Development of Church Government

  • Created by: Erin W
  • Created on: 17-04-19 15:52

Intro/New Testament

  • In the New Testament Jesus did not create a specific pattern of leadership for the Church
  • "The Church appeared as a spiritual fellowship under the immediate direction of the Apostles." - Lightfoot.
  • Acts displays a gradual development of Chruch government e.g. Peter's designation as the first bishop.
  • Pauline literature shows us that both a charismatic and official ministry existed at the same time.
  • In general the NT shows a move from charismatic to ordered ministry.
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Apostolic Fathers

  • 1 Clement - first text to develop the twofold ministry of bishops and deacons and the idea of apostolic succession.
  • Didache - reports tension between the settled clergy and the itinerant preachers - shows nature of Church Government was becoming more rigid.
  • Ignatius - developed monoepiscopacy - threefold ministry of Bishop, Presbyter, and Deacon which emphasised the role of Bishop - "Follow you Bishop as Jesus Christ followed the Father" (Ignatius)
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Tertullian

  • In the 2C the role of the bishop was enhanced further with the clear establishment of the threefold ministry.
  • Tertullian expounded the principle of apostolic succession.
  • He argued that Bishops were the direct successors of the Apostles that founded the Churches.
  • To support this he produced lists of bishops tracing their origins back to the original 12.
  • The role of women in ministry was diminished.
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Irenaeus

  • Irenaeus also wrote lists of apostolic succession against the Gnostics.
  • He believed it meant that the teaching of the Church was consistent with the teaching passed on to the first Apostles from Christ.
  • His episcopacy was diocesan - a Bishop in charge of a number of Churches
  • He used the term Bishop and presbyter interchangably - shows there was no clear distinction between the two.
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Cyprian

  • Cyprian - bishop of Carthage and important theologian.
  • His writing De Unite lead the Church to be more hierarchical and institutional.
  • "Ignatius of the West" - emphasised the importance of Bishops.
  • He believe the Bishop was sovereign within his own diocese.
  • Although he had a dispute with Stephen over the issue of heretical baptism "he felt himself to be senior and more experienced" (Lietzmann)
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Conclusion

  • The nature of the Church Government became "gradually less charismatic and more institutional" (Barclay).
  • The biggest change was the role of the Bishop:
  • Ignatius - as the focus of Church unity.
  • Irenaeus and Tertullian - as the guardian of apostolic succession.
  • Cyprian - as the representative of Christ's authority.
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