Thursday, April 28, 2016

Paleo-Orthodoxy: John Wesley and Apostolic Succession

The issue of whether John Wesley maintained his line of Apostolic Succession in his ordination of Bishop Thomas Coke is often contentious. Those of a Roman Catholic and ethnic Orthodox persuasion would perhaps argue that he did not, since he was not recognized as a bishop by the Anglican Church. Is this necessary, however, in order to continue a line of succession in a time of need? While Wesley was an Anglican, I think the example of Catholicism is the correct view on the subject at hand. Roman Catholicism traditionally recognized in its canon law (Canon 209 of the 1917 Code of Canon Law) the authority of clergy to act outside the normative structure if the situation was serious enough to qualify as an "extraordinary time." In other words, if it is imperative that a church have presbyters for its survival, then ordination would be considered lawful. There are two principles upon which this canon law was established.


1. The salvation of souls is the highest law.
2. The good of the faithful is more important than formality.

This is the case where the church recognizes the jurisdiction of a presbyter without going through the channels of the normal hierarchy. In other words, Christ Himself as Head of His Church, gives jurisdiction to presbyters in some particular cases. After all, the difference between a presbyter and a bishop is not one of quantity (both possess Apostolic Succession), but merely one of function. In fact, the early church did not even recognize a clear distinction between the presbyter and the bishop until the 2nd century. Not to mention that we find no mention in the New Testament of a prohibition on presbyters ordaining others to ministerial service. Wesley certainly attempted to go through the normal channels to have his ministers ordained, but the Bishop of London flatly refused to ordain anyone in the American Colonies. However, Wesley understood the need for ordination. He wrote:

"We believe it would not be right for us to administer either Baptism or the Lord's Supper unless we had a commission so to do from those bishops we apprehend to be in a succession from the Apostles."- John Wesley, 1745

Wesley eventually rightly cited the Church at Alexandria as an example of his authority to ordain, since the character of the office of bishop and presbyter were essentially the same. For nearly two centuries the Alexandrian church ordained others and appointed bishops by presbyters alone. Never was there a question of their apostolicity or authority. Logically, since the good of the faithful was not being met by the Bishop of London, and since this was urgent and an extraordinary situation, Wesley was able, under the concept of supplied jurisdiction, to ordain Thomas Coke. He was functionally the bishop of the young Methodist Movement. Thus it is that today we can legitimately accept the Apostolic Succession of those ordained in the tactile lineage of John Wesley. I have only found one lineage thus far. There are others coming from Wesley, but all will fall into this line at some point. That lineage is as follows:

Jesus Christ
Paul the Apostle, 33 A.D.
Timothy, 62 A.D.
Onesemus, 91 A.D.
John the Elder, 113 A.D.
Demetrius, 131 A.D.
Lucius, 156 A.D.
Polycrates, 175 A.D.
 Irenaeus, 177 A.D.
Nicomedian, 180 A.D.
Maximus, 203 A.D.
Philip Deoderus, 241 A.D.
Matthias, 276 A.D.
Gregory Antilas, 276 A.D.
Andrew Meletius, 283 A.D.
Pious Stephenas, 291 A.D.
Mark Leuvian, 312 A.D.
Paul Anencletus "the Elder", 330 A.D.
Christopher, 394 A.D.
James, 413 A.D.
Basil, 415 A.D.
Clement of Lyons, 436 A.D.
Timothy Eumenes, 468 A.D.
Christopher II, 472 A.D.
Christopher III, 485 A.D.
Evarestus, 502 A.D.
Linus, 532 A.D.

Gregory II, 547 A.D.
John, 562 A.D.
Mark Pireu, 581 A.D.
Maximus Lyster, 587 A.D.
Aetherius, 591
St. Augustine, 601 A.D.
Laurentius, 604 A.D.
Justus, 635 A.D.
Deusdedit, 652 A.D.
Theodore, 668 A.D.
Ethelburh, 712 A.D.
Egbert, 749 A.D.
Herefrid, 788 A.D.
Cuthbert, 814 A.D.
Rufus, 859 A.D.
Phlegmund, 890 A.D.
Odo, 941 A.D.
Dunstan, 959 A.D.
Ethelgar, 988 A.D.
Sigeric, 990 A.D.
Aelfric, 995 A.D.
Elphege, 1006
Edmund, 1012
Wulfstan, 1064
St. Anselm, 1093
Ralph d'Escures, 1109
William de Corbeuil, 1122
Theobald, 1139
Thomas Becket, 1162
Richard, 1170
Baldwin, 1178
Reginal, 1183
Fitz-Jocelin, 1191
Hubert Walter, 1197
Stephen Langton, 1205
Richard Weathershed, 1230
Edmund, 1234
Boniface of Savoy, 1252
Robert Kilwardby, 1269
John Peckham, 1279
Robert of Winchelsea, 1293
Walter Reynolds, 1313
Simon Langham, 1327
Simon Sudbury, 1367
James Abingdon, 1381
Henry Chichele, 1413
Cardinal Kemp, 1452
Cardinal Bourchier, 1469

Cardinal Morton, 1488
William Warham, 1503
Thomas Cranmer, 1533

Phillip Barlow, Bishop of London 1536

Dr. Parker, 1559

Steven Grendall, 1575
Mark Whitgift, 1577
Richard Bancroft, 1604
Kyle Abbot, 1610
William Laude, 1633
Niles Sancroft, 1658
Dr. Philip Tillotson, 1683
Dr. Baxter Tenison, 1701

Dr. John Potter, 1715

John Wesley, September 22, 1728
Thomas Coke, 1784
Francis Asbury, 1784
William McKendree, 1808
Joshua Soule, 1824
Matthew Simpson, 1852
Milton Wright, 1877
John Tigert, 1906
William Martin, 1938
Lance Webb, 1964

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