The Apostolic Succession
of The Anglican Mission in America

Author: Carl Drews
Copyright 2004

This web page lists the historical succession of the six bishops in The Anglican Mission in America (AMiA).

Contents: Definition, Scripture References, The List, Problems with the Succession, Lutheran-Episcopal Concordat, Anglican Mission in America, Pitcairn Island, Conclusion
Last update: May 25, 2004

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Definition

Many Christian denominations are organized with bishops that oversee a number of priests or pastors, who in turn minister to individual congregations (the bishops may also have their own congregation). These bishops are ordained by means of a practice known as "laying on hands". Other bishops gather around the candidate and place their hands on that person in prayer and blessing. The laying on of hands also serves as a public demonstration of giving authority to the candidate, and the new bishop is consecrated for ministry in the service of God. This practice of ordination is described in the Bible (see Scripture below).

The Apostolic Succession refers to the chain of consecrations as bishop extending back into history. Presumably each new bishop was consecrated by an existing bishop, who was also consecrated by another, and so on. The Apostolic Succession is the sequence of these ordinations all the way back to St. Peter, who was an Apostle of Jesus Christ Himself. The Apostolic Succession is also known as the Historic Episcopate.

The modern Apostolic Succession is not simply the sequence of persons who held the highest office in a denomination (Catholic Popes, Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury, Orthodox Patriarchs of Constantinople). The previous Pope did not necessarily consecrate the new Pope as bishop. For example, Pope John Paul I did not ordain Pope John Paul II as Bishop of Kraków, Poland in 1958 - that consecration was performed by Eugeniusz Baziak. Neither did the old Pope install the new Pope directly, because the selection of Popes is done when the previous Pope has passed away. I'm sure that Pope John Paul I knew Cardinal Karol Wojtyla and probably shook his hand in greeting, but those casual encounters were not the ordination as bishop. This is why the links in the chain of the Apostolic Succession often pass through the highest church office, but not all consecrations as bishop occur there.

In theory the church could guarantee an unbroken Apostolic Succession simply by adopting the practice that only pre-existing bishops may ordain new bishops. In that way we would always preserve the line back to St. Peter. In practice it is harder than that. The Apostolic Succession reaches back 2,000 years through some murky periods of human history, and it is not enough for a person in the year 2003 merely to assert "We've always done it that way!" We desire proof, or at least some historical evidence, that the consecrations were done properly, and that the chain is unbroken. The evidence is a list of actual consecrations reaching back to St. Peter.

Scripture References

If you take your concordance and search for the word "hands" in the New Testament, you will find a selection of Bible verses that refer to the laying on of hands. Here are the verses I found in the New International Version from Acts onward:

The Holy Spirit is involved in five out of six passages in Acts from the list above (Acts 28:8 involves healing). Two out of three passages in Timothy refer to a spiritual gift. From these passages it should be evident that churches who practice the Apostolic Succession and do not value the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit might want to re-examine what they're doing.

The granting of authority is also a theme in the above verses, although by my reading that aspect is secondary to receiving the Holy Spirit. Note that Stephen in Acts 6:6 and Paul in Acts 13:3 were already filled with the Holy Spirit; this laying on of hands was to commission them. What I don't see is an insistence that the laying on of hands should be done only by consecrated bishops, nor that the historical lines of succession must be preserved in perpetuity.

The List

Here is the list of bishops in the Apostolic Succession, from St. Peter to the present day. The table ends with the current bishops of the AMiA. You should read this chart vertically. The bishop listed on one row consecrated the bishop on the following row. Besides the row number, the columns are in groups of three (Name, Date Consecrated, and Note). Near the bottom the table splits into an additional column group because the line of succession splits into two lines. Splitting is not bad - in this case we see an American line that has diverged from the main English line. Note that we pass through a few famous martyrs along the way.

Tracing the Apostolic Succession of an individual bishop usually involves determining that person's consecrating bishop and working backwards from there. Within a dozen "moves" you will hopefully get to one of the "main lines", which are well known and published. From there it's a relatively simple matter to follow the main line back to Peter.

Sources

For the consecrations within the Episcopal Church USA, I referred to the Online Apostolic Succession Project at The Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin in Fresno, California:

http://www.sjoaquin.net/sjao/listbishops.html

Each entry at that site usually lists three consecrating bishops. Having multiple consecrators is wise because it strengthens the line and assures that at least one of the consecrations will be historically valid. In tracing the succession, I simply picked the principal consecrator listed on the left side of each entry. This person is usually the most senior, and thereby provides the shortest path to the main line. That source gets us back to John Moore, the 88th Archbishop of Canterbury, who was consecrated as bishop in 1738.

For the Anglican consecrations within the Church of England, I referred to Matthew Duckett's web site that contains the Main List of Episcopal Succession:

http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucgbmxd/success1.htm

That list contains many Archbishops of Canterbury. The line passes through some interesting and tumultuous periods of English history. The Anglican Succession brings us back to Formosus, who was consecrated as Bishop of Porto in 864 by Pope Nicholas I.

From there we follow the Old Catholic Succession:

http://www.theceec.org/gulfcoastdiocese/succession.htm
http://www.continet.com/culdee/ap.html
http://www.reformedcatholic.org/apostolic_succession.htm
http://www.i-c-u.org/page2.htm

The Old Catholic Succession of Popes brings us finally to St. Peter, the first Pope and Apostle of Jesus Christ.

The Apostolic Succession of The Anglican Mission in America (AMiA)

Number

Name

Date Consecrated

Note

Name2

Date2

Note2

1

Peter

38

First in the Old Catholic Succession of Popes.

 

 

 

2

Linus

67

These are not actually consecrations as bishop.

 

 

 

3

Ancletus (Cletus)

76

 

 

 

 

4

Clement

88

 

 

 

 

5

Evaristus

97

 

 

 

 

6

Alexander I

105

 

 

 

 

7

Sixtis I

115

 

 

 

 

8

Telesphorus

125

 

 

 

 

9

Hygimus

136

 

 

 

 

10

Pius I

140

 

 

 

 

11

Anicetus

155

 

 

 

 

12

Soter

166

 

 

 

 

13

Eleutherius

175

 

 

 

 

14

Victor I

189

 

 

 

 

15

Zephyrinus

199

 

 

 

 

16

Callistus I

217

 

 

 

 

17

Urban I

222

 

 

 

 

18

Pontian

230

 

 

 

 

19

Anterus

235

 

 

 

 

20

Fabian

236

 

 

 

 

21

Cornelius

251

 

 

 

 

22

Lucius I

253

 

 

 

 

23

Stephen I

254

 

 

 

 

24

Sixtus II

257

 

 

 

 

25

Dionysius

259

 

 

 

 

26

Felix I

269

 

 

 

 

27

Eutychian

275

 

 

 

 

28

Caius

283

 

 

 

 

29

Marcellinus

296

 

 

 

 

30

Marcellus I

308

 

 

 

 

31

Eucibius

309

 

 

 

 

32

Melchiades (Miltaides)

311

 

 

 

 

33

Sylvester I

314

 

 

 

 

34

Marcus

336

 

 

 

 

35

Julius I

337

 

 

 

 

36

Liberius

352

Exiled 2 years . . .

 

 

 

 

Felix II

 

Resigned at Liberius return

 

 

 

37

Damasas I

366

 

 

 

 

38

Siricius

384

 

 

 

 

39

Anastasius I

399

 

 

 

 

40

Innocent I

401

 

 

 

 

41

Zosimus

417

 

 

 

 

42

Boniface I

418

 

 

 

 

43

Celestine I

422

 

 

 

 

44

Sixtus III

432

 

 

 

 

45

Leo I

440

Stopped Attila the Hun at the gates of Rome.

 

 

 

46

Hilary

461

 

 

 

 

47

Simplicius

468

 

 

 

 

48

Felix III

483

 

 

 

 

49

Gelasius I

492

 

 

 

 

50

Anastasius II

496

 

 

 

 

51

Symmachus

498

 

 

 

 

52

Hormisdas

514

 

 

 

 

53

John I

523

 

 

 

 

54

Felix IV

526

 

 

 

 

55

Boniface II

530

 

 

 

 

56

John II

533

 

 

 

 

57

Agapetus I (Agapitus)

535

 

 

 

 

58

Silverius

536

 

 

 

 

59

Vigilus

537

 

 

 

 

60

Pelagius I

556

 

 

 

 

61

John III

561

 

 

 

 

62

Benedict I

575

 

 

 

 

63

Pelagius II

579

 

 

 

 

64

Gregory I

590

 

 

 

 

65

Sabinianus

604

 

 

 

 

66

Boniface III

607

 

 

 

 

67

Boniface IV

608

 

 

 

 

68

Deusdedit (Adeodatus I)

615

 

 

 

 

69

Boniface V

619

 

 

 

 

70

Honorius

625

 

 

 

 

71

Severinus

640

 

 

 

 

72

John IV

640

 

 

 

 

73

Theodore I

642

 

 

 

 

74

Martin I

649

 

 

 

 

75

Eugene I

654

 

 

 

 

76

Vitalian

657

 

 

 

 

77

Adeodatus II

672

 

 

 

 

78

Donus

676

 

 

 

 

79

Agatho

678

 

 

 

 

80

Leo II

682

 

 

 

 

81

Benedict II

684

 

 

 

 

82

John V

685

 

 

 

 

83

Conon

686

 

 

 

 

84

Sergius I

687

 

 

 

 

85

John VI

701

 

 

 

 

86

John VII

705

 

 

 

 

87

Sisinnius

708

 

 

 

 

88

Constantine

708

 

 

 

 

89

Gregory II

715

 

 

 

 

90

Gregory III

731

 

 

 

 

91

Zachary

741

 

 

 

 

92

Stephen II

752

 

 

 

 

93

Paul I

757

 

 

 

 

94

Stephen III

768

 

 

 

 

95

Adrian I

772

 

 

 

 

96

Leo III

795

 

 

 

 

97

Stephen IV

816

 

 

 

 

98

Paschal I

817

 

 

 

 

99

Eugene II

824

 

 

 

 

100

Valentine

827

 

 

 

 

101

Gregory IV

827

 

 

 

 

102

Sergius II

844

 

 

 

 

103

Leo IV

847

 

 

 

 

104

Benedict III

855

 

 

 

 

105

St. Nicholas I

858

Last Pope in this line.

 

 

 

106

Formosus

864

Episcopal consecrations begin here.

 

 

 

107

St. Plegmund

891

First Archbishop of Canterbury in this line.

 

 

 

108

Althelm

909

 

 

 

 

109

Wulfhelm

914

 

 

 

 

110

Odo

927

 

 

 

 

111

St. Dunstan

957

 

 

 

 

112

St. Aelphege

984

 

 

 

 

113

Elfric

990

 

 

 

 

114

Wulfstan

1003

 

 

 

 

115

Ethelnoth

1020

 

 

 

 

116

Eadsige

1035

 

 

 

 

117

Stigand

1043

 

 

 

 

118

Siward

1058

 

 

 

 

119

Bl. Lanfranc

1070

 

 

 

 

120

Thomas

1070

 

 

 

 

121

St. Anselm

1094

 

 

 

 

122

Richard de Belmeis

1108

 

 

 

 

123

William of Corbeuil

1123

 

 

 

 

124

Henry of Blois

1129

 

 

 

 

125

St. Thomas Becket

1162

Murdered at the altar of Canterbury Cathedral in 1170 at the suggestion of Henry II.

 

 

 

126

Roger of Gloucester

1164

 

 

 

 

127

Peter de Leia

1176

 

 

 

 

128

Gilbert Glanville

1185

 

 

 

 

129

William of S. Mere L'Eglise

1199

 

 

 

 

130

Walter de Gray

1214

 

 

 

 

131

Walter Kirkham

1249

 

 

 

 

132

Henry

1255

 

 

 

 

133

Anthony Beck

1284

 

 

 

 

134

John of Halton

1292

 

 

 

 

135

Roger Northborough

1322

 

 

 

 

136

Robert Wyvil

1330

 

 

 

 

137

Ralph Stratford

1340

 

 

 

 

138

William Edendon

1346

 

 

 

 

139

Simon Sudbury

1362

 

 

 

 

140

Thomas Brentingham

1370

 

 

 

 

141

Robert Braybrooke

1382

 

 

 

 

142

Roger Walden

1398

Deposed and Episcopal register burnt;

 

 

 

143

Henry Beaufort

1398

no record of consecration.

 

 

 

144

Thomas Bourchier

1435

 

 

 

 

145

John Morton

1479

 

 

 

 

146

Richard Fitzjames

1497

 

 

 

 

147

William Warham

1502

 

 

 

 

148

John Longlands

1521

 

 

 

 

149

Thomas Cranmer

1533

Executed at Oxford in 1556 for heresy by Queen Mary I.

 

 

 

150

William Barlow

1536

No register entry.

 

 

 

151

Matthew Parker

1559

 

 

 

 

152

Edmund Grindal

1559

 

 

 

 

153

John Whitgift

1577

 

 

 

 

154

Richard Bancroft

1597

Oversaw production of King James Bible.

 

 

 

155

George Abbot

1609

 

 

 

 

156

George Montaigne

1617

 

 

 

 

157

Bl. William Laud

1621

 

 

 

 

158

Brian Duppa

1638

 

 

 

 

159

Gilbert Sheldon

1660

 

 

 

 

160

Henry Compton

1674

 

 

 

 

161

William Sancroft

1678

 

 

 

 

162

Jonathan Trelawney

1685

 

 

 

 

163

John Potter

1715

 

 

 

 

164

Thomas Herring

1738

 

Thomas Herring

1738

 

165

Robert Hay Drummond

1748

 

Frederick Corwallis

1750

 

166

William Markham

1771

 

John Moore

1783

88th Archbishop of Canterbury;

167

Edward Venables Vernon Harcourt

1791

 

William White

1787

this line moves to America.

168

John Bird Sumner

1828

 

John Henry Hopkins

1832

 

169

Archibald Campbell Tait

1856

 

Daniel Sylvester Tuttle

1867

 

170

Edward White Benson

1877

 

James DeWolf Perry

1911

 

171

Randall Thomas Davidson

1891

 

Henry Knox Sherrill

1930

 

172

Cyril Garbett

1919

 

Arthur C. Lichtenberger

1951

 

173

Arthur Michael Ramsey

1952

 

John Allin

1961

 

174

Robert Alexander Kennedy Runcie

1970

 

Alex D. Dickson, Jr.

1983

 

175

Yong Ping Chung

1990

 

Charles H. Murphy III, John H. Rodgers Jr.

2000

 

176

Thaddeus Rockwell Barnum, Alexander Maury Greene, Thomas William Johnston, Jr., Douglas Brooks Weiss

2001

I was there!

 

 

 

Other bishops, especially the Archbishop of Rwanda Emmanuel Mbona Kolini, have played an important part in these consecrations. I will add them to this table as soon as I have traced their succession. So far I have learned that Archbishop Moses Tay was consecrated by the late Bishop Luke Chhoa H.S. under the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Emmanuel Kolini was consecrated Assistant Bishop of Bukavu, Zaire in 1980; his consecrators were at least the following bishops: The Most Rev'd Bezaleri Ndahura (Francophone bishop of several African nations, including the Congo), The Rt. Rev'd Justin Ndandali (Uganda), The Rt. Rev'd Philip Ridsdale (Congo), The Rt. Rev'd Eustace Kamanyire (Uganda). C. Fitzsimmons Allison was consecrated as bishop in 1980 in Charleston, South Carolina, by the Most Reverend John M. Allin, Gray Temple, George Alexander, and 23 others.

For the consecrations within the Anglican Mission in America, my sources are contemporary news accounts and my own personal witness:

http://newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/schism00.html
The Rev. Charles H. Murphy III and the Very Rev. Dr. John H. Rodgers Jr. were consecrated as Anglican bishops in St. Andrew's Cathedral in Singapore on January 29, 2000. The consecrators were: The Most Reverend Emmanuel Kolini, Archbishop of the Province of Rwanda; The Most Reverend Moses Tay, Archbishop of the Province of South East Asia; and The Right Reverend John Ruchyahana, the Diocese of Shyira in Rwanda. They were assisted by The Right Reverend C. Fitzsimmons Allison, the thirteenth Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina, Episcopal Church, USA; The Right Reverend Alex D. Dickson, the first Bishop of the Diocese of West Tennessee, Episcopal Church, USA; and The Right Reverend David Pytches, the former Bishop of Chile, Bolivia and Peru.
http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/acnsarchive/acns2500/acns2512.html
On June 24, 2001 at Colorado Community Church in Denver, Colorado, Anglican bishops consecrated four more American priests as bishops in the Anglican Church. "Archbishops Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda and Datuk Yong Ping Chung of South East Asia, joined by retired American bishops Alex Dickson of Tennessee and Fitzsimmons Allison of South Carolina and John Rucyahana and Venuste Mutiganda of Rwanda, laid hands on Thaddeus Barnum, Alexander "Sandy" Greene, T.J. Johnston, and Douglas Weiss, bringing the number of AMiA bishops to six for the 5,000-member group."
Here is Archbishop Yong's sermon for that service:
http://www.standrewsdestin.com/archbp_yong.htm
I was there!

Problems with the Succession

As stated earlier, the Apostolic Succession is the unbroken line of consecrations as bishop (by laying on hands) extending back to Jesus Christ. The first "problem" we notice is the consecration date for St. Peter: 38 A.D. The classical date for the birth of Christ is the year 1, and modern history places His birth at 4 B.C. Even if we accept the later date, we must place the year of Christ's crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension at no later than 34 AD. How did it happen that Peter was consecrated in 38 AD, four years after Jesus physically left this earth?

The answer is that 38 AD is the date of Peter's installation as Bishop of Rome, and therefore as the first Pope. Well, this is no problem - we have Luke 24:50 describing how the Apostles were consecrated by Jesus Himself: "When Jesus had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, He lifted up His hands and blessed them." We also have the record of Jesus giving authority to His disciples in John 20:21-22: "Again Jesus said, 'Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.' And with that He breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" There is no doubt that the Apostle Peter was properly consecrated.

However, when we look a little further down the succession list we find that it looks like simply a list of Popes. This is exactly what it is. We do not have a detailed record of consecrations as bishop for the early centuries of the Christian church. The Antiochian - Jacobite Succession (Eastern Orthodox) suffers from same problem; it simply lists the Patriarchs of Antioch. For example, the present Patriarch of Antioch, His Beatitude Ignatius IV, was made bishop in 1961, but his Patriarchate begins in 1979. Those readers hoping to find in the Apostolic Succession a list of ordination ceremonies for all ancient Christian bishops will be disappointed.

At this point we should remind ourselves just how bad the "problem" really is: not very. No serious historian claims that the record of Popes is wrong, or that some unchurched interloper ascended to the papacy through intrigue or force of arms. We are confident that these men were all properly consecrated by the Christian communities of their time. Furthermore, the early years of the Christian church were difficult and dangerous times. It's hard to keep accurate records when you're being crucified upside down or thrown to the lions in the Roman Coliseum. Having noted exactly what are the old lines of succession and what they are not, let us proceed onward from Formosus in the year 864.

We do not have a historical record (in an Episcopal register) for the consecration of Henry Beaufort in 1398, nor for William Barlow in 1536. There is a very good reason for that; their consecrators were violently overthrown by the governing authorities, and their records of ordination were destroyed. Thomas Cranmer was burned at the stake in 1556, and there is a circle of bricks with a cross in the center on Broad Street in Oxford that marks the spot to this day. Again, it's tough to maintain accurate records when you're being martyred.

The Catholic Church has a succession problem of their own in the person of Scipione Rebiba. Scipione Rebiba was a cardinal who was ordained bishop in 1541, but no one knows for sure who consecrated him. 91% of all modern Roman Catholic bishops trace their episcopal succession through him, including His Holiness Pope John Paul II. Unfortunately, after extensive research we have not found any historical record of Rebiba's consecration. Charles Bransom has a more detailed description of the Rebiban Succession problem at his web site:
http://home1.gte.net/cbransom/

Do these unfortunate events cut off the tree of the Apostolic Succession? Do they shake the firm foundation of our church? Are we cut off from Our Savior because an ancient piece of paper has gone up in smoke? Of course not! A thousand times, No! We have the blessed assurance from St. Paul himself that nothing can separate us from the love of Jesus Christ, in Romans 8:38-39:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The apparent "gaps" in the Apostolic Succession are addressed by church historians who look at the historical context. It's reasonable to assume that Henry Beaufort was consecrated properly by Roger Walden; Walden was the person with the authority to do so, and he was available and interested in consecrating other bishops. Nobody seriously claims that Scipione Rebiba was a charlatan who just decided one day to go out and ordain some bishops on his own. Although we would like to have the historical evidence, these "problems" are perhaps a reminder for us to be humble, and to ponder our real connection to God Almighty. We gain our salvation and eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and nothing can take that away from us. Thanks be to God!

Lutheran-Episcopal Concordat

Discussions about the Apostolic Succession seem to bring with them an uninvited guest; namely, the specter of illegitimacy. Those churches who can claim a valid line of Apostolic Succession are perceived as being more legitimate than those who cannot. By "legitimate" I mean valid, authorized, authentic, true - all those things that any church would want to be. I have not seen anyone stating plainly that a church without the Apostolic Succession is illegitimate, but the implication is difficult to avoid. Pope Leo XIII issued a statement in 1896 declaring the Anglican line of succession to be invalid, and this statement has that effect. Click on the link below to read "On the Nullity of Anglican Orders: Apostolicae Curae", promulgated September 18, 1896 by Pope Leo XIII:
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucgbmxd/apcurae.htm

How would you feel if someone told you that your baptism wasn't done right and you had to be baptized again? Or that your born-again conversion experience wasn't the real thing? Upon reading Pope Leo's declaration, a few Anglicans probably wondered how a line that branched off from Rome in 891 could be declared invalid 1,000 years later? Aren't we grandfathered in? In any case, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York took this declaration seriously and formulated a response. Click on the link below to read the "Answer of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the Bull Apostolicae Curae of H. H. Leo XIII", published on March 29, 1897:
http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~ucgbmxd/saepius.htm

Back to the present. In the late 1990s the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) looked at each other across the street and wondered what was so different between them? I was a member of a Lutheran church at the time. "We have a lot of the same hymns, the same prayers, the same liturgy, belief in justification by faith, and reliance on grace - why are we historically and presently divided? Maybe we should be in Christian fellowship with one another, and show to the world an example of Christian unity!" I was a member of a Lutheran Church during that time, so in this case I was on the outside looking in.

This movement began as a grass-roots sentiment within the two churches, and was taken up by the church leadership who perceived that at least the basic idea seemed good to them and to the Holy Spirit. The ELCA and ECUSA began talks toward achieving some sort of mutual recognition and fellowship between them (not a merger). It helped that the Episcopals and the Lutherans had historically never been at war with each other, that there was no ancient conflict between the two groups. In fact, ecumenical discussions had been going on between Lutherans and Episcopalians for 30 years. So the two churches began talks toward reaching some kind of communion with each other. (When churches are in full communion they can share pastors, ministry, and officially worship together.)

The Apostolic Succession quickly became the biggest barrier to these talks. It was discussed under the alternate term "Historic Episcopate," and there were some hard feelings over this matter. The Lutheran Church did not have the historical episcopate for two main reasons:

The Episcopal Church can be thought of as a branch of the Anglican Church that operates in America. Although the Episcopal Church had also split from Rome during the reign of King Henry VIII of England (1534), that split was accomplished with the church structure mostly intact. Henry VIII took almost everyone with him, lock, stock, and barrel. The episcopal registers (official records of consecrations) came with him, as did most of the Anglican bishops.

The ECUSA was quite willing to give away the historic episcopate for free; that is, to share their line of succession with their Lutheran counterparts. But how would this be accomplished? Every Lutheran bishop and pastor could have been re-ordained and re-consecrated by an Episcopal bishop within a year or so. But here the specter of illegitimacy reared its ugly head. The need to be re-ordained carries with it a strong implication that everything up until then has been wrong, and this implication was unpalatable to the Lutherans: "We built our church on the blood of martyrs. We have founded universities, built hospitals, sent missionaries throughout the world, and raised many generations of Christian believers. We're doing fine. Why do we need the historic episcopate?"

For their part the Episcopal Church had a long history of faithfully carrying forward the historic episcopate. They have church laws that prohibit ministers who are not ordained in the proper line of succession, and they were not keen on breaking those laws now: "Do we abandon a 1,000-year-old practice here just because the Lutherans object to it?"

The Lutherans' obvious lack of enthusiasm for the historic episcopate also had the effect of sending the boomerang back the other way: Does the Bible really require this practice? My friend Brent Robbins also noted that the Lutheran Church has its origins in a courageous monk (Martin Luther) who risked his life and stood up to the most powerful man in Europe (Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) in order to preach justification by faith. The Episcopal/Anglican church has its origins in a King (Henry VIII of England) who wanted to divorce his wife (Catherine of Aragon) in order to marry his pregnant lover (Anne Boleyn) instead. Who's illegitimate now?

A compromise was reached: The Lutheran Church would be grafted into the line of apostolic succession over a period of time. Every new ELCA bishop would be consecrated with an Episcopal bishop present to join in the laying on of hands. The existing Lutheran bishops and pastors would be grandfathered in (some grandmothered in), and could minister in ECUSA services without any further ordination. It would take a generation to accomplish this graft, but over that time the historic episcopate would spread throughout the entire Lutheran church. And after that time no ELCA Lutheran would ever have to worry about it again.

The "phase-in" compromise was written into the Lutheran-Episcopal Concordat of Agreement of 1997, and the ECUSA approved this agreement at their national convention in July 1997. But then, in a stunning development, the ELCA rejected the Concordat in August of that same year! The vote fell 6 votes short of the 2/3 majority needed for approval.

Now what? Well, it was obvious from the moment the vote was announced that the overall goal was still intact: fellowship between the two churches. In fact, a follow-up measure was passed overwhelmingly, saying basically: keep trying. And they did.

Representatives from the ELCA and the ECUSA met again over the next two years, and they came up with a revised agreement entitled "Called to Common Mission" (CCM). This document addressed some of the objections to the earlier Concordat, but provided for the same grafting method to share and spread the historic episcopate. The ELCA met again that summer, and approved the CCM document in August 1999. This time the agreement was approved by a 27-vote margin.
http://www.episcopal-dso.org/pages/ccm.htm
http://www.st-francis-lutheran.org/denpost990820.html
http://www.marriagesavers.org/Columns/C939.htm

Apparently the Episcopalians did not take offense at the debate going on in the Lutheran camp. The ECUSA ratified Called to Common Mission at their General Convention in Denver in July 2000, and with that act the two churches had achieved full communion!
http://www.st-francis-lutheran.org/010107nyt.html
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/002/22.20.html

I was proud of these two churches for coming to agreement! I continue to be proud of the Episcopal Church and the Lutheran Church for bridging their differences and coming into full communion. The ECUSA and the ELCA have given a special witness to the world. To an outside observer the original problem may have seemed small, but the facts show that their positions were strongly held with a lot of emotion and history behind them. They found a way to clasp hands in Christian friendship, and they did not let even the historic episcopate stand in their way. They both swallowed some pride to make it happen. And for that I commend them.

(Note: There are other Lutheran denominations in America, such as the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Synod, who disapproved of the agreement that the ELCA made with the ECUSA. Although the ELCA wants to maintain friendly relations with these other groups, it did not let those disapprovals prevent them from communion.)

The CCM agreement calls for an ECUSA bishop to be present at the consecration of any new Lutheran bishop, but not for a Lutheran bishop to be present at an Episcopal consecration. Recently I have learned that some Episcopal bishops have started to extend a "courtesy invitation" to the local Lutheran bishop when an Episcopal bishop is ordained. I think this is a mighty fine thing to do! Although the Lutheran bishop is not strictly needed for the Apostolic Succession, the Lutheran bishop brings the prayers, the authority, the recognition, and the blessings of thousands of fellow Christians. This "courtesy invitation" completes the circle of full communion, and emphasizes that there are no second-class partners in God's Kingdom.

The courtesy invitation at a new bishop's consecration also provides an opportunity for the two local churches to get to know each other better. Many people come to the ordination service, and the event is a good opportunity for Christian fellowship. And nobody does Christian fellowship better than the Lutherans! ;-)

Anglican Mission in America

Note: This section involves even more controversy than the Lutheran-Episcopal Concordat, and some of that controversy is still going on. I will try to explain this matter plainly, without going into the detailed positions of the sides. I have never been a member of an Episcopal Church - my family joined our Anglican Church because we liked the congregation and the worship. I will try to outline briefly what happened, and you can review the specifics on some other web site.

During the last decade of the 20th century there were a number of clergy and laity in the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) who perceived a growing drift away from what they understood to be Biblical teachings. Some of that drift involved issues of human sexuality and views on homosexual relationships. Another area of dissent centered around ECUSA Bishop John Shelby Spong and his 12 Theses that appeared to question the unique divinity of Jesus Christ (see A Call for a New Reformation, from May 1998). Bishop John Spong has since retired, but the issue still rankled because he and his views were not opposed strongly enough by the Episcopal Church. (Bishop John Spong was consecrated in 1976 by John Allin, who also consecrated Alex Dickson of AMiA. Bishop Spong is a close relative in the family tree of the Apostolic Succession.)

These differences came to a head at the Episcopal General Convention in Denver in July 2000. Meanwhile, the dissenting minority were in normal contact with other branches of the worldwide Anglican Communion. This minority came to realize that they had more in common theologically with Anglican churches in the Third World, many of whom shared their dislike of the direction in which the ECUSA was perceived to be going. They did not want to leave the Anglican Communion! Somewhere along the line they began to wonder if they could somehow affiliate with the Third World Anglicans instead of with the ECUSA.

The worldwide Anglican Communion is organized in provinces according to geography, and has been organized this way for a thousand years. Nevertheless, Anglican churches have always sent missionaries to other parts of the world because Jesus Christ specifically called us to proclaim His Gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). American visitors to these African churches had long observed that the African churches were growing and vibrant, while their American churches back home seemed to have - stabilized. Hmmm . . . after a hundred years of sending missionaries to Africa, perhaps it's time for them to return the favor! Maybe we could be missionaries from Africa?

The dissenting minority wanted very much to remain Anglican, to remain within the worldwide Anglican Communion. To do so, they needed a sponsoring Primate somewhere within the existing Anglican Church. The Archbishop of South East Asia, Moses Tay, was sympathetic to their plight. So was Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda. Archbishop Kolini remembered with horror the genocide into which his country had descended in 1994, and how the world had been slow in coming to their aid. He vowed never again to let refugees be abandoned, whether those refugees were spiritual or ethnic.

The laws of the Anglican Church permit provinces to send missionaries elsewhere. Archbishop Tay and Archbishop Kolini consecrated Charles Murphy and John Rodgers as missionary bishops in Singapore in January 2000, and told them to raise up Anglican churches in the United States. This action was somewhat irregular in the Apostolic Succession, but Murphy and Rodgers gladly took the call and returned home to do what they had been told. A formal Anglican Mission in America was authorized at the Amsterdam International Evangelistic Conference in August 2000 (see The Anglican Mission Story within Meet AMiA), and Murphy and Rodgers became its overseers. One year later (June 2001), Archbishop Kolini and Archbishop Yong Ping Chung (Moses Tay's successor in Singapore) came to Denver, Colorado to consecrate four more AMiA bishops: Thad Barnum, Sandy Greene, T.J. Johnston, and Douglas Weiss. I was proud to participate in that most joyful service! In all my life I have never heard such heartfelt and enthusiastic responses to the liturgical order of worship!

Some observers of these events wondered if we were really missionaries, or if this was a church schism by another name? Here is my own perspective: I have been a Christian all my life, but never an Episcopalian. At my church we welcome Episcopalians who come to us for whatever reason. We do not seek them out. We want to avoid "sheep-stealing"; that is, merely transferring Christians from one Christian denomination to another. We welcome anyone who wants to worship with us in the name of Jesus Christ! The Archbishops gave us orders to seek out the lost and bring them the Good News. I take those orders very seriously. I am a missionary in my own land. Where there are neighbors, friends, acquaintances, and strangers who do not attend a Christian church - it is there that I am called to tell them about Jesus. And that is what I am going to do, with God's help.

Several lines of the Apostolic Succession have been safely extended to the Anglican Mission in America, and we pray that they will continue until Christ's return. I am carefully documenting these ordinations so that my descendents 400 years from now will not get an Apostolicae Curae informing them that all their consecrations are invalid. Although the Anglican Mission in America may seem like a church split, the fact remains that the ECUSA and the AMiA are even now closer in organizational terms than we are to the Lutheran ELCA. We both gather together in councils chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury. We both confess the same God and His son Jesus Christ. We are both part of the same Body of Christ. I pray that someday, in God's own time and according to God's own plan, this division will be healed and we will be united once again.

After focusing so much attention on the Apostolic Succession, we should step back and look at these matters in perspective. What does God think of all this? To explore this question, let's go as far from England as we can without leaving the planet. Let's go to a small solitary speck of land in the South Pacific . . . to a place called Pitcairn Island.

Pitcairn Island

On December 23rd, 1787, Captain William Bligh set sail from England in HMS Bounty, setting in motion a series of events that would unfold in at least three threads of a fascinating story. His mission was to transport breadfruit plants from the South Pacific to the islands of the Caribbean Sea. His first mate was named Fletcher Christian.

After a long and idyllic stay on the island of Tahiti among the friendly and sensual natives, Captain Bligh's stern navy discipline returned with a vengeance as the Bounty set sail again. Enchanted by the tropical paradise behind them and sick of Bligh, Fletcher Christian and most of the other sailors mutinied against the Captain on April 28th, 1789 near Tonga, setting him and a few others adrift in a small open boat.

Captain Bligh made an incredibly voyage of 3,618 miles westward through Australia's Great Barrier Reef and the Torres Strait, finally reaching civilization at the Dutch colony of East Timor. He had lost only one man, murdered by hostile natives. He returned to England with his tale, and wrote it down in a book, "An Account of the Muntiny on HMS Bounty."

Fletcher Christian returned to Tahiti and was reunited with his native girlfriend Isobella, the daughter of a local chieftain. Guessing correctly that the British Navy would never permit a mutiny on one of His Majesty's ships to go unpunished, he departed from Tahiti with most of the mutineers and some native men and women. Christian sailed the Bounty to mostly-uncharted Pitcairn Island, burned the ship in Bounty Bay, and resolved to live out his days in a small colony isolated from the rest of the world.

This much of the story is well known from books and Hollywood movies. Sure enough, the British Navy dispatched HMS Pandora to Tahiti to round up the mutineers and bring them back to England for justice and probably hanging. They captured a few remaining mutineers on Tahiti and headed back, but the Pandora shipwrecked on the Great Barrier Reef. Eventually the surviving sailors were brought back to England to stand trial, and in the course of that trial Captain Bligh's reputation reached the low point from which it has never recovered.

What is less well known is what happened to the mutineers who landed on Pitcairn Island and deliberately stranded themselves there. I learned about this thread of the story from the following sources:

The first years on Pitcairn were hell. Tensions grew between the white men and the Tahitians, and those tensions were stoked by alcohol and racism. Most of the English men were murdered by the Tahitian men, who in turn were killed off by the Tahitian women. A few individuals died of accidents or apparent suicide. When this initial period of bloodshed was over, Pitcairn Island was left with two adult English men, 11 Tahitian women, and . . . a great many young children.

The two remaining mutineers were Edward Young and Alexander Smith, who later called himself John Adams after the American president. "Adams was a Cockney, an orphan, and had been brought up in the poorhouse. Young was well-educated and he spent many months helping to improve Adams's reading ability. The principal literature used for the reading lessons was the Bible and Prayer Book salvaged from the Bounty." (Clarke, page 91). Young died of natural causes, leaving Adams alone. Adams occupied his time with two contrasting activities: reading from the Bible, taken off the Bounty before it was burned, and drinking heavily of the alcohol that the mutineers had learned to make from the juices of a tree root. What happened next is told in Chapter 3 of the on-line book "Beyond Pitcairn" by Vance Ferrell, at the web site http://www.worldincrisis.org/.

It seemed that there was no hope. The past was following them too closely. Liquor and passion were bringing the lawlessness of civilization to this once-peaceful island [Pitcairn].

Of all the men once on the island, John Adams now stood alone. What was he to do? The future seemed dark and bleak. There must be an answer.

With eleven women and twenty-three children on the island, sons and daughters of his companions, Adams began to realize that he had a great responsibility to lead them into a better way of life. Going down one day to Christian's Cave, he lay down and spent some time gazing out across his island home and over the waters that stretched to the great beyond. He thought over the experiences of the past, and recalled the many happy times when [Fletcher] Christian had read to him from the Bible and they had talked about how the island might have a better way of life.

But while he was thinking on these things, he fell asleep. In his own words, he describes what followed: "I had a dream that changed my whole life. There seemed to be standing beside me an angel who spoke to me, warning me of my past life, and then he called me to repent and go down and train the children in the way of Christian's Bible." With this, he awoke and he seemed to feel the very presence of God about him. Kneeling there, he asked his Creator for forgiveness for the sins of a lifetime.

From that day on, he carried with him a deep and abiding repentance for his former way of life, and he tried not only to live on a higher level himself, but he also determined that he must help those young people learn of God as well. It was now the year 1800.

Authors Glynn Christian and Peter Clarke call this experience a "hallucination" brought on by Adams' heavy drinking. I prefer to call it a bona fide vision sent by God Almighty! God in His mercy came to a tiny speck of land in the remote South Pacific, and He brought a message of deliverance to a small group of people who needed His help very badly.

The undisputed historical facts support my interpretation. From that day onward the lives of all the Pitcairn Islanders were dramatically and permanently changed. They began Christian worship and regular prayer, according to their Bible and Prayer Book. Their behavior turned around. On February 6, 1808 Pitcairn Island and its inhabitants were rediscovered by Captain Mayhew Folger in the American whaling ship Topaz. Folger described the Pitcairn Islanders this way: "They had an engaging simplicity based on unquestioning belief in a Divine Providence. Nobody (with the possible exception of Adams - it is not clear whether he excepted himself from the ban) drank alcohol. Nobody lied. Nobody stole. All worked for the common good. It is one of the great ironies of history that a legacy of mutiny and bloodshed had produced a model community." (Clarke, page 94)

The Topaz visit was little noticed in England, occupied as they were by the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. Then on September 14, 1814, Pitcairn was rediscovered again by two British naval frigates Tagus [Targus?] and Briton. "Sir Thomas Staines, captain of the other boat, Briton, was quick to note the natural grace and singular lack of sophistication of the Pitcairners, qualities which he believed gave them great potential as catalysts in the evangelisation of other Pacific people. He recommended that they were 'well worth the attention of our laudable religious societies, especially that for propagating the Christian religion; the whole of the inhabitants speaking the Otahitian [Tahitian] tongue as well as English.'" (Clarke, page 98). An islander named Thursday October Christian, first son of Fletcher Christian and Isobella, shamed the two British captains by saying grace before a meal.

Captain Staines' observation with regard to the bilingual missionary potential of these Pitcairn Islanders was echoed by later visitors, and in 1831 a scheme was hatched to transport them to Tahiti to assist in missionary efforts there. All 87 Pitcairn islanders were convinced by a missionary named Crook from New South Wales to move to Tahiti in the ship Lucy Ann, escorted by HMS Comet. This ill-conceived plan ended in tragedy and failure: "When the Lucy Ann docked at Papeete, 50 Tahitian women came on board and shocked the Pitcairners with their licentious behavior. The very next morning the newcomers demanded to be taken home." This did not happen right away, and in the meantime 12 Pitcairners died of fever. "The first to die was the oldest, Fletcher Christian's son, Thursday October. He was followed by the youngest, the baby Lucy Ann Quintal. Ten more died in the space of two months. After twenty weeks, the authorities had to admit failure and the survivors were allowed to return to their beloved homeland." (Clarke, page 122).

Some years later a man named George Hunn Nobbs arrived at Pitcairn to stay. He eventually served as pastor to the Pitcairn flock for 55 years, and was ordained at their request in London in 1852. But again the Pitcairn Islanders outgrew their little island, and in 1855 Queen Victoria gave them Norfolk Island, between New Zealand and New Caledonia. In 1856 the entire community again departed Pitcairn, this time with happier results. Norfolk Island today is populated by the descendents of English mutineers and Tahitian natives. But two small family groups returned to their homeland, and to this day Pitcairn Island still supports a population of about 45 people. They continue to worship and praise the Lord.

This saga has something to tell us about the Apostolic Succession (remember the Apostolic Succession?). On Pitcairn Island in 1800 there were no churches, no priests, no bishops, no episcopal registers, and no tradition of worship. All they had was a single printed copy of God's Word - the Holy Bible. Two or three people were intrigued enough to read it. And that was all God needed.

From mutiny and murder God brought forth on Pitcairn Island a community of Christian believers, a community that very much impressed the Anglicans of their day. Anglicans were so taken by the Islanders' faith that they requested their assistance in the most important task that a Christian may undertake - sharing the Gospel with people who have never heard it. Although the return to Tahiti did not work out, the episode demonstrates that the Pitcairn Island church was indeed legitimate in the eyes of the Anglicans of the time. God did not need the Apostolic Succession to raise up a church. He only needed His Word, and hearts willing to receive it.

Conclusion

Nobody has a documented unbroken line of consecrations as bishop extending back to the Apostle Peter. No church even comes close to this. But do not be dismayed! The Apostolic Succession is neither a requirement nor a guarantee of Salvation. It should never be used as a theological club, to contend that another church is not valid or legitimate. It would be stupid of me to go up to my friend Glen Arnold, a Methodist minister, and say to him, "Hey Glen, your church is not legitimate because you don't have the Apostolic Succession!" First he would laugh. Then he would say, "The key to being in line with the Apostles is to be in agreement with the Apostolic truth, which is the Gospel and the message of the Holy Scriptures." (see Galatians 1:8-9). God can operate without the Apostolic Succession (see Acts 2:4, 4:31, and 10:44), and so can we. We do God's will when we love God with all our hearts and minds, and love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40).

The Apostolic Succession is an honorable and valuable tradition extending back 2,000 years to Jesus Christ. This practice exists to serve the mission of the church. The laying on of hands in historical succession emphasizes that our authority ultimately comes from Jesus Himself, and it reminds us of the great multitude of Christian witnesses who have gone before us. The lines of succession should be preserved when possible, and shared when properly requested. In the Apostolic Succession we see the history of the Christian church: not always perfect, not always unbroken, not always orderly - but always holding onto the hope that we have in Our Savior Jesus Christ. We are the Body of Christ, the community of believers spread throughout the world and extending back through the ages. With God's help we will extend forward as well.

Carl Drews
May 25, 2004

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily express the official positions of The Anglican Mission in America. Please send questions, corrections, or additional information to: jambo789@hotmail.com .


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