What is it really to be considered validly Apostolic, and who governs such? Is it a Church started by an Apostle that is well known? Is it a Church that has physical lines of Apostolic Succession?
Physical ordination from a well known Prelate or Church alone does not necessarily mean that you are walking correctly according to the faith once delivered unto the saints. For example, the Roman Catholic Church has lines that can trace it's Papacy and Episcopacy all the way back to Apostles Peter and Paul, yet there have been deviations from the Canons of the early Church; the Russian Orthodox Church has a lineage that can be traced back to Apostle Andrew, yet there have been deviations that caused a schism; Ethiopian Orthodox Church can find its roots in the leadership of St. Mark, yet they too have allowed for deviations; the Anglicans, the Methodists, and and the list goes on and on. According to the old and earliest Church Fathers, there were certain rules to be adhered to in order to not only validate, but keep such validity.
A Pentecostal Bishop posed a question recently, asking "should we create our own canon law?"
"In the past fifteen years the explosion of Bishops in the Pentecostal, Sodo-Pentecostal, Bapticostal movement has be amazing. Because of this we have so many diverse teachings and understanding of the Episcopacy. No matter what Episcopal college we go to, there seems to still be a wide debate of protocol. I for one am not Catholic, nor am I Anglican. So therefore, a lot of what has shaped my being a Bishop has come form their canon law. We need to have our own modern day 21st century version of the 16th-century Ecumenical Council Concilium Tridentinum (Council of Trent), and bring all Bishops together and lets create our own laws and by-laws. The problem I find is that so many who hold the office of Bishop are always looking to the Catholic Church or the Anglican Church canon laws. Maybe, just maybe we need our own."
We must have an accurate understanding as to what the Canons are, who made them, and why they are or are not authoritative. The word “canon” is derived from the Greek noun κανών “kanon” meaning “reed” or “cane” or also “rule” or “measure”, which itself is derived from the Hebrew word קנה “kaneh” and is often used as a standard of measurement. Thus, a “canonical text” is a single authoritative edition for a given work. Moses was instructed by his father-in-law to write down the decrees that he gives, and place men in charge to judge according to the decrees given by Moses prior, leaving Moses free to delegate, and handle newer and tougher issues. The development of authoritative script and rules did not end there, for the All-Holy Ghost was with Joshua (Joshua 1), and every duly consecrated leader within Israel from then on, giving them the inspiration and wisdom to leader properly (2nd Chronicles 1:7-13). Centuries down the line, this was still demonstrated even by Queen Esther and Mordeci, who together with the inspiration of the All-Holy Ghost created the Feast of Purim, a feast that even Christ acknowledged in His days on earth. Ecumenical Councils and Canon Laws are no different, finding its authority in the Sacred Scriptures written by the Apostles and their successors:
- "But if I am delayed, this letter will let you know how we should conduct ourselves in God’s household, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1st Timothy. 3:15)
-I have often earnestly approached learned and holy men who knew Christian doctrine, asking how I can distinguish the truth of the Catholic faith from the falsehood of heresy. In almost every instance, they have told me that if I, or anyone else, want to detect heresy, avoid the traps set by heretics, and maintain the true faith, I must with the help of the Lord reinforce my own belief in two things:
1) The authority of the Holy Scriptures, and2) The tradition of the Church.” (Saint Vincent of Lerins)
- “But there are also many other things which Jesus did: were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21: 25)
- “I have got many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come.” (John 16: 12-13)
- “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9)
- “…And what you have heard from me before many witnesses, entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2nd Timothy 2:2)
- “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2nd Thessalonians 2:15)
- “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you” (1st Corinthians 11:2)
- “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us” (2nd Thessalonians 3:6)
-"And the Apostles and Elders came together for to consider of this matter." (Acts 15:6)
If we were to truly read 2nd Timothy 3:16-17, we would easily see that all Scripture is profitable, however, it does NOT say "ONLY Scripture is given". The Ecumenical Canons of the Church were not the product of any one Prelate, or king, or denomination. With the exception of the opinion of the Roman Catholic Church, the first Seven Ecumenical Councils are authoritative for Old Catholics, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, and certain Protestants. It must be first understood that when the Ecumenical Councils were called, the Church was undivided. The body of Christ, for over five hundred years, saw full unity within the faith. The first real split came with the Council of Chalcedon over the dispute of the nature of Christ Jesus our Lord. The second major, and most devastating to date, was the Great Schism of 1054 A.D., splitting the Church virtually in half.
Canon laws helped to guide and govern the Church through its toughest issues, giving consistent answers inspired by the All-Holy Ghost. Those who do away with them are most often those who have never read them. Ignorance is no excuse for the disruption of Apostolic validity. For example, the Roman Catholic Church deems that a woman may not be ordained to any position, while Ecumenical Canon Law states that a female may be ordained to the Deaconate office, while never mentioning a restriction against their placement in the Priesthood or Episcopacy. Many in the Episcopacy today look for solutions to the issues that plague the Church today. To say "let us turn to the Lord" sounds good, and is correct, but is actually ignorance once again, for the Ancient Fathers experienced the same problems we face today. They turned to the Lord, and wrote down the Canon Laws that were given as a Godly solution to the dilemmas. Therefore, to think to create a whole new set of Canons means that one must undermine the influence of the Holy Spirit, or even deny that His hand was in the making of them.
Those who are validly Apostolic wont discount what those who were before them worked according to the guidance of the All-Holy Ghost. They would review their pattern, and walk accordingly, never thinking to do away with what was established by God, as it is written "Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour's landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it" (Deuteronomy 19:13-15). The Apostolic Fathers were not perfect, and all Canons were not of God, but one who is validly Apostolic, be it the Prelate or the Church, will recognize what is directly from God's mouth, what is of God's inspiration (the mind of Christ), and what is of man's own thoughts.
The Lord Jesus Christ set a standard in His doctrine and the elected leaders of His Church must keep that standard at all times. Many have said that the Church has lost power, or the Church has deviated from its course. This couldn't be any further from the truth. The fact is that though some leaders have deviated from the doctrines, and some have even proven to be false, the Church was built by Christ, is guided and upheld by the All-Holy Ghost, and will never deviate from the decree of the Father. The Church as a whole is valid because of its ancient doctrine which is truly timeless.
Apostolic Succession is more than just being ordained by a valid Apostle or Bishop, it is you walkingas a valid Apostle and/or Bishop. Your Apostolic validity is known by your fruit, and your fruit is grown from The Seed, "the word of God".
be blessed, speak blessed...
to be a blessing, & speak a blessing...
†††Trevor T. Greene
Senior Apostle, Patriarch, & Int'l Bishop,
"Axios, Axios, Axios!!"