Apostolic succession is the method whereby the ministry of the Christian Church is held to be derived from the apostles by a continuous succession, which has usually been associated with a claim that the succession is through a series of bishops. This series was seen originally as that of the bishops of a particular see founded by one or more of the apostles, but it is generally understood today as meaning a series of bishops, regardless of see, each consecrated by other bishops themselves consecrated similarly in a succession going back to the apostles. Christians of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Old Catholic, Anglican, Moravian, and Scandinavian Lutheran traditions maintain that "a bishop cannot have regular or valid orders unless he has been consecrated in this apostolic succession."
Apostolic succession "may also be understood as a continuity in doctrinal teaching from the time of the apostles to the present." For example, the British Methodist Conference locates the "true continuity" with the Church of past ages in "the continuity of Christian experience, the fellowship in the gift of the one Spirit; in the continuity in the allegiance to one Lord, the continued proclamation of the message; the continued acceptance of the mission;..."
Those who hold for the importance of apostolic succession via episcopal laying on of hands appeal to the New Testament, which, they say, implies a personal apostolic succession (from Paul to Timothy and Titus, for example). They appeal as well to other documents of the early Church, especially the Epistle of Clement. In this context, Clement explicitly states that the apostles appointed bishops as successors and directed that these bishops should in turn appoint their own successors; given this, such leaders of the Church were not to be removed without cause and not in this way. Further, proponents of the necessity of the personal apostolic succession of bishops within the Church point to the universal practice of the undivided early Church (up to AD 431), before being divided into the Church of the East, Oriental Orthodoxy, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church.
Some Protestants deny the need for this type of continuity and the historical claims involved have been severely questioned; Eric Jay comments that the account given of the emergence of the episcopate in chapter III of the encyclical Lumen Gentium (1964) "is very sketchy, and many ambiguities in the early history of the Christian ministry are passed over"
- 1 Meanings
- 2 In the early Fathers
- 3 As transmission of grace
- 4 Apostolicity as doctrinal and related continuity
- 5 Churches claiming apostolic succession
- 6 Apostolic founders
- 7 Teachings
- 7.1 Catholic Church
- 7.2 Orthodox Churches
- 7.3 Anglican Communion
- 7.4 Porvoo Communion of Churches
- 7.5 Lutheran churches
- 7.6 Methodist Church
- 7.7 Moravian Church
- 8 Protestant denominations that reject apostolic succession
- 9 Other teachings on apostolic succession
- 10 See also
- 11 Notes and references
- 12 Sources and external links
Michael Ramsey (Archbishop of Canterbury, 1961–1974), described three meanings of "apostolic succession":
- One bishop succeeding another in the same see meant that there was a continuity of teaching: "while the Church as a whole is the vessel into which the truth is poured, the Bishops are an important organ in carrying out this task".
- The bishops were also successors of the apostles in that "the functions they performed of preaching, governing and ordaining were the same as the Apostles had performed".
- It is also used to signify that "grace is transmitted from the Apostles by each generation of bishops through the imposition of hands".
He adds that this last has been controversial in that it has been claimed that this aspect of the doctrine is not found before the time of Augustine of Hippo, while others allege that it is implicit in the Church of the second and third centuries.
In its 1982 statement on Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches stated that "the primary manifestation of apostolic succession is to be found in the apostolic tradition of the Church as a whole.... Under the particular historical circumstances of the growing Church in the early centuries, the succession of bishops became one of the ways, together with the transmission of the Gospel and the life of the community, in which the apostolic tradition of the Church was expressed." It spoke of episcopal succession as something that churches that do not have bishops can see "as a sign, though not a guarantee, of the continuity and unity of the Church" and that all churches can see "as a sign of the apostolicity of the life of the whole church".
The Porvoo Common Statement (1996), agreed to by the Anglican churches of the British Isles and most of the Lutheran churches of Scandinavia and the Baltic, also stated that "the continuity signified in the consecration of a bishop to episcopal ministry cannot be divorced from the continuity of life and witness of the diocese to which he is called."
- Bishops have succeeded the apostles, not only because they come after them, but also because they have inherited apostolic power. ... "To fulfil this apostolic mission, Christ ... promised the Holy Spirit to the apostles...". [These were] "enriched by Christ the Lord with a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit ... This spiritual gift has been transmitted down to us by episcopal consecration".
In the early Fathers
The doctrine was formulated in the second century in the first of the three senses given by Ramsey, originally as a response to Gnostic claims of having received secret teaching from Christ or the apostles; it emphasised the public manner in which the apostles had passed on authentic teaching to those whom they entrusted with the care of the churches they founded and that these in turn had passed it on to their successors. Only later was it given a different meaning, a process in which Augustine (Bp of Hippo Regis, 395–430) played a part by emphasising the idea of "the link from consecrator to consecrated whereby the grace of order was handed on."
|“||Let them produce the original records of their churches; let them unfold the roll of their bishops, running down in due succession from the beginning in such a manner that [that first bishop of theirs] bishop shall be able to show for his ordainer and predecessor some one of the apostles or of apostolic men||”|
Writing about AD 94, Clement of Rome states that the apostles appointed successors to continue their work where they had planted churches and for these in their turn to do the same because they foresaw the risk of discord. He uses both 'bishop' and 'presbyter' to refer to these men. The interpretation of his writing is disputed, but it is clear that he supports some sort of approved continuation of the ministry exercised by the apostles which in its turn was derived from Christ.
Hegesippus (180?) and Irenaeus (180) introduce explicitly the idea of the bishop's succession in office as a guarantee of the truth of what he preached in that it could be traced back to the apostles. and they produced succession lists to back this up. That this succession depended on the fact of ordination to a vacant see and the status of those who administered the ordination is seldom commented on. Woollcombe also states that no one questioned the apostolicity of the See of Alexandria despite the fact that its Popes were consecrated by the college of presbyters up till the time of the Council of Nicaea in 325. Irenaeus also refers to a succession of presbyters who preserve the tradition "which originates from the apostles". and later goes on to speak of their having "an infallible gift of truth"[charisma veritatis certum]. Jay comments that this is sometimes seen as an early reference to the idea of the transmission of grace through the apostolic succession which in later centuries was understood as being specifically transmitted through the laying on of hands by a bishop within the apostolic succession (the "pipeline theory"). He warns that this is open to the grave objection that it makes grace a (quasi)material commodity and represents an almost mechanical method of imparting what is by definition a free gift. He adds that the idea cannot be squeezed out of Irenaeus' words.
Writing a little later, Tertullian makes the same main point but adds expressly that recently founded churches (such as his own in Carthage) could be considered apostolic if they had "derived the tradition of faith and the seeds of doctrine" from an apostolic church. His disciple, Cyprian (Bishop of Carthage 248–58) appeals to the same fundamental principle of election to a vacant see in the aftermath of the Decian Persecution when denying the legitimacy of his rigorist rival in Carthage and that of the anti-pope Novatian in Rome; however, the emphasis is now on legitimating his episcopal ministry as a whole and specifically his exclusive right to administer discipline to the lapsed rather than on the content of what is taught. Cyprian also laid great emphasis on the fact that any minister who broke with the Church lost ipso facto the gift of the Spirit which had validated his orders. This meant that he had no power or authority to celebrate an efficacious sacrament.
As transmission of grace
For the adherents of this understanding of apostolic succession, grace is transmitted during episcopal consecrations (the ordination of bishops) by the laying on of hands of bishops previously consecrated within the apostolic succession). They hold that this lineage of ordination derives from the Twelve Apostles, thus making the Church the continuation of the early Apostolic Christian community. They see it as one of four elements that define the true Church of Jesus Christ and legitimize the ministry of its clergy, since only a bishop within the succession can perform valid ordinations, and only bishops and presbyters (priests) ordained by bishops in the apostolic succession can validly celebrate (or "confect") several of the other sacraments, including the Eucharist, reconciliation of penitents, confirmation and anointing of the sick.
This position was stated by John Henry Newman in the following words:
We [priests of the Church of England] have been born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. The Lord Jesus Christ gave His Spirit to His Apostles; they in turn laid their hands on those who should succeed them; and these again on others; and so the sacred gift has been handed down to our present bishops, who have appointed us as their assistants, and in some sense representatives. ... we must necessarily consider none to be really ordained who have not thus been ordained.
Most Protestant denominations deny the need of maintaining episcopal continuity with the early Church, holding that the role of the apostles was that, having been chosen directly by Jesus as witnesses of his resurrection, they were to be the "special instruments of the Holy Spirit in founding and building up the Church". The Church is "built upon 'the foundation of the Prophets and Apostles' (Ephes. ii. 20); but a foundation does not repeat itself". When the apostles died, they were replaced by their writings. To share with the apostles the same faith, to believe their word as found in the Scriptures, to receive the same Holy Spirit, is to them the only meaningful "continuity". The most meaningful apostolic succession for most Protestants, then, is a "faithful succession" of apostolic teaching.
Max Thurian describes the classic Reformed/Presbyterian concept of apostolic succession in the following terms. "The Christian ministry is not derived from the people but from the pastors; a scriptural ordinance provides for this ministry being renewed by the ordination of a presbyter by presbyters; this ordinance originates with the apostles, who were themselves presbyters, and through them it goes back to Christ as its source.". However, in itself:
- "it does not guarantee the continuity and faithfulness of the Church. A purely historical or mechanical succession of ministers, bishops or pastors would not mean ipso facto true apostolic succession in the church, Reformed tradition, following authentic Catholic tradition, distinguishes four realities which make up the true apostolic succession, symbolized, but not absolutely guaranteed, by ministerial succession."
These realities form a "composite faithfulness" and are (i) "perseverance in the apostolic doctrine"; (ii) "the will to proclaim God's word"; (iii) "communion in the fundamental continuity of the Church, the Body of Christ, the faithful celebration of Baptism and the Eucharist"; (iv) "succession in the laying on of hands, the sign of ministerial continuity".
Objections to the transmission of grace theory
Protestants have objected that this theory is not explicitly found in Scripture and the New Testament uses 'bishop' and 'presbyter' as alternative names for the same office. Furthermore, it is not clearly found in the writings of the Fathers before Augustine in the fourth century and attempts to read it back as implicit in earlier writers are flawed because it is possible to show that significant changes occurred.
For example, Barrett points out that the Pastoral Epistles are concerned that ministers of the generation of Timothy and Titus should pass on the doctrine they had received to the third generation. Teaching and preaching are "the main, almost the only, activities of ministry." However, in Clement of Rome ministerial activity is liturgical: the undifferentiated 'presbyter-bishops' are to "make offerings to the Lord at the right time and in the right places" something which is simply not defined by the evangelists. More significant still is the change in the use of sacrificial language: for Paul the Eucharist is a receiving of gifts from God, the Christian sacrifice is the offering of our bodies (Romans 12). Moving on to Ignatius of Antioch, Barrett states that here we find a sharp distinction between 'presbyter' and 'bishop': the latter now stands out as "an isolated figure" who is to be obeyed and without whom it is not lawful to baptise or hold a love-feast. He also points out that when Ignatius writes to the Romans, there is no mention of a bishop of the Roman Church, "which we may suppose had not yet adopted the monarchical episcopate." Jalland comes to a similar conclusion and locates the change from the "polyepiscopacy" of the house church model in Rome, to monepiscopacy as occurring before the middle of the second century.
Similar objections are voiced by Harvey who comments that there is a "strong and ancient tradition" that the presence of an ordained man is necessary for the celebration of the Eucharist. But, there is "certainly no evidence for this view in the New Testament" and in the case of Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch the implication is not that it cannot be celebrated by anyone else, but that it ought not. In the third century, this "concern for propriety" begins to be displaced by the concept of 'power' to do so which means that in the absence of such a man it is "literally impossible" for a Eucharist to be celebrated.
Churches claiming apostolic succession
Churches that claim some form of episcopal apostolic succession, dating back to the apostles or to leaders from the apostolic era, include the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Church of the East, the Anglican Communion, some Lutheran Churches (see below), and other smaller bodies incorporating the term "Catholic". The Anglican Communion (see below) and those Lutheran Churches which claim apostolic succession do not specifically teach this but exclusively practice episcopal ordination. While some Anglicans claim it for their communion, their views are often nuanced and there is widespread reluctance to 'unchurch' Christian bodies which lack it.
Roman Catholics recognise the validity of the apostolic successions of the bishops, and therefore the rest of the clergy, of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Church of the East, Old Catholic Church (Union of Utrecht only), and Polish National Catholic Church. The Eastern Orthodox generally recognise Roman Catholic orders, but have a different concept of the apostolic succession as it exists outside of Eastern Orthodoxy. The lack of apostolic succession through bishops is the primary basis on which Protestant communities are not considered churches by the Orthodox churches and the Roman Catholic Church.
An early understanding of apostolic succession is represented by the traditional claims of various churches, as organised around important episcopal sees, to have been founded by specific apostles. On the basis of these traditions, the churches in question often claim to have inherited specific authority, doctrines and/or practices on the authority of their founding apostle(s), which is understood to be continued by the bishops of the apostolic throne of the church that each founded and whose original leader he was. Thus:
- The See of Rome claims to have been founded by Simon Peter, traditionally called the "Chief of the Apostles".
- The Patriarchate of Constantinople, the primary patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church, claims the Apostle Andrew (brother of Simon Peter) as its founder.
- The Patriarch of Alexandria (Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria and Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria) claims to have been founded by Mark the Evangelist.
- The Patriarchate of Antioch (Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, Syriac Orthodox Church, Syriac Catholic Church, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and the Whole Levant) claims to have been founded by Simon Peter.
- The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem claims to have been founded by James the Just.
- The Armenian Apostolic Church, based at Etchmiadzin, claims to have been founded by the Apostles Bartholomew and Jude Thaddeus.
- The following bodies claim to have been founded by the Apostle Thomas: the Assyrian Church of the East, the Ancient Church of the East and the Chaldean Catholic Church, originating in or around Mesopotamia, and churches based in Kerala, India having Syriac roots and generically known as the Saint Thomas Christians: the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, the Jacobite Syrian Christian Church, the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church.
- The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church claims founding by Philip the Evangelist.
- The Orthodox Church of Georgia claims the Apostles Andrew and Simon the Zealot as its founders.
- The Orthodox Church of Cyprus, based at New Justiana (Erdek), claims to have been founded by the Apostles Paul and Barnabas
- The Russian Orthodox Church claims a connection with the Apostle Andrew, who is said to have visited the area where the city of Kiev later arose.
|“||Wherefore we must obey the priests of the Church who have succession from the Apostles, as we have shown, who, together with succession in the episcopate, have received the mark of truth according to the will of the Father; all others, however, are to be suspected, who separated themselves from the principal succession.||”|
In Roman Catholic theology, the doctrine of apostolic succession states that Christ gave the full sacramental authority of the Church to the Twelve Apostles in the sacrament of Holy Orders, making them the first bishops. By conferring the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders on the apostles, they were given the authority to confer the sacrament of Holy Orders on others, thus consecrating more bishops in a direct lineage that can trace its origin back to the Twelve Apostles and Christ. This direct succession of bishops from the apostles to the present day bishops is referred to as apostolic succession.
Papal primacy is different though related to apostolic succession as described here. The Catholic Church has traditionally claimed a unique leadership role for the Apostle Peter, believed to have been named by Jesus as head of the Apostles and as a focus of their unity, who became the first Bishop of Rome, and whose successors inherited the role and accordingly became the leaders of the worldwide Church as well. Even so, Catholicism acknowledges the papacy is built on apostolic succession, not the other way around. As such, apostolic succession is a foundational doctrine of authority in the Catholic Church.
Catholicism holds that Christ entrusted the Apostles with the leadership of the community of believers, and the obligation to transmit and preserve the "deposit of faith" (the experience of Christ and his teachings contained in the doctrinal "tradition" handed down from the time of the apostles and the written portion, which is Scripture). The apostles then passed on this office and authority by ordaining bishops to follow after them.
Roman Catholic theology holds that the apostolic succession effects the power and authority to administer the sacraments except for baptism and matrimony. (Baptism may be administered by anyone and matrimony by the couple to each other.) Authority to so administer such sacraments is passed on only through the sacrament of Holy Orders, a rite by which a priest is ordained (ordination can be conferred only by a bishop). The bishop, of course, must be from an unbroken line of bishops stemming from the original apostles selected by Jesus Christ. Thus, apostolic succession is necessary for the valid celebration of the sacraments today.
In the early 18th century, Pope Benedict XIII, whose orders were descended from Scipione Rebiba, personally consecrated at least 139 bishops for various important European sees, including German, French, English and New World bishops. These bishops in turn consecrated bishops almost exclusively for their respective countries causing other episcopal lineages to die off.
Roman Catholics recognise the validity of the apostolic successions of the bishops, and therefore the rest of the clergy, of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian, Old Catholic, and some Independent Catholic Churches. Rome does not recognise any Anglican orders as valid; Pope Leo XIII in the bull Apostolicae curae of 1896 declared Anglican orders "absolutely null and utterly void", a view held as "definitive teaching" by the Holy See. This conflict stems from the Anglican Church's revision of its rite of ordination for its bishops during the 16th century. Most of today's Anglican bishops trace their succession back to a bishop who was ordained with the revised form and who thus would be viewed as invalid and incapable of validly ordaining, no matter what form he used.
Writing in The Tablet of 29 May 1982, Timothy Dufort argued that all Anglican bishops in Europe today can claim valid episcopal descent from validly ordained bishops through involvement of Old Catholic bishops in Anglican episcopal ordinations. This view has not been accepted by the Holy See, and the question has been further complicated by the Anglican ordination of women, which is seen as implying that, in ordination, the Anglican Communion does not intend to do what the Roman Catholic Church does. In a document it published in July 1998, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stated that the Catholic Church's declaration on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations is a teaching that the Church has definitively propounded and that therefore requires "firm and definitive assent".
On 29 June 2007, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explained why apostolic succession is integral to, and indeed, "a constitutive element" of the Church. In response to the question why the Second Vatican Council and other official statements of the Catholic Church do not call Protestant Christian Communities "Churches", it stated that "according to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called 'Churches' in the proper sense".
Commentary by Richard McBrien
According to liberal Catholic theologian Richard McBrien, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, and Boston College theologian Francis Sullivan, debate over the role of the "bishop" in apostolic succession is a church-dividing issue. Of course, from a Catholic point of view, the bishops in communion with the Pope (the Church's Magisterium) have the final say in the matter, as they, not theologians, are the successors of the Apostles and have doctrinal authority.
McBrien calls for rejection of what he terms the passing-the-baton theory, which he characterises as "an overly simplistic, mechanistic notion." McBrien says many Catholics accept the commonly understood definition of the doctrine; specifically, the claim that each validly ordained Catholic bishop can trace his episcopal consecration in an unbroken line back to one of the original apostles or to the apostles, collectively. He quotes Jesuit Professor Francis Sullivan's two reasons for opposing such a view:
- The apostles, in his opinion, were not bishops in the present-day meaning of the word. They were missionaries and founders of local churches.
- Second, while some local churches had pastoral leaders who were called bishops, [Ac 20:17–35] it remains unclear whether these "bishops" were appointed or ordained by the apostle Paul, or by any other apostle.
McBrien has no complaint with the succession doctrine, but with the way it is so often explained. He says that Catholic theologians today would point to Vatican II's declaration that apostolic succession is "by divine institution" (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church). McBrien maintains this interpretation should not be understood to mean that Christ explicitly determined the episcopal structures of either the local churches or dioceses.
While Eastern Orthodox sources often refer to the bishops as "successors of the apostles" under the influence of Scholastic theology, strict Orthodox ecclesiology and theology hold that all legitimate bishops are properly successors of Peter. This also means that presbyters (or "priests") are successors of the apostles. As a result, Orthodox theology makes a distinction between a geographical or historical succession and proper ontological or ecclesiological succession. Hence, the bishops of Rome and Antioch can be considered successors of Peter in a historical sense on account of Peter's presence in the early community. This does not imply that these bishops are more successors of Peter than all others in an ontological sense.
According to ancient canons still observed with the Orthodox communion, a bishop must be consecrated by at least three other bishops; so-called "single handed ordinations" do not exist. Moreover, bishops are never ordained "at large" but only for a specific Eucharist community, in due historical and sacramental succession.
Views concerning other churches
The Eastern Orthodox have often permitted non-Orthodox clergy to be rapidly ordained within Orthodoxy as a matter of pastoral necessity and economia. Priests entering Eastern Orthodoxy from Oriental Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism have usually been received by "vesting" and have been allowed to function immediately within Eastern Orthodoxy as priests. Recognition of Roman Catholic orders by the Russian Orthodox Church was stipulated in 1667 by the Synod of Moscow, but this position is not universal within the Eastern Orthodox communion. The validity of a priest's ordination is decided by each autocephalic Orthodox church.
The Anglican Communion "has never officially endorsed any one particular theory of the origin of the historic episcopate, its exact relation to the apostolate, and the sense in which it should be thought of as God given, and in fact tolerates a wide variety of views on these points". Its claim to apostolic succession is rooted in the Church of England's evolution as part of the Western Church. Apostolic succession is viewed not so much as conveyed mechanically through an unbroken chain of the laying-on of hands, but as expressing continuity with the unbroken chain of commitment, beliefs and mission starting with the first apostles; and as hence emphasising the enduring yet evolving nature of the Church. The Anglican—Roman Catholic International Commission report expressed broad agreement in the nature of apostolic succession as the ‘effective sign’ of the apostolicity of the whole people of God, living in fidelity to the teaching and mission of the apostles.
When Henry VIII broke away from the jurisdiction of Rome in 1533/4, the English Church retained the episcopal polity and apostolic succession inherent in its Catholic past; however, Protestant theology gained a certain foothold and under his successor, Edward VI what had been an administrative schism became a Protestant reformation under the guiding hand of Thomas Cranmer. Although care was taken to maintain the unbroken sequence of episcopal consecrations, particularly in the case of Matthew Parker, who was consecrated[clarification needed] Archbishop of Canterbury in 1559 by two bishops who had been ordained in the 1530s with the Roman Pontifical and two ordained with the Edwardine Ordinal of 1550, apostolic succession was not seen as a major concern that a true ministry could not exist without episcopal consecrations: English Reformers such as Richard Hooker rejected the Catholic position that Apostolic Succession is divinely commanded or necessary for true Christian ministry. The "foreign Reformed [Presbyterian] Churches" were genuine ones despite the lack of apostolic succession because they had been abandoned by their bishops at the Reformation. In very different ways both James II and William III of England made it plain that the Church of England could no longer count on the 'godly prince' to maintain its identity and traditions and the 'High Church' clergy of the time began to look to the idea of apostolic succession as a basis for the church's life. For William Beveridge (Bp of St Asaph 1704–8) the importance of this lay in the fact that Christ himself is "continually present at such imposition of hands; thereby transferring the same Spirit, which He had first breathed into His Apostles, upon others successively after them"., but the doctrine did not really come to the fore until the time of the Tractarians.
Newman writing of the apostolic succession stated: "We must necessarily consider none to be really ordained who has not been thus ordained". After quoting this, Michael Ramsey continues: "With romantic enthusiasm, the Tractarians propagated this doctrine. In doing so they involved themselves in some misunderstandings of history and in some confusion of theology". He goes on to explain that they ascribed to early Anglican authors a far more exclusive version of the doctrine than was the case, they blurred the distinction between succession in office (Irenaeus) and succession in consecration (Augustine); they spoke of apostolic succession as the channel of grace in a way that failed to do justice to His gracious activity within all the dispensations of the New Covenant.(p. 111) Newman, and after him, Charles Gore held that the episcopate was passed down from the apostles through men like Timothy and Titus to single bishops in particular localities (monarchial episcopacy). However Bp. Lightfoot argued that monarchial episcopacy evolved upwards from a college of presbyters by the elevation of one of their number to be the episcopal president(p. 116) and A.C. Headlam laid great stress on Irenaeus' understanding of succession (see above) which had been lost from sight behind the Augustinian 'pipe-line theory'.(pp. 117,18)
Eastern Orthodox views on Anglican orders
In the 20th century there have been a variety of positions taken by the various Eastern Orthodox Churches on the validity of Anglican orders. In 1922 the Patriarch of Constantinople recognised them as valid. He wrote: "That the orthodox theologians who have scientifically examined the question have almost unanimously come to the same conclusions and have declared themselves as accepting the validity of Anglican Orders."
Succeeding judgements, however, have been more conflicting. The Eastern Orthodox churches require a totality of common teaching to recognise orders and in this broader view find ambiguities in Anglican teaching and practice problematic. Accordingly, in practice Anglican clergy who convert to Orthodoxy are treated as if they had not been ordained and must be ordained in the Eastern Orthodox communion as would a lay person.
Roman Catholic judgement on Anglican orders
In the Catholic Church, Pope Leo XIII stated in his 1896 bull Apostolicae curae that the Catholic Church believes specifically that the Anglican Church's consecrations are "absolutely null and utterly void" because of changes made to the rite of consecration under Edward VI, thus denying that Anglicans participate in the apostolic succession. Anglican clergy, then, are ordained as Catholic priests upon entry into the Catholic Church.
A reply from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York (1896) was issued to counter Pope Leo's arguments: Saepius officio: Answer of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the Bull Apostolicae Curae of H. H. Leo XIII. They argued that if the Anglican orders were invalid, then the Roman orders were as well since the Pope based his case on the fact that the Anglican ordinals used did not contain certain essential elements but these were not found in the early Roman rites either. However, Catholics argue, this argument does not consider the sacramental intention involved in validating Holy Orders. In other words, Catholics believe that the ordinands were reworded so as to invalidate the ordinations because the intention behind the alterations in the rite was a fundamental change in Anglican understanding of the priesthood.
It is Roman Catholic doctrine that the teaching of Apostolicae curae is a truth to be "held definitively", as stated in a commentary by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Cardinal Basil Hume explained the conditional character of his ordination of Graham Leonard, former Anglican bishop of the Diocese of London, to the priesthood in the following way: "While firmly restating the judgement of Apostolicae Curae that Anglican ordination is invalid, the Catholic Church takes account of the involvement, in some Anglican episcopal ordinations, of bishops of the Old Catholic Church of the Union of Utrecht who are validly ordained. In particular and probably rare cases the authorities in Rome may judge that there is a 'prudent doubt' concerning the invalidity of priestly ordination received by an individual Anglican minister ordained in this line of succession." At the same time, he stated: "Since the church must be in no doubt of the validity of the sacraments celebrated for the Catholic community, it must ask all who are chosen to exercise the priesthood in the Catholic Church to accept sacramental ordination in order to fulfill their ministry and be integrated into the apostolic succession." Since Apostolicae curae was issued many Anglican jurisdictions have revised their ordinals, bringing them more in line with ordinals of the early Church.
Timothy Dufort, writing in The Tablet in 1982, argued that by 1969 all Anglican bishops had acquired apostolic succession fully recognized by Rome, since from the 1930s Old Catholic bishops (whose orders Rome recognises as valid) have acted as co-consecrators in the ordination of Anglican bishops. This view is not accepted by the Roman Catholic Church itself, which continues to require that Anglican clergy be ordained absolutely (not conditionally) if they are to exercise a ministry in that church.
Porvoo Communion of Churches
Negotiated at Järvenpää, Finland, and inaugurated with a celebration of the eucharist at Porvoo Cathedral in 1992, this agreement of unity includes the mutual recognition of the traditional apostolic succession among the following Churches:
- Lutheran Churches: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland, Church of Norway, Church of Sweden, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania, Church of Denmark, observer: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia.
- Anglican Communion: Church of Ireland, Scottish Episcopal Church, Church of England, the Church in Wales, the Lusitanian Catholic Apostolic Evangelical Church, and the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church.
Of note is the fact that at least one of the Scandinavian Lutheran Churches in the Porvoo Communion of Churches, the Church of Denmark has bishops, but strictly speaking they were not in the historic apostolic succession prior to their entry into the Porvoo Communion, since their Episcopate and Holy Orders derived from Dr. Johannes Bugenhagen, who was a pastor, not a bishop. In 2010, the Church of Denmark joined the Porvoo Communion of Churches.
Wide variations exist within Lutheranism on this issue. Most Lutheran churches in Scandinavian countries are favorable to the traditional doctrine of apostolic succession. Others de-emphasize it, e.g., many German Lutheran churches in former Prussian lands, resulting from their state-ordered union with Reformed (Calvinist) churches in 1817.
Lutheran claims to apostolic succession
In Scandinavia, most Lutheran churches participating in the Porvoo Communion, those of Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, and Lithuania, believe that they ordain their bishops in the apostolic succession in lines stemming from the original apostles. The New Westminster Dictionary of Church History states that "In Sweden the apostolic succession was preserved because the Catholic bishops were allowed to stay in office, but they had to approve changes in the ceremonies."
What made the Church of Sweden an evangelical-catholic church was to Archbishop Söderblom the fact that the Reformation in Sweden was a 'church improvement' and a 'process of purification' which did not create a new church. As a national church, the Church of Sweden succeeded in bringing together medieval Swedish tradition with the rediscovery of the gospel which the Reformation brought with it. Archbishop Söderblom included the historic episcopate in the tradition-transmitting elements. The Church of Sweden was, according to Söderblom, in an even higher degree than the Anglican Church a via media. —Together in Mission and Ministry: The Porvoo Common Statement
Similarly, in the High Church Lutheranism of Germany, some religious brotherhoods like Hochkirchliche St. Johannes-Bruderschaft and Hochkirchlicher Apostolat St. Ansgar have managed to arrange for their own bishop to be re-ordained in apostolic succession. The members of these brotherhoods do not form into separate ecclesia.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, North America's largest Lutheran body, became united in the historic episcopate of the Episcopal Church in 2000, upon the signing of Called to Common Mission. By this document the full communion between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church was established. As such, "all episcopal installations in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America take place with the participation of bishops in the apostolic succession." The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is headed by a presiding bishop who is elected by the churchwide assembly for a six-year term.
In recent years a number of Lutheran churches at the most Catholic edge of the Evangelical Catholic High Church Lutheran spectrum in the United States of America have accepted the doctrine of apostolic succession and have successfully recovered it, generally from Independent Catholic Churches. At present, most of these church bodies have memberships numbering in the hundreds.
- The Lutheran Evangelical Protestant Church (LEPC), were some of the earliest Lutherans in America. They have autonomous and congregationally oriented ministries and consecrate male and female deacons, priests and bishops in apostolic succession with the laying on of hands during celebration of Word and Sacrament They maintain the more protestant view of Apostolic Succession.
- The Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church recovered the apostolic succession from Old Catholic and Independent Catholic churches, and adopted a strict episcopal polity. All of its clergy have been ordained (or re-ordained) into the historic apostolic succession. This Church was formed in 1997, with its headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri.
- The Lutheran Orthodox Church, founded in 2004 traces its historic lineage of apostolic succession through Anglican, Lutheran, and Old Catholic lines.
- The Lutheran Church-International is another North American Lutheran church which reports that it has recovered the historic apostolic succession.
Indifference to the issue
Many German Lutherans appear to demur on this issue, which may be sourced in the church governance views of Martin Luther. Luther's reform movement, however, usually did not as a rule abrogate the ecclesiastic office of Bishop.
An important historical context to explicate the wide differences among German Lutheran Churches is the Prussian Union of 1817, whereby the secular government directed the Lutheran Churches in Prussia to merge with non-Lutheran Reformed Churches in Prussia. The Reformed Churches generally oppose on principle the traditional doctrine of ecclesiastic Apostolic Succession, e.g., not usually even recognising the church office of Bishop. Later in the 19th century, other Lutheran and Reformed congregations merged to form united church bodies in some of the other 39 states of the German Confederation, e.g., in Anhalt, Baden, Bremen, Hesse and Nassau, Hesse-Kassel and Waldeck, and the Palatinate. Yet the partial nature of this list also serves to show that in Germany there remained many Lutherans who never did unite with the Reformed.
Other Lutheran Churches seem indifferent as a matter of understood doctrine regarding this particular issue of ecclesiastical governance. In America, the conservative Missouri Synod places its church authority in the congregation rather than in the bishop, though its founder, C.F.W. Walther, while establishing congregational polity for the Missouri Synod, did consider Polity (a Church's form of government) to be a matter of adiaphora (something indifferent.)
Beyond indifference, some conservative Lutherans are in principle outright against the traditional doctrine of Apostolic Succession, e.g., Confessional Lutheranism (see also subsection Confessional Lutheranism herein below). Other conservative Lutherans, however, may favour High Church Lutheranism which remains generally favourable to the traditional doctrine of Apostolic Succession (see above).
In the beginnings of the Methodist movement, adherents were instructed to receive the sacraments within the Anglican Church; however, the American Methodists soon petitioned to receive the sacraments from the local preachers who conducted worship services and revivals. The Bishop of London refused to ordain ministers in the British American colonies. John Wesley, the founder of the movement, was reluctant to allow unordained preachers to administer the sacraments:
We believe it would not be right for us to administer either Baptism or the Lord's Supper unless we had a commission so to do from those Bishops whom we apprehend to be in a succession from the Apostles.—Rev. John Wesley, A.D. 1745
Some scholars argue that in 1763, Greek Orthodox bishop Erasmus of the Diocese of Arcadia, who was visiting London at the time, consecrated John Wesley a bishop, and ordained several Methodist lay preachers as priests, including John Jones. However, Wesley could not openly announce his episcopal consecration without incurring the penalty of the Præmunire Act. In light of Wesley's episcopal consecration, the Methodist Church can lay a claim on apostolic succession, as understood in the traditional sense. Since the John Wesley ordained and sent forth every Methodist preacher in his day, who preached and baptized and ordained, and since every Methodist preacher who has ever been ordained as a Methodist was ordained in this direct "succession" from Wesley, then the Methodist Church teaches that it has all the direct merits coming from apostolic succession, if any such there be. This apostolic succession is recognized by Unity Catholic Church, an independent Catholic Church.
However, most Methodists view apostolic succession outside its high church sense. This is because Wesley believed that the offices of bishop and presbyter constituted one order, citing an ancient opinion from the Church of Alexandria. He knew that for two centuries the succession of bishops in the Church of Alexandria was preserved through ordination by presbyters alone and was considered valid by the ancient church.
Since the Bishop of London refused to ordain ministers in the British American colonies, this constituted an emergency and as a result, on 2 September 1784, Wesley, along with a priest from the Anglican Church and two other elders, operating under the ancient Alexandrian habitude, ordained Thomas Coke a superintendent, although Coke embraced the title bishop.
Today, the United Methodist Church follows this ancient Alexandrian practice as bishops are elected from the presbyterate: the Discipline of the Methodist Church, in ¶303, affirms that "ordination to this ministry is a gift from God to the Church. In ordination, the Church affirms and continues the apostolic ministry through persons empowered by the Holy Spirit." It also uses sacred scripture in support of this practice, namely, 1 Timothy 4:14, which states:
Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.
In addition to the aforementioned arguments, or perhaps instead of them, in 1937 the annual Conference of the British Methodist Church located the "true continuity" with the Church of past ages in "the continuity of Christian experience, the fellowship in the gift of the one Spirit; in the continuity in the allegiance to one Lord, the continued proclamation of the message; the continued acceptance of the mission;..." [through a long chain which goes back to the] "the first disciples in the company of the Lord Himself ... This is our doctrine of apostolic succession" [which neither depends on, nor is secured by,] "an official succession of ministers, whether bishops or presbyters, from apostolic times, but rather by fidelity to apostolic truth".
The Moravian Church teaches that it has preserved apostolic succession. In order to preserve apostolic succession, three Moravian Brethren were consecrated bishops by Bishop Stephen of Austria, a Waldensian bishop who had been ordained by a Roman Catholic bishop in 1434. These three consecrated bishops returned to Lititz and then ordained other Moravians, thereby preserving the historic episcopate.
Protestant denominations that reject apostolic succession
Most Protestants deny the doctrine of apostolic succession, believing that it is neither taught in Scripture nor necessary for Christian teaching, life, and practice. Accordingly, these Protestants strip the notion of apostolic succession from the definition of "apostolic" or "apostolicity." For them, to be apostolic is simply to be in submission to the teachings of the original twelve apostles as recorded in Scripture. This doctrinal stance reflects the Protestant view of authority, embodied in the doctrine known as Sola Scriptura.
Among the original champions of Protestantism who rejected the doctrine of apostolic succession were John Calvin, and Martin Luther. They both said that the episcopacy was inadequate to address corruption, doctrinal or otherwise, and that this inadequacy justified the intervention of the church of common people. In part this position was also necessary, as otherwise there would have been no means to elicit or initiate reform of the church.
In the 20th century, there has been more contact between Protestants and Christians from Eastern traditions which claim apostolic succession for their ministry. Like the Roman Catholic Church, these ancient Eastern churches may use the doctrine of apostolic succession in ministry in their apologetics against Protestantism. Some Protestants feel that such claims of apostolic succession are proven false by the differences in traditions and doctrines between these churches: Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox consider both the Church of the East and the Oriental Orthodox churches to be heretical, having been anathematized in the early ecumenical councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451) respectively. However, churches that claim apostolic succession in ministry distinguish this from doctrinal orthodoxy, holding that "it is possible to have valid orders coming down from the apostles, and yet not to have a continuous spiritual history coming down from the apostles".
All Christians who have a genuine relationship with God through and in Christ are part of the "true Church", according to exemplary statements of evangelical Protestant theology, notwithstanding condemnation of the Catholic Church by some Protestants. According to these statements, claims that one or more denominations might be the "true Church" are nothing more than propaganda which has evolved over centuries to support authoritarian claims—based on tradition or based on scripture—of merely human institutions. Such claims can be found among the worldwide community of Christians. Yet all appear to treasure the truth that liberates, and Jesus taught his followers to love one another.
Charismatic and British New Church Movement
Some Protestant charismatic and British New Church Movement churches include "apostles" among the offices that should be evident into modern times in a true church, though they never trace an historical line of succession. The founders or senior leaders of a British New Church Movement group will frequently be referred to as the apostles. Church planting is a key role of these present-day apostles.
Confessional Lutheranism rejects Apostolic succession, stating that there is no evidence the Popes have historic succession from Peter other than their own claim that it is so. Furthermore, they claim that the Bible contains no evidence showing that the office must be conveyed by laying-on of hands and no Biblical command that it must be by a special class of bishops. Laying-on of hands is repeatedly mentioned, especially in the case of Paul and Timothy; however, it is a descriptive, non-prescriptive teaching in the Bible:
A person enters the public ministry through the divine call. God through his people places a person into the public ministry when they ask a qualified individual to proclaim the gospel and administer the sacraments in their name and on their behalf and he accepts the call. The divine call confers the office, not ordination. Ordination is the public declaration of the man's fitness for office and the public recognition or confirmation of the legitimacy of the call that was extended and accepted. Although it is still our custom to lay on hands during the right of ordination, the laying on of hands is not commanded by God and is not necessary.
Other teachings on apostolic succession
Latter Day Saint Movement
Denominations within the Latter Day Saint movement claim apostolic succession through the process of restoration. According to their teaching, a period of universal apostasy followed the death of the Twelve Apostles. Without apostles or prophets left on the earth with the legitimate Priesthood Authority, many of the true teachings and practices of Christianity were lost. Eventually these were restored to the prophet Joseph Smith and various others in a series of divine conferrals and ordinations by angelic men who had held this authority during their lifetimes (see this partial list of restoration events). As it relates to apostolic succession, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery said that the apostles Peter, James, and John appeared to them in 1829 and conferred upon them the Melchizedek Priesthood and with it "the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times".
For The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the largest denomination in the Latter Day Saint movement, Apostolic Succession is the leadership of the Church being established through the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Each time the President of the Church dies, the most senior Apostle, who is designated as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, is set apart as the new church president.
Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica
Although no longer Christian, Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, also known as E.G.C., recognizes apostolic succession as a major spiritual tenet. Because E.G.C. has since accepted the Law of Thelema, a religion which claims to supersede Christianity, it is no longer concerned with apostolic succession deriving from Jesus. Instead, apostolic succession in E.G.C. is derived from The Master Therion, known by his civil name as Aleister Crowley and considered by Thelemites to be the Prophet of the Aeon.
Unlike apostolic succession in Christianity, E.G.C. does not claim that Thelemic Succession grants the power to remit and retain sins. Instead, the point of a valid line of succession in E.G.C. is to grant the authority to claim communion and benediction of the Gnostic Saints.
- Baptist successionism
- Episcopi vagantes
- List of Bishops
- New Apostolic Church
- Pope Linus
- Twelve Apostles
- Valid but illicit
Notes and references
- F.L. Cross, E.A. Livingstone (editors), The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3), article "apostolic succession"
- "Justo L. González, ''Essential Theological Terms'' (Westminster John Knox Press 2005 ISBN 978-0-664-22810-1), p. 15". Google.com. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
- Guidry, Christopher R.; Crossing, Peter F. (1 January 2001). World Christian Trends, AD 30-AD 2200: Interpreting the Annual Christian Megacensus. William Carey Library. p. 307. ISBN 9780878086085. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
A number of large episcopal churches (e.g. United Methodist Church, USA) have maintained a succession over 200 years but are not concerned to claim that the succession goes back in unbroken line to the time of the first Apostles. Very many other major episcopal churches, however-Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Old Catholic, Anglican, Scandinavian Lutheran-do make this claim and contend that a bishop cannot have regular or valid orders unless he has been consecrated in this apostolic succession.
- Donald S. Armentrout, Robert Boak Slocum An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church (Church Publishing 1999 ISBN 9780898692112), p. 25 or
- Jay, Eric G. The Church. John Knox press: 1980, p.229
- Adam, Karl. The Spirit of Catholicism Doubleday & C°, Inc: 1957 p. 20
- ""Apostolic Succession" in ''The Columbia Encyclopedia'', Sixth Edition (Columbia University Press 2004)". Questia.com. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
- Jay, Eric G. The Church John Knox Press: 1980, p.317f
- Ramsey, Arthur Michael. The Gospel and the Catholic Church (translated from the Spanish edition published in the Dominican Republic: 1964, pp.134ff)
- Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, 35, 36
- Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, 38
- , , sec. 49
- essentially Lumen Gentium, 19–21
- Wells, David F. Revolution in Rome, Tyndale Press: 1973, p.36
- Kelly, J.N.D (1965). Early Christian Doctrines. London: A&C Black. p. 37.
- "Walter A. Elwell, ''Evangelical Dictionary of Theology'' (Baker Academic 2001 ISBN 978-0-8010-2075-9), p. 89". Google.com. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
- "Merrill F. Unger, Roland Kenneth Harrison (editors), ''The New Unger's Bible Dictionary'' (Moody 1988 ISBN 978-0-8024-9066-7), article "Apostle"". Google.com. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
- Ramsey, Arthur Michael. From Gore to Temple. Longmans (1959)
- "The Prescription against Heretics: Chapter 32". Newadvent.org. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
- Jay, Eric G. The Church, John Knox Press (1978). p.31ff citing Ad Cor. xliiff
- Woollcombe, K.J. "The Ministry and the Order of the Church in the Works of the Fathers" in The Historic Episcopate. Kenneth M. Carey(ed) Dacre Press (1954) p.31f
- "Bernard B. Prusak, ''The Church Unfinished''(Paulist Press 2004 ISBN 978-0-8091-4286-6), p. 125". Google.com. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
- Jay, Eric G. The Church, John Knox Press (1978). p.47f citing Adv. Haer. III.ii.2 and IV.xxvi.2 respectively
- Jay, Eric G. The Church, John Knox Press (1978). p.51 citing De Praescr. xx,xxi
- Jay, Eric G. The Church, John Knox Press (1978). p.67f
- Woollcombe, K.J. "The Ministry and the Order of the Church in the Works of the Fathers" in The Historic Episcopate Kenneth M. Carey(ed) Dacre Press (1954) pp. 56–7
- Oskar Sommel, Rudolf Stählin Christliche Religion, Frankfurt 1960, p.19
- Tracts for the Times - Number 1, pp. 2-3 (emphases in original)
- Litton, E.A. Introduction to Dogmatic Theology. James Clarke & C°: 1960, p.388
- Litton, E.A. Introduction to Dogmatic Theology. James Clarke & C°: 1960, p.389
- quoted by Thurian from a report to the 1911 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
- Thurian, Max. Priesthood & Ministry. Paula Clifford (tr) Mowbrays: 1983, pp.167f
- Thomas, Griffith. The Principles of Theology. Church Book Room Press:1963, p.357
- Ramsey, Arthur Michael. The Gospel and the Catholic Church (translated from the Spanish edition published in the Dominican Republic: 1964, p.136)
- Barrett, C.K. Church, Ministry and Sacraments in the New Testament Paternoster Press: 1993, p.92f
- Barrett, C.K. Church, Ministry and Sacraments in the New Testament Paternoster Press: 1993, p.94f
- Barrett, C.K. Church, Ministry and Sacraments in the New Testament Paternoster Press: 1993, p.95
- Jalland, Trevor Gervaise. The Church and the Papacy. SPCK: 1944, pp.80ff
- Harvey, A.E. Priest or President?. SPCK:1975, pp.45f
- Apostolicity Catholic Encyclopedia article
- Ramsey, Arthur Michael. From Gore to Temple Longmans: 1960, pp. 119–24
- "Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church", published 10 July 2007.
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- "If the very order of episcopal succession is to be considered, how much more surely, truly, and safely do we number them from Peter himself, to whom, as to one representing the whole Church, the Lord said, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church’....[Matthew 16:18] Peter was succeeded by Linus, Linus by Clement, Clement by Anacletus, Anacletus by Evaristus..." (St. Augustine; Letters 53:1:2 [A.D. 412]).
- The Roman Catholic position is summarised this way: "The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it ....’[Mt. 16:18] On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep,[Jn 21:17] and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity.... If someone [today] does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?" (Cyprian of Carthage; The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; first edition [A.D. 251]). Peter's Successors. Catholic Answers.
- "Catechism of the Catholic Church, #861–862". Old.usccb.org. 14 December 1975. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
- "Apostolic succession in the Roman Catholic Church". Mysite.verizon.net. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
- R. William Franklin(ed). Anglican Orders. Mowbray 1996 pp.72,73(note 11), 104
- Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, "Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio fidei
- "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ''Responses to some questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine of the Church''". Vatican.va. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
- McBrien, Richard P. "Debate over role of 'bishop' in apostolic succession is a church-dividing issue." The National Catholic Reporter, 19 September 2008. Web: 21 February 2010.[dead link]
- See Meyendorff J., Byzantine Theology
- Cleenewerck, Laurent. His Broken Body. Washington, DC: EUC Press, 2007. pp. 86–89
- Cleenewerck, Laurent. His Broken Body. Washington, DC: EUC Press, 2007. p. 138
- "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". Web.archive.org. 23 July 2011. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
- Jay, Eric G. The Church John Knox Press(1980), p.291 quoting the Anglican-Methodist Unity Commission Report 1968 p.37
- Brian Reid (26 August 1998). "The Anglican Domain: Church History". Anglican.org. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
- "Document Library". Cofe.anglican.org. 11 July 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
- "Council for Christian Unity". Cofe.anglican.org. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
- Neill, Stephen. Anglicanism Pelican (1960) pp.49,61
- Neill, Stephen. Anglicanism Pelican (1960) p.67
- Neill, Stephen. Anglicanism Pelican (1960) p.131
- Archer, Stanley (1993). "Hooker on Apostolic Succession: The Two Voices". The Sixteenth Century Journal 24 (1): 67–74. JSTOR 2541798.
While he argues that the rank originated with the Apostles, enjoyed divine approval, and flourished throughout Christendom, he rejects the view inherent in the Catholic position that the office is divinely commanded or is a result of divine law.
- Norris, Richard A. "Episcopacy" in The Study of Anglicanism Sykes, Stephen & Booty, John (eds) SPCK(1988), p.304
- Norris, Richard A. "Episcopacy" in The Study of Anglicanism Sykes, Stephen & Booty, John (eds) SPCK(1988), p.305
- Webster, John B. "Ministry and Priesthood" in The Study of Anglicanism Sykes, Stephen & Booty, John (eds) SPCK(1988), p.305
- Ramsey, Arthur Michael. From Gore to Temple Longmans(1960) p.111. All quotations in this paragraph are from this work, unless otherwise indicated.
- The Ecumenical Patriarch on Anglican Orders
- The Orthodox Web Site for information about the faith, life and worship of the Orthodox Church[dead link]
- Neill, Stephen. Anglicanism Pelican:1960, p.105
- [dead link]
- For if the Pope shall by a new decree declare our Fathers of two hundred and fifty years ago wrongly ordained, there is nothing to hinder the inevitable sentence that by the same law all who have been similarly ordained have received no orders. And if our Fathers, who used in 1550 and 1552 forms which as he (the Pope) says are null, were altogether unable to reform them in 1662, (Roman) Fathers come under the self-same law. And if Hippolytus and Victor and Leo and Gelasius and Gregory have some of them said too little in their rites about the priesthood and the high priesthood, and nothing about the power of offering the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ, the Church of Rome herself has an invalid priesthood... Archbishops of England: Saepius Officio: Answer of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the Bull Apostolicae Curae of H. H. Leo XIII
- Franklin, R. William. "Introduction: The Opening of the Vatican Archives and the ARCIC Process" in Franklin, R. William (ed)Anglican orders Mowbray:1996
- With regard to those truths connected to revelation by historical necessity and which are to be held definitively, but are not able to be declared as divinely revealed, the following examples can be given: the legitimacy of the election of the Supreme Pontiff or of the celebration of an ecumenical council, the canonisations of saints (dogmatic facts), the declaration of Pope Leo XIII in the Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations... "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: ''Doctrinal commentary on the concluding formula of the ''professio fidei". Ewtn.com. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
- "Statement of Cardinal Hume on the Ordination of Anglican Bishop Leonard as a Roman Catholic Priest". The Catholic Resource Network (Trinity Communications). 1994. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
- Timothy Dufort, The Tablet, 29 May 1982, pp. 536–538.
- See below, section: "Lutheran Churches".
- "The Church of Denmark and the Anglican Communion". Anglicanhistory.org. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
- Melton, J. Gordon (1 January 2005). Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Infobase Publishing. p. 91. ISBN 9780816069835. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
Martin Luther seemed personally indifferent to apostolic succession, but branches of the Lutheran Church most notably the Church of Sweden, preserve episcopal leadership and apostolic succesison.
- Also, evidently in some churches the title of bishop was re-introduced without reference to apostolic succession, which happened in most cases under Nazi influence. Christliche Religion, Oskar Simmel, Rudolf Stählin (Frankfurt 1960), at 164.
- König, Andrea (20 July 2010). Mission, Dialog und friedliche Koexistenz: Zusammenleben in einer multireligiösen und säkularen Gesellschaft : Situation, Initiativen und Perspektiven für die Zukunft. Peter Lang. p. 205. ISBN 9783631609453. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
Having said that, Lutheran bishops in Sweden or Finland, which retained apostolic succession, or other parts of the world, such as Africa or Asia, which gained it from Scandinavia, could easily be engaged to do something similar in Australia, as has been done in the United States, without reliance on Anglicans.
- Benedetto, Robert; Duke, James O. (13 August 2008). The New Westminster Dictionary of Church History: The Early, Medieval, and Reformation Eras. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 594. ISBN 0664224164. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
In Sweden the apostolic succession was preserved because the Catholic bishops were allowed to stay in office, but they had to approve changes in the ceremonies.
- Together in Mission and Ministry: The Porvoo Common Statement, With, Essays on Church and Ministry in Northern Europe: Conversations Between the British and Irish Anglican Churches and the Nordic and Baltic Lutheran Churches. Church House Publishing. 1993. ISBN 0715157507. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
What made the Church of Sweden an evangelical-catholic church was to Archbishop Söderblom the fact that the Reformation in Sweden was a 'church improvement' and a 'process of purification' which did not create a new church. As a national church, the Church of Sweden succeeded in bringing together medieval Swedish tradition with the rediscovery of the gospel which the Reformation brought with it. Archbishop Söderblom included the historic episcopate in the tradition-transmitting elements. The Church of Sweden was, according to Söderblom, in an even higher degree than the Anglican Church a via media.
- Gassmann, Günther; Larson, Duane Howard; Oldenburg, Mark W. (2001). Historical Dictionary of Lutheranism,. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810839458. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
In addition to the primary understanding of succession, the Lutheran confessions do express openness, however, to the continuation of the succession of bishops. This is a narrower understanding of apostolic succession, to be affirmed under the condition that the bishops support the Gospel and are ready to ordain evangelical preachers. This form of succession, for example, was continued by the Church of Sweden (which included Finland) at the time of the Reformation.
- Alan Richardson, John Bowden John (1 January 1983). The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 0664227481. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
The churches of Sweden and Finland retained bishops and the conviction of being continuity with the apostolic succession, while in Denmark the title bishop was retained without the doctrine of apostolic succession.
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- The lineages include the Episcopal, Anglican, Church of Sweden, and Old Catholic.
- Sullivan, Francis Aloysius (2001). From Apostles to Bishops: The Development of the Episcopacy in the Early Church. Paulist Press. p. 4. ISBN 0809105349. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
the Catholic Church has never officially expressed its judgement on the validity of orders as they have been handed down by episcopal succession in these two national Lutheran churches.
- Martin Luther, An Appeal to the Ruling Class of German Nationality as to the Amelioration of the State of Christendom (1520), reprinted in Lewis W. Spitz, editor, The Protestant Reformation (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall 1966) at 51–59. E.g., "When a bishop consecrates, he simply acts on behalf of the entire congregation, all of whom have the same authority." ... "[T]he status of priest among Christians is merely that of an office-bearer; while he holds the office he exercises it; if he be deposed he resumes his status in the community and becomes like the rest. ... All these are human inventions and regulations." Ibid. at 54, 55.
- "Defense of the Augsburg confession, Article XVI, lines 24". Bookofconcord.org. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
- Cf., Roland H. Bainton, The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century (Boston: The Beadon Press 1952) at 67–68.
- Cf., Jean Calvin, Ecclesiastical ordinances (Genève 1541, 1561), reprinted in Lewis W. Spitz, editor, The Protestant Reformation (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice–Hall 1966) at 122–129, 122.
- The Evangelical Church of Anhalt, Evangelical Church in Baden, Bremian Evangelical Church (union of Lutheran and Reformed in 1873), Evangelical Church in Hesse and Nassau, Evangelical Church of Hesse-Kassel and Waldeck, and the Evangelical Church of the Palatinate.
- In 1866 the German Confederation dissolved; in 1871 most of its former member states joined the German Empire led by Prussia. Hajo Holborn, A History of Modern Germany 1840–1945 [volume 3] (New York: Alfred A. Knoft 1969) at 187–188, 194–199 ; at 223–227 .
- E.g., the current umbrella federation of German protestant churches known as the EKD has as members 22 Church bodies: 9 regional Lutheran, 11 united Lutheran and Reformed, and 2 Reformed.
- "C.F.W. Walther and the Missouri Synod Today".
- "A Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod".
- Separated Brethren: A Review of Protestant, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox & Other Religions in the United States. Our Sunday Visitor. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
the Methodists were directed to receive baptism and Holy Communion from Episcopal priests. They soon petitioned to receive the sacraments from the same Methodist preachers who visited their homes and conducted their worship services. The Bishop of London refused to ordain preachers in the colonies, so in 1784 Wesley assumed the power to ordain ministers himself.
- John Wesley in Company with High Churchmen [Parallel Passages, Selected] by an Old Methodist [H.W. Holden]. Church Press Company. p. 57. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
- The life and times of the John Wesley, founder of the Methodists, Volume 2. Regent College Publishing. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
Just at this juncture, Erasmus a bishop of the Greek church, visited London.
- Wesleyan-Methodist magazine: being a continuation of the Arminian or Methodist magazine first publ. by John Wesley. Wesleyan Methodist Magazine. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
Mr. Wesley thus became a Bishop, and consecrated Dr. Coke, who united himself with ... who gave it under his own hand that Erasmus was Bishop of Arcadia, ...
- English Spirituality in the Age of Wesley. Regent College Publishing. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
By 1763, Wesley was desperate to obtain ordination for some of his lay preachers and when bishop after bishop refused, he took the dubious expedient -against the council of all his close friends and associates-of asking one Easmus, who claimed to be bishop of Arcadia in Crete, to do the job. Erasmus knew no English, but agreed.
- The Churchman, Volume 40. University of Michigan. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
Erasmus was the Bishop of Arcadia, in Crete. In 163, he visited London. Wesley found his credentials unexceptionable, and Dr. Jones, one of the preachers whom he had ordained, obtained testimonials concerning him from Symrna.
- The historic episcopate: a study of Anglican claims and Methodist orders. Eaton & Mains. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
Dr. Peters was present at the interview, and went with and introduced Dr. Seabury to Mr. Wesley, who was so far satisfied that he would have been willingly consecrated by him in Mr. Wesley would have signed his letter of orders as bishop, which Mr. Wesley could not do without incurring the penalty of the Præmunire Act.
- Why two Episcopal Methodist churches in the United States?: A brief history answering this question for the benefit of Epworth Leaguers and other young Methodists. Publishing House of the M.E. Church, South. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
Also that he was always a member of that Church, had received ordination to the highest orders therein by her duly constituted bishops and died a minister of that Church. This is important as showing that, were there any virtues whatever in the claim of "apostolic succession," Mr. Wesley was the recipient of all such virtues. If the Episcopal Church has the "blessing" of apostolic succession, then had Wesley. Hence no Methodist need stand abashed before any egotist who prates loudly the virtue of "apostolic succession." Your ordination is as secure and divinely authorized on this ground as is that of the Pope of Rome, the Archbishop of Canterbury, or any bishop in America; and your baptism is as safely apostolical as any ever administered to king, prelate, or prince. And this fact will appear important at every step after the organization of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1784, seven years before Mr. Wesley's death.
- SWhy two Episcopal Methodist churches in the United States?: A brief history answering this question for the benefit of Epworth leaguers and other young Methodists. Publishing House of the M.E. Church, South. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
And since he himself ordained and sent forth every Methodist preacher in his day, who preached and baptized and ordained (except such as, like himself, had been ordained by a bishop of the established Church), and since every Methodist preacher who has ever been ordained as a Methodist was ordained in this direct "succession" from Wesley, then have we all the direct merits coming from apostolic succession, if any such there be.
- Separated Brethren: A Review of Protestant, Anglican, Eastern Orthodox & Other Religions in the United States. Our Sunday Visitor. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
Today the World Methodist Council represents twenty-nine million members of some sixty churches that trace their heritage to Wesley and his brother Charles.
- "Constitution of the Unity Catholic Church". Unity Catholic Church. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
+John Wesley was consecrated by +Erasmus, Bishop in the Greek Orthodox Church, Diocese of Arcadia in 1763.
- Cyclopædia of Biblical, theological, and ecclesiastical literature, Volume 6. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
Wesley had believed that bishops and presbyters constituted but one order, with the same right to ordain. He knew that for two centuries the succession of bishops in the Church of Alexandria was preserved through ordination by presbyters alone. "I firmly believe," he said, "I am a scriptural ἐπίσκοπος, as much as any man in England or in Europe; for the uniterrupted succession I know to be a fable which no man ever did or can prove;" but he also held that "Neither Christ nor his apostles prescrive any particular form of Church government." He was a true bishop of the flock which God had given to his care. He had hitherto refused "to exercise this right" of ordaining, because he would not come into needless conflict with the order of the English Church to which he belonged. But after the Revolution, his ordaining for American would violate no law of the Church; and when the necessity was clearly apparent, his hesitation ceased. "There does not appear," he said, "any other way of supplying them with ministers." Having formed his purpose, in February 1784, he invited Dr. Coke to his study in City Road, laid the case before him, and proposed to ordain and send him to America.
- The historic episcopate: a study of Anglican claims and Methodist orders. Eaton & Mains. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
IN September, 1784, the Rev. John Wesley, assisted by a presbyter of the Church of England and two other elders, ordained by solemn imposition of the hands of the Rev. Dr. Thomas Coke to the episcopal office.
- Appleton's cyclopædia of American biography, Volume 6. D. Appleton & Company. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
Being refused, he conferred with Thomas Coke, a presbyter of the Church of England, and with others, and on 2 Sept., 1784, he ordained Coke bishop, after ordaining Thomas Vasey and Richard Whatcoat as presbyters, with his assistance and that of another presbyter.
- A compendious history of American Methodism. Scholarly Publishing Office. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
Wesley referes(sic) to the ordination of bishops by the presbyters of Alexandria, in justification of his ordination of Coke.
- "The Ministry of the Elder". United Methodist Church. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
- "Seven Days of Preparation – A Guide for Reading, Meditation and Prayer for all who participate in The Conversation: A Day for Dialogue and Discernment: Ordering of Ministry in the United Methodist Church" (PDF). United Methodist Church. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
The Discipline affirms that "ordination to this ministry is a gift from God to the Church. In ordination, the Church affirms and continues the apostolic ministry through persons empowered by the Holy Spirit" (¶303).[dead link]
- Episcopal Methodism, as it was, and is;: Or, An account of the origin, progress, doctrines, church polity, usages, institutions, and statistics, of the Methodist Episcopal church in the United States. Miller, Orton & Mulligan. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
"Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by the laying on of the hands of the presbytery." Here it is plain that the ministerial gift or power which Timothy possessed, was given him by the laying on of the hands of the body of the elders who ordained him. And in regard to the government of the church, it is equally plain that bishops, in distinction from presbyters, were not charged with the oversight thereof, for it is said – Acts xx. 17, 28, that Paul "called the elders (not the bishops) of the Church of Ephesus, and said unto them, 'Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers,' feed the church of God." On this passage we remark, 1st, that the original Greek term for the word "overseer" is "episcopos," they very word from which our term "bishop" is derived, and which is generally translated "bishop" in the English version of the New Testament. Now this term episcopos, overseer, or bishop, is applied to the identical persons called elders in the 17th verse, and to none other. Consequently, Paul must have considered elders and bishops as one, not only in office, but in order also; and so the Ephesian ministers undoubtedly understood him.
- Episcopal Methodism, as it was, and is;: Or, An account of the origin, progress, doctrines, church polity, usages, institutions, and statistics, of the Methodist Episcopal church in the United States. Miller, Orton & Mulligan. Retrieved 10 June 2013.
But if Scripture is opposed to modern high church claims and pretensions, so is history, on which successionists appear to lay so much stress.
- Melton, J. Gordon (1 January 2005). Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Infobase Publishing. p. 91. ISBN 9780816069835. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
Among other Protestants that claim apostolic succession is the Moravian Church.
- Stocker, Harry Emilius (1918). Moravian customs and other matters of interest. Times publishing co., printers. p. 20. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
They were extremely solicitous to secure a ministry whose validity the Roman Catholics and others would be compelled to recognise. For this reason they resolved to seek the episcopal succession. At that time a colony of Waldenses lived on the Bohemian border. The synod was satisfied that these people possessed the regular authenticated episcopal succession. Their chief was Stephen. To him the Brethren sent a deputation consisting of three priests or presbyters. These were Michael Bradacius, a priest of the Roman Catholic, and a priest of the Waldensian Church, whose names have not been preserved. They were instructed to inquire into the validity of the Waldensian episcopate. Stephen received the deputies with great kindness, assembled his assistant bishops, and entered into a minute account of the episcopacy which they had. Fully satisfied with what they lad learned the deputies requested to be consecrated bishops. This request Bishop Stephen and his assistants fulfilled in a solemn convocation of the Waldensian Church. The new bishops immediately returned to the barony of Lititz where another synod was convened and three of the brethren were set apart for the work of the ministry, by the laying on of hands. In spite of the terrible persecutions suffered by the Ancient Church, this episcopate was most wonderfully preserved.
- Schaff, Philip (30 November 2007). The Creeds of Christendom: History of the Creeds – Volume I, Part II. Cosimo, Inc. p. 567. ISBN 9781602068902. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
they sought regular ordination from a Waldensian bishop, Stephen of Austria, who was reported to have been ordained by a Roman bishop in 1434, and who afterwards suffered martyrdom in Vienna.
- Martin E. Marty, A Short History of Christianity (New York: Meridian Books 1959) at 75–77 (traditional doctrine).
- Cf., John Calvin, Institutio Christianae Religionis 1536, 5th ed. 1559; translated by John Allen as Institutes of the Christian Religion (London 1813; reprinted Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publications, 6th ed. 1921), 2 volumes.
- Martin Luther The Bondage of the Will (1525)
- "Ronald Knox, ''In Soft Garments'' (Ignatius Press 2010 ISBN 978-1-58617-300-5), p. 216". Google.com. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
- But cf., Mark A. Noll and Carolyn Nystrom, Is the Reformation Over? An evangelical assessment of contemporary Roman Catholicism (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic 2005).
- John 13:35
- "Divine Call - Apostolic Succession / Transmutation Authority". WELS Topical Q&A. Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Archived from the original on 27 Sep 2009. Retrieved 4 Feb 2015.
- "Definition of Church and Ministry - Apostolic Sucession". WELS Topical Q&A. Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Archived from the original on 27 Sep 2009. Retrieved 4 Feb 2015.
- "Apostasy – Gospel Topics". Lds.org. 21 February 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2013.
- Joseph Smith—History 1:72
- Doctrine and Covenants 128:20
- Tau Apiryon (1997). "The Role and Function of Thelemic Clergy in Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica". Hermetic.com. Retrieved 26 December 2011.
- "Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica". U.S. Grand Lodge, Ordo Templi Orientis. Retrieved 26 December 2011.
- Against Heresies, Online-text, Irenaeus, Against Heresies
- Apostolicity in the Catholic Encyclopedia
- Discussion of the Papacy by Scott Hahn
- "Was Wesley Ordained By Bishop Erasmus?" The Methodist Quarterly Review (1878)
- Methodist/Anglican Thoughts On Apostolic Succession by The Reverend Dr. Gregory S. Neal