Anglican Shorts: Why We Need Bishops

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8 Responses to Anglican Shorts: Why We Need Bishops

  1. Brian says:

    Interesting and helpful.

    It does raise questions about denominations (Baptists come to mind and I am not being critical) that do not even have the term “Bishop” in their lexicon. But it also raises questions about the legitimacy of bishops who do not uphold the gospel, the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, and the conciliar traditions of the church — and if so, by extension, are those who have been ordained by laying on of hands of such bishops really ordained priests?

    I think I’ll leave it at that … just questions, I don’t have the answers.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      I would say that we ought to treat the situation of priests ordained by heretical bishops with extreme charity. Though ordination is not one of the great sacraments of the Gospel, it still has a kind of sacramental character to it, and it would then make sense to follow what Article XXVI tells us:

      “Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ’s, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ’s ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God’s gifts diminished from such as by faith, and rightly, do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ’s institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.

      Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty, by just judgment be deposed.”

      Minister here is an inclusive term for bishops, priests, or deacons.

  2. Pingback: Thursday’s Round-up: Bishops,the Ascension, and How God Became King « The Writers' Block

  3. MichaelA says:

    Thanks, very helpful.

  4. Jeremiah C says:

    So a follow up just to clarify for my foggy brain…

    You said that bishops who do not teach the Gospel are no bishops at all, do you mean with relation to a bishop’s primary work (preaching/teaching the Gospel) or in the full sense, i.e. that he is not really a bishop have the authority and ability to ordain others to the bishopric.

    I ask because that would seem to create a struggle with regard to Apostolic succession in that the church had so muddled the Gospel through the Middle Ages that it may call into question the legitimacy of ordinations coming out of that era and through today, i.e. is there really an unbroken chain of succession from the Apostles to each bishop, say within the Anglican Church worldwide? I mean, I usually apply Article XXVI (flowing out of Augustine’s teaching during the Donatist controversy) to this kind of thought. That is, even though they be evil in their hearts, they are none-the-less in the stead of Christ and can “pass on” the orders as part of their being in that stead. Would I be correct in that understanding?

    Another question that flows out of that has to do with the “un-churching” of basically all of Anglicanism by the Continuing Anglican churches here in America with regard to women’s ordination. Does that apply or is it a misinterpretation, i.e. though they ordain women and agree that it is correct, the bishops still retain the authority to ordain those who are proper to the ministry (from the perspective of one who would not agree with women’s ordination)?

    • Fr. Jonathan says:


      You’re right on both counts. The comparison I made in the video was that a bishop who does not preach the Gospel (or more likely, who preaches a counter-gospel) is like a baptized person who has rejected his or her Christian faith. The grace of baptism isn’t washed away from the person who rejects the faith. In that sense, Richard Dawkins, if he was baptized (which I believe he was), still has the grace of Christ that was given on the day he was baptized, even if he thinks such things are rubbish. Nonetheless, by rejecting the faith that’s been given to him as a gift, it’s no longer proper to call him a Christian. Rejecting the faith means that, while he still has the grace of Baptism, he receives none of its benefits. Similarly, a bishop who rejects the Christian faith or teaches a counter-faith cannot properly be called a bishop in the biblical sense because he has rejected what has been entrusted to him. But that doesn’t mean that the grace imparted to him at his ordination is suddenly erased.

      You do well to apply Article XXVI here with regards to the actions of bishops who have become heretics, in one way or another. If we would consider valid a true Eucharist celebrated at his hands, then there is no reason to consider invalid an ordination of an otherwise qualified candidate also at his hands.

  5. Hi Father Jonathan. I’m an in-person good friend of Jeremiah above–we’re both Anglicans and aspirants to orders coming from a reformed seminary, though my background, I’d say is more strictly reformed.

    Speaking only for myself, the issue of Bishops is something I’m trying to understand. We were taught in seminary that the words “bishop” (episkopos) and “elder” (prebyteros) are used interchangeably in the New Testament–and one cannot really prove EITHER a episcopalian or a presbyterian form of governance strictly from the text. (Our professor for this–oddly enough at a reformed seminary– believes the episcopal system is most correct). Of course when one looks at history–it seems clear there were bishops-with-authority-over-prebyters from the earliest days; definitely in the 2nd C., and if we believe tradition, in the 1st C.–having been consecrated by the Apostles themselves. To me the history clinches the case for bishops–and makes Calvin’s speculations primarily a reaction to the severe corruptions of his day.

    In your video though, you are making it sound like Bishops are given the Holy Spirit when hands are laid on them…when orthodox teaching is that ALL believers have the Holy Spirit–there is no division (or 2nd baptism) between spirit-filled believers and believers–if we believe at all–the agent of the Holy Spirit within us enables us to believe. Do you mean that a special gift from the Holy Spirit–of say “bishop-authority” is given with their consecration? While I certainly understand and agree with what you wrote to Jeremiah above–that contra-Donatist–the grace of Christ given through evil bishops (or priests or deacons) isn’t nullified by their own unbelief…still, what of the gift of “bishop authority”….particularly if they never really have had a living faith in Christ Jesus?

    Of course this is of special relevance to those of us Anglicans who are not (and have never been) Episcopalians. We know that our bishops have been duly consecrated (questions from Episcopal revisionists aside), and seem to be–as far as we can tell–faithful, obedient Christians. However, I find it very hard to consider openly, blatantly, apostate bishops–leading the faithful AWAY from Christ–those with whom we have broken or impaired communion, still having the grace of authority given in their consecration.

    If so…than their actions of defrocking–in the most unfair, unbiblical, and un-canonical way, most of our curia would be legitimate–and our body would be illegitimate. Logically too–the whole Anglican Communion would be illegitimate–due to the similar actions, 450 years ago–by the bishops of the Church of Rome.

    So my question is this–when does the hardened continuing unbelief of a bishop–nullify the gift of the authority of his office?

  6. By the way, you really do have a gift for clarity in understanding historical orthodox, Anglicanism–which is why Jeremiah marveled about you–and why I’m asking you a difficult question…

    If you don’t have any books you’ve started to write, you need to. Immediately.

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