Mid-Day Dialogue: Confession

Yesterday, Mark Olser and I engaged in another of our “Mid-Dialogues,” lunchtime programs where we take some issue as to which Catholics and Protestants have varying thoughts and talk about them. Our subject for yesterday was Confession.

“Confession is good for the soul,” says a Scottish proverb from the mid-1600s. Most religions would agree. Verses from the Torah, the Bible and the Quran speak of the importance of confessing our sins and receiving forgiveness from a God who is merciful. But there are differences among different faith traditions in what that means. Does it require confession to a priest? Do all sins have to be confessed? Does it have to be done publicly? What happens if you don’t confess?

I opened the program by talking about the Catholic sacrament of Reconciliation and why I believe there is value to the practice of individual confession to a priest. Mark then talked about confession in the Protestant tradition and about the humbling aspect of confession. After our two presentations, we opened it up for lively discussion with the participants. As is always the case, Mark and I found much we agree on, but enough difference in how we think about things to encourage each of us to further reflection on the subject.

You can access a recording of Mark and my presentations here or stream it from the icon below. The podcast runs for 40:25. (As I usually do, I recorded only our comments, not the dialogue with participants that followed.)

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One thought on “Mid-Day Dialogue: Confession

  1. Perhaps a necessary ingredient or conclusion to confession is repentance. I know the focus was on confession, but I think repentance has to follow it in order for reconciliation and healing to occur. We confess by admitting the wrong, bringing it up, getting it out into the light. But we can do that without necessarily acknowledging that it was wrong/bad/evil/sin.

    The question I thought of during the discussion was, what if we confess something because we know it is a sin, but we still do not feel differently about it? What if we would still choose to do it again anyway? Perhaps maybe some of those are things aren’t sin at all and I need to change the way I think about it.

    When I was in high school youth group, my youth pastor offered an acronym as a prayer guide. It is one I still use. ACTS: Acknowledge/Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. Within or following the Confession, I think repentance needs to happen in which I specifically allow myself to feel the weight of the sin, acknowledge the harm I have caused, and then turn away from it by asking God to help me live differently from now on and to not do that thing again (or to do the thing I should have done – for sins of omission).

    I’ll also acknowledge here that my thought processes and spiritual processes for dealing with sin and prayer and confession and repentance could be wacky and/or underdeveloped. I was raised in a conservative evangelical Baptist church, then identified as Episcopalian in college, and now go to a progressive racially diverse urban sorta-Baptist church. Long term, I consider myself Episcopalian.

    Maybe some of my problem is that in the Protestant traditions I’ve known, there isn’t much of a role for doing penance or having some outward manifestation of repentance/change/growth. Experiencing Forgiveness was supposed to come via prayer and the sheer power of God. Sometimes there were sermons about reconciling with other people in the church, don’t let the sun go down on your anger. My perspective is that there was too much guilt and shame and not enough flourishing in the freedom we receive from being healed and forgiven.

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