Author Topic: Apostolic succession question  (Read 3336 times)

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Offline Protestant seeker

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Apostolic succession question
« on: April 12, 2003, 11:50:45 AM »
Dear all,

  I just finished reading Steven Runciman's book "The Orthodox Churches and the the Secular State". One thing that has drawn me to Orthodox was that its bishops, unlike Protestant pastors have apostolic succession. Without apostolic succession it seems to me that there is no way of telling who is in charge in the church and who is not. I think the lack of apostolic succession is one reason why Protestantism has so many splits.
   Anyway, I found Runciman's book a bit disturbing for Orthodoxy. He talks about how under the Turks the muslim sultan put the office of patriarch of Constantinople up for sale and it changed hands this way many times. In addition, in Russia the tsar abolished the patriarchy of Moscow for many years. What I am wonder is if someone becomes patriarch or even bishop by buying the position from a secular (and non-christian!) ruler, does that invalidate apostolic succession? Or is receiving holy orders all that matters for apostolic succession to be valid, even if the one receiving it got the position by hook or crook? How does this work?
   Obviously I think Runciman is correct that we shouldn't judge the Orthodox who lived under the Turks or the Communists too harshly as it was a difficult situation, but it did make me wonder about the validity of apostolic succession in all that went on.

God bless,


Oh, also I think with the Roman Catholics similar questions could be posed with lay investiture in the middle ages and the election of certain popes.

Offline Anastasios

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Re:Apostolic succession question
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2003, 12:27:21 PM »

Apostolic succession in the West has components such as

1) physical laying on of hands
2) correct matter (i.e. a man over the age of X)
3) correct intention (consecrator wishes to make X a priest or bishop)

...this leads to the question that St. Augustine faced, "what if it happens by a schismatic bishop?" and the answer was that it is still valid if the three checkmarks above are followed.  That means the followers of this bishop or even the bishop could be reconciled without repeating their sacraments.

Now in the East, different questions are asked:

1) Does the community of believers need a priest/bishop?
2) Does this candidate meet the needs of this particular community?
3) Is the bishop ordaining the candidate in communion with the other Orthodox bishops?
4) Is the consecration taking place in the context of the Eucharist of the community for which the candidate is being ordained?
5) (last) Is the candidate canonically eligible?

...So a bishop ordained by a schismatic bishop is *not* an Orthodox bishop, even if the book is followed, hands touch heads, etc.  *IF* the bishop that is schismatic is received into the Orthodox Church, he *may* be received as a bishop *but* it is purely up to the decision of his brother bishops (example 1: Archbishop Lazar, a member of a breakaway Ukrainian group, was received by the OCA last year as a bishop; example 2: Two Old Calendar bishops in Astoria, NY were received by Patriarch Bartholemew who reconsecrated them bishops; example 3: A bishop of the Pangratios Church [don't ask!] was received by ROCOR as a priest only.)

Sorry for the longwindedness; I belive all this was necessary to set the stage.

Direct simony in the west, yes that was believed to "invalidate" an ordination.  So some ordinations were ruled invalid.  In the East, yes, that was sometimes the case.  Some Russian Orthodox priests went into schism in the 1500's because of this.

Yet ordinations have to be seen organically and in the context of the above.  God protects his people, so if a sinful bishop is ordained without their knowledge of the motive (ie money) and he is Orthodox and in communion with other Orthodox bishops, I'd say the Orthodox would probably still recognize his ministry although if they found out he would probably be deposed (but his ordinations, etc, would not be ruled "invalid").

As for the Turkish practice of selling the patriarchate: the candidates were already bishops, so in a way it's not the same thing--they weren't paying for ordination but rather for installation.  Installation as patriarch is not a sacrament but rather an office in the Church, and actually an office in the Ottoman government.  I like to look at it as more a payment from the candidate to the Turks to get a government job.  Still very bad but not the same as paying a bishop to ordain you.

That being said, I think in our day we can thoroughly condemn the practice of the past and rejoice that it is not happening now (at least not on any widespread scale).

Sincerely in Christ,

Please Buy My Book!

Past posts reflect stages of my life before my baptism and may not be accurate expositions of Orthodox teaching. Also, I served as an Orthodox priest from 2008-2013, before resigning.

Online Asteriktos

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Re:Apostolic succession question
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2003, 01:59:05 PM »
Protestant Seeker,

I think Anastasios did a good job at answering the question; the only thing I'd say differently would be regarding this:

3) Is the bishop ordaining the candidate in communion with the other Orthodox bishops?

This is normally true (but it is vague since who is "Orthodox" can change over time). There are exceptions to this rule, though. For instance, if the bishops that are ordaining are unable to be in contact with or be in communion with the "other Orthodox bishops," there actions might still be valid. If an area is run by Muslims or Atheistic Communists, for example, communications with the Orthodox outside their area of control might be either difficult or impossible. Also, if the majority of the "Church" is in heresy (e.g., what happened with Arianism), an observer who was "outside looking into the Church" might think that the Catholics/Orthodox weren't in communion with "the other Orthodox". Of course, the Catholics/Orthodox would instead only be proctecting their flock.

This last part is significant since the Fathers teach that at the end almost all the world--including most Orthodox--will fall into error. At that time (which I don't necessarily claim to be our time), those true to the Orthodox faith will not be able to "be in communion with the other Orthodox groups," simply because there won't be many other Orthodox groups. So why do I mention it? Because Satan is now trying to trick people into thinking that if you aren't recognized by some pre-conceived "official" body (or enough "Orthodox groups"),. that you aren't Orthodox. When anti-Christ comes, this will make his job all that much easier, since the majority of people--including Orthodox people (after all, the majority of Churches are made up of people who aren't what you might call "on fire" for God, they're there for other reasons)--will fall into his trap. The ones who have doubts, having only heard the warped ecclesiology about the necessity of being in communion with other Orthodox, will believe that they must join the world wide "Orthodox Church" at that time, since in their minds to leave it would mean that they aren't in the Church at all.


PS. Also remember, regarding apostolic succession, that God can work in whatever way he wishes. Selling offices is not defendable, but on the other hand, God can use even such men for his purpose (we see examples of this in the OT Patriarchs, do we not?)
« Last Edit: April 12, 2003, 02:01:26 PM by Paradosis »


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Re:Apostolic succession question
« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2003, 04:16:03 PM »
Paradosis<< The ones who have doubts, having only heard the warped ecclesiology about the necessity of being in communion with other Orthodox, will believe that they must join the world wide "Orthodox Church" at that time, since in their minds to leave it would mean that they aren't in the Church at all.>>

I somehow have an instinctive problem with this statement, Justin.  It comes across to me as frought with danger to a correct understanding of a conciliar-and-communion Orthodox ecclesiology.  Are those who doubt to be counted among the faithful remnant?  Or are they to be counted among those in "prelest?"  Since when is "being in communion with other Orthodox" a "warped ecclesiology," as you put it?


Online Asteriktos

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Re:Apostolic succession question
« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2003, 05:30:59 PM »
Greetings Hypo,

The warped ecclesiology is the idea that communion with certain groups (or "world Orthodoxy") or certain patriarchates somehow bestows validity on to someone. Local Churches aren't Orthodox because they are in communion with other Local Churches, but they are in communion with the other Local Churches because those other Churches are Orthodox. In other words, being in communion with other Orthodox Churches is a sign of validity, but it's not a source of validity. It's a manifestation of a group's Orthodox outlook, not the origin of that group's Orthodoxy.

Please also notice the context in which it was called warped. It was a scenario in the end times in which almost all Orthodox groups/hierarchs had fallen for the anti-christ's lies. The warped aspect of it is the application of the (what would be now, in normal times called) a "bad" or wrong ecclesiology. This ecclesiology would make one believe that they had to be in communion with the majority of the Orthodox (since they would appear to be "joined together in love" with only a few "schismatics" refusing communion). This ecclesiology would lead them to believe, that Church X was the true church, when in reality church X would be the church following the anti-christ.

Those who doubt and make a wrong choice will be part of the anti-christs church. Those who doubt to the end without choosing a side, IMO, will be judged much more mercifully (according to some Fathers, anyone who holds to the faith in the end times, even if also being confused, will be doing as well as they can, and receive a crown).

Edit: I'm editing this rather later after I made the original post. I just wanted to say that I don't disagree with what Anastasios said per se, so long as he means it in a way that allows some exceptions. Now that I look back on it, I think I jumped the gun and read into the statement some things that perhaps weren't there. With that in mind, I fully endorse everything he said, and would only add what I posted as a clarification (not a disagreement). My apologies to Anastasios for taking his statement and running off with it into a polemically unnecessary direction.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2003, 01:20:39 AM by Paradosis »

Offline Linus7

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Re:Apostolic succession question
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2003, 09:08:54 PM »
I know it is somewhat off-topic (Apostolic Succession), but I find Paradosis' posts fascinating and would like to hear more.

Perhaps he would consider beginning a new topic about this eschatological outlook?

I have read some similar views in Archbishop Averky Taushev's book (translated by Fr. Seraphim Rose), The Apocalypse, and somewhere else that I cannot recall right now.

I wonder if it is possible that genuine Orthodox Christians can lightly be deceived in such a way. I can see nominal "believers" falling for such a thing. But those who are truly familiar with Orthodox teaching, the Bible, and the Patristic mindset?

Even when the Arians appeared to triumph within the visible Church there was a faithful remnant of true Orthodox Christians.

Anyway, I would really like to hear more. This touches on so much that is important, like the very nature and authority of the Church, for example.

Fascinating!  8)
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