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Models of Confirmation and Baptismal Affirmation: Liturgical Issues and Educational Designs.

Considerable debate concerning confirmation has accompanied recent liturgical reforms across a broad spectrum of Christian churches. Browning and Reed, extending their collaboration in liturgy and religious education, address the debate in this well-informed book. Confirmation, they argue, should be understood and practiced both as integral to a unified initiation rite and as a sacramental act repeatable at various times in the course of the human life cycle.

Sketching a working history of confirmation, they examine its theological significance: "... that it is related intrinsically to baptism and ... is grounded in the empowerment that comes through the family and the faith community" (3). Presenting eight overlapping models of the rite, the authors view them in light of contemporary research conducted in seven church traditions, Roman Catholic and Protestant. This provides an ecumenical framework for assessing differing Christian practices and theological interpretations of confirmation and baptismal renewal.

The most provocative chapters explore a fresh rationale for confirmation/baptismal affirmation as a repeatable act of blessing. Drawing on recent scholarship in faith- and moral-development theory, they proposes that confirmation"...can and should be repeated in response to evolutions in self-understanding and changes in personal response to God's living Spirit throughout life" (114).

Liturgists and educators will find the concluding practical guidelines and model liturgies useful, though the prayer texts favor personal, experiential images over the ecclesial and social images of baptism. One wonders whether the strong emphasis on repeatability tied to developmental needs may diminish their insistence on the unified rites of initiation. But their integrative approach is a stimulating contribution toward the reclaiming Christian faith and life.
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Author:Saliers, Don E.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1996
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