Confirmation ( lat. Confirmatio "attachment", "affirmation", "confirmation") is a solemn act of blessing in most Protestant churches, in the New Apostolic Church , the Apostolic Community and in the Christian Community . The blessing marks the transition into church adulthood.
In contrast to confirmation (lat. Confirmatio ), except in the Christian community , it is not considered a sacrament , as the Roman Catholic Church , the Anglican and Old Catholic Church as well as all Orthodox and Oriental churches understand. The conceptual distinction between confirmation and confirmation, as it sounds through in German, does not exist in most other languages.
Because confirmation coincided with the end of school until the end of the school year was moved to summer and the extension of compulsory schooling for most elementary school students , it was also a civic initiation ritual that took place at the transition into adult life.
The number of confirmands has been stable at around 250,000 for about ten years. This corresponds to around 30 percent of a year and more than 90 percent of all Protestant youth in a given year.
Confirmation has four meanings in its historical development:
- the personal confirmation of baptism and with it the conscious yes to the Christian faith and to church membership.
- Completion of church lessons with a "teaching survey " or catechism examination
- Admission to the Lord's Supper
- Entry into (church) adult life
Under canon law, the confirmation is seen as a conversion to a responsible church member, whereby the specific rights in the various churches are different:
- In some churches, particularly in the Lutheran tradition, only confirmed people are allowed to partake of the Lord's Supper. In churches that practice open communion or the children's evening meal, this point is no longer relevant.
- In many churches, confirmed people regardless of age have the right to be godparents .
- In some Swiss churches, confirmation is linked to the right to vote and to active and passive voting rights in the parish, so in principle a 16-year-old confirmed church elder or synod can be.
- They also have the right to baptize an unbaptized person in an emergency ( emergency baptism ).
- In some German regional churches, 14-year-olds already have the right to vote for the presbytery or the church council. The active right to vote therefore coincides with the confirmation. Because of the limited legal capacity, the right to stand for election in most EKD member churches is tied to the age of majority.
Confirmation is carried out as part of a festive divine service, in which the confirmands are supposed to publicly affirm their faith . This ties in with her baptism as a child , when parents and godparents confessed their faith on their behalf . In some churches this is done by speaking the apostolic creed , in others no specific confession is required, but participation in the public celebration is considered a public affirmation of the faith.
The confirmands receive the blessing by the laying on of hands as well as a biblical confirmation saying that is to accompany them through their lives. After that (often the evening before today or at another suitable time) they often partake of the sacrament for the first time . Since the children's supper was introduced in some Protestant regional churches , this admission to the Lord's Supper has become less and less important. Your own “yes” to belief gains in weight.
Confirmation is usually associated with a family celebration and gifts. The gifts were traditionally oriented towards the transition into adult life. So the first wristwatch or trousseau was regularly given to the confirmand. In earlier centuries - for example in the Baroque era - the confirmands were often given a particularly elaborately designed Bible with a name and year stamp as a souvenir on the occasion of their special day. There are copies of confirmation Bibles from the middle of the 18th century, which have a handy format and a noble design with black leather binding and chiseled gilt edges on all three bookcut pages. If a confirmation Bible was given away in connection with the wish that the recipient could use it to read the Bible, the almost immaculate state of preservation of some baroque confirmation Bibles in historical libraries shows that they were used little or not at all (which, incidentally, often also applies to historical grape Bibles) . In addition, copies can also be found that prove that the confirmand used his Bible as a companion throughout his life, for example when there are strong signs of use and handwritten biographical entries. Confirmands traditionally wore festive black clothes.
In the German regional churches, confirmation usually takes place at the age of 14. The original reason was that most elementary school students finished their school days with the 8th grade on Easter and often left home. Even after the school term was extended and the end of the school year moved to summer, both the confirmation age and the time of year were retained. The age was retained because young people in Germany have been of religious age at the age of 14 since the Weimar Republic and can now decide and determine whether they belong to a religious community .
The previously widespread establishment of confirmation on Palm Sunday is adhered to in some regional churches. In other German regional churches different regulations apply today; the confirmations in the Rhineland and Westphalia should take place between Easter and Pentecost, i.e. at the earliest on Quasimodogeniti and at the latest on Exaudi . The celebration on Palm Sunday has its origin in the fact that the confirmation was seen in connection with the discharge from primary school and should take place before the beginning of the apprenticeship, which often begins on April 1st. As the Sunday after Easter in the old church, Quasimodogeniti is the Sunday on which the baptized persons on Easter vigil were allowed to take off their white baptismal robes and thus a day of baptism remembrance. The connection to the confirmation is therefore obvious. In Markgräflerland in Baden , confirmation is traditionally celebrated on Judika Sunday ; therefore it is often referred to as “Judika” in the regional Alemannic dialect.
In the Swiss national churches, confirmation takes place at the age of 15 or 16, which means that it coincides with the completion of compulsory schooling and thus also marks the transition to adulthood. With the nationwide introduction of the end of the school year in summer towards the end of the 20th century, the previously self-evident celebration of Confirmation on Palm Sunday has become obsolete, and it often takes place in early summer.
In the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church , confirmations can be celebrated all year round.
The preparation for confirmation takes between nine months and several years, depending on the church regulations. Since religious instruction mostly did not correspond to the ideas of the church during the National Socialist rule, a third year of instruction was introduced in many communities in the 1930s, and instruction began in the 6th grade. A distinction was made between pre-catechumens, catechumens and confirmands. In the two-year model, the young people are referred to as catechumens or preparers during the first year of teaching and as confirmants during the second year.
Traditionally, confirmation classes take place once a week and are given by a pastor. In the last few decades, other forms such as fortnightly lessons, course lessons or block lessons have been practiced in many regional churches. Instead of the traditional term “confirmation lesson”, the term “confirmation work” is now mostly used in reference to youth work. Joint free time or so-called "confi camps" are gaining in importance. In many places, lessons now begin in the 3rd or 4th grade, followed by a phase of youth work before confirmation takes place at the age of 14 after a further year of teaching. Volunteers, young employees and parents are increasingly involved in teaching.
Beliefs should be dealt with in confirmation class. The former common practice of memorizing catechism texts, Bible verses and spiritual songs as well as querying what has been learned has been in decline since the 1970s. Experiencing and understanding the Church in all its diversity, through classical lessons, visits or internships, as well as accompaniment during a phase of puberty, have come to the fore instead.
As a result, the introductory worship service was largely reshaped: The examination by asking questions about what had been learned was replaced by the joint development of a worship service, with which the young people show their understanding of a topic.
During this time, confirmands are required to regularly attend church services in their parish. However, there is generally little interest in attending church services among prospective confirmands in the area of the regional churches, so that most parishes have introduced a control system for many years or have set a minimum number of visitors as a prerequisite for admission to the confirmation ceremony.
Controversy between believer and infant baptism
The Protestant confirmation goes on in Strasbourg acting reformer Martin Bucer back and is first in the Hessian 1539 Ziegenhainer discipline regulations formulated. Martin Luther himself had refused confirmation because of its sacramental character and lack of scriptural reference. According to Luther, baptism did not need any further addition. Instead there should be an introduction to the catechism . The impetus for the development of evangelical confirmation ultimately came from the Reformation Anabaptist movement , which understood baptism as a personal profession of faith ( believer baptism ) and rejected infant baptism as unbiblical. Martin Bucer developed the model of confirmation as a compromise:
“Infant baptism was retained. The adolescents, however, were to be sent to a catechism class, which culminated in a symbolic act before the congregation. That way they could say a 'yes' to their baptism afterwards, so the thought. In this way, Bucer responded to the Anabaptists' concern without giving up infant baptism: Confirmation was born. "
Ziegenhainer church discipline as a compromise
The Ziegenhain church discipline lists six essential points of confirmation:
- Memory of baptism
- Examination of the most beautiful pieces of Christian doctrine
- Confession of the confirmands
- Laying on of hands
- Admission to the Lord's Supper
Personal confession or initiation ceremony?
It was not able to establish itself across the board until the 18th century, when Pietism in Germany increasingly emphasized the importance of personal confession. In the 19th century, free religious people , free thinkers and the labor movement felt the need to hold an initiation ceremony without a religious background. As an alternative to confirmation, the youth consecration was created , which, however, remained a marginal social phenomenon even in the years of the Weimar Republic . More than 95 percent of the young people still celebrated the feast of Confirmation or Confirmation .
Development in the new federal states
This changed only in the GDR , in which the Protestant confirmation was strongly opposed by the state since 1954 and the youth consecration was favored. Anyone who refused the state-required youth consecration had to expect disadvantages. Since around 1960, young people have been able to take part in the youth consecration and be confirmed a year later. During the further development, the importance of the confirmation ceremony in relation to the youth consecration decreased more and more. While the number of confirmations in the new federal states initially increased significantly after the end of the GDR and reunification , the youth consecration regained importance after a short time, not least because the two major Christian denominations only play a subordinate role and the majority the population is non-denominational . In the western federal states, in which youth consecration was only a shadowy existence until reunification, youth consecrations / celebrations experienced a revival through the immigration of East Germans.
Confirmation and other denominations
In the Catholic and Orthodox churches, confirmation or anointing of myron does not play the role of a ritual of passage. In the Orthodox churches, the seal with the holy myron (= chrism ) is donated immediately after the baptism, while Catholics baptized as children usually receive confirmation from a bishop between the ages of 12 and 16 years.
In the New Apostolic Church , a 14-year-old youth is confirmed after a year of confirmation class. In doing so, he should confirm the sacraments ( baptism , sealing ) he has experienced so far with a vow and in future bear personal responsibility for his life of faith.
Baptists , Mennonites and other baptismal churches do not have a confirmation, since the full membership of the congregation does not take place until the believer is baptized. However, these churches offer Bible lessons for 12-14 year olds for two to three years . At the end of this lesson there is a special closing service.
Some Protestant churches ( Methodists , Old Reformed ) do know the public confession of faith as a prerequisite for membership, but do not have a fixed age of confirmation. Young people or adults should only confirm their faith when they are inwardly able to do so. Usually in such churches a blessing service is celebrated at the end of the lesson , while the confirmation, according to its theological content, is only expressed later in the “membership”, only then does full and mature church membership begin. These churches usually avoid the word confirmation for both the blessing service and the confessional service. In the Evangelical Methodist Church in Germany (UMC), the term “church teaching” is used, the solemn conclusion of which, however, has so far only rarely been connected with the so-called “member admission”.
There is criticism that a large number of the confirmands take part in the confirmation ceremony mainly for family and financial reasons. Belief in God , Jesus Christ or the Bible only played a role in participation in the confirmation ceremony in a few cases, as studies in the sociology of religion have shown. A large number of the young people affected openly admit this when asked. However, only a few would have the courage to forego the celebration in the event of doubts in faith or total unbelief and to forego the not inconsiderable material advantages associated with it. Some are also forced by their parents and are reluctant to take part in the confirmation. This criticism led in evangelical and some free church circles to criticism of the confirmation practice of the evangelical regional churches. They see the formal blessing on the occasion of the confirmation ceremony as a de facto "blessing": For many confirmands, the celebration is the last contact with their parish for the time being.
Already Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808–1881), the initiator of the Inner Mission of the Evangelical Church, criticized the prevailing practice of confirmation: He already spoke of a "religious neglect of most parental homes", the insincerity of the vows , the lack of interest in entering the Communion of the communion of the Christian community. He said that confirmation is viewed by most adolescents and their parents as merely the completion of childhood and the transition to unbound adulthood. He therefore suggested receiving church instruction with a final “consecration”, but separating the public creed and vows as a prerequisite for admission to Holy Communion and reserving them for those who are serious about the Christian faith and life.
With the criticism of the confirmation of the regional church there is also a criticism of the practice of child baptism in some points : Confirmation at religious age is only necessary because the children were previously baptized as minors (usually as babies). Baptism and confirmation practice (if the latter were still necessary at all) must be based on an informed personal decision for the Christian faith.
Studies on confirmation work
As one of the few fields of education outside of school, working with confirmands has been intensively researched scientifically since 2007. So far, two empirical studies on confirmation work have been carried out at the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen , which are published in the book series “Confirmation work research and design”. In the first study on confirmation work (2007/2008), more than 11,000 confirmands as well as their parents and employees were interviewed with questionnaires at two survey times. In the second study on confirmation work (2012/2013) this research approach was repeated and supplemented by a further survey of former confirmants two years after their confirmation.
In addition to these nationwide studies, Friedrich Schweitzer's research team in Tübingen is also coordinating an international study in which eight other countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Sweden and Switzerland) are participating.
In many congregations, the anniversary of the confirmation is celebrated with another act of blessing in the church of the previous confirmation or in the church of the current place of residence and celebrated with a festive service in the morning, a ceremony in the afternoon and sometimes with a joint visit to the graves of deceased fellow confirmers. A subsequent reunion is often organized for the anniversaries. The date for the cheering confirmation is set differently depending on the location. The agende for the VELKD and the UEK offers the memory of the confirmation as a form of worship , but freer forms are also possible. Although confirmation in Lutheranism, in contrast to Catholic confirmation, is not considered a sacrament, it is accorded great importance in the Protestant culture of remembrance and jubilee, which surpasses any Catholic custom. The celebration of confirmation anniversaries is completely unknown in the Catholic Church.
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- Framework regulations for church education, Section II, Paragraph 2: “It begins after the summer vacation at the latest. It usually ends between Easter and Pentecost of the year after next with the confirmation service. "
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