Apologetics is that branch of Theology that deals with the defense and establishment of the Christian faith. Therefore, my Apostolic Apology is in defense of the ongoing development of and the redefining of the episcopacy considering scriptural, biblical, and careful exegetical analysis. I use the term apostolic in its’ root form to refer to the teachings and practices of the early Christian Apostles and their disciples, who we later refer to as Church Fathers.
The continual task we have before us is to define, redefine, and evaluate where we are concerning our position and our commission, considering, scripture, church history, culture, and tradition. So, when we seek to become critical of practices, traditions, and order in the Church, we need a measuring rod (canon) to regulate our discussion. Therefore, I have decided to continue to expound on issues on the complexity of episcopal leadership in the Church today.
One of the repeated confusing discussions is how church leadership advanced overtime in the Early Church. Some think the early Apostles ruled as a governing board through the five-fold ministry gifts we see in Eph 4:11, and that a return to that order will fix the issues of the Church world today. But in truth, the office of the episcopacy developed over time as a disenfranchised Church struggled to survive amidst mounting persecution and unpopularity from a corrupt worldview. While others saw a pluralistic board of elders as the answer to the rising corruption of the episcopacy in The Medieval Church period; or maybe either trustee, deacons, or local congregations as the ruling authority in a Church culture for an ongoing solution in Modern times.
The truth is the Early Church was birthed with the power and majesty of The Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Blanketed in a culture of Jewish worship seasons, The Holy Spirit engineered an outpouring during the greatest attendance of Jews to one of their most important major feasts in the 1st century. Amidst the shallowness of Pentecost, the Church was birthed along with cultural, historical, and traditional religious Jewish customs and rituals of the day. Out of the shadow of Old Testament prophetic announcements, the New Testament Church became a source of the spiritual fulfillment of global magnitude. So, Luke records the early struggle of the Church to find identity and purpose while being rejected both within Jewish society and Roman dominance.
As the Church expanded, so did the need to structure a new leadership model. It was not mandated by any organized vote; it grew out of necessity and complexity as many were being martyred for their Faith. What started in Palestine as small house gatherings were now expanding to large groups in cities all over the Roman empire.
With the deaths of the Apostles and the age of miracles, and the diminishing season of signs and wonders closing, a new leadership mandate in the form of “teachers” began to take root and establish new voices for a shattered Church. From these voices was mandated a new leadership structure. But within the development of the major styles of the episcopal office in the Institutionalized Church since the 3rd century, it has become painfully impossible to have a single code of ethics governing all episcopates.
However, most of what we see today as episcopal is unfortunately not established along doctrinal truths and true liturgical practices to make them relevant. Whether we are talking about Catholic, Orthodox, or Anglican styles or methods, it is really the doctrinal emphasis behind the pomp and circumstances of the literary of worship, not just the performance of traditional practices. As a result. leadership in the Church of Jesus Christ is complex today.
So, where do we go from here? Healing the divisions that divide the church through prayer is a start. I suggest looking for a place called there while we get our attention off the glitter and focus on the substance of the office. Because instead of the “Church” becoming the “Light” it was intended to represent, it became known as a dysfunctional system of what not to do instead of a system of what to do. Maybe a Church-wide overall is in order.