By Robin G. Jordan
In this article I take a look at the form for Reception into Communicant Membership authorized for use in the Diocese of Sydney of the Anglican Church of Australia as well as the Service for Confirmation that the Archbishop of Sydney’s Liturgical Panel put together as a part of its further development and expansion of Sunday Services (2001). They come from Common Prayer: Resources for Gospel-Shaped Gatherings (2012).
Under the provisions of the constitution of the Anglican Church of Australia dioceses may develop alternative forms of worship for their own use provided that such forms do not contravene any principle of doctrine or worship laid down in the Thirty-Nine Articles and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, which the ACA constitution establishes as “the authorised standard of worship and doctrine” in the Anglican Church of Australia. The Diocese of Ballarat (Anglo-Catholic) and the Diocese of Sydney (evangelical) have taken advantage of these provisions to produce liturgies of its own. The Anglican Church in Australia has also authorized three service books for use in that body—The Book of Common Prayer (1662), An Australian Prayer Book (1978), and A Prayer Book for Australia (1995). The provisions of the ACA constitution and these three service books embody the Anglican Church of Australia’s approach to theological diversity and differences of churchmanship in the province.
I have reproduced below for educational purposes only A Service of Confirmation and Reception into Communicant Membership from Common Prayer: Resources for Gospel-Shaped Gatherings (2012)
A SERVICE FOR CONFIRMATION
The service takes place within a Service of the Word and Prayer or the Lord’s Supper.
1. The candidates are presented to the bishop.
2. The bishop says
Let us pray
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, by your Holy Spirit you have called these your servants and made them your children by adoption and grace; mercifully grant that, being strengthened by the same Spirit, they may continue your servants and receive your promises; through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
3. The bishop says to the candidates
Those who are to be confirmed are first invited to reaffirm the promises made at their baptism. You must therefore declare again your allegiance to Christ and your rejection of all that is evil: the devil and all his works, the empty display and false values of the world, and the sinful desires of the flesh.
The bishop may address each candidate individually
Therefore I ask you
Do you turn to Christ?
I turn to Christ.
Do you repent of your sins?
I repent of my sins.
Do you reject selfish living, and all that is false and unjust?
I reject them all.
Do you renounce Satan and all evil?
I renounce all that is evil.
The bishop says to the candidates as a group
Will you each, by God's grace, strive to live as a disciple of Christ, loving God with your whole heart, and your neighbour as yourself, until your life’s end?
I will, with God's help.
4. The bishop says to the congregation
You have heard these our brothers and sisters respond to God's call to love and serve him throughout their lives. Will you support them in this high calling?
We will do so.
5. The bishop says to the candidates
You who are to be confirmed must now yourselves affirm before God and his church the Christian faith into which you were baptised.
Do you believe in God the Father?
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
Do you believe in God the Son?
I believe in Jesus Christ,
God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father;
from there he will come to judge
the living and the dead.
Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
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.
The bishop says to the congregation
This is the faith of the Church.
The congregation responds
This is our faith: We believe in one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
6. The bishop says
We come now to confirm those who have been baptised and instructed in the Christian faith, laying hands on them and praying that God’s indwelling Spirit will strengthen and guide them throughout their lives.
Let us pray that God who has begun a good work in these our brothers and sisters will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ. .
Almighty and everliving God, you have been pleased to grant to your servants new birth by water and the Holy Spirit and have given them forgiveness of their sins; strengthen them, we pray, with the Holy Spirit; grant that they may grow in grace; and give them the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of discernment and inner strength, the spirit of knowledge and true godliness, and fill them, Father, with wonder and awe in your presence, now and for ever. Amen.
7. The bishop lays his hand on each of the candidates individually.
Defend, O Lord, this your servant N with your heavenly grace, that he/she may continue yours for ever, and daily increase in your Holy Spirit more and more until he/she comes to your everlasting kingdom. Amen.
Strengthen Lord your servant N with your Holy Spirit. Empower and sustain him/her for your service. Amen
8. The bishop prays.
Let us pray.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and forever. Amen.
Almighty and everliving God, we pray for these your servants upon whom we have now laid our hands, following the apostles’ example, to assure them of your love for them. May your fatherly hand ever protect them. Let your Holy Spirit ever be with them to uphold them in the love of Christ and to lead them in obedience to your word. Strengthen them with your heavenly grace and keep them in eternal life; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
9. Other prayers follow
10. The bishop concludes the service with these words
Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage; hold fast that which is good; render to no one evil for evil; strengthen the fainthearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; give honour to all; love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen
The Archbishop of Sydney’s Liturgical Panel adopted the order of A Service for Confirmation, Second Form from An Australian Prayer Book (1978) and made a number of alterations, additions, and omissions. The panel incorporated material from the confirmation rite in A Prayer Book for Australia (1995) as well as composed original material for the service. The latter consists of explanatory introductions to the Commitment and the Profession of Faith and the explanatory introduction to the Confirmation with its concluding invitation to prayer. While the panel omitted some elements found in the 1662 Order of Confirmation, they did not diverge from the theology of confirmation embodied in the Anglican formularies—the two Books of Homilies and the Articles of Religion as well as the Book of Common Prayer. For example, they omitted the versicles and responses before the prayer for the confirmands immediately preceding the laying on of hands. The explanatory introduction to the Confirmation with its concluding invitation to prayer, however, recognizes the confirmands’ ongoing need for God’s help to make their election and calling sure and identifies as the prayers of the gathered church the prayers that follow it. The catechetical nature of the rite is quite evident. There is nothing to suggest that through the laying on of hands the bishop imparts sacramental grace to the confirmands.
RECEPTION INTO THE ANGLICAN CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA
The Reception Canon 1981 of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia provides a form that may be used ‘when a person who has been baptised and who is or was a communicant member of another Church which holds the apostolic faith but which is not in full communion with this Church desires to become a communicant member of this Church’. The Synod of the Diocese of Sydney adopted this canon in 1985.
RECEPTION INTO COMMUNICANT MEMBERSHIP
1. The candidate is presented by the minister or a lay sponsor
N has already been baptised and has formerly been a communicant member of the . . . Church. He/She now asks to be received into communicant membership of the Anglican Church of Australia and seek our prayers in the fellowship of this parish.
2. The bishop says to the candidate
Do you stand by the Christian confession and commitment made at your baptism?
Do you desire to be admitted into communicant membership of the Anglican Church of Australia and accept its doctrine and order?
3. The bishop welcomes each person in these words, taking him/her by the hand.
We recognise you as a baptised and communicant member of the Christian Church.
The congregation responds
We receive and welcome you into the fellowship of the Anglican Church.
4. The bishop says –
The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Let us pray.
God of wisdom and love, source of all good, by your Holy Spirit strengthen your servants and guide them in your way of peace and love. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
5. The candidates, kneel and the bishop lays his hands on the candidate’s head, saying —
N, may the Holy Spirit direct and uphold you in the service of Christ and his kingdom in the fellowship of his Church. God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit bless, preserve and keep you. Amen.
The explanatory introduction to this form in its reference to the Synod of the Diocese of Sydney’s adoption of the Reception Canon of 1981 points to provision of the ACA constitution, which is, as far as I have been able to determine, unique to the Anglican Church of Australia. This is not to say that a similar provision does not exist in the constitution of another Anglican province. I have not yet run across such a provision in my comparative study of the constitutions and canons of the provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion.
Chapter V, Section 30 (a) of the ACA constitution states:
Any canon affecting the ritual, ceremonial or discipline of this Church shall be deemed to affect the order and good government of the Church within a diocese, and shall not come into force in any diocese unless and until the diocese by ordinance adopts the said canon.
This provision is an integral part of the Anglican Church of Australia’s approach to theological diversity and differences of churchmanship in the province. It reflects the particular history of the Anglican Church of Australia which is confederation of dioceses that were established at different times in the history of Australia and had their own separate relationship with the Church of England. The entire range of contemporary schools of Anglican thought is represented in the province.
In a number of ways the history of the Anglican Church in North America is similar to that of the Anglican Church of Australia. Its founding entities were organized at different times and had relationships with different provinces of the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Church in North America includes conservative evangelicals as well as Anglo-Catholics and charismatics. The Anglican Church in North America would have done well to have adopted the Anglican Church of Australia’s approach to theological diversity and differences of churchmanship.
The Anglican Church of Australia was one of a number of models that were available to the Common Cause Partnership when it established the Anglican Church in North America. However, the CCP leadership formed an ecclesial body that did not comprehend the theological diversity and differences of churchmanship represented in that body, showing that it had no commitment to a policy of comprehension.
The same element that occupied the place of power in the Common Cause Partnership now occupies that position in the Anglican Church in North America. Rather than responding to GAFCON’s call to restore the Bible and the historic formularies to their rightful place in the Anglican Church, this element has been working to entrench in the Anglican Church in North America an ideology that has been identified along with liberalism as having toppled the Bible and the historic formularies from that place in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
What is notable about the form for Reception into Communicant Membership is that the bishop extends to the person being received the right hand of fellowship while recognizing that person as a baptized and communicant member of the Christian Church. The congregation then receives and welcomes that person into the Anglican Church. The person kneels. After saying a brief prayer for the person, the bishop lays his hand on the person’s forehead and invokes God’s blessing on him or her.