Confirmation practices

What are the criteria/requirements for youth confirmation in the WELS Synod? (i.e. age, grade, years of instructions) Does the pastor and/or principal determine when each individual child is ready to be confirmed? Would a public school 7th grader be considered ready for confirmation? Also, is it up the each pastor to decide if there is a public confirmation examination or reading of an essay they have written? This year there was only the Rite of Confirmation.

The Bible of course does not speak of the rite of confirmation or the practice of public examination. It speaks of training children in God’s word (Psalm 78:1-8; Proverbs 22:6; 2 Timothy 3:14-16), confessing Jesus Christ as Savior (Matthew 10:32), examining ourselves before receiving the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:28) and partaking of the Lord’s Supper often (1 Corinthians 11:25). Established in Christian freedom, confirmation—the rite and the formal course of instruction that precedes it—addresses these important areas.

A common practice in our church body associates the time of youth confirmation with the completion of elementary education. There are no biblical mandates or synodical rules that demand this practice. As Christians who walk together in a synod, we recognize practices that can offer uniformity and orderliness, but we also acknowledge differing practices based on local circumstances. Confirmation and examination practices are ultimately the responsibility of local congregations and their pastors.

Much has been written about our confirmation practices. Following are excerpts from an article in Forward in Christ a number of years ago:

“Lutherans have never had a consistent confirmation practice. In fact, only in the last century or two has confirmation become a nearly universal practice among Lutherans. Martin Luther did not use a rite of confirmation because he wanted to avoid any suggestion that confirmation was a sacrament. He wanted to distance himself from the Roman Catholic practice. Luther placed his focus on the careful instruction of the youth in the basic teachings of the Bible…Nevertheless Lutherans began practicing a rite of confirmation even during Luther’s lifetime. The great Reformer did not object to it so long as people recognized that it was neither a sacrament commanded by God nor necessary to be observed.

“Confirmation is intended to give those who have received basic instruction in the truths of God’s Word the opportunity publicly to confess their faith before the church. The rite informs the congregation that these catechumens have sufficient scriptural understanding and spiritual maturity to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

“The importance of confirmation does not lie in the rite itself. The focus must always be on the means of grace..The ceremony stresses the importance of Christian instruction and continuing in God’s Word. It points to the glorious gift our Savior gives us in his Supper. It reminds us that he gives us his very body and blood to assure us of his forgiveness and to strengthen our faith. Confirmation is meaningless if viewed apart from the instruction in God’s truth given in preparation for the rite. This instruction imparts the basic teachings of Christianity and provides the knowledge necessary for growth toward Christian maturity. Catechism class lays a foundation upon which the Christian will build for a lifetime.

“God has commanded us to instruct children and adults in his truth. He has not commanded us to have a rite like confirmation. The rite is valuable only so long as people understand its purpose and recognize the importance of continued instruction and participation in worship and the Lord’s Supper. But when confirmation is understood and practiced properly, it can be very meaningful.”