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The Reform of Baptism and Confirmation in American Lutheranism.

The Reform of Baptism and Confirmation in American Lutheranism. By Jeffrey A. Truscott. Drew University Studies in Religion 11. Lanham, MD, and Oxford: Scarecrow, 2003.

This is not a book for light reading. However, it is essential reading for pastors and seminarians and anyone else interested in the topics of Holy Baptism and confirmation (Affirmation of Baptism) in the Lutheran perspective, and, more particularly, in their development in the Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW). The book is a revision of Truscott's doctoral dissertation under Maxwell Johnson at the University of Notre Dame. At present he is instructor in liturgics at the Japan Lutheran College and Theological Seminary in Tokyo.

Sometimes pastors or laity will ask, regarding a given rite, "Why did they do it this way or that way?" This is the book to answer such questions regarding Holy Baptism and confirmation in LBW. The volume begins with a look back at Luther's work (and the Church Orders) on Baptism, followed by an analytical description of the baptismal work of the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) and how they reflect or differ from Luther's work. This is followed by a comparative analysis of other pre-LBW Lutheran baptismal rites, specifically those in the LCMS's Lutheran Agenda (LA) and the SBH's The Occasional Services (OS--and distinguished from the 1982 book without the definite article as part of the title). Then comes a look at the theological and historical revision of the first ILCW draft and its successors, and response to that work. Chapters 5-8 deal with the thorny issues related to confirmation. The book concludes with what the author calls "post-baptismal developments and continuing questions." Helpful indices at the end of the book provide the analyzed texts: LA, SBH (with its separate orders for adults and infants), first draft of the ILCW rite, the Contemporary Worship 7 rite, the LBW rite, the LA and OS confirmation rites, and so on. In various places throughout the book are helpful comparative tables.

Among the issues analyzed are the question of one versus two rites (separately for infants and adults); the mode of Baptism (submersion or immersion versus sprinkling or pouring*); the question of "emergency" Baptism; baptismal festivals versus single baptisms; the timing of Baptism (LBW clearly prefers the Easter Vigil); the question of communion and Baptism (if the first communion is at Baptism, does the neophyte continue to be communed, or is there a delay of future reception until an older age?); the renunciation and profession; baptismal architecture ("the font should be of a size sufficient to call attention to itself," p. 53); the texts of the thanksgiving prayer over the water; controversies over the epiclesis in that thanksgiving; the ancillary actions of anointing, handlaying, garment, and candle; and many problems related to "confirmation." Truscott covers not only the texts and revisions in detail but also the critiques, official and otherwise.

Detailed attention is given to the work of the main drafter of the ILCW baptismal rite, the late Hans Boehringer, and to the ILCW project director, Eugene L. Brand. The dialogue between the two (correspondence is often quoted) is central to the final order. The author concludes that "What Boehringer proposed ... was not simply a new rite but an entirely new understanding of Baptism. Inherent in his proposal was a theology of Baptism focusing on conversion rather than the removal of original sin" (p. 41). One wishes there had been more attention to the paschal, ecclesiological, and eschatological dimensions of Baptism.

Throughout much of Lutheran history there has been controversy about confirmation, and this book gives that controversy detailed attention. Truscott covers the varied understandings of confirmation, of which Affirmation of Baptism is only one. He gives attention to the theology of confirmation not only in LA and OS but also in the 1964-70 study by the Joint Commission on the Theology and Practice of Confirmation.

Chapter 9, while brief, is very important, because it is focused on the future. It covers the post-LBW development of the adult catechumenate, the suggested changes in the rites of the ELCA's current Renewing Worship (RW) project, the role of confirmation, first communion, and the role of the bishop in Christian initiation.

Truscott has written a very important tome, vital for anyone interested in Holy Baptism and related rites. The book deserves wide readership. One wishes it had been published earlier so that the RW committee could have had more input from it.

*Submersion involves the entire candidate, including the entire head, being placed under the water. In immersion the candidate stands or kneels in the font while water is poured over his or her head. The former suggests Baptism as drowning, while the latter suggests washing. Pouring and sprinkling do not have much symbolic meaning.

S. Anita Stauffer

Melrose Park, Illinois
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Author:Stauffer, S. Anita
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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