In this article, I emphasize what the early churchtaught and believed, discounting doctrines requiring centuries to appear and long times to develop (Catholic examples: Papacy, priesthood, laity vs. clergy, apostolic succession). We should reject Protestant doctrines requiring novel biblical interpretations that did not appear for centuries (examples: justification/sanctification,Sola Scriptura,Sola Fide).
The Catholic Church teaches that Catholic bishops of today can trace their ordination in an unbroken chainto the apostles, but I have never heard anyone provide any evidence of whether or not this actually occurred — it is merely assumed.
The Old Testament nation of Israel was very concerned with lineage and kept detailed records — some fill pages of scripture. Yet I've never heard of such a list of Catholic ordinations. There is a list of pope succeeding pope (ignoring that many times there were multiple popes simultaneouslywith no easy way to be certain which was the "true" pope and which the imposter. And for the early popes it seems that the list was created after the fact — historical revisionism.)
Consider these factors ...
Certainly the apostle Paul ordained Timothywho ordained a new batch of bishops. But after that we are never sure if the chain was not brokensomewhere, likely many times. Once there is a missing ordination in the chain, apostolic succession is broken and can't be repaired.
Another factor. The purpose of ordination in the apostolic era was to designate bishops with these characteristics ...
Why would there be any value in ordaining a heretic, or a corrupt person, or a spiritually lukewarm person, or a materialistic aristocrat, or a radical sinner? There is no point at all. Yet the Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession includes many such as these as key links in the chain.
Therefore, in my system of the Apostolic Reformation of the Church,I conclude that ordination does not need to be via a chain of apostolic succession. Any person who meets the criteria of a bishop and who dedicates their life to the task is already a valid bishop whether they are ordained or not. It is not the act of ordaining them that makes them a true bishop. There are New Testament examples of people who were great Christian leaders and who were only after the fact recognized as such via ordination.
An example: the Arian heresy. There were so many validly-ordained bishops fully committed to this heresy. Some even executed dissenters when they could get away with it. Was the Christian flock supposed to follow such men as these just as if they were following Christ? Unthinkable. The doctrine of apostolic succession harms Christians and harms the church.
Certainly the church eventually stamped out the Arian heresy but only after many generations of Christians were fooled by it. The whole point of ordination is to guide the flock of Christians into all truth and to advance the kingdom. Ordination by apostolic succession does not do this.
In the first few generations of the church the concept of apostolic succession made some sense. But over time it became less useful and more harmful. Just as the bronze serpent on the pole of Moses became harmful over time, apostolic succession outlived its purpose many, many centuries ago.
Ordination cannot make bad men into valid bishops, they must be virtuous and orthodox ...
Episcopal consecration confers, together with the office of sanctifying, also the offices of teaching and ruling. In fact by the imposition of hands and through the words of the consecration, the grace of the Holy Spirit is given, and a sacred character is impressed in such wise that bishops, in an eminent and visible manner, take the place of Christ himself, teacher, shepherd, and priest, and act as his representative. By virtue, therefore, of the Holy Spirit who has been given to them, bishops have been constituted true and authentic teachers of the faith and have been made pontiffs and pastors. (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
The early church believed, taught, and practiced the following ...
The early church believed, taught, and practiced the following ...
I believe there is an assumption in all of this which is usually never stated, but I will state it. Bishops are only true bishops if they are orthodox in their beliefs and teaching, if they are holy, and if they have a pastor's heart. I can't believe that the various early church fathers who discuss this topic ever intended for Christians to unite around heretical, faithless, or corrupt bishops.
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (2 Corinthians 13:5)
How can someone who doesn't have Christ in them confect the Eucharist?
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:13)
Some New Testament passages to support this view ...
Because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. (Romans 11:20-22)
The vine is the church, the chosen people of God, which includes Old Testament Israel.
Notice that people are members of the church based on their faith. This includes bishops.
Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. (Revelation 2:5)
The candlestick refers to a local church, diocese, patriarchate, or metropolitan headed-up by a bishop. If the bishop is a "bad" bishop and does not repent, he is removed — he is no longer a valid bishop.
I only partially accept the teaching about sacraments of the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches. God seeks opportunities to bless us and uses our words, gestures, rites, rituals, ceremonies, etc. as occasions for blessing us. In general we must have faith and be living a holy life to receive God's blessings although he can bless anyone anytime. Therefore, the sacraments are opportunities to receive God's blessings.
But the sacramental system is not clear from scripture nor from the writings of the Early Church Fathers, therefore it is not a part of my system of the Apostolic Reformation of the Church.
My views on each sacrament ...
God blesses us in baptism and he restores us to fellowship with him for those who have faith and are truly repentant. But baptism is not required for salvation. Examples of exceptions ...
The church has always taught that sins are remitted during baptism, but I believe that only those sins resulting in eternal damnation are remitted. Thus, people who have rejected Christianity for their whole lives and who are baptized right before death will likely end up in purgatory.
Perhaps the "falling" of the Holy Spirit?
Christ is truly present in the Eucharist and can be adored and worshipped in the consecrated elements of communion.
Sacramental confession is a development of the church. The Catholic Church teaches that we must confess mortal sins or risk spending eternity in hell, but certainly this was not the case for Christians living before the time that sacramental confession was instituted. However, I believe that confession before a priest is an opportunity to receive great blessing from God for those who have faith and are truly repentant.
The Bible speaks about calling for the elders for healing. Certainly we should pray for one another's healing — physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual.
The sacrament of Ordination is a development of the church. It should be a requirement that people be spiritually qualified to be ordained but, sadly, there are all too many cases in which this was not the case.
Christians who are married have Christ as the center of their marriage, that is all there is to it.