Why are infants being admitted to Holy Communion without Confirmation?
Now that is a question which I would like answered myself! let me try to enter into the mind of the Synod when it made that decision.
There are a great many people in the Church if England who believe that infant baptism carries precisely the same weight as adult baptism. Therefore they believe that anyone who has been baptised as a tiny baby has been fully initiated into the Universal Church. Therefore they are eligible for Holy Communion. In any case they would say, Confirmation does not appear very clearly in Holy Scripture and therefore we can dispense with it, if we wish in spite of Acts 8: 17. Also there is the more sentimental argument that children are part of the human family and therefore ought to be able to receive with their parents, however young they may be, provided that the parents think tat they have some understanding of what is going on.
However my view on this matter is rather different.
First of all it seems to me that in the New Testament initiation requires three elements: repentance, faith and baptism/ Without all three (leading to Holy Communion) the person is not initiated into the faith. The infant is not so initiated, but only baptised and this rite, important as it is, cannot include the other elements except by proxy in the case of a baby.
Therefore the Reformers re-constituted Confirmation to be a service for the re-affirmation of the baptismal vows and therefore the outward sign that the person has entered into sincere repentance and faith. For this reason, I believe that some such event as Confirmation is pastorally desirable.
Secondly there is the major problem raised by I Cor 11: 27-32 – the danger of eating and drinking to condemnation. it seems to me that before a person receives Holy Communion, they must be fully instructed and be made aware of the holiness of this food and the necessity for coming to the Lord’s Table with awe and repentance, as well as with joy and love.
John Pearce is Rector of Limehouse in the diocese of London.