In the past 1 1/2 years I have been on a journey towards a more traditional, liturgical community of worship. It all began when I read Simply Christian by New Testament Scholar and Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright. I enjoyed the read and I had heard much concerning Wright’s scholarship. But why was he, a Protestant, called a “Bishop,” and why did I always see him wearing “Catholic” garb in his pictures? Since then, I have been on a journey to better understand, particularly, the history and theology of Anglicanism and more generally, the nature and history of “the church.”
As of late, my wife and I have been attending an AMIA church known as Wellspring Anglican Church. We have been blessed by our time there and are in the beginning phases of becoming involved in the church. During my journey towards a liturgical context (of which I skipped a lot for brevity), I have also been forced to engage other issues that, due to my own evangelical upbringing, I have never even encountered. For instance, Ignatius, who probably died around 110 a.d., wrote of a rather developed form of episcopacy which seems to be lacking in many evangelical “free churches.” Now, of course, the question arises, “Why should we take this form of episcopacy to be normative for today?” Indeed this is a great question and ought to be asked. But on the other hand, it should also be asked, “Why do so many evangelicals grant the theological developments most fully expressed in the creeds, yet fail to grant the validity of the parallel ecclesiological developments of the first 5 centuries, especially when many of them arose precisely because of the theology of the early church?”
For example, consider the following excerpts of Ignatius’ writings:
“Let us, therefore, be careful not to oppose the bishop, in order that we may be obedient to God.”-Letter to the Ephesians
“It is obvious, therefore, that we must regard the bishop as the Lord himself.” -ibid
“Let no one be misled: if anyone is not within the sanctuary, he lacks the bread of God.”-ibid
“Continue to gather together, each and everyone of you, collectively and individually by name, in grace, in one faith and one Jesus Christ, who physically was a descendant of David, who is Son of man and Son of God, in order that you may obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undisturbed mind, breaking one bread, which is the medicine of immortality, the antidote we take in order not to die but to live forever in Jesus Christ.” -ibid
“Be eager to do everything in godly harmony, the bishop presiding in the place of God and the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles and the deacons, who are most dear to me, having been entrusted with the service of Jesus Christ, who before the ages was with the Father and appeared at the end of time.” – ibid
“Let there be nothing among you which is capable of dividing you, but be united with the bishop and with those who lead, as an example and a lesson of incorruptibility.” -ibid
“Therefore as the Lord did nothing without the Father, either by himself or through the apostles (for he was united with him), so you must not do anything without the bishop and the presbyters.” -ibid
These sort of quotations could be produced over and over again throughout all of his letters.
Perhaps one of the strongest of his warnings is this:
“For all those who belong to God and Jesus Christ are with the bishop, and all those who repent and enter into the unity of the church will belong to God, that they may be living in accordance with Jesus Christ. Do not be misled my brothers: if anyone follows a schismatic, he will not inherit the kingdom of God.” –Letter to the Philadelphians
I found all of these quotes very interesting and highly suggest to anyone reading this post that at the very least, you owe it to yourself to read through some of the Apostolic Fathers writings. A good source is Michael W. Holmes The Apostolic Fathers.
In the next fews posts I will be engaging issues relevant to Anglicanism, liturgy, eucharist, episcopacy and the “historical church.” Any suggestions for more specific issues?