Saturday, November 03, 2007

Anglicans and Sacramental Confesson

Anglicans have retained the practice of sacramental confession. For Anglicans, this practice has a deeply pastoral rather than legal or juridical ethos.

Sacramental confession is part of a priest's gospel ministry. A priest hears a confession not to confer forgiveness -- only God can confer forgiveness. Instead, a priest hears a confession in order to be a visible, concrete and aural sign of the Christ's forgiveness.

The primary outcomes of sacramental confession are twofold. First, sacramental confession creates a concrete place to where a penitent can renew his/her faith in the finished work of Christ on his/her behalf. Sometimes one needs to hear the declaration of forgiveness in the face of specific sins to deepens one assurance that one is actually forgiven. Second, sacramental confession creates a space where one can safely bring to the light sinful attitudes and acts in order to be more fully released from their power.

Anglicans do not believe sacramental confession is required for forgiveness. Instead, sacramental confession is available in circumstances of individual need. The classic Anglican way of put in this is: All may; none must; some should.


+ simonas said...

It really resonates with me. I like the accent on the pastoral vs. the legal. But how sacramental is that? Just interested.

Brandon said...

Simonas, for me at least, if confession is only merely legal, how can that be considered sacramental at all? The pastoral element needs to be present as well given that the priest is for all intents and purposes a representative of Christ here in this world.

The pastoral side for me is the more important one as I'm sure that priests and ministers are more concerned for the spiritual wellbeing of the individual making confession rather than solely a legal pronouncement of absolution. As the priest is the representative of Christ who aids the penitent in "waging war" (for lack of a better term) against sins they commit so that the penitent can live a life more like Christ, that for me is the sacramental aspect of it. Somehow the Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic and Anglican view of confession is more sacramental to me than that found in the RC understanding of confession which at times can get too carried away by penance imposed on them by the priest post-confession.

Just my 2c worth which may or may not make sense (I've had a long day at work)...

+ Pax

+ simonas said...

Again, I'm with you folks. Where the question lies is whether sacramental absolution is optional:

A priest hears a confession not to confer forgiveness -- only God can confer forgiveness.

So, can you explain how the pastoral aspect of confession is sacramental. Should I be thinking more in terms of the Prodigal Son passage?

I guess I don't know what I am asking anymore. Sorry. Maybe you can pin that down? :-)

Peter said...

When an Anglican priest hears a confession absolution is not optional. My point was that, for Anglicans, one does not have to confess to a priest to gain forgiveness. Sacramental confession is optional. It exists for pastoral reasons. It is not the legal/mechanical step one goes through to get forgiveness -- like in traditional Roman Catholicism. It is a pastoral rite that functions as an outward sign of the inward grace of forgiveness. One uses it for wine's spiritual good.

Does that connect with what you are asking?

+ simonas said...

Thanks for clarity, Peter. I guess the question is how sacraments can be optional. Baptism isn't. I would gather that Communion isn't either. Marriage? I guess yes. Holy Orders? I guess so. Same as confession? Am I thinking in the right direction?

Peter said...

That's right. My understanding is that the eraly Church fathers tended to be sacramental maximalists. Baptism and communion were central, but there were hundreds of things that could be sacraments.

With that ethos in place, there is room for sacraments that are not essential to salvtion or Christian living.