Holy_Orders_Picture.jpg(Re-blogged from http://practicalapologetics.blogspot.com/2013/07/early-church-fathers-on-ordination-and.html, an invaluable resource in an age of ecclesial confusion)

Clement of Rome Recognitions book 10 ch 68 (27-97 ad)

Laodicea, Peter ordered the people to meet on the following day; and having ordained one of those who followed him as bishop over them, and others as presbyters, and having baptized multitudes, and restored to health all who were troubled with sicknesses or demons

Clement of Rome Recognitions book 6 ch 15 (27-97 ad)

and baptized them; and celebrating the Eucharist with them, he appointed, as bishop over them, Maro, who had entertained him in his house, and who was now perfect in all things; and with him he ordained twelve presbyters and deacons at the same time. He also instituted the order of widows, and arranged all the services of the Church; and charged them all to obey Maro their bishop in all things that he should command them

Ignatius of Antioch Epistle to the Magnesians ch 2 [50-117 AD]

“Now, therefore, it has been my privilege to see you in the person of your God-inspired bishop, Damas;  and in the persons of your worthy presbyters, Bassus and Apollonius; and my fellow-servant, the deacon, Zotion. What a delight is his company! For he is subject to the bishop as to the grace of God, and to the presbytery as to the law of Jesus Christ” 

Ignatius of Antioch Epistle to the Magnesians ch 6 [50-117 AD]

“Take care to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God, and with the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles, and with the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the business of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from the beginning and is at last made manifest” 

Ignatius of Antioch Epistle to the Magnesians ch 13 [50-117 AD]

“Take care, therefore, to be confirmed in the decrees of the Lord and of the apostles, in order that in everything you do, you may prosper in body and in soul, in faith and in love, in Son and in Father and in Spirit, in beginning and in end, together with your most reverend bishop; and with that fittingly woven spiritual crown, the presbytery; and with the deacons, men of God. Be subject to the bishop and to one another as Jesus Christ was subject to the Father, and the apostles were subject to Christ and to the Father; so that there may be unity in both body and spirit” 

Ignatius of Antioch Epistle to the Trallians ch 2 [50-117 AD]

“Indeed, when you submit to the bishop as you would to Jesus Christ, it is clear to me that you are living not in the manner of men but as Jesus Christ, who died for us, that through faith in his death you might escape dying. It is necessary, therefore-and such is your practice that you do nothing without the bishop, and that you be subject also to the presbytery, as to the apostles of Jesus Christ our hope, in whom we shall be found, if we live in him. It is necessary also that the deacons, the dispensers of the mysteries [sacraments] of Jesus Christ, be in every way pleasing to all men. For they are not the deacons of food and drink, but servants of the Church of God. They must therefore guard against blame as against fire” 

Ignatius of Antioch Epistle to the Trallians ch 3 [50-117 AD]

“In like manner let everyone respect the deacons as they would respect Jesus Christ, and just as they respect the bishop as a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and college of the apostles. Without these, it cannot be called a church. I am confident that you accept this, for I have received the exemplar of your love and have it with me in the person of your bishop. His very demeanor is a great lesson and his meekness is his strength. I believe that even the godless do respect him” 

Ignatius of Antioch Epistle to the Trallians ch 7 [50-117 AD]

“He that is within the sanctuary is pure; but he that is outside the sanctuary is not pure. In other words, anyone who acts without the bishop and the presbytery and the deacons does not have a clear conscience” 

Ignatius of Antioch Epistle to the Philadelphians ch 7 [50-117 AD]

“I cried out while I was in your midst, I spoke with a loud voice, the voice of God: ‘Give heed to the bishop and the presbytery and the deacons.’ Some suspect me of saying this because I had previous knowledge of the division certain persons had caused; but he for whom I am in chains is my witness that I had no knowledge of this from any man. It was the Spirit who kept preaching these words, ‘Do nothing without the bishop, keep your body as the temple of God, love unity, flee from divisions, be imitators of Jesus Christ, as he was imitator of the Father'” (Letter to the Philadelphians 

Ignatius of Antioch Epistle to the Smyraeans ch 8 [50-117 AD]

See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.

Teachings of the Apostles Syriac 

The city of Rome, and all Italy, and Spain, and Britain, and Gaul, together with all the rest of the countries round about them, received the apostles’ ordination to the priesthood from Simon Cephas, who went up from Antioch

Teachings of the Apostles Syriac 

And by ordination to the priesthood, which the apostles themselves had received from our Lord, did their Gospel wing its way rapidly into the four quarters of the world.

Irenaeus of Lyons Book 4 ch 8.3 (120-180 ad)

And all the apostles of the Lord are priests, who do inherit here neither lands nor houses, but serve God and the altar continually.

Clement of Alexandria The Paedagogus Book III [150-215 AD]

“A multitude of other pieces of advice to particular persons is written in the holy books: some for presbyters, some for bishops and deacons; and others for widows, of whom we shall have opportunity to speak elsewhere” 

(Clement of Alexandria The Stromata Book VI ch 13 [150-215 AD]

“Even here in the Church the gradations of bishops, presbyters, and deacons happen to be imitations, in my opinion, of the angelic glory and of that arrangement which, the scriptures say, awaits those who have followed in the footsteps of the apostles and who have lived in complete righteousness according to the gospel” 

Hippolytus Appendix Cannons of Hyppolytus 31 (170-236 ad)

31. That a deacon may dispense the Eucharist to the people with permission of a bishop or presbyter.

Hippolytus Appendix Cannons of Hyppolytus 28-29 (170-236 ad)

Canon Twenty-eighth. That none of the believers should taste anything, but after he has taken the sacred mysteries, especially in the days of fasting. [+] Canon Twenty-ninth. Of the keeping of oblations which are laid upon the altar,–that nothing fall into the sacred chalice, and that nothing fall from the priests, nor from the boys when they take communion; that an evil spirit rule them not, and that no one speak in the protection, except in prayer; and when the oblations of the people cease, let psalms be read with all attention, even to the signal of the bell; and of the sign of the cross, and the casting of the dust of the altar into the pool.

Hippolytus Appendix can 37 [170-236 AD]

As often as a bishop takes of the sacred mysteries, let the deacons and presbyters be gathered together, clothed in white robes, brilliant in the view of all the people; and in like manner with a reader.

Origen on Prayer ch 18 (185-254 ad)

So, too, the apostles, and those who have become like apostles, being priests according to the Great High Priest and having received knowledge of the service of God, know under the Spirit’s teaching for which sins, and when, and how they ought to offer sacrifices, and recognize for which they ought not to do so

Cyprian of Carthage Epistle 75 par 3 [200-270 AD]

3. Wherefore, since the Church alone has the living water, and the power of baptizing and cleansing man, he who says that any one can be baptized and sanctified by Novatian must first show and teach that Novatian is in the Church or presides over the Church. For the Church is one, and as she is one, cannot be both within and without. For if she is with Novatian, she was not with Cornelius. But if she was with Cornelius, who succeeded the bishop Fabian by lawful ordination, and whom, beside the honour of the priesthood, the Lord glorified also with martyrdom, Novatian is not in the Church; nor can he be reckoned as a bishop, who, succeeding to no one, and despising the evangelical and apostolic tradition, sprang from himself. For he who has not been ordained in the Church can neither have nor hold to the Church in any way.

Cyprian of Carthage epistle 74 par 16 (200-270 ad)

But what is the greatness of his error, and what the depth of his blindness, who says that remission of sins can be granted in the synagogues of heretics, and does not abide on the foundation of the one Church which was once based by Christ upon the rock, may be perceived from this, that Christ said to Peter alone, “Whatsoever thou shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” And again, in the Gospel, when Christ breathed on the apostles alone, saying, remitted unto them, and whose soever sins ye retain they are retained.” Therefore the power of remitting sins was given to the apostles, and to the churches which they, sent by Christ, established, and to the bishops who succeeded to them by vicarious ordination. But the enemies of the one Catholic Church in which we are, and the adversaries of us who have succeeded the apostles, asserting for themselves, in opposition to us, unlawful priesthoods, and setting up profane altars, what else are they than Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, profane with a like wickedness, and about to suffer the same punishments which they did, as well as those who agree with them, just as their partners and abettors perished with a like death to theirs?

Cyprian of Carthage epistle 68 par 4 (200-270 ad)

Christ, who says to the apostles, and thereby to all chief rulers, who by vicarious ordination succeed to the apostles: “He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that heareth me, heareth Him that sent me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me, and Him that sent me.” (lk 10:16)

Cyprian of Carthage epistle 67 par 5 (200-270 ad)

For which reason you must diligently observe and keep the practice delivered from divine tradition and apostolic observance, which is also maintained among us, and almost throughout all the provinces; that for the proper celebration of ordinations all the neighbouring bishops of the same province should assemble with that people for which a prelate is ordained.

Cyprian of Carthage epistle 14 par 2 (200-270 ad)

I wrote letters in which I recalled by my advice, as much as possible, the martyrs and confessors to the Lord’s commands. To the presbyters and deacons also was not wanting the vigour of the priesthood; so that some, too little mindful of discipline, and hasty, with a rash precipitation, who had already begun to communicate with the lapsed, were restrained by my interposition.

Cyprian of Carthage epistle 2 par 1 (200-270 ad)

We have been informed by Crementius the sub-deacon, who came to us from you, that the blessed father Cyprian has for a certain reason withdrawn; “in doing which he acted quite rightly, because he is a person of eminence, and because a conflict is impending,” which God has allowed in the world, for the sake of cooperating with His servants in their struggle against the adversary

Cyprian of Carthage epistle 30 par 5 (200-270 ad)

However, what you also have yourself declared in so important a matter, is satisfactory to us, that the peace of the Church must first be maintained; then, that an assembly for counsel being gathered together, with bishops, presbyters, deacons, and confessors, as well as with the laity who stand fast, we should deal with the case of the lapsed

Cyprian of Carthage epistle 67 par 2 (200-270 ad)

On which account it is fitting, that with full diligence and sincere investigation those should be chosen for God’s priesthood whom it is manifest God will hear.

Cyprian of Carthage epistle 54 par 14 (200-270 ad)

After such things as these, moreover, they still dare–a false bishop having been appointed for them by, heretics–to set sail and to bear letters from schismatic and profane persons to the throne of Peter, and to the chief church whence priestly unity takes its source; and not to consider that these were the Romans whose faith was praised in the preaching of the apostle, to whom faithlessness could have no access.

Eusebius of Caesarea Life of Constantine book 1 ch 32 (265-340 ad)

Moreover, he made the priests of God his counselors, and deemed it incumbent on him to honor the God who had appeared to him with all devotion

Eusebius of Caesarea Church History book 6 (265-340ad)

But the bishops of Cesarea and Jerusalem, who were especially notable and distinguished among the bishops of Palestine, considering Origen worthy in the highest degree of the honor, ordained him a presbyter.

Eusebius of Caesarea Church History book 6 ch 18 (265-340ad)

Greece on account of a pressing necessity in connection with ecclesiastical affairs, and went through Palestine, and was ordained as presbyter in Caesarea by the bishops of that country.

Peter of Alexandria Fragments 1 (260-311ad)

Since I have found out that Meletius acts in no way for the common good,–for neither is he contented with the letter of the most holy bishops and martyrs,–but, invading my parish, hath assumed so much to himself as to endeavour to separate from my authority the priests, and those who had been entrusted with visiting the needy; and, giving proof of his desire for pre-eminence, has ordained in the prison several unto himself; now, take ye heed to this, and hold no communion with him

Liturgy of the Blessed Apostles par 6

The Priest says this secret prayer in the sanctuary:- O Lord God Omnipotent, Thine is the Holy Catholic Church, inasmuch as Thou, through the great passion of Thy Christ, didst buy the sheep of Thy pasture; and from the grace of the Holy Spirit, who is indeed of one nature with Thy glorious divinity, are granted the degrees of the true priestly ordination;

Aphrahat Demonstrations 8 Of the Resurrection of the Dead par 8 (280-367 ad)

Then Moses wished by his priestly power to absolve Reuben from his transgression and sin, in that he had lain with Bilhah, his father’s concubine; that when his brethren should rise, he might not be cut off from their number.

Athanasius Life of St Anthony par 67 (296-373 ad) 

Added to this he was tolerant in disposition and humble in spirit. For though he was such a man, he observed the rule of the Church most rigidly, and was willing that all the clergy should be honoured above himself [17]. For he was not ashamed to bow his head to bishops and presbyters,and if ever a deacon came to him for help he discoursed with him on what was profitable, but gave place to him in prayer, not being ashamed to learn himself.

Athanasius Letter 49 par 4 (296-373 ad) 

For if all were of the same mind as your present advisers, how would you have become a Christian, since there would be no bishops? Or if our successors are to inherit this state of mind, how will the Churches be able to hold together?

Hilary of Poitiers On the Trinity book 8 par 1 (300-367 ad)

THE Blessed Apostle Paul in laying down the form for appointing a bishop and creating by his instructions an entirely new type of member of the Church, has taught us in the following words the sum total of all the virtues perfected in him:–Holding fast the word according to the doctrine of faith that he may be able to exhort to sound doctrine and to convict gainsavers. For there are many unruly men, vain talkers and deceivers. For in this way he points out that the essentials of orderliness and morals are only profitable for good service in the priesthood if at the same time the qualities needful for knowing how to teach and preserve the faith are not lacking, for a man is not straightway made a good and useful priest by a merely innocent life or by a mere knowledge of preaching.

Ephriam of Syria on Epiphany (RESP.–Blessed be He Who was baptized that He might baptize you, that ye should be absolved from your offences.) par 19 (307-373 ad)

to the priest who has toiled in baptizing,–let there come the crown of righteousness!

Cyril of Jerusalem Catechetical Lecture 23 par 4 (315-386 ad)

After this the Priest cries aloud, “Lift up your hearts.” For truly ought we in that most awful hour to have our heart on high with God, and not below, thinking of earth and earthly things. In effect therefore the Priest bids all in that hour to dismiss all cares of this life, or household anxieties, and to have their heart in heaven with the merciful God. Then ye answer, “We lift them up unto the Lord:” assenting to it, by your avowal.

Cyril of Jerusalem Catechetical Lecture 16 par 22 (315-386 ad)

Consider, I pray, of each nation, Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons, Solitaries, Virgins, and laity besides; and then behold their great Protector, and the Dispenser of their gifts;–how throughout the world He gives to one chastity, to another perpetual virginity, to another almsgiving, to another voluntary poverty, to another power of repelling hostile spirits.

Council of Nicaea under Sylvester I  par 4 (325 ad)

It is by all means desirable that a bishop should be appointed by all the bishops of the province. But if this is difficult because of some pressing necessity or the length of the journey involved, let at least three come together and perform the ordination, but only after the absent bishops have taken part in the vote and given their written consent. But in each province the right of confirming the proceedings belongs to the metropolitan bishop.

Council of Nicaea under Sylvester I  pa 18 (325 ad)

It has come to the attention of this holy and great synod that in some places and cities deacons give communion to presbyters, although neither canon nor custom allows this, namely that those who have no authority to offer should give the body of Christ to those who do offer. Moreover it has become known that some of the deacons now receive the eucharist even before the bishops. All these practices must be suppressed. Deacons must remain within their own limits, knowing that they are the ministers of the bishop and subordinate to the presbyters. Let them receive the eucharist according to their order after the presbyters from the hands of the bishop or the presbyter.

Gregory of Nyssa Against Eunomius book 1 ch 10 (325-386 ad) 

the man who ungrudgingly spent upon the poor his patrimony even before he was a priest, and most of all in the time of the famine, during which he was a ruler of the Church, though still a priest in the rank of presbyters

Basil Letter 188 par 1 (329-379 ad)

The Cathari are schismatics; but it seemed good to the ancient authorities, I mean Cyprian and our own Firmilianus, to reject all these, Cathari, Encratites, and Hydroparastatae, by one common condemnation, because the origin of separation arose through schism, and those who had apostatized from the Church had no longer on them the grace of the Holy Spirit, for it ceased to be imparted when the continuity was broken. The first separatists had received their ordination from the Fathers, and possessed the spiritual gift by the laying on of their hands. But they who were broken off had become laymen, and, because they are no longer able to confer on others that grace of the Holy Spirit from which they themselves are fallen away, they had no authority either to baptize or to ordain.

Basil Letter 6 par 2 (329-379 ad)

We do not, however, give up the body of the deaconess to the use of the flesh, as being consecrated.

Ambrose of Milan on Repentance book 1 par 6-7 (340-397 ad)

They affirm that they are showing great reverence for God, to Whom alone they reserve the power of forgiving sins. But in truth none do Him greater injury than they who choose to prune His commandments and reject the office entrusted to them. For inasmuch as the Lord Jesus Himself said in the Gospel: “Receive ye the Holy Spirit whosesoever sins ye forgive they are forgiven unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained,” Who is it that honours Him most, he who obeys His bidding or he who rejects it?

The Church holds fast its obedience on either side, by both retaining and remitting sin; heresy is on the one side cruel, and on the other disobedient; wishes to bind what it will not loosen, and will not loosen what it has bound, whereby it condemns itself by its. own sentence. For the Lord willed that the power of binding and of loosing should be alike, and sanctioned each by a similar condition. So he who has not the power to loose has not the power to bind. For as, according to the Lord’s word, he who has the power to bind has also the power to loose, their teaching destroys itself, inasmuch as they who deny that they have the power of loosing ought also to deny that of binding. For how can the one be allowed and the other disallowed? It is plain and evident that either each is allowed or each is disallowed in the case of those to whom each has been given. Each is allowed to the Church, neither to heresy, for this power has been entrusted to priests alone. Rightly, therefore, does the Church claim it, which has true priests; heresy, which has not the priests of God, cannot claim it. And by not claiming this power heresy pronounces its own sentence, that not possessing priests it cannot claim priestly power.

John Chrysostom Homily 2 on Second Timothy (347-407 ad)

I am about to say what may appear strange, but be not astonished nor startled at it. The Offering is the same, whether a common man, or Paul or Peter offer it. It is the same which Christ gave to His disciples, and which the Priests now minister. This is nowise inferior to that, because it is not men that sanctify even this, but the Same who sanctified the one sanctifies the other also. For as the words which God spake are the same which the Priest now utters, so is the Offering the same, and the Baptism, that which He gave….

Jerome Against Jovinianus book 1 par 34 (347-420 ad)

All that goes for nothing, says Jovinianus, because even bishops, priests, and deacons, husbands of one wife, and having children, were appointed by the Apostle.

Jerome Against Jovinianus book 1 par 35 (347-420 ad)

You see then that the blessedness of a bishop, priest, or deacon, does not lie in the fact that they are bishops, priests, or deacons, but in their having the virtues which their names and offices imply

Jerome dialogue against the Luciferians par 21 (347-420 ad)

Since Hilary when he left the Church was only a deacon, and since the Church is to him, though to him alone, a mere worldly multitude, he can neither duly celebrate the Eucharist, for he has no bishops or priests

Jerome Letter 82 par 4 (347-420 ad)

Before my brother’s ordination he said nothing of any dogmatic difference between himself and pope Epiphanius

Jerome Letter 146 par 2 (347-420 ad)

In fact as if to tell us that the traditions handed down by the apostles were taken by them from the old testament, bishops, presbyters and deacons occupy in the church the same positions as those which were occupied by Aaron, his sons, and the Levites in the temple.

Jerome Letter 146 par 1 (347-420 ad)

I am told that some one has been mad enough to put deacons before presbyters, that is, before bishops. For when the apostle clearly teaches that presbyters are the same as bishops, must not a i mere server of tables and of widows be insane to set himself up arrogantly over men through whose prayers the body and blood of Christ are produced?

John Chrysostom Homily 18 on Acts ch 7 (347-407 ad)

Think, how good it is, when with all quietness the priest presents himself in the Church, that he may draw near unto God, and say prayers for the village, day by day, and for its owner! Say, is it a small matter, that even in the Holy Oblations evermore thy name is included in the prayers, and that for the village day by day prayers are made unto God

John Chrysostom Homily 3 on Philemon (347-407 ad)

And thou too, therefore, when thou goest to the priest, and he shall say to thee, “The Lord will have mercy on thee, my son,” do not confide in the word only, but add also works. Do acts worthy of mercy, God will bless thee, my son, if indeed thou doest things worthy of blessing. He will bless thee, if thou showest mercy to thy neighbor.

John Chrysostom On Priesthood book 3 pa 6 (347-407 ad)

The Jewish priests had authority to release the body from leprosy, or, rather, not to release it but only to examine those who were already released, and you know how much the office of priest was contended for at that time. But our priests have received authority to deal, not with bodily leprosy, but spiritual uncleanness–not to pronounce it removed after examination, but actually and absolutely to take it away. Wherefore they who despise these priests would be far more accursed than Dathan and his company, and deserve more severe punishment.

John Chrysostom On Priesthood book 6 pa 2 (347-407 ad)

hedging themselves round on every side, and studying both to speak and to act with great circumspection, so that to the utmost extent of human power they may draw near to God with assurance, and with unstained purity, what power and strength, thinkest thou, does the ordainedPriest need so as to be able to tear his soul away from every defilement, and to keep its spiritual beauty unsullied?

John Chrysostom On Priesthood book 3 pa 5 (347-407 ad)

For transparent madness it is to despise so great a dignity, without which it is not possible to obtain either our own salvation, or the good things which have been promised to us. For if no one can enter into the kingdom of Heaven except he be regenerate through water and the Spirit, and he who does not eat the flesh of the Lord and drink His blood is excluded from eternal life, and if all these things are accomplished only by means of those holy hands, I mean the hands of the priest, how will any one, without these, be able to escape the fire of hell, or to win those crowns which are reserved for the victorious?

John Chrysostom On Priesthood book 3 pa 9 (347-407 ad)

The divine law indeed has excluded women from the ministry, but they endeavor to thrust themselves into it; and since they can effect nothing of themselves, they do all through the agency of others; and they have become invested with so much power that they can appoint or eject priests at their will: things in fact are turned upside down, and the proverbial saying may be seen realized–“The ruled lead the rulers:” and would that it were men who do this instead of women, who have not received a commission to teach. Why do I say teach? for the blessed Paul did not suffer them even to speak in the Church.

John Chrysostom Homily 5 on First Timothy (347-407 ad)

THE office of a Teacher and that of a Priest is of great dignity, and to bring forward one that is worthy requires a divine election. So it was of old, and so it is now, when we make a choice without human passion, not looking to any temporal consideration, swayed neither by friendship, nor enmity. For though we be not partakers of so great a measure of the Spirit as they, yet a good purpose is sufficient to draw unto us the election of God. For the Apostles, when they elected Matthias, had not yet received the Holy Spirit, but having committed the matter to prayer, they chose him into the number of the Apostles.

John Chrysostom Homily 1.1 on Philippians [347-407 AD]

“[In Philippians 1:1 Paul says,] ‘To the co-bishops and deacons.’ What does this mean? Were there plural bishops of some city? Certainly not! It is the presbyters that [Paul] calls by this title; for these titles were then interchangeable, and the bishop is even called a deacon. That is why, when writing to Timothy, he says, ‘Fulfill your diaconate’ [2 Tim. 4:5], although Timothy was then a bishop. That he was in fact a bishop is clear when Paul says to him, ‘Lay hands on no man lightly’ [1 Tim. 5:22], and again, ‘Which was given you with the laying on of hands of the presbytery’ [1 Tim. 4:14], and presbyters would not have ordained a bishop” 

John Cassian Institutes Book 11 ch 14 (360-435 ad)

BUT sometimes it creates a wish to take holy orders, and a desire for the priesthood or diaconate. And it represents that if a man has even against his will received this office, he will fulfil it with such sanctity and strictness that he will be able to set an example of saintliness even to other priests; and that he will win over many people, not only by his manner of life, but also by his teaching and preaching. 

Augustine of Hippo City of God Book 20 ch 10 (354-430 ad)

To the words, “In them the second death hath no power,” are added the words, “but they shall be priests of God and Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years;” and this refers not to the bishops alone, and presbyters, who are now specially called priests in the Church; but as we call all believers Christians on account of the mystical chrism, so we call all priests because they are members of the one Priest.

Augustine of Hippo Confessions Book 3 Ch 7 par 21 (354-430 ad)

Thou didst grant her then another answer, by a priest of Thine, a certain bishop, reared in Thy Church and well versed in Thy books.

Augustine Letter 43 ch 3 par 8 (354-430 ad)

When that has been done, and these men have been separated from the whole

Church, we shall without fear ordain another bishop over the community in Carthage; whereas, if now another bishop be ordained by us, communion will most probably be withheld from him by the Church beyond the sea, because

they will not recognise the validity of the deposition of the bishop, whose ordination was everywhere acknowledged, and with whom letters of communion had been exchanged; and thus, through our undue eagerness to pronounce without deliberation a final sentence, the great scandal of schism within the Church, when it has rest from without, may arise, and we may be found presuming to set up another altar, not against Caecilianus, but against the universal Church, which, uninformed of our procedure, would still hold

communion with him.”

Sozomen Ecclesial History Book 2 Ch 2 (375-477 ad)

DURING the consulate of Constantine Caesar and Crispus Caesar, Silvester governed the Church of Rome; Alexander, that of Alexandria; and Macarius, that of Jerusalem. Not one, since Romanus? had been appointed over the Church of Antioch on the Orontes; for the persecution it appears, had prevented the ceremony of ordination from taking place. 

Sozomen Ecclesial History Book 2 Ch 23 (375-477 ad)

While they were deliberating about this, some thought that a law ought to be passed enacting that bishops and presbyters, deacons and subdeacons, should hold no intercourse with the wife they had espoused before they entered the priesthood; but Paphnutius, the confessor, stood up and testified against this proposition; he said that marriage was honorable and chaste, and that cohabitation with their own wives was chastity, and advised the Synod not to frame such a law, for it would be difficult to bear, and might serve as an occasion of incontinence to them and their wives; and he reminded them, that according to the ancient tradition of the church, those who were unmarried when they took part in the communion of sacred orders, were required to remain so, but that those who were married, were not to put away their wives.

Sozomen Ecclesial History Book 2 Ch 19 (375-477 ad)

And the event has exceeded my prayer, in that so many priests of Christ have been conducted into the same place; now, it is my desire that you should be of one mind and be partakers of a consentient judgment, for I deem dissension in the Church of God as more dangerous than any other evil.

Sozomen Ecclesial History Book 7 Ch 21 (375-477 ad)

On his arrival in the Roman territories, he was placed in the ranks of the clergy, and advanced to the office of presbyter. Addas married and rendered great service to the Church.

Council of Laodicea Canon 11 (390 ad)

 Presbytides, as they are called, or female presidents, are not to be appointed in the Church.

Council of Laodicea Canon 55 (390 ad)

Neither members of the priesthood nor of the clergy, nor yet laymen, may club together for drinking entertainments.

Theodoret Letter 81 (393-457 ad)

Was it that I ordained to the priesthood men of character and of honourable life?

Theodoret Ecclesial History book 5 ch 23 (393-457 ad)

For a dying bishop is not permitted to ordain another to take his place, and all the bishops of a province are ordered to be convened; again no ordination of a bishop is permitted to take place without three bishops. 

Leo the Great Letter 6 ch 6 (395-461 ad)

Priests and deacons may not be ordained on weekdays any more than bishops

Apostolic Constitutions book 8 par 23 (400ad)

And I James, the son of Alphaeus, make a constitution in regard to confessors: A confessor is not ordained; for he is so by choice and patience, and is worthy of great honour, as having confessed the name of God, and of His Christ, before nations and kings. But if there be occasion, he is to be ordained either a bishop, priest, or deacon.

Apostolic Constitutions book 2 par 25 (400ad)

You, therefore, O bishops, are to your people priests and Levites, ministering to the holy tabernacle, the holy Catholic Church; who stand at the altar of the Lord your God, and offer to Him reasonable and unbloody sacrifices through Jesus the great High Priest.

Apostolic Constitutions book 3 par 9 (400ad)

For if the “man be the head of the woman,” and he be originally ordained for the priesthood, it is not just to abrogate the order of the creation, and leave the principal to come to the extreme part of the body. For the woman is the body of the man, taken from his side, and subject to him, from whom she was separated for the procreation of children. For says He, “He shall rule over thee.” For the principal part of the woman is the man, as being her head. But if in the foregoing constitutions we have not permitted them to teach, how will any one allow them, contrary to nature, to perform the office of a priest? For this is one of the ignorant practices of the Gentile atheism, to ordain women priests to the female deities, not one of the constitutions of Christ.

Apostolic Constitutions book 6 par 17 (400 ad)

But if they entered into the clergy before they were married, we permit them to marry, if they have an inclination thereto, lest they sin and incur punishment. But we do not permit any one of the clergy to take to wife either a courtesan, or a servant, or a widow, or one that is divorced, as also the law says.

Gregory the Great Letters Book 4 letter 35 (540-604 ad)

Lastly, in order with most wicked audacity to drive catholic priests from their churches

Constantinople/Trullo/Quinisext canon 6 (692 ad)

And if any of those who enter the clergy, wishes to be joined to a wife in lawful marriage before he is ordained subdeacon, deacon, or presbyter, let it be done.

Anglican Archbishop +Rowan Williams, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch +Bartholomew, Pope +Benedict XVI

By Fr. W. Joseph Boyd (HCCAR)

According to the Ancient Fathers, Grace is the Presence of God, which is the very basis of all existence. Within the Church, We have particular Grace in the Person of Jesus Christ, which we access in the Holy Spirit through Faith. Therefore, saving Grace is present in Faith in Christ for salvation, in the Sacraments, which are filled by the Holy Spirit and which IS the Presence of Christ among us in the Eucharist. The Orthodox Church is unique in that it didn’t “add to the fullness” by having a pope as the “Vicar of Christ.” It has all the fullness possible for a local catholic church, it has saving sacraments, it has a wonderful, unbroken Tradition of theology that is invaluable and essential to all other local churches. In this way, it is important. 

The Orthodox Church believes that Grace is regulated by the Councils, that decisions of Orthodox synods determine who is in and who is outside of God’s economy of Grace. The Anglican position is that ecclesial Grace flows from bishop to bishop in the context of the local catholic church, which is already the full expression of God’s saving Economy of Grace, and that councils are a mechanism for dealing with administrative problems and the clarifying of doctrinal points, but that they do not control God’s Grace or limit His action in other local catholic churches.

For Anglicans, the earmarks of catholicity and validity of sacraments would be a Nicene Faith, a preserved, tripartite Church order, and a sacramental, Eucharistic Church life in harmony with the teachings of the Early Church. For the Orthodox this is not enough.

According to recent Orthodox canonical interpretations, what makes you inside the Church is not continuity of apostolicity and maintaining Catholic practice and order, but admittance to Orthodox Communion through the recognition of a previously established canonical synod. How Constantinople or Moscow would reckon this canonicity and authority would be completely different – The Phanar believes that it alone holds presidency and the deciding vote in issues of Church recognition, while Russia believes it has inherited the mantle of Rome and is now the canonical head of the Orthodox world by number of adherents and by fault of history (the Fall of Constantinople and 400 years of Turkish rule over the Greeks). Thus, Russia undertakes the establishment of “autocephalous” churches worldwide that remain under its presidency, all of which go “unrecognized” by the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

The EP and the MP continue to factor canonical Grace differently, thus the unresolvable nature of their conflict and the “soft schism” between them. Each is unwilling to declare officially what is going on in reality because of the popularity of the Orthodox idea of schism from the larger body being to be cut off from ecclesial grace, and also because of the massive number of pilgrimages generated by the Slavic block, which funds all the ancient patriarchates and helps uphold the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul – which is absolutely vital towards maintaining canonical control.

Up to now, the Ancient Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem, operate as they did under Turkish rule, as sub-departments of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, thus assuring prestige and synodal power to the EP. Romania normally sides with Greece on cultural grounds, and both show fidelity to the EP. Meanwhile, Russia and Serbia head up the Slavic block, which, while superior in numbers, is lacking the ancient clout, holy sites, and canonical mechanisms that the ancient Pentarchs hold. This situation has led to a stand-off, as neither side is willing to submit to the other or jeopardize their position of authority by pushing into a decisive break. It is politically more expedient to appear united to the outside world, with the EP and the MP both claiming to lead the “Orthodox World”, than to force the issue and acknowledge that schism occurs for political and cultural reasons, not just for doctrinal reasons. The whole argument for exclusion of other Apostolic Christians would fall apart, as would Orthodox demands for submission. To acknowledge this to the outside world would be to admit that Orthodox canon law does not define saving Grace, which would be to release Orthodoxy’s one great claim to power, and make Orthodox episcopacy primarily pastoral again, not princely or imperial. To release this political hold is all but impossible.

This internal conflict is why recent Orthodox canonical interpretation has become increasingly “harsh” and does not recognize the sacramental validity of any consecration occurring outside of its own canonical boundaries. This is why Christians from other Apostolic Churches even have to be re-baptized, according to Orthodox fundamentalists and the fathers of Mount Athos. Ordinal consecrations are also not recognized, and thus, the episcopacies and priesthoods of other churches are held to be null and void by the Orthodox. This is the canonical opinion, but since local bishops have authority in application, there is a wide variety of practices, with some bishops doing chrismations on Christians already baptized in the Name of the Trinity, and others completely redoing the Baptism. Those who do not re-baptize are effectively acknowledging that ecclesial Grace is not limited by Orthodox canon, but they have come up with a novel solution to explain this to reactionary Orthodox who would otherwise declare them heretics and drum them out of communion, that Chrism “completes” the hollow, non-saving “form” of the sacrament and fills it with the Orthodox Church’s saving, canonically-defined Grace.

As an Anglican, I can sincerely state my admiration for Eastern Orthodoxy and my confidence in the apostolic, catholic and truly doctrinally orthodox nature of its positions and its effective and valid sacraments. It was mainly through the Orthodox witness that the Anglicans rediscovered the ancient fathers and re-appropriated an apostolic independence from the Pope as a prerogative of the local catholic church. In this way we are indebted to Orthodoxy. The only thing we deny to the Orthodox, as the Orthodox would also deny to the Pope, is control over God’s Grace by later political and canonical mechanisms. Apostolicity and ordination confer the Grace upon which councils are based, not the councils providing Grace upon which bishops are made. The Seven Ecumenical Councils state the mind of the Church in the conditions and contexts of the day and must be interpreted within them. They are extremely valuable as standards of Church life and administration, but are not “infallible” or equal in importance to Scripture. Therefore, we must contend that there is Apostolic Grace, true episcopacy and effective sacraments that are not defined by the Byzantine Communion. While the Orthodox hold “fullness of Grace”, they do not limit Grace or define its borders. We believe that we, too, are a local expression of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. This is what Anglicans believe and see as biblical and self-evident, but what Orthodox fundamentalists can never accept, because they apply St. Cyprian’s maxim “there is no salvation outside of the Church” not to the local catholic, apostolic, sacramental Church, but to the Orthodox Communion as an institution. We would argue that in St. Cyprian’s time, such an institution did not exist and what he meant was the Apostolic Succession of the local catholic church and faithfulness to the Nicene Faith. Thus, our interpretive grid would be different, and our conclusions opposed, which is unfortunate, since we share the same faith!

2009 Joint Anglican and Orthodox Dialogue Hosted in Crete

1923 Pan-Orthodox Conference, Held at the Phanar with Three of the Ancient Patriarchates (Constantinople, Alexandria and Jerusalem), Russia, Serbia and Bishops of the Anglican Communion

Encyclical on Anglican Orders from the Oecumenical Patriarch to the Presidents of the Particular Eastern Orthodox Churches, 1922 

[The Holy Synod has studied the report of the Committee and notes:] 1. That the ordination of Matthew Parker as Archbishop of Canterbury by four bishops is a fact established by history. 2. That in this and subsequent ordinations there are found in their fullness those orthodox and indispensable, visible and sensible elements of valid episcopal ordination – viz. the laying on of hands, the Epiclesis of the All-Holy Spirit and also the purpose to transmit the charisma of the Episcopal ministry. 3. That the orthodox theologians who have scientifically examined the question have almost unanimously come to the same conclusions and have declared themselves as accepting the validity of Anglican Orders. 4. That the practice in the Church affords no indication that the Orthodox Church has ever officially treated the validity of Anglican Orders as in doubt, in such a way as would point to the re-ordination of the Anglican clergy as required in the case of the union of the two Churches.

The Patriarch of JERUSALEM, 1923

The Patriarch of Jerusalem wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury in the name of his Synod on March 12, 1923, as follows: To His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, First Hierarch of All England, our most beloved and dear brother in our Lord Jesus, Mgr. Randall. Greeting fraternally your beloved to us, Grace, we have the pleasure to address to you the following: Yesterday we dispatched to Your Grace the following telegram: ‘We have pleasure inform Your Grace that Holy Synod of our Patriarchate after studying in several meetings question Anglican Orders from Orthodox point view resolved their validity.’ Today, explaining this telegram, we inform Your Grace that the Holy Synod, having as a motive the resolution passed some time ago by the Church of Constantinople, which is the church having the First Throne between the Orthodox Churches, resolved that the consecrations of bishops and ordinations of priests and deacons of the Anglican Episcopal Church are considered by the Orthodox Church as having the same validity which the Orders of the Roman Church have, because there exist all the elements which are considered necessary from an Orthodox point of view for the recognition of the grace of the Holy Orders from Apostolic Succession. We have great pleasure in communicating to Your Grace, as the First Hierarch of all the Anglican Churches, this resolution of our Church, which constitutes a progress in the pleasing-to-God work of the union of all Churches, and we pray God to grant to Your Grace many years full of health and salvation.


February 27/March 12, 1923 Official translation published in The Christian East, vol. IV, 1923, pp. 121-122. The Archbishop of the autonomous Church of Sinai expressed for his Church adherence to the decisions of Constantinople and Jerusalem.

The Archbishop of CYPRUS, 1923

The Archbishop of Cyprus wrote to the Patriarch of Constantinople in the name of his Synod on March 20, 1923, as follows: To His All-Holiness the Oecumenical Patriarch Mgr. Meletios we send brotherly greeting in Christ. Your Holiness – Responding readily to the suggestion made in your reverend Holiness’ letter of August 8, 1922, that the autocephalous Church of Cyprus under our presidency should give its opinion as to the validity of Anglican Orders we have placed the matter before the Holy Synod in formal session. After full consideration thereof it has reached the following conclusion: It being understood that the Apostolic Succession in the Anglican Church by the Sacrament of Order was not broken at the Consecration of the first Archbishop of this Church, Matthew Parker, and the visible signs being present in Orders among the Anglicans by which the grace of the Holy Spirit is supplied, which enables the ordinand for the functions of his particular order, there is no obstacle to the recognition by the Orthodox Church of the validity of Anglican Ordinations in the same way that the validity of the ordinations of the Roman, Old Catholic, and Armenian Church are recognized by her. Since clerics coming from these Churches into the bosom of the Orthodox Church are received without reordination we express our judgment that this should also hold in the case of Anglicans – excluding intercommunio (sacramental union), by which one might receive the sacraments indiscriminately at the hands of an Anglican, even one holding the Orthodox dogma, until the dogmatic unity of the two Churches, Orthodox and Anglican, is attained. Submitting this opinion of our Church to Your All-Holiness, we remain, Affectionately, the least of your brethren in Christ,

Cyril of Cyprus

Archbishopric of Cyprus. March 7/20, 1923 Published in The Christian East, vol. IV, 1923, pp. 122-123.

The Patriarch of ALEXANDRIA, 1930

After the Lambeth Conference of 1930, the Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria found itself able to join in the recognition of Anglican Orders. The decision was announced in a letter from the Patriarch to the Archbishop of Canterbury as follows: To the Most Reverend Dr. Cosmo Lang, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England, Greetings in the New Born Christ The Feast of the Nativity, according to the Flesh, of the Redeemer of our Souls being a most suitable occasion for us, as it were, to visit your Beatitude, our friend, by means of a letter, we come to you hereby with a heart that is filled alike with joy, that “unto us is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord,” and with fervent prayers both for your health and for the peace and stability of the holy Churches of God over which you preside. At the same time, together with our greetings for the Feast, we send you as our gift the news, which we are sure will be good news, to you, that having derived the greatest gratification from the accounts which it has received, both of the marks of honor which were rendered in London, alike by your Grace and by the general body of your Church, to the office which is ours, and also of the happy results which by the favouring breath of the Holy Spirit have emerged from the contact of the Orthodox Delegation with the Lambeth Conference, our Holy Synod of the Metropolitans of the Apostolic and Patriarchal Throne of Alexandria has proceeded to adopt a resolution recognizing the validity, as from the Orthodox point of view, of the Anglican Ministry. The text of that resolution is as follows: “The Holy Synod recognizes that the declarations of the Orthodox, quoted in the Summary, were made according to the spirit of Orthodox teaching. Inasmuch as the Lambeth Conference approved the declarations of the Anglican Bishops as a genuine account [1] of the teaching and practice of the Church of England and the Churches in communion with it, it welcomes them as a notable step towards the Union of the two Churches. And since in these declarations, which were endorsed by the Lambeth Conference, complete and satisfying assurance is found as to the Apostolic Succession, as to a real reception of the Lord’s Body and blood, as to the Eucharist being thusia hilasterios [2] (Sacrifice), and as to Ordination being a Mystery, the Church of Alexandria withdraws its precautionary negative to the acceptance of the validity of Anglican Ordinations, and, adhering to the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, of July 28, 1922, pronounces that if priests, ordained by Anglican Bishops, accede to Orthodoxy, they should not be re-ordained, as persons baptized by Anglicans are not rebaptized.” We rejoice to see the middle wall of partition being thrown down more and more, and we congratulate your Beatitude that under God you have had the felicity of taking the initiative in furthering that work. May the Lord Who was born in Bethlehem give to you and to us the happiness of its completion.

In Alexandria upon the Feast of Christ’s Nativity, 1930 Your Beatitude’s Beloved Brother in Christ

Meletios of Alexandria

In reporting this decision to the Oecumenical Patriarch Meletios emphasized that his Synod was acting on the basis that the statements made at Lambeth had removed their former hesitation “as to the teaching of the Anglican Church upon the mysteries and Apostolic succession,” and could be held to have met the desire expressed by the Romanian Patriarch in replying to Constantinople in 1925, when he wrote, But in order to make a definite pronouncement, we desire especially that the Anglican Church herself should precise her doctrine concerning the holy mysteries and particularly concerning orders: does she hold it to be a mystery or not? Since that requirement had now been satisfied, wrote Meletios, It is proper that the validity of Anglican Orders should now be recognized by all Orthodox Churches. For that which, according to the same letter, was “one of the most serious obstacles in the way of the Union of the two Churches,” has been “removed.” Letter published in The Christian East, vol. XII, 1931, pp. 1-6, with notes as above; the quotation in Note 2 is from No. 11 in the Resume of the Lambeth Discussions, reprinted below, p. 22.

Archbishop Meletios and Bishop Lang

sprouting-seed.jpgBy Fr. Joseph

Evil destroys instantly/ Good builds up slowly/ In our human world/ We wish for therapy that works in the same way destruction works/ Instantly/ But, in this world/ There is resistance to life/ Because life comes from God/ Not from this world of dead entropy and empty chaos/ And, so, for good to come into our hearts/ We must ask it to/ Every day, every moment/ And we must keep it from being leeched away/ By evil thoughts

by King Edward VI
  In Eucharist then there is bread,
Whereto I do consent:
Then with bread is our bodyes fed;
But farther what is ment?
  I say that Christ in flesh and bloud
Is there continually:
Unto our soule a speciall food,
Taking it spiritually.
  And this transubstantiation I
Beleeve as I have read:
That Christ sacramentally
Is there in forme of bread.
   S. Austen sayth the Word doth come
Unto the element:
And there is made, he sayth in somme,
A perfect sacrament.
   The element then doth remaine,
Or els must needes ensue:
S. Austen’s words be nothing plaine,
Nor cannot ‘be found true.
  For if the Word, as he doth say,
Come to the element:
Then is not the element away,
But bides there verament.
  Yet who so eateth that lively food,
And hath a perfect faith:
Receiveth Christes flesh and bloud,
For Christ himselfe so saith.
  Not with our teeth his flesh to teare.
Nor take bloud for our drink:
Too great absurditie it were
So grossely for to thinke.
  For we must eate him spiritually,
If we be spirituall:
And who so eates him carnally,
Thereby shall’have a fall.
  For he is now a spirituall meate,
And spiritually we must
That spirituall meate spiritually eate,
And leave our carnall lust.
  Thus by the spirit I spiritually
Beleeve, say what men list:
None other Transubstantiation I
Beleeve of the Eucharist,
  But that there is both bread and wine,
Which we see with our eye:
Yet Christ is there by power divine,
To those that spiritually
Do eate that bread and drinke that cup, Esteeming it but light:
As Judas did, which eate that sop,
Not judging it aright.
  For I was taught not long agone,
I should leane to the spirit:
And let the carnall flesh alone,
For it did not profite.
  God save him that teaching me taught,
For I thereby did winne:
To put me from that carnall thought
That I before was in.
  For I beleeve Christ corporally
In heaven doth keepe his place:
And yet Christ sacramentally
Is heere with us by grace.
  So that, in this high mysterie,
We must eate spiritual meate,
To keepe his death in memory,
Least we should it forget.
  This do I say, this have I sayd,
This saying say will I:
This saying though I once denaid,
I will no more to dye.

By Fr. Joseph Boyd

Here are a few of the brutal realities that Protestants have to assimilate into their worldview in order to move past a failing false dichotomy between Scripture and Tradition…

  1. No canon of Jewish Scriptures at the time of Christ
  2. Literary evidence shows a 500BC-200BC period of formation for the editing and formation of Hebrew Scriptures, 200 years after the Fall of Post-Davidic Jerusalem
  3. Synagogue worship had already replaced Temple Worship
  4. The “Second Temple” is built on the Temple Mount, inspired by the newly completed texts
  5. Septuagint is the comprehensible and dependable interface of the Jewish Faith with the world, and it is the product of the highly developed Jewish Diaspora version of Judaism, which is highly “Eucharistic” (as shown in Sirach) with the cup of wine standing in for the golden bowl of blood, the Yearly Covenant of Passover that the Jews believe renews their covenant with God, uniting them to God, and commemorating the passing from death into life
  6. No finalized or “canonized” authority for the Scriptures at the time of Christ, with different schools arguing for different texts – Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes, Samaritans, and Alexandrian Jews
    • Books of Moses (Universally Recognized)
    • Prophets (Some Recognized)
    • Writings (Highly Debated)
  7. Church built on Apostolic witness of the Person of Christ
  8. Christ Instructs the building of communities, not writing of texts
  9. Gospels universally declared by the Church Fathers
  10. Epistles seen a “Writings”, although authenticity disputed and only regional in authority
  11. Fathers, Greek, Syriac and Latin Churches all give different lists of Scriptural Canon
  12. Augustine’s Council in Carthage reckoned by Europeans to be authoritative, reflected in Jerome’s Canon of the Vulgate, never questioned by the Western Church again
  13. The West takes up the Carthaginian Canon along with Roman Papal authority
  14. The Christian East never agrees on canonicity, especially of John’s Revelations (thus, the “Tribulationist View” never considered by the Eastern Church) – The Far Eastern Church (Syriac Churches in India, Eurasia and China) never agrees on church structure or dependence on Roman legal authority for proclamations
  15. After a thousand years transpire, European Reformers erase all ecclesial interpretative and doctrinal authority in the discussion of the Bible, thus revealing a pliable tool for the Reformation and historical reconstruction of the Church’s own self-understanding
  16. Sacraments become textual, rather than Eucharistic, thus, the altar table is replaced by the pulpit
  17. Jewish readings of the Late Massoretic Text, dependent upon post-Christian reaction and redactions, given creedence by Luther and subsequent generations of Protestants
  18. The OT Bible becomes an inspired given, only in its Jewish format
  19. Personal interpretation, not the living, in-dwelt community’s intertextuality, becomes a doctrinal hermeneutical position
  20. Textual divergence is rediscovered by German Protestants
  21. Without Church, and now without an “Infallible” Bible, Christianity becomes a “Social Gospel”
  22. Reaction to scientific evidence and critical evaluation of Scriptural divergence creates backlash against historical view of texts in the communities that depend on the texts for authority
  23. Fundamentalism argues for a view of Scripture detached from time, space, or change, depending on a text that was mystically and inexplicably preserved, while negating the ability of an early “apostate” Church to preserve it

By Fr. W. Joseph Boyd (HCCAR)

I have been thinking about the topic of “conciliarity” for a long time, coming to conclude that when we debate between Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant positions, we’re ultimately talking about epistemology and hermeneutics, not “Soli Scriptura”, “Papal Infallibility”, or “Conciliar Revelation.”

The Early Church clearly appropriated Scripture into their own cultural categories, reading it as a group rather than as an individual, and believed in a process of ecclesial reception of Scripture that was confirmed through personal faith, evidenced in outward works of repentance, righteousness and love. Only later, as Eusebian political theory became a dominant occupation of Constantinopolitan bishops out to prove the legitimacy of the Church’s temporal power, finalized at the Council in Trullo (692AD), did the authority of Scripture acquiesce to the authority of “Our Holy and God-bearing Fathers.” But, because they received Scripture culturally, there were great differences between the Jewish, Greek, Syriac and Latin Churches from the beginning. The Ancient Church never questioned the validity of cultural elements already established as “reality”. They understood such acceptance and accommodation as “Incarnation” of Christ’s Life into the context of the temporal and imperfect Church. Thus, the Greeks accepted and modified Neo-Platonism to fit their cultural desire to define how theological events occurred and what they “essentially” accomplished; the Latins translated the Scriptures into legal terms and categories and created beautiful, simple “regula” and “liturgica” to modulate their cyclical patterns; and the Syriacs maintained their age-old Semitic prophetic tradition, so resonant with the motives and forms of the Old Testament, creating ecstatic prose to be sung in antiphonal choirs, imparting a sensation of the Revealed Word as a creating and all-encompassing conversation between the Creator and His creation.

With this in mind, we must look at how this differs from the Reformation, since it did not “incarnate the Church into the conscience of the individual” as is so often believed – that was already present in all Christian Traditions before this point – no, it incarnated the Gospel into the culture of the Germans, Swiss, Scottish and English. To what extent those cultures received and maintained continuity with the older cultures was exactly the same extent to which they maintained the old forms and rites, comprehensible to the older traditions. Thus, while Anglicans maintained all qualifications of episcopal, doctrinal and historical continuity, the cultures of estranged German peasants received none, violently reacting to venerable Catholicism as a form of cultural coercion, forming the Anabaptists and all the reactionary, fragmented and politically motivated church splits that followed. They emphasized the culture of personal heroism and conviction, so obvious in these cultures before their conversion to Christianity in the Norse and Germanic sagas, to the point that no cultural bond was more valuable than the sensation of pushing through it and destroying it – theological “Bezerkers” who, like their Norse fathers before them, saw their madness as a form of heroism! Modern individuality is the triumph of that wild, anti-cultural culture that made the Vikings, the Baptists, German Romantics, and contemporary critics and scholars so formidable – they all care about their own stories of heroism and fearlessness more than the core story that imparted their beliefs to begin with, mistaking their inner emotional energy and fervor for “consistency” and “truthfulness”.

I find it ironic how all of Christianity’s current doctrinal disagreements centers so much upon one place and its culture… a place not mentioned in the Councils or the seat of an Ancient Patriarchate, but the seat of all the cultural contradictions we’ve just mentioned – Germany! Coming to terms with Germany is still impossible for the Orthodox and Oriental Churches, identifying it with heresy as they do, showcased in Russian apologetics at the turn of the last century and the writings of Romanides. If Christianity could not acculturate there, in the same open, fair and raw way that it did with Roman collectivism, Greek sophism and Syriac ecstaticism, then what hope does the “Ancient Path” have in China or Africa?


American artillery unit firing cannon. Historic Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, Virginia

By Fr. W. Joseph Boyd (HCCAR)

“A controversy broke out amongst the disciples over who would be the greatest” – Luke 22:25

The Ancient Church believed in a theory of icons in which the symbol, and what is used to make the symbol (paint, wood, color, form), is associated with the prototype that is present in the Mind of God and present in derivative in the psyches of individuals. Therefore, something that is not the “thing in itself” may mentally function as that thing to an extent, just as the pictures we have in our heads for the things that we see are not those things, but are necessary parts of our learning about and interacting with the outside world. While not the thing, they share in the nature and reality of the things they represent. Throughout human history, language, symbols, portraits, ritual actions, and even whole organizations and ways of life have been associated with “higher categories”, with things believed to exist and impart meaning to our mundane world. Never has such an inculcation of meaning and association between Heaven and Earth occurred on as grand a scale as in Byzantium, in which the entirety of the Empire was seen as a reflection, an icon, of the Divine Economy revealed through Christ, the Prophets, and maintained by the Divine Revelation that IS the Church. But, just as Orthodox believe that to mistake an Icon for the thing that it represents is idolatry, so we must draw a distinction between the prototype that Byzantium was attempting to manifest and the Heavenly Kingdom itself. While the forms and laws of the Ancient Christian “Ταχις”, the “Order” of the Church as it formed in its earliest days, are valuable and beautiful for the understanding of God’s work through the Church, they are not God, and God is not Law, but Love. And, therefore, God’s love and mercy always trumps the rules that, necessarily, must be in place to allow any human organization to function. This love is “Economia”, the pastoral practice of the Church, and is the way that the Church functions with those who are repentant and pliable, with “askrebia”, “discipline”, only being used when the unrepentant and divisive are being called to repentance by their Church. Withholding of Communion, “excommunication”, being the highest form of church discipline, only enacted for the spiritual health and protection of those being disciplined, so that the excluded may not “come under condemnation”. Discipline, is, after all, only an attempt to call Christ’s beloved back to Communion with Him!

The canon law of the Church happened out of necessity, and is a direct outflowing of the work of the Apostles and of the first Council, held in Jerusalem in Acts 15. The Christ invested pastoral care into the hands of his Apostles, and the Apostles ordained bishops to oversee the Church as they were martyred and the Church entered a new phase of growth. These bishops continued the practice of meeting in council to resolve doctrinal disputes, and these meetings were recognized as representing the Will of God and the conscience of the Whole Church regarding doctrine and interpretation. Conciliarity, mutual submission in love, agreement across place, language, and culture was the evidence of the Presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church and cooperation of the original teachings, and certified the correctness of the Council’s decrees and the veracity of their interpretation of the Living Tradition that had been handed down to them.

Of these Councils, the most important Early Councils were Nicea (declaring Christ’s Divinity and formulating the Creed), Constantinople 1 (insisting on the Divinity of the Holy Spirit and thus affirming the Trinity as God), Carthage (Canonizing scripture), Ephesus (declaring the Virgin Birth and the Sinlessness of Christ’s Conception, while maintaining Christ’s Divinity, thus proclaiming Mary to be “Theotokos”, the bearer of God), and Chalcedon (which declared Christ to be fully God and fully man, one person in two complete natures). These councils are central to all traditional Christian understandings of theology, even if communion with the Ancient, Apostolic Churches has been broken and the Apostolic Ordination or the laying on of hands was not continued.

The doctrinal and interpretational decisions of these Councils hold weight, not just because bishops declared them, but because they were accepted by the Church at large (with breaks in communion occurring at each Council with the representative heretical special-interest groups). These decisions are called “Canons”, “Orders”, and are accepted as the guiding directives of the Church and definitions of acceptable belief and practice. How these canons exert authority, and the reasoning behind them, however, is a challenging issue of interpretation and understanding in the Church today, and this is my understanding of the fault-lines between four different perspectives. Unfortunately, these differences now rely upon who is considered the “greatest”, forgetting that, at least in the early Councils, it was mutual submission, humility, and accountability which lent authority to the gatherings of Bishops and the Invocation of the Holy Spirit for the direction of the Church!

The Byzantine Theory of Declarative Authority –

The Byzantine’s understood that the Emperor was God-given, and thought that he convened and enforced the councils, which were of themselves Holy, due to the legacy of New Rome, the cosmopolitan synthesis of all cultures, the broad mixing of old and new, and the high degree of philosophical depth and clarity of Constantinopolitan philosophical and theological culture, and the extend status of esteem and power that its Patriarch held. The Councils were “Ecumenical” because the Empire was “Ecumenical”, the “Known World” or the “Ecumene”, the Economy that had been established by God’s Grace as a Christian Nation and defender of the Christian Church. In other words, New Rome basically conceived of itself in the same way that Rome understood the status of the Pope, but separated by the reality of Constantinople’s real wealth, influence, and importance, as opposed to Rome’s increasingly spiritual and moral claims. Constantinople, to those who lived in the empire at that time, was a picture of a successful Christian polity, a baptized Roman Legal system in which freedom, justice and equality were a possibility, a place where Heaven and Earth came together in a true and lasting way. This is the context in which the Greek Christian identity formed, and even after 400 years of Turkish oppression, is the bright ideal to which the Greek people gravitate. It also is the reason for the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s notable fondness for the United States, for it alone seems to encompass the best of the social values that are historically associated with the Byzantine Empire.

The Slavic Theory of Church-State Dependence and Episcopal Conciliarity –

The Slavic theory of authority has changed throughout time, due to the situation of the Church under different regimes, but two things have remained a constant: 1) The subservient role of the Church to brutal leadership, and 2) the great suffering and constant turmoil of the Russian people, in which the Church was the only solace and refuge. The theory of authority under Ivan the Terrible to Peter the Great, on through the Soviet era, was that the Church was a “department” of State, responsible for enforcing the political will of the Emperor. It was a servant of the State and worked to uphold national and racial agendas. Of course, there was always dissent, as the debate between “Possesors” and “Non-Possessors” and the protests of the “Old Believers” against the reforms of Nikon. Now, spearheaded by the “Neo-Patristic Synthesis” of Florensky, Florovsky, Lossky, and popularly spread by +Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeev) in both his two volume book of the Orthodox Church and by his numerous articles and interviews, a new theory has come to completely and effectively replace the old Russian view of Church service to State in theory, while facilitating its traditional role in practice. Today it is understood that all bishops are equal, patriarchs represent national Christian interests, and the councils were not holy in of of themselves, and it is their reception is that made them ecumenical. Byzantine marriage of Church and State was the ideal, and this can also be accepted as the foundation of the State (though the Church maintains its conciliar, democratic aspects). The goal is a highly flexible, non-canonically based rule of bishops under a national figurehead, which is meshed to an outwardly Christian, highly centralized State, which enforces the teachings of the Church and protects Christendom for outside corruption and the threat of Islam.

The New Constantinopolitan Theory of Episcopal Authority –

Prof. Liabella at Holy Cross Seminary and His Holiness, Patriarch +Bartholomew of Constantinople, have worked towards a different understanding. They insist that, as the center of the canonical declarations of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, ensconced as “Equal to Rome” and the administrative and liturgical locus of all Orthodox practice, the See of Constantinople has special authority as an irreducible part of the canonical structure of the Church, and as the guardian and interpreter of the first receiving culture of Christianity, the Ancient Greek Bible, Creeds, Patristic Writings, and Liturgical Practices. To them, moral authority does not need to be established by exemplary behavior, or the faithfulness of the laity (Greece being extremely secularized and the values of the Church Tradition being overwhelmingly rejected). To them, their authority is innate, resting in the self-declared holiness of the later councils. Because the Councils of the Church were authoritative in and of themselves (not because they were later received by the Whole Church), the continued place of Constantinople is assured, as a kind of “Orthodox Mecca” or a central part of a history of revelation and a player in the outworking of salvation, and the importance of its ministry as a balance to national and political interests is necessary for the purity and universality of the Church. Contrary to Russian protests, this understanding IS true to how the Byzantine’s understood the importance of Constantinople in the formation and interpretation of canon law. Constantinople WAS self-referrential and insufferably self-affirming (as constant friction with the other patriarchates and Rome proves).

In the end, the choice seems to be forced between a papal concept of Constantinople’s authority and a view that assumes that Russia is the “Third Rome” and the de facto inheritor of the “mantle” of Orthodox Empire. How the Orthodox move into a post-imperial mentality, sanctifying this culture in the same way that it interacted with and blessed that culture, is still a question. What we cannot affirm is the superiority and desirability of a post-Constantinian situation for which more questions were raised than answers provided, and I must affirm a rejection of the separatist and reactionary mentality that brands the West as the “Great Satan” and defines an identity and theology in opposition to modernity, technology, and the democratic ideal.

The rise of Russia could be a very good thing, but some of the brutality we are seeing at home, and which I have personally witnessed in Asia right now, makes me doubt that it is aspiring Christianity at work, but more of a desire to become a second Byzantium, an imperial world power, with all of the worst of the brutal repression and dishonest revisionism of ecclesiastical enemies being used to further a political/ethnic/anti-western identity. I would actually compare it more to Christianized Stalinism than anything else. I pray that Russia does not continue on its path towards Liturgically-masked Imperialism, because it will make the ethnic and religious tensions of East Asia all the more palpable, and contribute to the further misidentification of Christianity with Western Colonialism. With the circulation of Patriarch +Kyrill’s book in China, “Responsibility and Freedom”, the anti-democratic position of the Russian Church has become very clear to the Chinese. This, and the Russian desire to create Orthodox hegemony, rather than persuasively converting the world through meekness and a good example, is proving all the accusations of its enemies hard to dismiss.

My Perspective

I, personally, believe that a “Third Way” is possible, in which we acknowledge that centrality of the early Byzantine contribution, while admitting that it is, as of yet, imperfect and in need of contextualization and new growth. We can do this from within the realistic confines of the Anglican and Old Catholic Tradition. We can clearly see injustices and problems with the Byzantine model of “symphonia” (how it handled conscientious dissent and doctrinal uncertainty over Greek terms with non-Roman peoples is a great example, and how it tended towards imperial regulation of the Church through canonical adoption of Roman Law being another), even as we maintain that it was the fullest realization of a Christian desire to sanctify and commit a culture to Christ that has existed up till now, we must realize that it was only an attempt at an icon of the Kingdom, and not the Kingdom itself. I must reject the view of the “Third Rome”, not only because of the abuses that it will inevitably cause, but also because it’s history as an unproven construct – The proclamation of a murderous tyrant, Ivan the Terrible, should not be enough for Christian theologians to accept this theory as a reliably doctrine. It originated as propaganda, and has retained this position within Orthodoxy, even as its patently unchristian and evil uses played out in the 17th-19th centuries.

For me, views that promote exclusive peoplehood or self-justification must be rejected by Christians because of the same reasons we reject racism, nationalism, and fascism. It provides an excuse to see good as self and contrast the goodness of that self with the evil of the other. This is the opposite of what Christ called us to do, and controverts the life that Early Christians modeled for us in the lives of Saints. The view that the Ecumenical Patriarch is the “Prima Sine Paribus”, the “First Without Equals”, must also be rejected, for we know that “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first”. Both the Russian and the Greek views are attempts at self-justification, and anything that justifies is an excuse not to repent, and anything that distracts from repentance is a distraction from the primary work of the Church, both on the personal and ecclesiastical levels, which is repentance and a love of God and others! This leaves me doctrinally in agreement with Historic Orthodoxy, but canonically, a realistic Anglocatholic.


Cross-section of the Great Church of Constantinople, the Hagia Sophia, built by Emperor Justinian in 537AD and stood as the largest church in Christendom for over a thousand years