Friday, November 16, 2018

A Part of Something Greater, Part III: Defending Nazarene Apostolic Succession

This is part of an on-going series which began as a reflection on my own ordination to the order of Elder in the Church of the Nazarene, and quickly expanded into an articulation and defense of apostolic succession and the ordination of women, and why I think it is important for Evangelical Christians to understand their biblical basis, especially as ecclesiology often gets put on the back-burner in American Evangelicalism (1). Though many Evangelicals may contend that their affirmation of the central Christian beliefs and the expression of their individual faith is enough for obedient discipleship; I would argue this isn’t the case (2). While Jesus definitely came so that we may all be saved as individuals redeemed and restored to His Image; he also desired that we would all be one, as Jesus and the Father are one (3). It is this unity in Christ, exemplified by love for one another that would show the World that we are truly His disciples (4).

So, for the sake of unity, one of the ultimate goals of this series is to not only develop a reasonable and scripturally sound ecclesiology for Evangelicals, which includes apostolic succession and the ordination of women; but also to defend the legitimacy of that succession and our ordinations to other communions who make up the majority of the Christian Faith. These include the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Church of the East and the Ancient Church of the East. Each of these groups affirms the doctrine of apostolic succession and its relevance to ordination and the legitimacy of sacraments, and each declares Protestant apostolic succession (and therefore our ordinations and sacraments) to be invalid.

Their contention that our apostolic succession is invalid is based on two arguments: 1) that we have left the orthodox faith as (variously) held by their individual communions, and so do not have apostolic authority; or 2) that our ordinations, as being traced through the Anglican Communion, are invalid since Anglican ordinations lost their apostolicity after their form and intent were changed during the Edwardian Reforms following the English Reformation (5). In the piece below, I will demonstrate that the Church of the Nazarene retains apostolic authority both in its orthodoxy (right teaching) and in the form and intent of its ordinations.

Orthodoxy in Apostolic Succession
As members of the Church of the Nazarene, we hold that everything necessary to our salvation is inerrantly contained within scripture (6). This includes the central doctrines of the faith, namely those expressed in the only creed universally agreed upon by bishops from the entire Church in ecumenical council, namely the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of 381. The early fathers, called the creeds “symbolum” as in “Symbolum Nicaenum” and “Symbolum Apostolicum” or “symbolon” in Greek. The original meaning of the term meant “watchword” or “badge of identification” and identified the bearer as belonging to a particular community, in this case orthodox Christianity (7). All those who affirm the Creed are orthodox Christians, those who don’t, aren’t. That the creed itself is the definition of the apostolic faith was affirmed by Canon 1 of the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381 and in Canon 7 of the Council of Ephesus (8).

This means that, if one uses the Creed alone as the symbol (in the ancient sense of the word) of orthodoxy, then the vast majority of Trinitarian Christians are in fact orthodox in their belief. This would include most Protestants, the Proto-Protestant Churches, the Anglican Communion, the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Ancient Church of the East. If orthodoxy is a condition for apostolicity, then each of those churches has it.

Now the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church, and Oriental Orthodox Church would all disagree with the above statements, as they all hold Ecumenical Councils beyond the first two to be authoritative and necessary for true orthodoxy (9). But it is this effort to define orthodox doctrine beyond scripture and the central Creed of the Church which simultaneously ushered in the first schism of the Church, and caused the visible institutions of the various churches to lose their catholicity and unity, two of the four marks of the Great Pre-Schism Church. The Creed which was defined at Nicaea and clarified at Constantinople was again affirmed at the Council of Ephesus in Canon 7 (10). But while the Fathers of Ephesus sought to clarify the christological understanding of the Church, they anathematized a portion of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church despite the fact that it held to orthodox christology and to the Creed mentioned above. That their christology was in fact orthodox has since been confirmed by joint declaration between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East (11).

This effectively created two visible institutions within the Church: the Great Church and the Churches of the East, which were not in full communion with each other but which were both fully orthodox and who both preserved apostolic succession. Because of this disunity, all subsequent councils lacked true ecumenical character, as a certain number of orthodox bishops in true apostolic succession were barred from participating, and their sees were ignored and invaded by bishops from the other communions, in contravention of Canon 16 of the Council of Nicaea (12). More schisms have followed among bodies who all hold to the Creed and who also preserve apostolic succession, but which lack catholicity and unity and so cannot unilaterally anathematize or formulate doctrine as a means of denying the legitimacy of the other denominations within the Church. No denomination in existence today has the authority to deny the orders, sacraments, or ministry of any other denomination which holds to the central creed of the Church and preserves apostolic succession.

The only guides for deciding orthodoxy remain scripture and the Canons of the first two Ecumenical Councils, including the Creed which they formulated. Subsequent Councils may indeed be helpful and espouse solid theology, but they are effectively local synods with jurisdiction over their own denominations only. I, for instance, affirm the theology expressed in the Canons of Ephesus and the Definition of Chalcedon. But I deny that their councils are truly ecumenical in the way the first two are.

This means that those who would argue the Church of the Nazarene lacks apostolicity because we are “unorthodox” are simply wrong. We still hold to the only Symbol of orthodoxy which the Ecumenical Councils have affirmed, and as long as we preserve the apostolic succession with which we’ve been entrusted, no other denomination has the right or jurisdiction to take that away from us. And as long as the ancient schisms continue to mar the unity of the Churches, this will not change.

The Form and Intent Behind Ordination
Having addressed the first common argument against our apostolic succession from orthodoxy, we now move to the second: namely that our ordinations lack the form and intent present within the ordinations of the apostolic churches. This is an argument most often advanced by Catholics, who point to a papal bull issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1896 which declared that the Edwardine rite instituted by the Church of England “completely null and void,” as they supposedly changed the form of the ordination sufficiently to communicate an intent that was different from that which the apostles intended (13). Since the Church of the Nazarene traces its superintendents back through the Church of England, they contend that our apostolic succession was invalidated at the institution of the Edwardian reforms in 1552, when explicit reference to the Eucharist as a sacrifice and to the priesthood as a sacrificing priesthood was omitted (14). This meant that those ordained according to the Catholic rite prior to the Edwardian reforms, but after the schism in 1534, were still validly (though illicitly) ordained.

That schism does not ipso facto invalidate orders is supported by Canon 8 of the Council of Nicaea which made provision for the reception of Novatians who returned to full communion with the Church, and which recognized the ordinations which they performed while in schism (15). The papal bull referenced above recognizes this, and so affirmed that the bishops who separated from the Catholic Church with the Church of England remained bishops with the authority to ordain, even though they were in a state of schism.

The contention that the Edwardian rite changed the form as a reflection of the intention of Thomas Cranmer and others to deny the sacrificial role of the priest or the nature of the Eucharist as a sacrifice is possible, but is not conferred by the words themselves, as they do not expressly deny the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist. Rather, the omission simply serves to allow for freedom of conscience when interpreting scripture with reference to the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist, while still affirming its sacramental character as a means of grace. That the Eucharist is a sacrament and means of grace in which Christ is really present is still affirmed in the words of ordination and the doctrines of the Church of the Nazarene today (16).

That the intention of Nazarene ordination is to give the ordained Elder the full apostolic authority to administer the sacraments and lead the Church is evident in the words which were used at my ordination (17) and in the doctrine we hold regarding scripture, that it contains “all things necessary to our salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith,” (18). This means the primary intention of ordination (whether Nazarene or by one of our Methodist or Anglican predecessors) is and has always been to transmit the fullness of apostolic authority and all it entails.

If scripture supports the contention that the Eucharist is a sacrifice (or more accurately is the participation of the Church in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross), then the fullness of the Eucharist is inferred by our ordination. If scripture does not support the contention, then it is not and need not be inferred in the ordination. The form and intention behind the rite of ordination used in the Church allows for both interpretations inclusively as the Eucharist is positively defined as a means of grace by which Christ is truly present and does not negatively preclude a sacrificial understanding of the Eucharist or the priesthood (whether ministerial or corporate). And since the form communicates the intention of both the ordaining authority and the recipient of ordination to transmit full apostolic authority, that authority is exactly what is transmitted, since we know we can trace our apostolic succession back to the apostles themselves (19).

That the papal bull of Leo XIII is not as definite as it may initially seem for Roman Catholics is evident by the fact that the eight member commission tasked by Leo XIII to investigate the validity of Anglican Orders was split evenly, 4-to-4 on the question of whether or not Anglican orders were valid, and subsequent investigation by the US Council of Catholic Bishops suggests that a re-appraisal by the Catholic Church of Anglican orders is necessary, given a better knowledge of the tumultuous events and theological positions of the English and Roman bishops during the 16th century (20). In the same document, the USCCB cites the encyclical Sæpius Officio, a letter written by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to all the bishops of Christendom. This encyclical both affirmed the Anglican teaching of the Eucharistic sacrifice and pointed out that the precise terms required by Leo XIII were missing from the earliest Roman ordinals which had been used to consecrate bishops and ordain priests which the Catholic Church naturally considered valid, as they were instrumental to the Catholic Church’s own claim to apostolic succession (21). That the Anglican understanding of the Eucharist includes both a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving on the part of the recipient, and the joining of the recipient to Christ in His one sacrifice on the Cross on our behalf, as well as the reality that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, are all affirmed by both the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion (22). It goes to follow then, that Methodists and Nazarenes, as heirs of Anglican sacramental theology, affirm this understanding as well.

All of the above evidence demonstrates that the declaration of Anglican orders (and therefore Nazarene orders) as null and void by Pope Leo XIII is likely mistaken in both its estimation of the intent behind the Edwardian reforms and in the forms required for ordination. The deep irony of this is that the standard by which the Pope would require the Anglican Communion to conform would invalidate his very own ordination! Additionally, given the state of schism between multiple denominations in which the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church exists; no single denomination, or pope, or even council has the authority contend the orders of other communions are valid or invalid, beyond what was already decided by scripture and the first two ecumenical councils which were decided when the visible institution of the Church still retained the fullness of the first two marks of the Church: Unity and Catholicity. Until the Church repairs its schisms and decides by Ecumenical Council otherwise, the apostolic succession (and therefore the orders, sacraments, and ministry) of the Church of the Nazarene remains valid, intact, and equal to that of any other Church.

(1) Hyde, Ian. “A Part of Something Greater, Part I: Apostolic Succession” Written Jun. 21, 2018. (Link); and Hyde, Ian. “A Part of Something Greater, Part II: Women’s Ordination.” Written Oct. 22, 2018 (Link).
(2) Though I fully affirm the Protestant doctrine of Sola Fide, which says it is by grace through faith, and not works, that we are saved (Eph. 2:8-9); what I am talking about here is the obedient Christian walk, which requires community. Though faith saves, if a person refuses to walk with other believers as Christ commands, then do they really have faith in Him?
(3) Jn. 17:21.
(4) Jn. 13:35.
(5) Smith, S. “Anglican Orders.” In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. Web. Retrieved November 15, 2018.
(6) Para. 4. Manual, 2017-2021. Church of the Nazarene. Web. Retrieved Nov. 16, 2018.
(7) σύμβολον , τό. Henry George Liddell. Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon. revised and augmented throughout by. Sir Henry Stuart Jones. with the assistance of. Roderick McKenzie. Oxford. Clarendon Press. 1940.
(8) “The Canons of the Council of Constantinople (381),” and “The Canons of the Council of Ephesus (431),” at Early Church Texts. Web. Retrieved Nov. 16, 2018.
(9) The Oriental Orthodox Church affirms the first three ecumenical councils. The Eastern Orthodox Church the first seven, and the Catholic Church claims twenty-one ecumenical councils through the ages.
(10) “The Canons of the Council of Ephesus (431),” at Early Church Texts. Web. Retrieved Nov. 16, 2018.
(11) Pope John Paul II and Mar Dinkha IV. “Common Christological Declaration Between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East.” Signed Nov. 11, 1994. Vatican Website. Retrieved Nov. 16, 2018.
(12) “The Canons of the Council of Nicaea (325),” at Early Church Texts. Web. Retrieved Nov. 16, 2018.
(13) Pope Leo XIII. “Apostolicae Curae.” Written Sep. 13, 1896. On EWTN Website. Retrieved Nov. 16, 2018.
(14) United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Anglican Orders: A Report on the Evolving Context for their Evaluation in the Roman Catholic Church.” Web. Retrieved Nov. 16, 2018.
(15) “The Canons of the Council of Nicaea (325).
(16) cf. Hyde, “A Part of Something Greater, Part I”, as well as COTN Manual, Para. 13, 515.4, 700.
(17) Ibid.
(18) Para. 4. Manual, 2017-2021. COTN. Web. Retrieved Nov. 16, 2018.
(19) For a full list of all the names in my line of apostolic succession, see Hyde, “A Part of Something Greater, Part I.”
(20) USCCB. “Anglican Orders: A Report.”
(21) Ibid.
(22) (22) Anglican-Roman Catholic Dialogue in the United States. “Five Affirmations of the Eucharist as Sacrifice.” Published Jan. 06, 1994. Web.

*Edited to clarify first paragraph and correct footnotes.

#Apostles #Ordination #ApostolicSuccession #Nazarene #ChurchOfTheNazarene #Catholic #Orthodox #Anglican