confirmation (regardless of if its actually called that, or who its administered by) as a bona fide 3rd sacrament, if you're going to make it a pre-requisite to receiving communion.

As an adult I've worshipped mostly in Byzantine Orthodox and Tridentine Catholic parishes, so I'm very slowly learning about the ins and outs of Protestanism! (Despite a very nominal Episcopal upbringing).

Posted by Amanda Clark at Wednesday, 24 June 2015 at 6:30pm BST

Amanda, in Anglicanism, the Anglo-Catholic wing recognizes the seven sacraments recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. Other Anglicans recognize only two - Baptism and Eucharist.

Officially (in its Catechism), TEC somewhat fudges the issue by first recognizing the "two great sacraments of the Gospel" or the "two great sacraments given by Christ to his Church" (Baptism and Eucharist) and then recognizing the other five - including confirmation - as "other sacramental rites [that] evolved in the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit." I suppose one could characterize these other five, as you have (not entirely inaccurately), as a "nebulous 2nd tier of not quite sacraments."

Posted by dr.primrose at Thursday, 25 June 2015 at 4:15am BST

It just seems a bit odd that if one of those other 5 wanna be sacraments is a prereq to receiving one of the two official, Bible based sacraments, then you're de facto acknowledging that confirmation is just as important as baptism and communion. And if you're a sola scriptura type of Protestant, making any sort of confirmation required before receiving communion means employing biblical exegesis (not tradition) in support of confirmation...yikes, I feel like I've just stumbled on the difference between the Radical and Magisterial Reformations!

Posted by Amanda Clark at Thursday, 25 June 2015 at 12:26pm BST

Confirmation before communion in England stems from an edict of Archbishop Pecham in the 13c.I'm not sure it was in force outside eEngland..indeed infant communion lingered on into the early part of the late middle ages( hence the Hussite demand for the restoration of infant communion as well as the better known demand for the restoration of the chalice) Cranmer confirmed the infant Elizabeth 1st at baptism. The BCP retained the medieval prayer for the 7 fold gift of the Spirit while linking confirmation as a reaffirmation of baptismal vows and learning the catechism in a Reformed way.The relation of confirmation to baptism was a hot potato in mid 20th c Anglican theology ( Mason/Dix and latterly Fisher) with evangelicals like Buchanan opposing this. In practical terms the problems stem from the Parish Communion movement. If communion is the main service what about children? Initially they came up for a blessing. But people began to ask does this make sense?

Posted by Perry Butler at Saturday, 27 June 2015 at 8:39pm BST
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