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A very BRIEF PRIMER ON "APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION"
We of the Anglican Independent Communion love and serve the Holy Trinity, the Body of Christ, and our neighbours as ourselves, within the spiritual tradition of "the One Catholic and Apostolic Church."
A central pillar of this tradition is that the Apostles gave spiritual authority to bishops (overseers) to govern the Church (Acts 20:17) and to confer holy Orders and administer the rite of Confirmation.
By the "imposition" of hands, and by the receiving of the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Bishop, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, (and in the Anglican tradition) with the delivery of the Holy Bible, a bishop is consecrated and that "line" is continued. By this manner, Apostolic authority has been passed on down through the One Catholic and Apostolic Church for 2,000 years.
St. Augustine, however, articulated the doctrine that the orthodoxy and the validity of the apostolic succession of a bishop were two separate issues. Bishops who were consecrated in direct Apostolic Succession although "heretics" could still exercise their office as stewards of the sacraments in a valid manner. This means, from this perspective they could still "validly" ordain and consecrate priests, bishops and confirm children even if they were not "orthodox" in their own lives and beliefs.
This addresses continuity by the physical "laying on of hands", but does it properly consider the function of the Holy Ghost and the Bible in the process? The Orthodox Church has other strong opinions on this point.
This doctrine of orders was also used in the Donatist Controversy (Arles, 314 AD) to defend North African bishops who had given up the Holy Books to be burned and were considered "traditores", "those who handed over", the Word of God , to be burned, in order that they might escape being martyred. This "Doctrine of Orders" in regards to "Apostolic Succession", helped Constantine out of one immediate political problem, (how to keep the One Church united) but in the past 1685 years, this doctrine has continued to both build and to undercut the authority of the Roman Church in the One Catholic Church.
At the dawn of the fourth century, the Roman Emperor Constantine declared the Christian Church to be the the State Church of his Empire. Many Christians have rued the day a Roman political structure was superimposed upon the Body of Christ.
There have been five original Patriarahates in existence since 451 AD. Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Alexandria and Constantinople. All lines of Apostolic Succession, valid or not, must claim and must establish that they are descended from at least one of these five ancient patriarchal Sees. The lines of +Robert Samuel Loiselle reach back to all five Sees.
There were Seven Ecumenical Councils of this "One Catholic Church" from Nicea of 325AD to Nicea again at 787AD. During this period, much of the doctrine, creed, and organization of the One Catholic and Apostolic Church was worked out. Bishops judged to be outside the doctrinal unity of that One Church were asked to depart... sometimes not in "peace."
By the Middle Ages, The One Catholic Church had broken into three major divisions:
1. the Roman Catholic Church in the western half of the former Roman empire;
2. in the Eastern half, in communion with the Patriarch of Constantinople was the Eastern Orthodox Church;
3. and the Scattered Churches remained in the territories dominated by Islam, and in Armenia, Ethiopia and India.
The Great Schism of 1054 AD was when the One Catholic Church of the West and the East split.... the sack and destruction of Constantinople by the armies of Pope Innocent III, and the Roman Doctrine of Roman papal infallibility in 1870 deepened the split.
Most of the 16 th Century Reformed Churches which emerged during the Protestant Reformation did not base the authority of their leadership on bishops with apostolic succession, except for the Church of England. (1549 AD) The Anglican archbishops of Canterbury and York, although separated from Rome, still continued their episcopal lineages. In the Church of England there were also lines of succession which were Celtic in origin and predate Whitby (644AD) and existed from 314 AD. The British Church was largely taken over by French bishops after 1066.
The other Western church which still valued apostolic succession outside of the direct control of Rome were the "Old Dutch Catholics" . They were Roman Catholics who, it has been suggested, were "heretics", hence, they were not in communion with Rome and no Roman bishop would confirm their children.
However, a Roman Catholic French Bishop, +Varlet, while traveling through Holland, was finally persuaded to bestow the episcopate on a leader of this group of Dutch "Old Catholics", in 1724 in violation of Rome. They became known as the Old Catholic Church of Utrecht.
All hopes of reconciliation between this Dutch Catholic group and the RC ended at the Vatican Council of 1870. Acting in cooperation with other Roman Catholic Traditionalists across Europe, who dissented from the statements of Vatican I, particularly concerning papal infallibility, they formally established a new union and the Old Dutch Catholic Church then recognized and consecrated bishops in Switzerland and Germany.
It is interesting to remember that Utrecht was never a "protestant" group rather a dissenting Roman Catholic communion.
Rather than visualizing Apostolic Succession as a single chain stretching back to the Apostles it may be better to consider it a an unbroken net.
In 1896, Pope Leo 13th, declared in a Papal Bull that all "Anglican Orders" were invalid. (This very interesting Episcopal web site has that document from Pope Leo 13th plus the reply of the C of E.) The Church of England has argued that this was not the case.
The Roman Church has its own problems with their Apostolic Succession going back to Cardinal Rebiba in 1541. There is another interesting site for this.
However, Pope Leo's Bull did send some Anglican-Catholics in search of Holy Orders which were still "valid" with the Roman communion but still independent of Rome. This lead many of them back to Utrecht. The Order of Corporate Reunion was another British attempt to connect directly back to Rome because of this controversy.
Arnold Harris Mathew, a British clergyman was consecrated by the Old Catholic bishops in Holland on April 28, 1908 to establish an Old Catholic Church in England. Violating his agreement not to consecrate other bishops without the participation of the Dutch bishops, Mathew passed the lineage on to fifteen men who in turn consecrated even more in the process of creating such new institutions as the Liberal Catholic Church, the North American Old Roman Catholic Church and the Old Polish Catholic Church in America. He was "repudiated" by the Dutch Old Catholics in 1910.
The Dutch "Old Catholic" bishops did not want to repeat their "mistake" with Mathew and hence they would not consecrate +Joseph Rene Vilatte, who had been ordained a priest by +Herzog in Switzerland. This sent Vilatte to seek orders elsewhere.
+Vilatte turned to +Antonio Alvarez, a bishop of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, a church under the authority of the Syrian Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East located in Aden, South India. +Vilatte was the first Independent Catholic Bishop to later consecrate African American Bishops into a valid Apostolic Succession in North America.
Suddenly, in the 1920s, there was an influx of "Orthodox" and Eastern succession into the West for "independent" apostolic churches. There were also new lines from the Catholic Uniat Successions. These lines were often Orthodox in tradition but had remained in communion with Rome and were not monophysites. These new independent bishops often did not use the rites or liturgy of the East but continued with the rites of the "Old Catholic" church even though most of their orders were not considered "valid" by the Utrecht Union. The PNCC (Polish National Catholic Church) is considered by the Utrecht Union to be their only valid church in North America.
In the 1931, on July 2nd, at Bonn Germany, the Union of Utrecht signed an agreement of inter-communion with the Church of England. This brought Dutch "Old Catholic" lines into the C of E and made some of the English High Ango-Catholics happier with Anglican Orders.
In the 1940s, Carlos Duarte Costa, a Brazilian Roman Catholic bishop who protested the Roman church's connection to Germany during World War II, and who later established the Igreja Catolica Apostolica Brasileira (Brazilian Catholic Apostolic Church) broke from Rome and spread "valid" Roman Orders outside to the world wide "Catholic Church".
When you look at the Apostolic lines of +Robert Samuel Loiselle we believe you will see they are by the grace of the Almighty Father and the power of the Holy Spirit both valid and lawful. We are only "independent" from the present heresy in the American Episcopal Church (ECUSA) not independent from the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
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