Christian Unity & Apostolic Succession

I have been having some conversations about Christian Unity and Apostolic Succession. It was suggested to me that I should request this as a topic to bring more people into the discussion.

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Hello Dan, I read the thread Sean posted. I wonder what framework the Pope is alluding to and how he intends to achieve it? I have kept upwith your posts also. Our history and commonality drew me to this discussion and I look forward to contiuing.

Mike As you probably noticed we are now part of Bible Questions.
As to the Pope’s framework and how he intends to achieve it I simply do not know and have to do some research on it. However the comments were made to the Evangelical Anglican Bishops. I have had some association with this group through a friend who is now a Bishop with this group. Bishop Nathan Kanu of Nigeria but we have lost contact with each other after my wife went to the Lord and he moved back to Nigeria with his family. Bishop Nathan told me that this group was forming but not totally separating from the Anglican Communion back in 2007. Essentially this group is comprised primarily of Bishops in Africa and Asia with some members in the USA and Great Britain. It strongly opposes the liberal views of the general Anglican Communion on Scripture particularly concerning sexuality. Step forward 10 years and the Pope was in meeting with them and had the dialogue which Sean spoke of. It is important to note that the Anglican Communion holds to Apostolic Succession though it is not recognized by Roman Catholics. They believe that their succession comes from John through Polycarp.
The reason this is significant is that it is much easier for the Roman Catholics to dialogue with Anglicans because both hold to Apostolic Succession and Rome is having a very difficult time demonstrating that the Anglican Communion does not have Apostolic Succession as defined by the Roman Catholic Church or any of the other ancient traditions. The main sticking point of Rome now is the aberrant doctrines of homosexuality and denial of Scriptural Authority now practiced by the Anglican Community led by the Archbishop of Westminster which is also rejected by this group of Evangelical Anglican Bishops. If I had to guess I believe this is one of the underlying reason that the Pope spoke about shared baptism to this group.

Some History
At the time of The Nicene Creed there were 4 early Church Groups:
1 The Church of The East formed under Thomas and is now known as The Apostolic Church of The East and it separated at the Council of Ephesus 431.
2. The Oriental Church including the Coptic Church formed under James & Mark. It separated at the Council of Chalcedon 451
3. The Church of Constantinople formed under Peter, Andrew, Paul and John and is now known as The Eastern Orthodox Church after the Great Schism.
4. The Church of Rome formed under Paul and Peter and is now known as The Roman Catholic Church after the Great Schism.

All four of these Traditions hold to the Nicene Creed and to Apostolic Succession. And all four do not accept the Churches/Traditions of the Reformation as having Apostolic Succession. It should be noted that leaders of The Reformation attempted to join The Eastern Orthodox Church but talks broke down. Apostolic Succession was one of the primary reasons for the non-agreement.

Currently there is about 2.5 billion Christians in the World or about 40% of the world’s population. The 4 Ancient Traditions have about 2 billion members and the Reformist Traditions have about 500 million or 20% of the Church. The Reformist Traditions that reject Apostolic Succession completely have about 170 million members or about 7% of The Church at large. This 7% is generally not recognized by the 80% as having any authority from God to act in His Name. At the same time it is estimated that 40% of all evangelical work to Non-Christians is done by this 7%.

Consequently The Church is working at cross purposes and I believe there should be a strong attempt to deal with this issue which is that being an Apostolic Church as defined by the Nicene Creed does not require apostolic succession.

Thus I have 3 major questions:

  1. How did the Reformers answer the issue of Apostolic Succession? Or more specifically How did the Reformers view the term Apostolic in The Nicene Creed?

  2. The practice of Apostolic Succession is known to have been in existence in the 2nd Century. However was it practiced in the 1st Century? (The Didache would indicate that it did not)

  3. How do these 4 ancient traditions respond to the obvious God Blessed ministries and people in the Reformation Traditions like Eric Liddell and Billy Graham particularly when compared to Pope Alexander VI?

I think it is one of the callings of Apologists of The Church to not only defend the Faith from attacks of the world but also to cross over denominations and traditions of The Church by bringing a focus on basic principles of Christianity and what defines Christianity. That is separate the basics from the views of traditions. E.G. On The Lord’s Supper - C S Lewis: “The Lord said take and eat. He did not say take and understand.” The Lord’s Supper should bring us together not divide us.

Dan, you are by far more knowledgeable of the overall picture tham I am at this time. I am sure you will agree the only unifying aspect of it all will be Jesus Christ and Him Crucified. In essence the 4 early Church groups had diiferent takes on what and how they believed, interpreted scripture. In truth differences were evident in the early Curch of the first century as evidenced in scripture.

I have always been confounded by those who swallow a camel and choke on a gnat.

My question right now would be is there actual evidence, or authority of Apostolic Succesion that is available to us? The Jewish people kept impeccable records as seen through Jesus’s geneology, can the Catholic church provide that?

In all things I believe there can only be one truth.

Is unity in Christ what you are trying to get across or is it something else?

I regards to Apostolic Succesion I firmly believe that if a believer is abiding in the vine, a living testimony if you will regardless of thier Churc affiliation they are a successor of the Apostolic calling.
I hope I gave clarity to my thoughts.

The following is a quote from the Didache. The Didache is one of the earliest non-canonical writings. It is also known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. The book was considered for inclusion into the New Testament because of its extensive use by the early Church as guide for rubrics of Christianity. It was not accepted canonical because it was not considered to be revelatory as well as some doubt that it was written or approved by any of the apostles. However today it gives great insight into how the early Church thought and acted.
The section quoted below is about appointing Bishops/Overseers. It strongly indicates that the early Church appointed/elected Bishops among themselves and not by waiting for one of the Apostles or one raised up by the Apostles to come and establish a Bishop. When you understand that the Church had spread far beyond the borders of the Roman Empire by the death of John in about 92 AD, it is very unlikely that all bishops of the Church were established by Apostolic Succession.
Here is the quotation

15 Appoint Bishops for Yourselves
15:1 Appoint bishops for yourselves, as well as deacons, worthy of the Lord, of meek disposition, unattached to money, truthful and proven; for they also render to you the service of prophets and teachers.
15:2 Do not despise them, after all, for they are your honored ones, together with the prophets and teachers.
15:3 And reprove one another, not in anger, but in peace, as you have it in the gospel. But to anyone who acts amiss against another, let no one speak to him, nor let him hear anything from you until he repents. But your prayers and alms and all your deeds so do, as you have it in the gospel of our Lord.

That rang familiar its in 1 Tim 3:8-13 about qualifications for Deacons.
Also in Phil 1:1 speaking about Bishops and Deacons.
Both overseers of the faith, Church.
Thank you

I have not posted because of responsibilities and wanted to write at least the beginning of the paper I am developing. The Preface below.

I welcome all comments and suggestions as I develop the paper.

A Lament on Unity in The Christian Church
Daniel W Allyn February 2020

The final teaching and great prayer of Jesus, Head of The Church, is John 13-17. It is in this teaching Jesus prays that His Church may be one (John 17:20-21). Since The Council of Ephesus in 431 the Church has been divided and continued on this path of division sense that time. My sense that these divisions break the Heart of Christ and are not of God’s Perfect Will. These divisions have been foreseen by God since the beginning of time and are not out of His control. However they also demonstrate that even in His Church pride enters in to steal the Peace of Christ from the Church and rob The Church of its Mission (Mathew 28:18-20 & Acts 1:7).

I want no misunderstanding when I say The Church. The Church is The Body of Christ (1Corinthians 12:12-13). It is all the bodies of various traditions that accept The Nicene Creed as a principal statement of Faith particularly as it refers to God and The Trinity. It is all bodies of various traditions that practice of Gathering-Together, Baptism, and partaking of Communion or Lord’s Supper as they understand it should be done from The Scriptures of the New Testament.

This writing tries emphasize what we all have in common and call for leadership of all traditions to seek unity. By necessity it also emphasizes those traditions that are heretical and not Christian traditions. There are many of these traditions and The Church has enough issues with those that are not of The Body of Christ to deal with. It does not need to go emphasizing differences within The Body of Christ. There are enough Modalists, Gnostics, Antinomianists, Ebionites, Montanists, and Pelagianists to deal with today as there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes). Yes, the issues of Apostolic Succession, Practice of Baptism (not the words of Baptism), the effect of the Sacraments, Interpretation of Scripture, Grace, Salvation, Predestination, Origins, Eschatology, etc., etc., etc. are all important. But these are issues of iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17), they are not determinative of being Christian and experiencing salvation.