APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION

 

 
 

Apostolic Succession

Hebrews 3:1 (KJV)
1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

Mark 3:13-19 (King James Version)
13 And he (JESUS) goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him.
14 And He ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,
15 And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils:
16 And Simon he surnamed Peter;
17 And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder:
18 And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite,
19 And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house.

Acts 8:14-25 (King James Version)
14 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John:
15 Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost:
16 (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.)
17 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

Ephesians 4:7-16 (King James Version) (Gifts Given To The Church)
7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
8 Wherefore he saith, When He ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Apostle    
 
(plural A·pos·tles)
noun
  one of Jesus Christ's disciples: any of the 12 followers of Jesus Christ chosen by him to preach the news about Christianity

Microsoft® Encarta® 2006. © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Apostle

Greek Strong's Number: 652

Greek Word: ἀπόστολος

Transliteration: apostolos

Usage Notes:

 

English Words used in KJV:

apostle 78
messenger 2
he that is sent 1
[Total Count: 81]

 

from <G649> (apostello); a delegate; specially an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ [“apostle”] (with miraculous powers) :- apostle, messenger, he that is sent.

Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.

 

apostolic succession    
 
  Christian doctrine of bishops' authority: the doctrine of some Christian denominations that the ordination of bishops follows in an unbroken line of succession from the Apostles, providing the basis of their spiritual authority

Microsoft® Encarta® 2006. © 1993-2005 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

 

 



   

Apostolic Succession

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Apostolic Succession is transmitted in an episcopal consecration by the laying on of hands.

Apostolic Succession is the doctrine in some of the more ancient Christian communions that the succession of bishops, in uninterrupted lines, is historically traceable back to the original twelve Apostles[1] Within Catholic Christianity it "is one of four elements which define the true Church of Jesus Christ" [2] and legitimizes the existing sacramental offices, as it is considered necessary for a bishop to perform legitimate or "valid" ordinations of priests, deacons, and other bishops. Apostolic succession is transmitted during episcopal consecrations (the ordination of bishops) by the laying on of hands of bishops previously consecrated within the apostolic succession. This lineage of ordination is traceable, according to the Catholic Church, to the original Twelve Apostles, thus making the Church the continuation of the early Apostolic Christian community.

The Catholic Church, as well as the Eastern Orthodox churches, Oriental Orthodox churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, the churches of the Anglican Communion, the Old Catholic Church all claim apostolic succession, as do some Lutheran churches in some Scandinavian countries, the Mar Toma Christians in India, and the Polish National Catholic Church, with 60,000 members.[3] While the Anglican claim of apostolic succession is recognized by some Eastern Orthodox churches, it is not officially recognized by the Catholic Church, based on Pope Leo XIII's papal bull Apostolicae Curae. However, since the promulgation of Apostolicae Curae, Anglican bishops have acquired Old Catholic lines of apostolic succession recognized by Rome. As a general rule, Protestantism rejects the doctrine of apostolic succession, and as such they have no traceable lineage to the Apostles like the more ancient Christians, such as those of the Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox churches.

Due to the sacramental theology of these churches, 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. Apostolic succession is an important dividing line to those who claim it: the lack of it is the main reason Protestant communities are not considered churches by the Orthodox churches and the Roman Catholic Church.[4]

Eastern Orthodox theology and ecclesiology teaches that each bishop is equal to the other bishops, even the Ecumenical Patriarch, who is first amongst equals. The Roman Catholic Church and many early Christian writers teach that Jesus gave Saint Peter a unique primacy among the apostles. Roman Catholics teach that this has been passed on in the office of the Papacy despite Saint Peter having been the Bishop of Antioch before completing his episcopacy in Rome.

"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 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. ... ’ [Matt. 16:18]. On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 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]). [5]

Apostolicity as doctrinal continuity

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[6]

Tertullian

While many of the more ancient Churches within the historical episcopate state that Holy Orders are valid only through apostolic succession, most of the various Protestant denominations would deny the need of maintaining episcopal continuity with the early Church. They generally hold that one important qualification of the Apostles was that they were chosen directly by Jesus and that they witnessed the resurrected Christ. According to this understanding, the work of the twelve (and the Apostle Paul), together with the prophets of the twelve tribes of Israel, provide the doctrinal foundation for the whole church of subsequent history through the Scriptures of the Bible. 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" with what they believe the early Christians to have believed, because it is in this sense only that men have fellowship with God in the truth (an extension of the new Reformation-era doctrines of sola fide and sola scriptura). The most meaningful apostolic succession for most Protestants, then, is a kind of "faithful succession" of apostolic teaching. There is, of course, much disagreement among various Protestant denominations about the exact content of apostolic teaching, ranging from fundamental doctrinal disagreements to lesser side-issues. In addition, some Protestants state that the teaching of apostolic succession, according to their interpretation, is not found in the Bible, so it isn't necessarily true.

It is worth noting, however, that the First of the Epistles of Clement which is commonly dated to the first century and claims to be written by the Roman Church (the chair of St. Peter and the center of the unity of the Church, according to Catholic doctrine) which was established by the Apostles presents a belief in apostolic succession as do also the Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch, who was a personal disciple of the Apostles John and Paul. Also worth noting is the fact that others beside the twelve Apostles and Saint Paul are called "Apostles" in the New Testament. Also noteworthy is the fact that the Apostle Paul, though given spiritual authority directly by Christ, did not embark on his apostleship without conferring with those who were apostles before him as he notes in his Epistle to the Galatians. By contrast, some Protestant charismatic and restorationist movements 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 or attempt to confer, like Paul, with those who were "apostles" before them. It is frequently the case that the founders or senior leaders of a restorationist church grouping will be referred to as the apostles, and they may have been ordained by self-ordination, or merely appointed by a congregation. "Church planting", according to the Restorationist Movement, is seen as a key role of these present-day apostles, but the concept of apostolic succession which protected the faith and inter-communion of the original Church through the first three centuries of persecution and cross-cultural, translinguistic evangelism has been lost in these new movements.

Those who hold to the importance of episcopal apostolic succession would counter the above by appealing to the New Testament, which, they say, implies a personal apostolic succession (from Paul to Timothy and Titus, for example) and which states that Jesus gave the Apostles a "blank check" to lead the Church as they saw fit under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.[7] They appeal as well to other documents of the very early Church, especially the Epistle of St. Clement to the Church at Corinth, written around 96 AD In it, Clement defends the authority and prerogatives of a group of "elders" or "bishops" in the Corinthian Church which had, apparently, been deposed and replaced by the congregation on its own initiative. In this context, Clement explicitly states that the apostles both appointed bishops as successors and had 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 431 AD), from which, as organizations, the Latin Catholic and Eastern Orthodox (at that point in time one Church until 1054, see Great Schism), as well Oriental Orthodox and the Assyrian Churches have all directly descended.

At the same time, no defender of the personal apostolic succession of bishops would deny the importance of doctrinal continuity in the Church.

These churches hold that Christ entrusted 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, the written portion of which is Scripture) to the apostles, and the apostles passed on this role by ordaining bishops after them.

Catholic and Orthodox theology additionally hold that the power and authority to confect the Sacraments, or at least all of the sacraments aside from baptism and matrimony (the first of which may be administered by anyone, the second of which is administered by the couple to each other) is passed on only through the sacrament of Holy Orders, and an unbroken line of ordination of bishops to the Apostles is necessary for the valid celebration of the sacraments today. Roman Catholics recognize 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. Since 1896, Rome has not fully recognized all Anglican orders as valid. The Eastern Orthodox do universally recognize Roman Catholics, but have a different concept of the apostolic succession as it exists outside of Eastern Orthodoxy. This is also the case with Anglicans or any other group having apostolic succession. The validity of any priest's ordination is decided by each autocephalic Orthodox church.[4] Neither the Catholic Church nor the Orthodox churches recognize the validity of the apostolic succession of the clergy of the Protestant denominations, in large measure because of their theology of the Eucharist, as well as the abandonment of more traditional views of the Sacraments and sacramentalism.

Traditional doctrine

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 certain mark of truth according to the will of the Father; all others, however, are to be suspected, who separated themselves from the principal succession.[8]

Irenaeus

As a traditional ecclesiastical doctrine, apostolic succession provides an historical basis for the spiritual authority of the bishops of the Church (the episcopate). Apostolic succession is usually described as the official authority that has been passed down through unbroken lines of successive bishops beginning with the original Apostles selected by Jesus, or on a similar basis. Put another way, bishops (in churches subscribing to the doctrine) are only created bishops by other bishops; thus, every bishop today is the end of an unbroken line of bishops, extending all the way back to one (or more) of the Apostles, through which authority descends.

This doctrine is claimed by the ancient Christian Churches (the Roman Catholic, the Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox), and other ancient Churches, and as well as by the traditional Episcopal and other Anglican Churches, and by several of the Lutheran Churches; it is referenced favorably by other churches. Some Protestant churches do not accept this doctrine as it has been commonly described, but rather will redefine it in a different way.[9]

Papal primacy is an issue different though related to apostolic succession as described here. The Roman Catholic Church has traditionally claimed a unique leadership role for the apostle Peter, believed to have been named by Jesus as leader of the apostles and as a focus of their unity, became the first Bishop of Rome, whose successors accordingly became the leaders of the worldwide Church as well. Churches not in communion with Rome do not agree completely or at all with this Catholic interpretation. One reason for this is because Saint Peter was the Bishop of Antioch before he went to Rome.

The literature on this traditional doctrine is substantial. Many inferences from it may be drawn.[10] Some Eastern Christians hold that the Roman church and, by extension, her Protestant offspring lost claim to apostolic succession by an illegitimate addition to the Nicene Creed (the Filioque clause) required by the Bishop of Rome just prior to the Great Schism in AD 1054. The rift resulted in the loss of apostolic succession in the western churches and the consequent doctrinal changes and excesses (e.g., Anselmian penal substitution, indulgences, etc.), resulting in the Protestant Reformation and the further splintering of Western Christendom.

The early Creed of the Church, adopted by the first ecumenical Council of Nicaea in 325, affirms that the Church is "One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic." Virtually all Christian denominations consider Apostolic Succession important in some fashion, although their definitions of the concept may vary, in some cases vary greatly (see below).

Churches claiming apostolic succession

Churches that claim the historic episcopate include the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Assyrian, Independent Catholic, the Anglican Communion, and several Lutheran Churches (see below). The former churches teach that apostolic succession is maintained through the consecration of their bishops in unbroken personal succession back to the apostles or at least to leaders from the apostolic era.[11] The Anglican and some Lutheran Churches do not specifically teach this but exclusively practice episcopal ordination.

These churches generally hold that Jesus Christ founded a community of believers and selected the apostles to serve, as a group, as the leadership of that community.

Roman Catholic Church

Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.[12]

Irenaeus, d. 202

On June 29 2007 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the prefecture of Cardinal William Levada explained, why apostolic succession is of great importance to the Catholic Church [13] The Vatican was asked, why the Second Vatican Council and all Catholic statements since the Council, do not consider Protestant Christian Communities as Churches. The Vatican responded 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.[14]

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 himself. This direct succession of bishops from the apostles to the present day bishops is referred to as apostolic succession. The Roman Catholic Church also holds that within the College of Apostles, Peter was picked out for the unique role of leadership and to serve as the source of unity among the apostles, a role among the bishops and within the church inherited by the pope as Peter's successor today.

These churches hold 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 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.

The unbrokenness of apostolic succession is also significant because of Jesus Christ's promise that the "gates of hell"[15] would not prevail against the Church, and his promise that he himself would be with the apostles to "the end of the age".[16] According to this interpretation, a complete disruption or end of apostolic succession would mean that these promises were not kept as would happen also with an apostolic succession that, while formally intact, completely abandoned the teachings of the Apostles and their immediate successors, as, for example, if all the bishops of the world agreed to abrogate the Nicene Creed or to repudiate the Bible.

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 recognize 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 fully recognize all Anglican orders as valid. This conflict stems over the Anglican Church's revision of its rite of ordination for its bishops during the 16th century. Most of today's Anglican bishops would trace their succession back through a bishop who was ordained with the revised form and thus would be viewed as invalid. However, a few Anglican bishops in Europe today can claim a line of succession through bishops who had only been ordained through the old rite. These bishops are viewed as valid by Rome. This validity was achieved through a number of different means, including ordinations by the schismatic Catholic bishops of the Old Catholic and Independent Catholic Churches who converted to Anglicanism.

Orthodox Churches

Orthodox Christians view Apostolic Succession as an important, God-ordained mechanism by which the structure and teaching of the Church are perpetuated. 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 holds that all legitimate bishops are properly successors of Peter[17]. 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 an 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[18].

According to ancient canons still observed with the Orthodox communion, 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.

Eastern Orthodoxy is less concerned with the question of 'validity' than Roman Catholicism, which means that Orthodox bishops can consider the merits of individual cases. It should be noted, however, that the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church has specifically stated that Roman Catholic orders are recognized, to the effect that Roman Catholic clergy seeking admission in the Moscow Patriarchate are received without ordination at their existing rank.[citation needed] The historic and normative practice of Eastern Orthodoxy has been to reordain clergymen coming from the Anglican / Episcopal communion, thus indicating the non-recognition of Anglican orders.

Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches mutally recognize the validity of ordinations performed within the communion of the other Orthodox Church.[citation needed]

[edit] Traditional Western Churches as seen by Eastern Churches

The Eastern Orthodox have often permitted non-Orthodox clergy to be rapidly ordained within Orthodoxy as a matter of pastoral necessity and economia. In some cases, priests entering Eastern Orthodoxy from Oriental Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism have been received by "vesting" and have been allowed to function immediately within Eastern Orthodoxy as priests. Recognition of Roman Catholic orders is stipulated in 1997 by the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church[19], but this position is not universal within the Eastern Orthodox communion.

In addition to a line of historic transmission, Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches additionally require that a hierarch maintain Orthodox Church doctrine, which they hold to be that of the Apostles, as well as communion with other Orthodox bishops.

The Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, which is one of the Oriental Orthodox churches, recognizes Roman Catholic episcopal consecrations without qualification (and that recognition is reciprocated).[citation needed]

[edit] Anglican Communion

The churches of the Anglican Communion claim to possess valid apostolic succession. When the Church of England broke from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century, it retained the episcopal polity and apostolic succession of the Roman Church. At first the Church of England continued to adhere to the doctrinal and liturgical norms of the Roman Church. However, in the years following the split, the Church of England was increasingly influenced by the protestant theology popular on the continent. During the reign of King Edward VI, changes were made to the rite of episcopal consecration. These changes became the grounds on which Pope Leo XIII, in his 1896 bull Apostolicae Curae, ruled that the Church of England had lost its valid apostolic succession due to the changes in the Edwardian ordinal. However, since the 1930s Old Catholic bishops (whom Rome recognizes as valid) have acted as co-consecrators in the ordination of Anglican bishops. By 1969, all Anglican bishops had acquired Old Catholic lines of apostolic succession fully recognized by Rome, according to Timothy Dufort.[20] Nevertheless, the ordination of women and active homosexuals to the Anglican priesthood and episcopacy have often been seen as evidence by some Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians that Anglican orders are invalid, on the basis that such actions allegedly constitute a break with apostolic tradition and this allegedly nullifies ordinations taking place in such an ecclesial communion.

Orthodox judgments

In the twentieth 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 recognized them as valid.[21] 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 judgments, however, have been more conflicting. The Orthodox Churches require a totality of common teaching in order to recognize orders and in this broader view finds 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 Orthodox Church as would any lay person.[22]

Oriental Orthodox Churches do not recognize Anglican orders.

Roman Catholic judgments

In the Roman 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 invalid and utterly void" because of changes made to the rite of consecration under Edward VI, thus denying that Anglicans participate in the apostolic succession.

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.[23] It was even suggested in their reply that if the Anglican orders were invalid, then the Roman orders were as well:

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...[24]

It is Roman Catholic doctrine that the teaching of Apostolicae Curae is a truth to be "held definitively", as evidenced by commentary by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, currently Pope Benedict XVI:

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 canonizations of saints (dogmatic facts), the declaration of Pope Leo XIII in the Apostolic Letter Apostolicae Curae on the invalidity of Anglican ordinations... [25]

"While firmly restating the judgment 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." This was a statement issued by Cardinal Basil Hume to explain the conditional character of his ordination of Dr Graham Leonard, former Anglican bishop of the Diocese of London, to the priesthood[26], but is not widely endorsed, and many would say that such a statement is misleading. Since the issuance of Apostolicae Curae many Anglican jurisdictions have revised their ordinals, bringing them more in line with ordinals of the early Church. The Nag's Head Fable discrediting Matthew Parker's ordination was dismissed as an invention long before the issuance of Apostolicae Curae.

Lutheran Churches

Wide variations exist within Lutheranism on this issue, Some Lutheran Churches in Scandianvian countries are favorable to the traditional doctrine of apostolic succession. Others, like the German Lutherans demphasized it after re-introducing the episcopacy.[27]

The six major Lutheran Churches of the Porvoo Communion (those of Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, and Lithuania) believe that they ordain their bishops in the apostolic succession in lines from the original Apostles.[28] Two other Lutheran Churches (those of Denmark and of Latvia) were observers at Porvoo. Several Churches within the historic episcopate believe the Church of Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland[29] have maintained apostolic succession, despite their Lutheranism. This view is not held by the Roman Catholic Church[30] nor by all of Orthodoxy.

One context for the wide differences among the Lutheran Churches is that by the Prussian Union of 1817 the government ordered the Lutheran Churches in Prussia to merge with non-Lutheran reform Churches in Prussia. Perhaps also many of the Lutheran Churches are relatively indifferent as a matter of doctrine to this particular issue of ecclesiastical governance, e.g., the conservative Missouri Synod generally places its church authority in the congregation rather than in the bishop, yet this church is in fellowship with other Lutheran Churches favoring episcopacy. The larger Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is led by the Presiding Bishop who is elected by the Churchwide Assembly for a six year term. The Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church recovered the apostolic succession from Old Catholic and Independent Catholic Churches, adopted a strict episcopal polity, and all of its clergy have been ordained (or re-ordained) into the historic apostolic succession. Similarly in German High Church Movement some religious brotherhoods like Hochkirchliche St. Johannes-Bruderschaft and Hochkirchlicher Apostolat St. Ansgar have got their own bishop to re-ordain in apostolic succession, while members do not form a separate body. The Lutheran Evangelical Protestant Church has autonomous and congregationally oriented ministries and believes it consecrates deacons, priests and bishops in valid and historic apostolic succession. This must be done through the laying on of hands with word and sacrament during the celebration of Holy Communion. Only bishops may consecrate deacons, priests and other bishops into apostolic succession. The newly consecrated bishop's name is added to the apostolic lineage.[31]

Methodist Churches

The Methodist Church of Great Britain is non-episcopal. Bishops in the United Methodist Church of the USA do not claim to be within the historic episcopate in the same way as Anglican, Catholic, and Orthodox bishops. They do, however, claim a corporate ("connexional") and theological form of Apostolic succession, and are not adverse to ecumenical acts which would further establish their ministry within the historic episcopate, though such would have to be accomplished without repudiating or otherwise questioning the validity of their current orders and ministries. Methodist episcopal succession derives from John Wesley, who was an ordained presbyter of the Church of England but not himself a bishop and thus not officially authorized to consecrate others. Wesley justified his practice of ordaining bishops (which he called "General Superintendents") and Elders (i.e., presbyters) for Methodists in the newly independent United States in 1784 by appealing to a perceived need and by citing a minority opinion among the early Church Fathers and an ancient precedent from the Church of Alexandria, which held that presbyters ("priests" or "elders") could, at least collectively, indeed ordain other such presbyters and even consecrate, or "set apart" bishops in certain emergency situations.[32] Based upon this argument, the United Methodist Church understands all of its Elders, not just its Bishops, as being part of an Apostolic succession of the entire body (or "conference") of ministers:

In ordination, the church affirms and continues the apostolic ministry through persons empowered by the Holy Spirit. (Book of Discipline paragraph 303)

In other words, Methodists understand apostolic succession as being rooted within the Presbyterate. This does not mean, however, that all elders may ordain; quite the contrary: only those elders who have been elected and consecrated as bishops can further the apostolic succession through the ordination of bishops, elders, and deacons within the United Methodist Church. In this way, the United Methodist episcopacy functions as if it were within the historic episcopate.

Accepting, but moving beyond this position, a few Methodists do affirm that their bishops stand in a form of the historic, as well as theological, Apostolic Succession (i.e., in the Anglican fashion); their argument is that Wesley's ordinations, and therefore the subsequent line of Methodist bishops, are legitimate due to the critical nature of the circumstances extant at that time. Some Methodists even make an appeal to the "Erasmian consecration," which asserts that, while on a visit to London in 1763, the Greek Orthodox bishop of the Diocese of Arcadia, Crete, secretly consecrated Wesley to the episcopacy. That Wesley actually met with Bishop Erasmus during the bishop's visit to London is not questioned; what is questioned is that Erasmus did more than simply "confirm Wesley in his ministry among the Methodists in England and America." When Wesley was asked by a clergyman if Erasmus of Arcadia had consecrated him a bishop, he said: "I cannot answer you."[33] Another source states that when Wesley was asked if Erasmus had made him a bishop, he offered no personal response but, rather, took the unusual course of authorizing a representative to reply that he had not requested episcopal consecration within the Greek Orthodox line. Many take this as a sufficient denial, but those who believe that Wesley was actually consecrated make the following arguments to the contrary:

  1. Wesley personally remained silent on the subject,
  2. Wesley took the unusual step of having someone to speak on his behalf, and
  3. Wesley never actually denied being consecrated a bishop, what he denied was requesting consecration from Erasmus.

Contrary to the "Erasmian consecration" stands the undeniable fact that, beginning with the American Revolution in the 1770s, Wesley did request episcopal consecration for several of his preachers and, indeed, for himself, so as to provide sacramental ministry for the Methodists in the break-away colonies. Opponents of the possibility that John Wesley had been consecrated a bishop by Erasmus of Arcadia argue that if Wesley had already been consecrated a bishop by Erasmus, he would have not requested such consecrations for others or for himself. The Greek Orthodox Bishop, Erasmus of Arcadia, is said to have ordained several Methodist lay preachers during Reverend John Wesley's absence from London in 1764,[34]notably, Reverend John Jones.[35]

Nevertheless, the "Erasmian consecration" remained a very popular argument throughout much of the 1800s and, while still garnering a following among some proponents today, it is not accepted by a majority of Methodists nor even by most of those who affirm a form of Apostolicity for their bishops. Interestingly enough, Wesley's consecration as a bishop by Erasmus of Arcadia is affirmed by Unity Catholic Church, an Independent Catholic Church.[36]

 

Apostolic Succession

According to John Salza on http://www.scripturecatholic.com

APOSTOLIC AUTHORITY AND SUCCESSION


Scripture

I. Ordained Leaders Share in Jesus' Ministry and Authority

Matt. 10:1,40 - Jesus declares to His apostles, "he who receives you, receives Me, and he who rejects you, rejects Me and the One who sent Me." Jesus freely gives His authority to the apostles in order for them to effectively convert the world.

Matt. 16:19; 18:18 - the apostles are given Christ's authority to make visible decisions on earth that will be ratified in heaven. God raises up humanity in Christ by exalting his chosen leaders and endowing them with the authority and grace they need to bring about the conversion of all. Without a central authority in the Church, there would be chaos (as there is in Protestantism).

Luke 9:1; 10:19 - Jesus gives the apostles authority over the natural and the supernatural (diseases, demons, serpents, and scorpions).

Luke 10:16 - Jesus tells His apostles, "he who hears you, hears Me." When we hear the bishops' teaching on the faith, we hear Christ Himself.

Luke 22:29 - the Father gives the kingdom to the Son, and the Son gives the kingdom to the apostles. The gift is transferred from the Father to the Son to the apostles.

Num 16:28 - the Father's authority is transferred to Moses. Moses does not speak on his own. This is a real transfer of authority.

John 5:30 - similarly, Jesus as man does nothing of His own authority, but He acts under the authority of the Father.

John 7:16-17 - Jesus as man states that His authority is not His own, but from God. He will transfer this authority to other men.

John 8:28 - Jesus says He does nothing on His own authority. Similarly, the apostles will do nothing on their own authority. Their authority comes from God.

John 12:49 - The father's authority is transferred to the Son. The Son does not speak on his own. This is a transfer of divine authority.

John 13:20 - Jesus says, "he who receives anyone who I send, receives Me." He who receives the apostles, receives Christ Himself. He who rejects the apostles and their successors, rejects Christ.

John 14:10 - Jesus says the Word He speaks is not His own authority, but from the Father. The gift is from the Father to Jesus to the apostles.

John 16:14-15 - what the Father has, the Son has, and the Son gives it to the apostles. The authority is not lessened or mitigated.

John 17:18; 20:21 - as the Father sends the Son, the Son sends the apostles. The apostles have divinely appointed authority.

Acts 20:28 - the apostles are shepherds and guardians appointed by the Holy Spirit / 1 Peter 2:25 - Jesus is the Shepherd and Guardian. The apostles, by the power of the Spirit, share Christ's ministry and authority.

Jer. 23:1-8; Ezek. 34:1-10 - the shepherds must shepherd the sheep, or they will be held accountable by God.

Eph. 2:20 - the Christian faith is built upon the foundation of the apostles. The word "foundation" proves that it does not die with apostles, but carries on through succession.

Eph. 2:20; Rev. 21:9,14 - the words "household," "Bride of the Lamb," the "new Jerusalem" are all metaphors for the Church whose foundation is the apostles.

 


II. Authority is Transferred by the Sacrament of Ordination

Acts 1:15-26 - the first thing Peter does after Jesus ascends into heaven is implement apostolic succession. Matthias is ordained with full apostolic authority. Only the Catholic Church can demonstrate an unbroken apostolic lineage to the apostles in union with Peter through the sacrament of ordination and thereby claim to teach with Christ's own authority.

Acts 1:20 - a successor of Judas is chosen. The authority of his office (his "bishopric") is respected notwithstanding his egregious sin. The necessity to have apostolic succession in order for the Church to survive was understood by all. God never said, "I'll give you leaders with authority for about 400 years, but after the Bible is compiled, you are all on your own."

Acts 1:22 - literally, "one must be ordained" to be a witness with us of His resurrection. Apostolic ordination is required in order to teach with Christ's authority.

Acts 6:6 - apostolic authority is transferred through the laying on of hands (ordination). This authority has transferred beyond the original twelve apostles as the Church has grown.

Acts 9:17-19 - even Paul, who was directly chosen by Christ, only becomes a minister after the laying on of hands by a bishop. This is a powerful proof-text for the necessity of sacramental ordination in order to be a legitimate successor of the apostles.

Acts 13:3 - apostolic authority is transferred through the laying on of hands (ordination). This authority must come from a Catholic bishop.

Acts 14:23 - the apostles and newly-ordained men appointed elders to have authority throughout the Church.

Acts 15:22-27 - preachers of the Word must be sent by the bishops in union with the Church. We must trace this authority to the apostles.

2 Cor. 1:21-22 - Paul writes that God has commissioned certain men and sealed them with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee.

Col 1:25 - Paul calls his position a divine "office." An office has successors. It does not terminate at death. Or it's not an office. See also Heb. 7:23 – an office continues with another successor after the previous office-holder’s death.

1 Tim. 3:1 - Paul uses the word "episcopoi" (bishop) which requires an office. Everyone understood that Paul's use of episcopoi and office meant it would carry on after his death by those who would succeed him.

1 Tim. 4:14 - again, apostolic authority is transferred through the laying on of hands (ordination).

1 Tim. 5:22 - Paul urges Timothy to be careful in laying on the hands (ordaining others). The gift of authority is a reality and cannot be used indiscriminately.

2 Tim. 1:6 - Paul again reminds Timothy the unique gift of God that he received through the laying on of hands.

2 Tim. 4:1-6 - at end of Paul's life, Paul charges Timothy with the office of his ministry . We must trace true apostolic lineage back to a Catholic bishop.

2 Tim. 2:2 - this verse shows God's intention is to transfer authority to successors (here, Paul to Timothy to 3rd to 4th generation). It goes beyond the death of the apostles.

Titus 1:5; Luke 10:1 - the elders of the Church are appointed and hold authority. God has His children participate in Christ's work.

1 John 4:6 - whoever knows God listens to us (the bishops and the successors to the apostles). This is the way we discern truth and error (not just by reading the Bible and interpreting it for ourselves).

Exodus 18:25-26 - Moses appoints various heads over the people of God. We see a hierarchy, a transfer of authority and succession.

Exodus 40:15 - the physical anointing shows that God intended a perpetual priesthood with an identifiable unbroken succession.

Numbers 3:3 - the sons of Aaron were formally "anointed" priests in "ordination" to minister in the priests' "office."

Numbers 16:40 - shows God's intention of unbroken succession within His kingdom on earth. Unless a priest was ordained by Aaron and his descendants, he had no authority.

Numbers 27:18-20 - shows God's intention that, through the "laying on of hands," one is commissioned and has authority.

Deut. 34:9 - Moses laid hands upon Joshua, and because of this, Joshua was obeyed as successor, full of the spirit of wisdom.

Sirach 45:15 - Moses ordains Aaron and anoints him with oil. There is a transfer of authority through formal ordination.

 


III. Jesus Wants Us to Obey Apostolic Authority

Acts 5:13 - the people acknowledged the apostles' special authority and did not dare take it upon themselves.

Acts 15:6,24; 16:4 - the teaching authority is granted to the apostles and their successors. This teaching authority must be traced to the original apostles, or the authority is not sanctioned by Christ.

Rom. 15:16 – Paul says he is a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God, so that the offering of the Gentiles may be acceptable. This refers to the ministerial priesthood of the ordained which is distinguishable from the universal priesthood of the laity. Notice the Gentiles are the “sacrifice” and Paul does the “offering.”

1 Cor. 5:3-5; 16:22; 1 Tim. 1:20; Gal 1:8; Matt 18:17 – these verses show the authority of the elders to excommunicate / anathemize ("deliver to satan").

2 Cor. 2:17 - Paul says the elders are not just random peddlers of God's word. They are actually commissioned by God. It is not self-appointed authority.

2 Cor. 3:6 – Paul says that certain men have been qualified by God to be ministers of a New Covenant. This refers to the ministerial priesthood of Christ handed down the ages through sacramental ordination.

2 Cor. 5:20 - Paul says we are "ambassadors" for Christ. This means that the apostles and their successors share an actual participation in Christ's mission, which includes healing, forgiving sins, and confecting the sacraments.

2 Cor. 10:6 – in reference to the ordained, Paul says that they are ready to punish every disobedience. The Church has the authority excommunicate those who disobey her.

2 Cor. 10:8 - Paul acknowledges his authority over God's people which the Lord gave to build up the Church.

1 Thess. 5:12-13 - Paul charges the members of the Church to respect those who have authority over them.

2 Thess. 3:14 - Paul says if a person does not obey what he has provided in his letter, have nothing to do with him.

1 Tim. 5:17 - Paul charges the members of the Church to honor the appointed elders (“priests”) of the Church.

Titus 2:15 - Paul charges Timothy to exhort and reprove with all authority, which he received by the laying on of hands.

Heb. 12:9 – in the context of spiritual discipline, the author says we have had earthly fathers (referring to the ordained leaders) to discipline us and we respected them.

Heb. 13:7,17 - Paul charges the members of the Church to remember and obey their leaders who have authority over their souls.

1 Peter 2:18 - Peter charges the servants to be submissive to their masters whether kind and gentle or overbearing.

1 Peter 5:5; Jude 8 - Peter and Jude charge the members of the Church to be subject to their elders.

2 Peter 2:10 - Peter warns the faithful about despising authority. He is referring to the apostolic authority granted to them by Christ.

3 John 9 - John points out that Diotrephes does not acknowledge John's apostolic authority and declares that this is evil.

Deut. 17:10-13 - the Lord commands His faithful Israel to obey the priests that He puts in charge, and do to all that they direct and instruct. The Lord warns that those who do not obey His priests shall die.

Num. 16:1-35 - Korah incited a "protestant" rebellion against God's chosen Moses in an effort to confuse the distinction between the ministerial and universal offices of priesthood, and Korah and his followers perished. (This effort to blind the distinctions between the priests and the laity is still pursued by dissidents today.)

Sirach 7:29-30 - with all your soul fear the Lord and honor His priests, love your Maker and do not forsake His ministers. God is not threatened by the authority He gives His children! God, as our Loving Father, invites us to participate in His plan of salvation with His Son Jesus. Without authority in the Church, there is error, chaos and confusion.

 

 

Tradition / Church Fathers

I. The Church Has Apostolic Succession

"And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture a certain place, 'I will appoint their bishops s in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.'... Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry...For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties." Pope Clement, Epistle to Corinthians, 42, 44 (A.D. 98).

"For what is the bishop but one who beyond all others possesses all power and authority, so far as it is possible for a man to possess it, who according to his ability has been made an imitator of the Christ off God? And what is the presbytery but a sacred assembly, the counselors and assessors of the bishop? And what are the deacons but imitators of the angelic powers, fulfilling a pure and blameless ministry unto him, as…Anencletus and Clement to Peter?" Ignatius, To the Trallians, 7 (A.D. 110).

"Hegesippus in the five books of Memoirs which have come down to us has left a most complete record of his own views. In them he states that on a journey to Rome he met a great many bishops, and that he received the same doctrine from all. It is fitting to hear what he says after making some remarks about the epistle of Clement to the Corinthians. His words are as follows: 'And the church of Corinth continued in the true faith until Primus was bishop in Corinth. I conversed with them on my way to Rome, and abode with the Corinthians many days, during which we were mutually refreshed in the true doctrine. And when I had come to Rome I remained a there until Anicetus, whose deacon was Eleutherus. And Anicetus was succeeded by Soter, and he by Eleutherus. In every succession, and in every city that is held which is preached by the law and the prophets and the Lord.'" Hegesippus, Memoirs, fragment in Eusebius Ecclesiatical History, 4:22 (A.D. 180).

"True knowledge is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy; and [above all, it consists in] the pre-eminent gift of love, which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels all the other gifts [of God]." Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 4:33:8 (A.D. 180).

"But if there be any (heresies) which are bold enough to plant themselves in the midst Of the apostolic age, that they may thereby seem to have been handed down by the apostles, because they existed in the time of the apostles, we can say: 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,--a man, moreover, who continued steadfast with the apostles. …To this test, therefore will they be submitted for proof by those churches, who, although they derive not their founder from apostles or apostolic men (as being of much later date, for they are in fact being founded daily), yet, since they agree in the same faith, they are accounted as not less apostolic because they are akin in doctrine…Then let all the heresies, when challenged to these two tests by our apostolic church, offer their proof of how they deem themselves to be apostolic. But in truth they neither are so, nor are they able to prove themselves to be what they are not. Nor are they admitted to peaceful relations and communion by such churches as are in any way connected with apostles, inasmuch as they are in no sense themselves apostolic because of their diversity as to the mysteries of the faith." Tertullian, Prescription against the Heretics, 33 (A.D. 200).

"And that you may still be more confident, that repenting thus truly there remains for you a sure hope of salvation, listen to a tale? Which is not a tale but a narrative, handed down and committed to the custody of memory, about the Apostle John. For when, on the tyrant's death, he returned to Ephesus from the isle of Patmos, he went away, being invited, to the contiguous territories of the nations, here to appoint bishops, there to set in order whole Churches, there to ordain such as were marked out by the Spirit." Clement of Alexandria, Who is the rich man that shall be save?, 42 (A.D. 210).

"We are not to credit these men, nor go out from the first and the ecclesiastical tradition; nor to believe otherwise than as the churches of God have by succession transmitted to us." Origen, Commentary on Matthew (post A.D. 244).

"Our Lord, whose precepts and admonitions we ought to observe, describing the honour of a bishop and the order of His Church, speaks in the Gospel, and says to Peter: 'I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.' Thence, through the changes of times and successions, the ordering of bishops and the plan of the Church flow onwards; so that the Church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rulers." Cyprian, To the Lapsed, 1 (A.D. 250).

"Therefore the power of remitting sins was given to the apostles, and to the churches which they, sent by Christ, established, and to the bishops who succeeded to them by vicarious ordination." Firmilian, To Cyprian, Epistle 75[74]:16 (A.D. 256).

"It is my purpose to write an account of the successions of the holy apostles, as well as of the times which have elapsed from the days of our Saviour to our own; and to relate the many important events which are said to have occurred in the history of the Church; and to mention those who have governed and presided over the Church in the most prominent parishes, and those who in each generation have proclaimed the divine word either orally or in writing... When Nero was in the eighth year of his reign, Annianus succeeded Mark the evangelist in the administration of the parish of Alexandria...Linus ...was Peter's successor in the episcopate of the church there...Clement also, who was appointed third bishop of the church at Rome." Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History,1:1,2:24, (A.D. 325).

"Lo! In these three successions, as in a mystery and a figure ... Under the three pastors,--there were manifold shepherds" Ephraem, Nisbene Hymns, The Bishops of Nisibis (Jacob, Babu, Valgesh), 13,14 (A.D. 350).

"[W]hile before your election you lived to yourself, after it, you live for your flock. And before you had received the grace of the episcopate, no one knew you; but after you became one, the laity expect you to bring them food, namely instruction from the Scriptures ... For if all were of the same mind as your present advisers, how would you have become a Christian, since there would be no bishops? Or if our successors are to inherit this state of mind, how will the Churches be able to hold together?" Athanasius, To Dracontius, Epistle 49 (A.D. 355).

"[B]elieve as we believe, we, who are, by succession from the blessed apostles, bishops; confess as we and they have confessed, the only Son of God, and thus shalt thou obtain forgiveness for thy numerous crimes." Lucifer of Calaris, On St. Athanasius (A.D. 361).

"[W]e shall not recede from the faith ... as once laid it continues even to this say, through the tradition of the fathers, according to the succession from the apostles, even to the discussion had at Nicea against the heresy which had, at that period, sprung up." Hilary of Poitiers, History Fragment 7 (ante A.D. 367).

"[D]uring the days of that Anicetus, bishop of Rome, who succeeded Pius and his predecessors, For, in Rome, Peter and Paul were the first both apostles and bishops; then came Linus, then Cletus ... However the succession of the bishops in Rome was in the following order. Peter and Paul, and Cletus, Clement..." Epiphanius, Panarion, 27:6 (A.D. 377).

"He [St. Athanasius] is led up to the throne of Saint Mark, to succeed him in piety, no less than in office; in the latter indeed at a great distance from him, in the former, which is the genuine right of succession, following him closely. For unity in doctrine deserves unity in office; and a rival teacher sets up a rival throne; the one is a successor in reality, the other but in name. For it is not the intruder, but he whose rights are intruded upon, who is the successor, not the lawbreaker, but the lawfully appointed, not the man of contrary opinions, but the man of the same faith; if this is not what we mean by successor, he succeeds in the same sense as disease to health, darkness to light, storm to calm, and frenzy to sound sense." Gregory of Nazianzen, Oration 21:8 (A.D. 380).

"For they [Novatians] have not the succession of Peter, who hold not the chair of Peter, which they rend by wicked schism; and this, too, they do, wickedly denying that sins can be forgiven even in the Church, whereas it was said to Peter: 'I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed also in heaven.'" Ambrose, Concerning Repentance, 7:33 (A.D. 384).

"It has been ordained by the apostles and their successors, that nothing be read in the Catholic Church, except the law, and the prophets, and the Gospels." Philastrius of Brescia, On Heresies (ante A.D. 387).

"If the lineal succession of bishops is to be considered with how much more benefit to the Church do we reckon from Peter himself, to whom, as bearing in a figure the whole Church, the Lord said: Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not conquer it!' For to Peter succeeded Linus, Clement...Damsus, Sircius, Anastasius. In this order of succession no Donatist bishop is too be found." Augustine, To Generosus, Epistle 53:2 (A.D. 400).

"Let a bishop be ordained by three or two bishops; but if any one be ordained by one bishop, let him be deprived, both himself and he that ordained him. But if there be a necessity that he have only one to ordain him, because more bishops cannot come together, as in time of persecution, or for such like causes, let him bring the suffrage of permission from more bishops." Apostolic Constitutions, 8:27 (A.D. 400).

"For if the lineal succession of bishops is to be taken into account, with how much more certainty and benefit to the Church do we reckon back till we reach Peter himself, to whom, as bearing in a figure the whole Church, the Lord said: 'Upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it !' The successor of Peter was Linus, and his successors in unbroken continuity were these: -- Clement, Anacletus, Evaristus, Alexander, Sixtus, Telesphorus, Iginus, Anicetus, Pius, Soter, Eleutherius, Victor, Zephirinus, Calixtus, Urbanus, Pontianus, Antherus, Fabianus, Cornelius, Lucius, Stephanus, Xystus, Dionysius, Felix, Eutychianus, Gaius, Marcellinus, Marcellus, Eusebius, Miltiades, Sylvester, Marcus, Julius, Liberius, Damasus, and Siricius, whose successor is the present Bishop Anastasius. In this order of succession no Donatist bishop is found. But, reversing the natural course of things, the Donatists sent to Rome from Africa an ordained bishop, who, putting himself at the head of a few Africans in the great metropolis, gave some notoriety to the name of "mountain men," or Cutzupits, by which they were known." Augustine, To Generosus, Epistle 53:2 (A.D. 400).

"'To the fellow-Bishops and Deacons." What is this? Were there several Bishops of one city? Certainly not; but he called the Presbyters so. For then they still interchanged the titles, and the Bishop was called a Deacon. For this cause in writing to Timothy, he said, "Fulfill thy ministry,' when he was a Bishop. For that he was a Bishop appears by his saying to him, 'Lay hands hastily on no man.' (1 Tim. v. 22.) And again, 'Which was given thee with the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery.' (1 Tim. iv. 14.) Yet Presbyters would not have laid hands on a Bishop. And again, in writing to Titus, he says, 'For this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldest appoint elders in every city, as I gave thee charge. If any man is blameless, the husband of one wife' (Tit. i. 5, 6); which he says of the Bishop. And after saying this, he adds immediately, 'For the Bishop must be blameless, as God's steward, not self willed:' (Tit. i. 7.)" John Chrysostom, Homilies on Phillipians, 1:1 (A.D. 404).

"And to Timothy he says: 'Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.'… For even at Alexandria from the time of Mark the Evangelist until the episcopates of Heraclas and Dionysius the presbyters always named as bishop one of their own number chosen by themselves and set in a more exalted position, just as an army elects a general, or as deacons appoint one of themselves whom they know to be diligent and call him archdeacon. For what function excepting ordination, belongs to a bishop that does not also belong to a presbyter? It is not the case that there is one church at Rome and another in all the world beside. Gaul and Britain, Africa and Persia, India and the East worship one Christ and observe one rule of truth. If you ask for authority, the world outweighs its capital. Wherever there is a bishop, whether it be at Rome or at Engubium, whether it be at Constantinople or at Rhegium, whether it be at Alexandria or at Zoan, his dignity is one and his priesthood is one. Neither the command of wealth nor the lowliness of poverty makes him more a bishop or less a bishop. All alike are successors of the apostles." Jerome, To Evangelus, Epistle 146:1 (ante A.D. 420).

"We must strive therefore in common to keep the faith which has come down to us to-day, through the Apostolic Succession." Pope Celestine [regn A.D. 422-432], To the Council of Ephesus, Epistle 18 (A.D. 431).

"Examples there are without number: but to be brief, we will take one, and that, in preference to others, from the Apostolic See, so that it may be clearer than day to every one with how great energy, with how great zeal, with how great earnestness, the blessed successors of the blessed apostles have constantly defended the integrity of the religion which they have once received." Vincent of Lerins, Commonitory for the Antiquity and Universality of the Catholic Faith 6:15 (A.D. 434).

"Moreover, with respect to a certain bishop who, as the aforesaid magnificent men have told us, is prevented by infirmity of the head from administering his office, we have written to our brother and fellow-bishop Etherius, that if he should have intervals of freedom from this infirmity, he should make petition, declaring that he is not competent to fill his own place, and requesting that another be ordained to his Church. For during the life of a bishop, whom not his own fault but sickness, withdraws from the administration of his office, the sacred canons by no means allow another to be ordained in his place. But, if he at no time recovers the exercise of a sound mind, a person should be sought adorned with good life and conversation, who may be able both to take charge of souls, and look with salutary control after the causes and interests of the same church; and he should be such as may succeed to the bishop's place in case of his surviving him. But, if there are any to be promoted to a sacred order, or to any clerical ministry, we have ordained that the matter is to be reserved and announced to our aforesaid most reverend brother Etherius, provided it belong to his diocese, so that, enquiry having then been made, if the persons are subject to no fault which the sacred canons denounce, he himself may ordain them. Pope Gregory the Great [regn. A.D. 590-604], Epistle 6 (A.D. 602).

 


II. Authority is Transferred by the Sacrament of Ordination

"Since therefore I have, in the persons before mentioned, beheld the whole multitude of you in faith and love, I exhort you to study to do all things with a divine harmony, while your bishop presides in the place of God, and your presbyters in the place of the assembly of the apostles, along with your deacons, who are most dear to me, and are entrusted with the ministry of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before the beginning of time, and in the end was revealed…Let nothing exist among you that may divide you ; but be ye united with your bishop, and those that preside over you, as a type and evidence of your immortality." Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Magnesians, 6 (c. A.D. 110).

"For, since ye are subject to the bishop as to Jesus Christ, ye appear to me to live not after the manner of men, but according to Jesus Christ, who died for us, in order, by believing in His death, ye may escape from death. It is therefore necessary that, as ye indeed do, so without the bishop ye should do nothing, but should also be subject to the presbytery, as to the apostle of Jesus Christ, who is our hope, in whom, if we live, we shall [at last] be found. It is fitting also that the deacons, as being [the ministers] of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, should in every respect be pleasing to all. For they are not ministers of meat and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They are bound, therefore, to avoid all grounds of accusation [against them], as they would do fire." Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Trallians, 2 (c. A.D. 110).

"And do ye also reverence your bishop as Christ Himself, according as the blessed apostles have enjoined you. He that is within the altar is pure, wherefore also he is obedient to the bishop and presbyters: but he that is without is one that does anything apart from the bishop, the presbyters, and the deacons. Such a person is defiled in his conscience, and is worse than an infidel. For what is the bishop but one who beyond all others possesses all power and authority, so far as it is possible for a man to possess it, who according to his ability has been made an imitator of the Christ Of God? And what is the presbytery but a sacred assembly, the counselors and assessors of the bishop? And what are the deacons but imitators of the angelic powers, fulfilling a pure and blameless ministry unto him, as the holy Stephen did to the blessed James, Timothy and Linus to Paul, Anencletus and Clement to Peter? He, therefore, that will not yield obedience to such, must needs be one utterly without God, an impious man who despises Christ, and depreciates His appointments." Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Trallians, 7 (c. A.D. 110).

"I must not omit an account of the conduct also of the heretics--how frivolous it is, how worldly, how merely human, without seriousness, without authority, without discipline, as suits their creed…At one time they put novices in office; at another time, men who are bound to some secular employment; at another, persons who have apostatized from us, to bind them by vainglory, since they cannot by the truth. Nowhere is promotion easier than in the camp of rebels, where the mere fact of being there is a foremost service. And so it comes to pass that today one man is their bishop, to-morrow another; to-day he is a deacon who to-morrow is a reader; to-day he is a presbyter who tomorrow is a layman. For even on laymen do they impose the functions of priesthood." Tertullian, On Prescription Against Heretics, 41 (c. A.D. 200).

"Since, according to my opinion, the grades here in the Church, of bishops, presbyters, deacons, are imitations of the angelic glory, and of that economy which, the Scriptures say, awaits those who, following the footsteps of the apostles, have lived in perfection of righteousness according to the Gospel. For these taken up in the clouds, the apostle writes, will first minister [as deacons], then be classed in the presbyterate, by promotion in glory (for glory differs from glory) till they grow into 'a perfect man.'" Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 13 (A.D. 202).

"And that you may be still more confident, that repenting thus truly there remains for you a sure hope of salvation, listen to a tale? Which is not a tale but a narrative, handed down and committed to the custody of memory, about the Apostle John. For when, on the tyrant's death, he returned to Ephesus from the isle of Patmos, he went away, being invited, to the contiguous territories of the nations, here to appoint bishops, there to set in order whole Churches, there to ordain such as were marked out by the Spirit. Having come to one of the cities not far off (the name of which some give), and having put the brethren to rest in other matters, at last, looking to the bishop appointed, and seeing a youth, powerful in body, comely in appearance, and ardent, said, 'This (youth) I commit to you in all earnestness, in the presence of the Church, and with Christ as witness.' And on his accepting and promising all, he gave the same injunction and testimony." Clement of Alexandria, Who is the rich man that shall be saved?, 42 (A.D. 210).

"…these from the Presbyters and Deacons of the Mareotis, a home of the Catholic Church which is under the most Reverend Bishop Athanasius, we address this testimony by those whose names are underwritten:--Whereas Theognius, Maris, Macedonius, Theodorus, Ursacius, and Valens, as if sent by all the Bishops who assembled at Tyre, came into our Diocese alleging that they had received orders to investigate certain ecclesiastical affairs, among which they spoke of the breaking of a cup of the Lord, of which information was given them by Ischyras, whom they brought with them, and who says that he is a Presbyter, although he is not,-for he was ordained by the Presbyter Colluthus who pretended to the Episcopate… For neither is he a Presbyter of the Catholic Church nor does he possess a church, nor has a cup ever been broken, but the whole story is false and an invention.” Athanasius, Defence Against the Arians, 76 (A.D. 347).

"The Cathari are schismatics; but it seemed good to the ancient authorities, I mean Cyprian and our own Firmilianus, to reject all these, Cathari, Encratites, and Hydroparastatae, by one common condemnation, because the origin of separation arose through schism, and those who had apostatized from the Church had no longer on them the grace of the Holy Spirit, for it ceased to be imparted when the continuity was broken. The first separatists had received their ordination from the Fathers, and possessed the spiritual gift by the laying on of their hands. But they who were broken off had become laymen, and, because they are no longer able to confer on others that grace of the Holy Spirit from which they themselves are fallen away, they had no authority either to baptize or to ordain. And therefore those who were from time to time baptized by them, were ordered, as though baptized by laymen, to come to the church to be purified by the Church's true baptism. Nevertheless, since it has seemed to some of those of Asia that, for the sake of management of the majority, their baptism should be accepted, let it be accepted. We must, however, perceive the iniquitous action of the Encratites…” Basil, To Amphilochius, Epistle 188:1 (A.D. 347).

“I may not sit in the presence of a presbyter; he, if I sin, may deliver me to Satan, 'for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved.' Under the old law he who disobeyed the priests was put outside the camp and stoned by the people, or else he was beheaded and expiated his contempt with his blood. But now the disobedient person is cut down with the spiritual sword, or he is expelled from the church and torn to pieces by ravening demons. Should the entreaties of your brethren induce you to take orders, I shall rejoice that you are lifted up, and fear lest you may be cast down. You will say: 'If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.' I know that; but you should add what follows: such an one "must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, chaste, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach, not given to wine, no striker but patient.' After fully explaining the qualifications of a bishop the apostle speaks of ministers of the third degree with equal care." Jerome, To Heliodorus, Epistle 14:8 (A.D. 379).

"The bread again is at first common bread, but when the sacramental action consecrates it, it is called, and becomes, the Body of Christ. So with the sacramental oil; so with the wine: though before the benediction they are of little value, each of them, after the sanctification bestowed by the Spirit, has its several operations. The same power of the word, again, also makes the priest venerable and honourable, separated, by the new blessing bestowed upon him, from his community with the mass of men. While but yesterday he was one of the mass, one of the people, he is suddenly rendered a guide, a president, a teacher of righteousness, an instructor in hidden mysteries; and this he does without being at all changed in body or in form; but, while continuing to be in all appearance the man he was before, being, by some unseen power and grace, transformed in respect of his unseen soul to the higher condition." Gregory of Nyssa, On the Baptism of Christ (ante A.D. 394).

“In like manner as if there take place an ordination of clergy in order to form a congregation of people, although the congregation of people follow not, yet there remains in the ordained persons the Sacrament of Ordination; and if, for any fault, any be removed from his office, he will not be without the Sacrament of the Lord once for all set upon him, albeit continuing unto condemnation.” Augustine, On the Good of Marriage, 24:32 (A.D. 401).

"When a priest is ordained, while the bishop is blessing [him] and holding his hands over his head, let all the priests also, who are present, hold their hands close to the hands of the bishop above his head." Council of Chalcedon, Canon 3 (A.D. 451).

"As often as God's mercy deigns to bring round the day of His gifts to us, there is, dearly-beloved, just and reasonable cause for rejoicing, if only our appointment to the office be referred to the praise of Him who gave it. For though this recognition of God may well be found in all His priests, yet I take it to be peculiarly binding on me, who, regarding my own utter insignificance and the greatness of the office undertaken, ought myself also to utter that exclamation of the Prophet, 'Lord, I heard Thy speech and was afraid: I considered Thy works and was dismayed.'…And finally, now that the mystery of this Divine priesthood has descended to human agency, it runs not by the line of birth, nor is that which flesh and blood created, chosen, but without regard to the privilege of paternity and succession by inheritance, those men are received by the Church as its rulers whom the Holy Ghost prepares: so that in the people of God's adoption, the whole body of which is priestly and royal, it is not the prerogative of earthly origin which obtains the unction, but the condescension of Divine grace which creates the bishop." Pope Leo the Great [regn. A.D. 440-461], Sermons, 3:1 (ante A.D. 461).

 

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