The Official Statement of the
Holy Cross Anglican Communion
Concerning Apostolic Succession
The Holy Cross Anglican Communion affirms the doctrine of Apostolic Succession as set forth in this document:
- It is evident from the teaching of the church catholic and tradition that there has been an unbroken line of consecrations from the apostles to the modern day. The practice of laying on of hands in ordination has passed down from apostolic times and is the valid means by which holy orders is delivered.
- There was no distinction between the offices of bishop and presbyter in the early or primitive church. The scriptures use these two terms interchangeably. The bishops of the primitive church acted as "presbyter bishops" of the congregations in their charge. This is evidenced by the fact that the sacred scriptures mention the offices of presbyter and bishop as the same office. The only other office mentioned in the sacred scriptures is the office of deacon. The early church document known as the Didache also refers only to the grades of bishop and deacon.
- The doctrine of Apostolic Succession as promulgated by the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox and independent catholic churches lacks complete historical evidence to be proven. Ninety percent of the episcopal consecrations can be traced to one Cardinal Rebiba of the 16th century. Due to a lack of proper record keeping it is difficult to trace beyond that point. Another difficulty with Apostolic Succession as affirmed in the above mentioned churches is the "Doctrine of Intention". This doctrine states that it must be the complete intention of the consecrator to ordain in order for the ordination to be valid. It is beyond possibility to discern the intention of countless ordinaries thought the centuries; therefore it would also be impossible to prove any given bishops Apostolic Succession. This is even more troublesome in many of the independent branches of catholicism where there may be only one officiant at an episcopal consecration.
- The priest or presbyter has received with his ordination the power to pass along valid Apostolic Succession in consecration of another to Holy Orders. The ordinary minister of Holy Orders is the bishop in today's ecclesiastical polity. And it is the intention of this ecclesiastical synod to maintain this practice not out of necessity but in maintenance of order, as the Apostle Paul admonishes us. We therefore retain the clerical grades of clergy (i.e. bishop, priest, and deacon) as well as the practice of ordination by the laying on of hands of the bishop. However, if there is no bishop to consecrate one to the order of bishop or if the bishops of the church refuse to consecrate one rightfully elected by the church as bishop, then the presbyters of a community become the extraordinary ministers of Holy Orders and episcopal consecration. An arm of the church catholic maintaining the gospel of Christ and administering the sacraments rightly cannot be held captive by the unwillingness of the validly consecrated bishops of the church to act. The episcopal consecration by a presbyter is possible because of the following:
- The office of bishop and presbyter were one office in the primitive church and only became distinguishable from one another in the sub-apostolic era (100 - 600 AD). Therefore, the power inherent in one is the power inherent in the other.
- The indelible mark or character made on the soul of the ordained is made at the ordination to the priesthood. There is no additional mark or character imposed on one at the episcopal consecration. They are raised in their consecration to an "ecclesiastical episcopacy". That is to say that they take on the functions of officiating at holy orders and confirmation. Their primary function being the preservation of right doctrine (orthodoxy) and the valid administration of the sacraments.
- In the necessary event of an episcopal consecration by a presbyter, the lineage of Apostolic Succession imparted to the presbyter at his ordination is then passed on to the bishop-elect at his consecration. This insures the unbroken transmission of Apostolic Succession.
- The Holy Cross Anglican Communion derives valid Apostolic Succession from the Anglican communion through the Rev. John Wesley and the Rev. Dr. Thomas Coke. Not only did Rev. Wesley and his co-consecrators act rightly as presbyters of the Church of England in ordaining Dr. Coke to the episcopacy, it is reported that Rev. Wesley was consecrated to the episcopacy by the Orthodox Patriarch Erasmus some time prior. Regardless of the historicity of the later statement, Rev. Wesley and his cohorts were acting properly in ordaining Dr. Coke to the episcopacy in the refusal of the Bishops of the Church of England to set apart ministers for North America. In fact it was their duty to perform such a ceremony to maintain valid Apostolic Succession in the church in America. Therefore, it is the contention of this ecclesiastical body that we do in fact possess and maintain valid Apostolic Succession in our ordinations. Furthermore, it is thereby established that the sacraments as observed in this church are valid and licit by all accounts.
We the Holy Cross Anglican Communion do earnestly affirm the above articles as our faith in the doctrine of valid Apostolic Succession.
Bibliography and Apology of the
Articles of This Document
To this article there should be no objection among the various arms of the church catholic as it is an accurate restatement of the doctrine of Apostolic Succession as commonly held.
We see the words bishop (episkopos) and presbyter (presbuteros) used interchangeably in scripture in Acts 20:17-28. In verse 17 they are referred to as elders (presbuteros), while later in verse 28 it is said that "God has made them overseers (episkopos)". In Titus 1:5 Paul tells Titus to "ordain elders (presbuteros)". In verse 7 these elders are referred to as bishops (episkopos). In I Peter 5:1 Peter refers to himself as a fellow elder (presbuteros) and in verse 2 tells the elders to "take oversight (episkopeo)". This phrase's English equivalent would be "to be bishops".
Ninety percent of the bishops alive can be traced only back to Cardinal Scipoine Rebiba. See "Apostolic Succession and Episcopal Lineages" by Charles Bransom, http://home1.gte.net/cbransom/index.html. The errant Doctrine of Intention makes it impossible for any Roman Catholic to be certain that he or she is receiving a true sacrament. See "The Roman Catholic Doctrine of Intention" by Bishop Samuel D. Benedict. Also see Council of Trent (sess. VII) and Roman Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. VII, p. 69.
The mark made on a priest is made at the priestly ordination not at the consecration to the episcopacy. See Catechism is the Catholic Church, pp. 395, 396, 389, nos. 1582, 1584, and 1558.
The priest is an extraordinary minister of Holy Orders. See Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, by Dr. Ludwig Ott, pp. 458, 459. See also "The Minister of Holy Orders", "An Ordination and A Consecration was made by a Pope-Priest: Pius XIII" and "Caritas Election News #1", by Fr. Lucian Pulvermacher, OFM Cap. (AKA Pius XIII).
The Church in absence of a bishop or without cooperation of the bishops has the right to appoint and ordain ministers. See Book of Concord, by Luther, et al p. 324. See also A History of the Methodist Episcopal Church, by Nathan Bangs, vol. I, book II, chapter 3.
On March 6, 2001, the Rt. Rev. William E. Conner was consecrated Bishop by the Rt. Rev. Billy Corn of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Bishop Corn derived his episcopacy through the AME and the Methodist Episcopal Church via Rev. John Wesley. For the above mentioned reasons this consecration was valid and licit. For an account of Rev. Wesley's consecration of Dr. Coke and other ministers for the Unites States, see A History of the Methodist Episcopal Church, by Nathan Bangs, vol. I, book II, chapter 3. For an account of Rev. Dr. Coke's consecration of bishops in the AME see Turner's Polity, questions no. 69-73 at http://docsouth.unc.edu/church/turnerpolity/turner.html. See also "Bishop Richard Allen" at http://homefuse.net/saintjames/allen.htm.
Rev. Wesley appealed to the Bishop of England to ordain ministers for the U.S. without success. See The Wesleys and their Times, John Wesley at http://harrisroxas.com/qha/john1.htm.
Concerning the consecration of John Wesley by the Orthodox Patriarch Erasmus, it was believed by Rev. Samuel Peters to be a proven fact. See The Methodist Quarterly Review 1878, ART. V., "Was Wesley Ordained a Bishop by Erasmus?".
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, AMEN.