The Episcopacy and Apostolic Succession
Within Orthodox And Catholic Faith And Tradition
We of The Evangelical Orthodox Catholic Church, wish to publish and proclaim our accord with the ancient understandings of the undivided Church, both East and West, of the importance and authority of the apostolic succession and the validity of the episcopate both in terms of sacramental validity and jurisdictional authority as acknowledged by both the Eastern and Western Church both prior to and after the great schism in 1054.
We publish this statement in accord with our tutelary responsibilities as bishops of the church. We do so not to point out where we differ from others, so much as to proclaim our adherence to the apostolic understandings and doctrines that have gone before us in regard to the episcopacy of the Church both East and West since apostolic times.
It would unfortunately, be all to easy to point out the inconsistencies of adherence to Canons, Form and Order by all branches of the Church at one time or another. That is not our purpose in this teaching. It is our belief that eventually coming to "agreement" on what we "believe" jointly and mutually, will eventually lead the church to move upon the strands of agreement based upon the Faith we hold jointly and mutually, along with belief and practice, to a more united, co-operative place in the Holy Spirit guided prompting toward unity with those sister churches and jurisdictions that adhere to that same apostolic faith, belief and practice.
We of course must begin with : The Great Apostolic Commission -- found in the Holy Gospel of John.
John 20:21-23The Holy Scriptures say that He breathed on them, granting them the Most Holy Spirit of God, thereby unifying their life and their mission with that of the Holy Trinity -- with God.
"As the Father has sent me, I also send you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."
This consecration of the Apostles, and likewise their successors, is not merely a legal transaction, like the sending of an ambassador to a foreign country, or even appointing someone to hold an office. No, this gift of Consecration to the Episcopate is truly charismatic in the fullest sense of that word. There is a process, a flow of Grace and authority directly from God in this process. The Church in reality, can never really even be described as an organization, for it is in truth a living breathing organism.
The Life of God flows from the Father to the Son in and via the Holy Spirit, and from the Son to the Apostles and from the Apostles to their successors via the Holy Spirit. And through the Apostles and their successors that same authority flows through the Apostolic Ministry, that same Life of God, into the Church. [eg. . Only God can forgive sins; but forgiveness is experienced through the Apostolic Ministry of the Apostles and their successors within the Church].
There is, and will always be, a Heavenly connection between Christ, Who is the Head of the Church and the Church which is His Body. It must be understood as the union between head and body. In Colossians 2:9 we read: "In Him [Jesus Christ] dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily."
If we are the Body of Christ, all the fullness of deity is dwelling in the Church to which we are joined. The Church is not merely an earthly organization or even an association of like minded Christian people. It is an ontological union of being between Christ and His people.
It is therefore within the Sacramental life of the Church, within the Holy and Divine Eucharistic Liturgy of the Church, that the fullness of Christ in His Church is expressed. Once again we move to the Sacred Scriptures as found in:
1 Corinthians 10: 16-17As we are joined with the Body of Christ, and the bread is the Body of Christ, then it is by our participation in the Holy Eucharist that we establish our very identity, who we are, and who we are when we gather together in the Eucharistic Community. We express ourselves in that unity within the Body of Christ by partaking of the Holy Eucharist. It must be understood that the very essence of the Church and the continuity of the Church is tied to the Holy Eucharist and to the Sacraments/The Holy Mysteries and the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"The Cup of blessings which we bless, it is not the communion [or participation [the word here is koinonia, commonality of life] of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion [koinonia] of the body of Christ? For we though many, are One Bread and One Body, for we all partake of that one bread."
The apostolic succession of the "Successors to the Apostles" [i.eg.
the Apostolic Bishops of the Church]; as expressed by the undivided
Church before the great schism between East and West, involved the
continuing existence and continuation of the Eucharistic Community. It
is to that basic understanding that the Church must always return to
bring sanity to the issue of validity, jurisdictional authority and
apostolic understanding of the episcopacy.
If the co-consecrating bishops are not merely witnesses, it is necessary that they form the "intention of consecrating and of conferring the Sacrament conjointly with the consecrator, not only by imposing their hands conjointly with him, but also by pronouncing the prayer of consecration (softly) with him, together with the Preface of Order.
Note: According to the precepts of the undivided church, the
Continuity [Apostolic Succession] must be always viewed within the
context of Eucharistic Community [i.e. thus leading also to valid
jurisdiction and authority via Bishops functioning only in
their own Dioceses or other designated territories. The Order of
Bishop, priest and deacon are intrinsically tied to the Holy Eucharist
and its celebration -- in community.
The following four points of clarity must be present in order for validity and jurisdictional authority to be maintained and passed from generation to generation within the Church:
One is meant to be united with the other. Both aspects, both the Western and the Eastern understanding, doctrine and Faith, of the undivided church comprise the whole truth of what Apostolic Succession was, and is, to the church as a whole.
Tragically, Rome abrogated the authority of the Bishops to act without papal permission and authority, but we must remember that sacramental validity is also a very important part of the episcopacy.
When we look at the tragedy of a divided Church and Christendom, we can still often say where the Church "is." We can do that by looking to see what is being taught, believed, and practiced in terms of the traditional Faith of the One, Holy, Orthodox, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
It can also be said, however that it is "impossible" and that we cannot always say, with confidence, where the Church is not.
The One, Holy, Catholic, Orthodox and Apostolic Church of our Lord, Savior and God Jesus Christ can never be de-constituted as the Church because she is divided, weak and/or failing in some part or in some aspect. What does constitute her as the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ is her total union with Christ, her visible continuity with His Apostles and their successors -- in the Faith that they taught, and in her participation in the Holy Eucharistic Liturgy within community.
In summary, we pray that through this "statement" on the episcopacy of the Church and what we believe and hold as central truths concerning the ancient understanding of the Holy Order of Bishop, that others also who are of a like mind with us, who find themselves in agreement with our published doctrinal positions on the apostolic faith will better know and understand who we are through what we teach, proclaim and confess within: The Evangelical Orthodox Catholic Church in America, via its National Synod of Bishops, Clergy and faithful.
To read more information concerning the Jurisdiction of The
Evangelical Orthodox Catholic Church, you may select a
page to jump to from the menu box if visible or use the Home Page link.
Return to our Home Page for more informational topics
Copyright © 1996 - 2004 The Order of God's Holy Peace
Page approved by the Bishop Primus