There is always a need to define, redefine, evaluate where we are concerning our position and our commission, in light of, scripture, history, and tradition. Therefore, I have decided to form The Global Conference of Bishops as a communion of episcopates uniting around true Apostolic tradition. I submit being a bishop is much more than merely looking the part, we must be the part. That means along with titles for status we need a character for example.
The normal responsibility and authority of leadership in the NT rested with the bishops – elders – pastors – deacons; but if we are interested in pursuing biblical patterns of leadership, we must be concerned to demonstrate observable growth not only in our grasp of truth but also in our lived discipline (1 Tim. 4:14 – 16) of the Truth. If you are not familiar with Church history, then you will go off on a tandem fighting everything by scripture only and not recognize the continual growth and pattern changes of the Church over time.
We must comprehend that spiritual leadership, far from lording it over others (Matt. 20:25 – 28), is a balanced combination of oversight (1 Tim. 4:11 – 13; 6:17 – 19; Titus 3:9 – 11) and example (1 Tim. 4:12; 6:6 – 11, 17 – 18; 1 Pet. 5:1 – 4) which, far from being negating are mutually reinforcing.
For instance, If you lived in the first four centuries of the church, being a bishop meant how well you were going to die for the Faith. Since most of the early bishops were martyred for the cause of Christ in this era. If you lived in the Middle Ages, bishops were defined as being both the civil and ecclesiastical authority of the known world. In fact, society functioned under both civil government and canon law during this period, which led to widespread corruption. In the Dark Ages and ultimately, the Reformation period, being a bishop was viewed as what corrupted the Church and represented the failed leadership of a glorious era of Church influence on the society of its’ day.
In our Modern-Day vernacular, being a bishop is almost like being a part of a new trend that rewards us with popularity, authority, wealth, and self-esteem. But are we fulfilling the mandate of Jesus Christ, our King, and leading a dark world to the light of His Glory by the light we shine on ourselves? I am not coming down on the episcopacy, just pointing out some abuses that affect all of us as leaders and hinder our effectiveness for evangelism and stability in the Church of Jesus Christ.
In the last 30 years, I have never seen so many people wanting to become some titled recognizable giant in the Kingdom. If they don’t ascend to the bishopric, it is by some other recognized title or self-appointed title that justifies who they are. Again, I beg, if you are not talking to God, how can you talk for God?
So, the questions are – Who really has the authority in the Church? Is it vested in titles or demonstration? Is it credentialed or simply proclaimed? Is it a product of supernatural sideshow tricks or simply the ability to proclaim through intellectual prowess? Is it based on gender or race? Does one have to believe a certain doctrine or worship in a particular fashion?
I really don’t know if we will settle the authority issues in the Church before Jesus comes or not. All I KNOW – is that we need to get a handle on leadership before the whole Church becomes too fragmented to reassemble and make herself whole.
First, the tradition of the episcopacy is so confusing that one must understand the difference in disciplines as the episcopacy unfolded. Historically, the Church developed what was termed collegiate episcopacy, based on a college of bishops governing the general body of Christ in different regions. As Christianity began identifying itself separate from its’ Jewish roots, it started embracing varying leadership models from the Apostolic leadership to the episcopal rule, beginning late first century on.
Along with the developing role of the episcopacy, also came the emerging role of the archiepiscopacy. Regarding its’ historical origin, some writers wrongly point to Timothy and Titus, the disciples of Paul, as to the first archbishops in the Church. Probably they were metropolitans in the wider sense of the term, one for Asia Minor, the other for the island of Crete. But it remains impossible to assign the exact date when archbishops, as we now use the term, were first appointed. It is true that metropolitans are mentioned as a well-known institution in the Church by the Council of Nicæa (325) in its fourth, fifth and sixth canons, and by the Council of Antioch (341) whose seventh canon is a classical passage in this matter.
It reads: “The bishops of every province must be aware that the bishop presiding in the metropolis has charge of the whole province; because all who have business come together from all quarters to the metropolis. For this reason, it is decided that he should, according to the ancient and recognized canon of our fathers, do nothing beyond what concerns their respective dioceses and the districts belonging thereto”, etc. But it cannot be denied that even at, this period the term “metropolitan” was used indiscriminately for all higher ranks above the simple episcopate. It was thus applied also to patriarchs and primates.
The same must be said of the term “archbishop” which does not occur in the present meaning before the sixth century, although the office of archbishop or metropolitan in the stricter sense, indicating a hierarchical rank above the ordinary bishops but below the primate and patriarch, was already substantially the same in the fifth century as it is today. A peculiar condition obtained in Africa, where the archiepiscopal office was not attached to a certain see, the metropolis, but where it always devolved upon the senior bishop of the province, whatever see he might occupy. He was called “the first or chief bishop”, or also “the bishop of the first or chief see”.
The history of the episcopate developed into at least five major divisions over time:
1. Catholic Episcopacy – Papacy
2. Orthodox Episcopacy – Collegiate order Patriarchal
3. Protestant – AME – Methodist Prelate – Presiding
4. Anglican – Episcopal Archbishop
5. Pentecostal – Convergence Apostles Prelates Presiders
Within the development and major styles of the episcopal office in the Church, it has become universally impossible to have a single code of ethics governing all episcopates. However, accepting uniform guidelines have given some structure to the office. Most of what we see today as episcopal has to established along doctrinal and liturgical practices to make them relevant. The GCOB will establish its’ own discipline and hierarchy for the development of this communion.