Friday, December 26, 2008

The Case of the Missing Confession

What happened to the Confession of Sins at the Episcopal Church of Our Saviour? It seemed to have disappeared on Christmas Eve from the 10:30 pm service.

Looking for clues I went around asking questions.

One of the answers is hidden in the back of your Prayer Book,
"Q: What is required of us when we come to the Eucharist?

A: It is required that we should examine our lives, repent of our sins, and be in love and charity with all people." (Catechism BCP pg. 860)?

That kinda sounds like a requirement to me.

How did we get to the time where we can drop the Confession before receiving the Eucharist?
Well, it just took a few well placed strokes of the pen. Some of the alterations in the 1979 BCP were too subtle for those of us in the pews to notice, but one of them was to allow the confession to be omitted "on occasion."
The 1928 Prayer Book instructions were unambiguous
"Then shall this General Confession be made, by the Priest and all those who are minded to receive the Holy Communion, humbly kneeling."

Fast forward to the 1979 BCP and we find the following,
Rite I p. 330, Rite II p. 359
"A Confession of Sin is said here if it has not been said earlier. On
, the Confession may be omitted."

Communion under Special Circumstances p. 397
"A Confession of Sin may follow. The following or some other form is used"

An Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist p. 400

No mention of Confession at all, but the following warning is noted,
"This rite requires careful preparation by the Priest and other participants.
It is not intended for use at the principal Sunday or weekly celebration of the Holy Eucharist."

The primary question I have is what is meant by "on occasion?" At ECOOS, I fear it may start to be interpreted to mean that
"on occasion, the Confession may be said.."

Now, I am not aware of all the goings on that led to the changes in the rubrics, and I will refer the reader to "A Form of Godliness An analysis of the Changes in Doctrine and Discipline in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer" by the Rev. Jerome F. Politzer who wrote,
"HOLY EUCHARIST The Holy Eucharist in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer is a simple, orthodox and biblical commemoration of our Lord's death on the cross for the sins of the world, which clearly affirms the doctrines of the Atonement and the Incarnation. Since these themes make the secular humanists uncomfortable we should not expect to find them emphasized in the 1979 Prayer Book. Instead of a clear presentation of the doctrines of the Atonement and Incarnation in the Holy Eucharist, the 1979 Prayer Book contains a doctrinal smorgasbord scattered among the eight rites provided for the Holy Communion Service. These rites run the gamut from a less-than-orthodox paraphrase of Eucharistic Prayer Four of the new Roman Missal to a do-it-yourself "Order for Celebrating the Holy Eucharist." The latter is an open invitation to all the secular and agnostic teaching and practice in the Church from Simon Magus to boy-evangelist Jimmy Joe Jeeter...The weakening of the great themes of penitence and forgiveness by the optional use of general confession and absolution further downgrades the doctrine of the Atonement in the new rites."

Now if all this sounds like the work of an evil mastermind, who could it be?

The Rev. Politzer may label the villain "secular humanism," but I think there must be more to it than that, because the people making the changes in the Prayer Books probably are only semiconscious of their own secular humanism. I say semi-conscious because the alternatives are that they are either ignorant, or they deliberately make these changes to further their personal agendas.
I am sure there are other theories out there.

We missed confession on Christmas Eve, but those who came to the Christmas Day Service with Fr. Dunbar were treated to the Rite 1 confession. So we made up for skipping confession by finding it again and together we acknowledged and bewailed our manifold sins and wickedness...

The investigation is ongoing, the suspects of interest are still at large, and please report any additional incidents.


  1. I should remind the Pewster that there is no need for Confession in a world where the secular humanists propound theories of moral relativism. If I don't think it's a sin, then it's not a sin and, therefore, I have nothing to confess. Simple, no?

  2. One of the advantages of attending a liturgical church, is the security of a tested liturgy. Many felt that these and other revisions to the Book of Common Prayer would lead to the current decline in orthodoxy in the Episcopal Church, and their warning songs may be right. What changes will we see when the Prayer Book is revised again?

  3. And what does your rector say when asked about the subject?

  4. I have not asked recently. A few years ago a certain clergyman who shall go unnamed admitted that he did not like those acknowledging and bewailing bits.
    Nobody likes it, but confession, and repentance are necessities for us. After all, the Atonement did not free us from the law so that we could go out and sin some more. Once cleansed from sin, we tend to go back and wallow in it again and again.

  5. I am with you, Pewster. But I emailed Bryan+ at Creedal Christian because I remembered that he had written some arguments for omission of the General Confession on occasion, but I couldn't find them. He couldn't locate them either, but now he has posted a response to your post.
    BillyD and I are taking the pro General Confession side in the comments.

  6. Thanks for the heads up P. And there I was out looking for Professor Moriarty.

  7. Anonymous4:05 PM

    You had to spoil a beautiful service didn't you? Thanks! (dripping with sarcasm!)

    Signed C2G

  8. My Christmas Eve was fine, I said a silent confession as the offering plates passed and prepared myself for communion. The biggest downside to Christmas Eve was when I watched THIS.