In the Episcopal Church, each diocese chooses an age by which a person is capable of making an adult affirmation of faith, taking on the promises made at baptism or even making those promises for the first time. We typically consider someone who is about 13 to have sufficient agency to make such a decision. Where did all of this come from?
Confirmation has been a practice in the Church since about the 5th century. In the ancient church and today we recognize it as the moment when baptized persons receive the laying on of hands and anointing with oil of Chrism and it is part of our own baptismal liturgy. We recognize the ability to make promises on behalf of those who cannot (infants and children) and support those who are able (adults). The basis for our Confirmation service is our baptismal service which dates from a early third century document by Hippolytus, The Apostolic Tradition (while some archeological evidence is still in question). Our Easter Vigil service is an example of a liturgy in our church designed to culminate in an adult's affirmation of faith through baptism and/or Confirmation.
Is it in the Bible? The New Testament does not overtly talk about Confirmation but it has Scriptural roots.
- We saw the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus in the moment of his baptism by John in Mark 1.
- Matthew 28:18-20 speaks of baptizing, "'Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'"
- Peter and John laid their hands on the people of Samaria in Acts 8 giving them the Holy Spirit. These are the disciples who had received the Holy Spirit from Jesus.
- Anointing was a practice given to Kings showing signs of God's anointed and is throughout the Old Testament, David's anointing by Samuel (I Samuel 16:12-13) is a good example.
- We see "how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power in Acts 10:38, laying a foundation for anointing and reception of Holy Spirit.
- On the seal, Marion J. Hatchett in his Commentary on the American Prayer Book cites ("Gen.4:15; Ezek. 9:4-6; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; Eph. 1:13 and 4:30, and Rev. 7:3; 9:4; and 14:1") p 281.