Lutheran Confirmation

Lutheran Confirmation
The Lutheran Church considers only Baptism, Communion and in some churches, Confession, to be regarded as sacraments.  Lutheran Confirmation, then, is considered to be a spiritual 'rite'.
In the early church Confirmation was part of the rite of Baptism.  Adult confirmands would participate in an extensive period of studies (typically, three years) and at the Easter Vigil would be baptized.  They would be confirmed by a means of chrism, prayers, the sign of the cross and laying on of hands.  On Easter morning they would be given their first communion.    In the early period Baptisms were done by the bishop.  Entire families would take part in the catechesis so it was common for infants to make their first communion along with their parents.
Through the growth of the church bishops began to delegate the rite of baptism to parish priests.  In the Eastern churches priests were also permitted to confirm but in the West only the bishop was allowed to confirm.
Through confirmation history confirmation became looked upon as a compliment to baptism.  In baptism sins were forgiven and in confirmation the Holy Spirit was given.
The Lutheran Church was founded in 1520 A.D. by Martin Luther who did not consider confirmation all that important.  He thought the Roman Rite of Confirmation lacked the command and promise of the Lord as it had no Scriptural basis.  He did not agree that confirmation completed baptism.  None-the-less, he did believe there was a place for confirmation in the Lutheran Church "“sufficient to regard confirmation as a certain churchly rite or sacramental ceremony, similar to other ceremonies, such as the blessing of water and the like.” (Luther’s Works, vol. 36, p. 92)
Through the numerous types of confirmation and communion study the evolved during the Reformation period, many Lutherans struggled to retain as much as possible of the Roman Rite as well as emphasize the catechetical focus and blessing given in Baptism and Communion.
By the time immigrants began to come to the United States a jumble of beliefs and practices had developed among those trying to remain faithful to the Lutheran faith.  Among them was the practice of 'Pietism' (the practice of heartfelt piety, separation from the unconverted and unity of like-minded individuals).  Under Jacob Phillip Spencer (1635-1705) confirmation in the Lutheran Church returned to the forefront but with a different purpose.  Lutheran Confirmation became a tool to emphasize the individual's faith, to renew the baptismal covenant and to demonstrate the confirmand was truly converted.  As a result children were asked to renew their baptismal covenant.  Individual confession and personal vows became more common.
Another movement which evolved about this time was 'rationalism' which attempted to make everything in Christianity conform to reason and natural revelation.  Rationalism de-emphasized the supernatural miracles.  Rationalism attempted to separate the connection with the church at baptism and the local fellowship of confirmation.  The catechumen would be given a bible verse as a means to identify and help them grow in their faith.  Baptism became a family event while confirmation was looked upon as a civic duty.
Today children receive Holy Communion when the pastor, parents and child agree the child is prepared.  The Rite of Confirmation is placed upon those children who can recite the Small Catechism of Dr. Martin Luther with Explanation, who are examined and able to answer questions as well as confess their faith.  In some areas parents are offered the option of offering first communion to their children before the children are confirmed.


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