How to Make Your Confession
Our Lord Jesus Christ gave the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops and Priests of the Church, the responsibility to oversee the reconciliation of penitents. (John 20:19-23) The Apostle John reminds all Christians in his first epistle that “if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us; but if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-9) Clearly, as Christians we are all called to be penitents and thus to make use of the Church’s ministry of reconciliation.
The sacramental rite titled “The Reconciliation of a Penitent,” commonly called “Confession,” is an important part of our heritage as Episcopalians. Sacramental confession to a Priest is a required discipline in some churches (such as the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic), but this has not been the case in the churches of the Anglican Communion since the Reformation. An Anglican watchword in reference to the use of sacramental confession has been, “All may, some should, none must,” but this unfortunately has aided an unintentional neglect and ignorance of penance within Anglicanism.
In the Book of Common Prayer (1979), a clear attempt has been made to rectify the situation of neglect and ignorance in the matter of sacramental confession — as well as to meet a longstanding need — by provision of directions and forms for the Reconciliation of a Penitent. (BCP, pp. 446-452) The same Prayer Book, exhorting Episcopalians to the devout reception of Holy Communion, encourages us to go to “a discreet and understanding priest” for the specific help and comfort of penance — “to the removal of scruple and doubt, the assurance of pardon and the strengthening of your faith.” (BCP, p. 317)