Confession and prayer for absolution are important practices in the Anglican Church. Anglicans can participate in confession following the traditional forms of confession practiced together by the church congregation or privately with only a priest as a witness. The practice of confession predates the Anglican Church and its form and procedure were inherited rather than invented.
Roman Catholic Origin
The Anglican Church broke away from the Roman Catholic Church during the English Reformation, but unlike many other Protestant denominations, the Church of England retained much of its Catholic heritage. According to Bishop Pierre Whalon, the main difference between the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches is the question of authority, but both churches celebrate communion, and perform baptisms, confirmations and other sacramental rights, including penance. The Anglican practice of confession was inherited from the Roman Catholic Church.
Types of Confession
Anglicans can participate in two forms of confession, the general confession and the private confession. The priest and congregation perform the general confession during Holy Communion, and the Morning and Evening Prayers. An Anglican may also confess to God in the presence of a priest without any other witnesses, naming the specific sins they have committed and seeking special counsel.
The priest and the congregation will say the general confession and the prayer for absolution aloud. It is an admission of sin and petition for forgiveness without mention of the specific sins committed by members of the congregation. There are different forms of the general confession and absolution found in the Book of Common Prayer used by Anglicans. Particular forms may be used during special occasions, while more general forms are used on other days.
Private confessions are usually offered at a specific time during the week, when a priest will be available at the confessional. Anglicans can also make an appointment to see a priest at another time for private confession. The penitent should state how long it has been since her last confession, and then list the sins she has committed. The penitent should ask forgiveness from God and for “advice, penance and absolution,” from the priest. The priest will then offer advice and a “suitable penance.”
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