Episcopacy in the Church by Archbishop Celes A. Gianan

1. Since the time of the “unfolding” of the Petrine foundation of the Church and as She moves in progression from ages to ages, the term EPISCOPACY in the Church has already been very obvious in Church governance and administration. This has been in usage from one generation to another generation. For, indeed, this has been the design of God for His Church. This write-up, then, seeks to explore and expose certain biblical traces and noted semblances, which, in effect, assist us grasp fully and deeply the very meaning of episcopacy in the Church and how it must be exercised in accordance with the norms and standards of God.

2. Sacred Scriptures revealed to all humanity that the “Power of God the Father” has been manifested to and conferred upon by Him to His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as attested in Matthew 3: 17, which says, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased”, and is further attested in Matthew 12: 18, 21, that says, “Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen; My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased; I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles … and in His name the Gentiles will hope”. In the very person of Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church [Ephesians 5: 23], the status and the way of life of a Bishop is vividly demonstrated, that is, a Bishop is “beloved by God”, a “servant of God” and is “well pleased in God”. In other words, one becomes a Bishop not because of his own desires and cravings nor of his personal achievement and accomplishment but because God has chosen him, beloved him, and he is well pleased in Him according to His own mind and heart which He alone and only Him knows best and understands much.

3. Aside from the “state of life” of a Bishop established by God Himself, this very same God has also established in the Bishop a “way of life” by saying, “I will put my Spirit upon him” made known in the prayer of the Words of Consecration and by the laying of hands. This truth has been affirmed by the Lord Jesus Christ when He read from the scroll narrated in Luke 4: 18, which says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me…”. Thus, in the establishment of the Bishop’s “way of life”, God never does an act of promotion to promote him but He places upon him an “office” or a “function” that through His Spirit the Bishop faithfully proclaims His justice and righteousness to all peoples and in His Name people will hope. Episcopacy in the Church, then, is not a “title of promotion” one receives for the works well done but is a “sacred order to the Apostolic vocation” God places, not promotes, upon him who has been chosen by Him to exercise an apostolic function or office “in praise of Him”, “for the ministry of the Church”, and “in the service of humanity”.

4. Episcopacy belongs to God for “all power and authority” are from Him and that through Him and by Him this power and authority are conferred. Episcopacy is intended for His Church. It does not belong to the church but is conferred for the church as intended by God and in accordance to His purpose and plan. The Church of God does not elevate one to the episcopacy. Rather, the Church elevates God and gazes upon Him and promotes His great works through all generations. Being a Bishop does not mean being “elevated” to a higher rank. This is a “perpetuated” misconception and a “misguided” thought which many churches have been led to and have fallen astray. Being a Bishop means being “conferred” the power and authority which the Lord Jesus wishes to share with him and apportion unto him His teaching, sanctifying, and governing office “in perpetuation of the apostolic office” and “in faithful succession of the works of the apostles” mandated of them by the Lord.

5. God’s power and authority knows no geographical boundaries nor ecclesiastical territories nor can God’s power and authority be “exclusively” bounded and limited by a particular ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Basically, there is no such thing as western and eastern episcopacy in the Church. For, indeed, the Church of God can never be bounded nor limited by western and eastern thinking. The mind of Christ, who is the Head of His Church, prevails. The Great Schism between the East and West that took place was caused by differences in one’s “theological” thinking and in one’s “doctrinal” leanings. Sad to say, the very character and purpose of episcopacy in the Church of God have been distorted by this division. Division in the Church does not reflect the very meaning of the unicity and catholicity of the Church. That is why our Lord Jesus Christ, who is constantly and consistently at work in His Church, prayed to His Father, saying, “Father, I pray that all may be one” [John 17: 21].

6. Filled with the Spirit of God, Jesus Christ, the Beloved Son of the Father, in John 8: 28-29, conclusively said, thus, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him”. Episcopacy in the Church is not and will never be and become a “license” to do whatever one wishes or desires given ones doctrinal or theological background. Rather, episcopacy in the Church is and will always be a “sharing” in the “eminent” character of the power and glory of God and “listening” to the Father’s thoughts and “acting” in accordance to His ways: this “eminent” character of the Power and Glory of God resides and operates in the Bishop having been consecrated in God’s sacred ordination and is intended to empower him to teach, sanctify, and govern the Church as an overseer so he would “shepherd the Church of God” (Acts 20: 28). As the Bishop exercises God’s authority and power in His Church, he, in effect, leads his flock and makes them “stand out” over and above human circumstances and keeps them move “from glory to glory” [II Corinthians 3: 18] – the image God wants His Church to be and become. In turn, the Bishop maximizes God’s authority entrusted to him as he shares in this eminent character of the power and glory of God. The Bishop magnifies his apostolic ministry “in apostolic succession” to the works of the Church and in “apostolic progression” towards something higher and greater in the order of values. The Apostle Paul, once said, in Romans 11: 13, “… Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry”.

7. It is our fervent hope and prayer that each and every Bishop of the Church of God will be enlightened by the thoughts being unfolded in this brief exploration and exposition and be driven by the Spirit God has placed in his soul during the praying of the Words of Consecration and the laying of hands which vividly portrays the passing on of the apostolic office in succession and the zeal to exercise it in progression.