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What would be the consequences for a teenage child of committed Australian Anglican parents who chose to refuse confirmation?

The confirmation may be refused either before the ceremony, i.e. refusing to attend, or during the ceremony.

I'm interested in what church doctrine would say as to how to deal with such a person.

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    It might be better to ask what the official doctrine would be rather than how certain people might react.
    – Narnian
    Sep 25, 2014 at 17:03
  • I agree with Narnian; do consider editing the question to phrase it in terms of the doctrine of the Australian Anglican Church. That sort of question is really the only kind we can answer here. Sep 25, 2014 at 17:33
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    Are you asking this because it reflects your personal situation? Sep 25, 2014 at 18:31
  • Let us know how it goes.
    – ShemSeger
    Sep 25, 2014 at 19:43
  • @DJClayworth, No, this is not a personal situation, I'm doing story research, and being an atheist and not personally knowing anyone who could answer the question...
    – Monty Wild
    Sep 25, 2014 at 23:35

2 Answers 2

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Most(?) Anglican churches probably run confirmation classes. If anyone had solid reasons to not want to be confirmed those reasons would arise during the classes, so if they changed their mind right before the confirmation itself then that would be an impulsive decision, so I don't think there's much point looking for any regularities about that.

What about if you express your desire to not be confirmed earlier? Well Anglicanism is very diverse. Some churches will make a big deal out of confirmation, others less of one. Some churches will think of it as a rite that everyone goes through, others will not. Some will pressure the youth into doing it, others will wait for their youth to ask to be confirmed.

As someone who attends an evangelical Anglican church, I think it would actually be a good sign that someone did not want to be confirmed: it is very unhealthy for churches to confirm people who really have no true faith and confidence in God. To say "I shouldn't do this" is a good thing to say. Whether they are having doubts or are a firm atheist, it is much better to not be confirmed than to confirm people who aren't true Christians.

If someone is willing to talk through these issues with the leaders of their church there is unlikely to be any long term consequences. Many dioceses however will not let you do certain things in church services without being confirmed, but if you don't want to be confirmed it's unlikely your church leaders will want you to service lead etc anyway.

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  • Thanks, this is useful. However, what sorts of things would a diocese not allow an unconfirmed person to do in a church service? Lead a service? Play the organ? Hand out pamphlets? Also, what does Anglican doctrine say about the state of the soul of a person who refused confirmation?
    – Monty Wild
    Sep 26, 2014 at 0:42
  • Depends on the church and diocese. And what do you mean by 'Anglican doctrine'? But I don't think it would say anything about the soul of such a person.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 26, 2014 at 0:53
  • So, it would likely be up to the vicar and/or bishop? What I was asking is if Anglicans would believe that the soul of a person who had rejected confirmation was bound for hell?
    – Monty Wild
    Sep 26, 2014 at 1:26
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    Confirmation is just a public declaration that someone is claiming to be a Christian, which is only needed because they can't use baptism for that purpose because they baptise infants. It doesn't determine anything itself.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 26, 2014 at 1:39
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Doctrine

An important source of Anglican Doctrine is the 39 Articles of the Church of England. Article 25, 'Of the Sacraments', states:

Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will towards us, by the which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm our Faith in him.

There are two Sacraments ordained of Christ our Lord in the Gospel, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord.

Those five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures; but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.

So we see that Baptism is considered a Sacrament, that is an 'effectual sign of grace' and a just and basic requirement of church membership. Confirmation is seen as a secondary practice which is not sacramental.

The Anglican liturgy of confirmation is supplementary to baptism and focuses on the infilling of the Holy Spirit for the believer:

Almighty and ever-living God, you have given these your servants new birth in baptism by water and the Spirit, and have forgiven them all their sins. Let your Holy Spirit rest upon them: the Spirit of wisdom and understanding; the Spirit of counsel and inward strength; the Spirit of knowledge and true godliness; and let their delight be in the fear of the Lord. [...] Confirm, O Lord, your servant with your Holy Spirit.

So What?

Therefore a refusal to be confirmed would be seen as a pastoral and discipleship issue by the church leadership, rather than a potential invalidation of someone's baptism or a cause for direct church discipline. Churches regularly confirm new candidates and so there would be more opportunities in the future for this unwilling candidate to be confirmed.

Other Consequences

Refusal to be confirmed would be considered irregular, and could impact on the contribution the individual is able to make in the life of the church. The most obvious effect is that confirmation generally precedes admission to Holy Communion. There is an official requirement for candidates for ordination to be confirmed (Ordinance 34 of The Canons of 1603). Any lay roles in leadership or ceremonial aspects of church life would probably regard confirmation as a prerequisite for service.

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