Why I Got Ordained as a Bishop – by Tom Brown

Newspaper reporter, David Crowder, said to me in an interview, “I never expected this from you.” People are surprised to find me being ordained as a bishop, especially under apostolic succession and in the Anglican tradition. This goes to show that you cannot judge a book by its cover. Many have typecast me as a wild, independent minded preacher who devalues the historic Christian faith. They erroneously picture me as one who has shaken off all the historic creeds of the church and decided to reshape Christianity into my image. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I am an evangelical, charismatic pastor who at the same time respects the history of Christianity, and recognizes that there have been true believers throughout the last two thousand years. I do not think for a moment, as some Protestants do, that the true church existed in the first century but was lost until Martin Luther came with the reformation. The fact is, true Christians have existed without fail throughout all the history of the church. If we do not recognize this, then we are more apt to fall into false doctrine.

Apostle or Bishop?

This journey into my ordination as bishop began long ago before I was ordained as a pastor. When I was in high school, the Lord spoke to me and said, “As the Apostle Paul was to his generation, so shall you be to yours.” I knew at that moment that one day God would make me a true apostle, patterned much after the apostle Paul. Not an apostle in the same category as Paul, but one in his shadows.1 This word has already come true in many respects. First of all, I got saved reading the writings of Paul, especially the book of Romans. Second, Paul was the instrument that brought religious freedom when he appealed to Rome.2 In my own small way I am helping bring religious freedom to our country. Third, he was a great teacher and one God gifted with miracles. Like him, my focus is on teaching and often God uses me to bring miracles to people.

The idea of being ordained as bishop under apostolic succession was planted several years ago when I was reading the writings of Bishop Clement. He personally knew some of the apostles. After they had all died, there was concern about maintaining the true teachings of Christ and the apostles. Since few Christians had access to the scriptures to verify whether someone’s teaching lined up with the apostles, Clement told the Christians not to accept anyone’s teaching unless they had been ordained by an apostle or someone under the apostolic line. This made perfect sense considering that Christians could not simply open up their Bibles to verify whether someone’s teaching was true or not. The best safe-guard at the time was to make sure the minister was ordained under apostolic succession.

Today, of course, it is quite easy to know what Jesus and the apostles taught since we have the scriptures widely available. Nevertheless I thought it would be nice to have an opportunity to be ordained under apostolic succession. The Lord knew my heart’s desire was to serve Christ and only do His will. That unspoken desire to be ordained under apostolic succession was, I believe, a God-given desire to bring me into my role as an apostle.

When I stood before my congregation and friends on the day I was ordained as bishop, wearing my mitre and cope, I came to realize I had entered my office as an apostle. Someone might say, “Why not just call yourself an apostle instead of a bishop?” The second and third century Christians considered that too. Imagine living in the second century; the last apostle had died. You felt empty. You needed leaders to fill the void of the apostles. Yet, God was not the God of only the first century Christians, but He is the God of all Christians for all time. God made provision for the church. Paul wrote, “And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers” (1 Cor 12:28). God did not set apostles for just the first century church, but the universal church—one that exists in all time in all places. Paul repeats the fact that God gave His people gifts called ministers:

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:11-13).

Notice these gifts are given until the end of time; this includes the gift of apostles. The second century church needed apostles, so God gave them apostles. However, in respect and deference to the original apostles, the second and third century apostles called themselves bishops. It was a code name for apostles.

Today, I hear so many ministers calling themselves apostles, that it sickens me. I see a man with a small congregation of less than thirty meeting at the Holiday Inn calling himself an apostle. He is no more an apostle than I am an astronaut. I learned something from Gordon Lindsey; he said even John the Baptist did not call himself Elijah–though he was—but preferred the title of “A voice crying in the wilderness.” 3 There is much to be said about humility. Better to fulfill the office of an apostle than simply assuming the title.

A man who calls himself a pastor without any followers is simply a man taking a walk alone. It is not the title that matters, but the power behind the title. This is why I prefer the title of Bishop rather than Apostle. I could never fill the large shoes of the apostles. If God would be so kind just to allow me to walk in their big footprints, I would be very grateful.

Why Apostolic Succession?

Someone might say, “I understand what you are saying, but why not have someone other than an Anglican ordain you?” The answer is quite simple: If I was to be ordained for an apostolic work, I wanted ordination under apostolic succession. And other churches and fellowships generally do not have an unbroken line of apostolic succession. They may very well have apostolic teaching—which is far more important that an apostolic line—but I wanted an apostolic line to ordain me. I already had apostolic teaching, but I lacked an apostolic ordination. You may not totally understand why this was important to me, but it was. Many times we do not understand why this person or that person desires something, but we must respect their inner desires. All I can say to you is that it was my desire to have it.

Why the Mitre and Cope?

Another question people ask is, “Why did you have to wear a Mitre and Cope at your ordination?” I wore them in respect to the Anglican tradition. I can’t ask for an apostolic ordination yet do it my way. This is not Burger King—have it your way. I have to do it the way Christians have been ordaining for over a thousand years. I was not going to change the ordination service simply because it was different from my culture.

“But you look like the pope in wearing them.” Look, I understand how it looks to the American mind-set. We are not used to an Anglican ordination. We assume Anglican is the same as Roman Catholic. They are not; however, the style of the ordination, the garments, the apostolic line, and other areas seem similar. But you don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. There is no need to get rid of all tradition; only that which contradicts the Word of God.

At weddings you have tuxedoes, wedding veils, rings, vows, candles, cake and punch. Yet none of these things are mentioned in the Bible, but we have them without thinking twice. Well, the same is with the vestments. They are symbolic of spiritual truths.

I can never please everyone all the time. If I wear a three-piece business suit to church, the world says I am a business man interested only in money. If I wear clerical clothes then Christians say I am pompous and too religious. I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t. The truth is, the clothes do not make a man. The man makes the clothes. In my heart I am always a bishop, whether I wear shorts and a t-shirt or whether I wear a clerical shirt. We should learn not to judge by the external. Quit judging a person by what he wears or doesn’t wear.

Let me give one defense of clerical shirts. Lately, I have been wearing them in public at certain times, and I can testify that wearing them opens doors for ministry. In different occasions, people have come up to me asking for prayer because they recognize that I am a minister.

The first time I wore a clerical shirt was through three different airports. In all three airports I was treated with deep respect. The clerical shirt opened up a conversation with a son of a pastor. He would not have asked questions if I had worn ordinary clothes. By the time I arrived at the El Paso International Airport a soldier came up to me and asked, “Father4, I am going to Afghanistan in combat, could you bless me?” I smiled and was happy to pray for him. He would not have known to come to me if I wore ordinary clothes. The clerical shirt is widely known as the uniform for ministers. Wearing them opens doors for ministry, plus it makes you aware that you must conduct yourself with integrity in public.

To all my pastor friends, before you condemn clerical shirts, try wearing one first. Put one on before you go to the hospital. Wear one at the mall. Just like me, you may discover that God uses your ministerial uniform to minister to hurting people. At the very least, you will be aware that people are watching you and seeing if you behave in the way that ministers should behave.

Planting Churches

Ultimately the work of a bishop is to plant and oversee churches. This is what I will be working on for the rest of my life. I desire to pour into other men and women the knowledge, the anointing and the know-how to build great churches. I have succeeded in doing this in El Paso, and I am sure I can help others do the same in their vicinity.

I think there are many ministers who feel they need a connection with the whole church. The best way to do this may be to be ordained under apostolic succession. Now as a bishop I can ordain deacons and pastors under the legitimate apostolic line. And with the approval of the patriarch and metropolitan bishop I can even assist in the ordination of other bishops. There is a peace that has come to me as I contemplate my ordination and my place in the body of Christ. I feel ready to do the work of the ministry with a renewed strength. If you feel like you would like to partner up with our church, then click here to know more about affiliation.

Regardless of whether or not you affiliate with us, know that I consider you a brother and sister in Christ no matter your church affiliation, so long as you hold to the teaching of the Bible. I do not think for a moment that my ordination under apostolic succession is somehow superior to one that is not. God knows the hearts of all. I believe as you teach the Word of God with power, that God has truly anointed you regardless of who or what body ordained you.

As for me, I will continue to teach and preach the word of faith in power and in the demonstration of the Spirit’s power. Don’t let my vestments and ordination fool you into thinking that I will be a mild-manner preacher. No. I will be even bolder as I proclaim the kingdom of God with miracles.

1 Modern day apostles are not in the same category as the original twelve. According to Acts 1:21-22 there are two qualification of being one of the original twelve apostles: first, one had to walk physically with Christ on earth and second one had to be eye witness of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. “Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” Today’s apostles could never meet these two qualifications.

2 Acts 22:11

3 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” (John 1:21). According to Jesus, John the Baptist was the Elijah to come, “Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist. (Matt 17:12-13). As you can see John refused the title of Elijah, though he was operating in the office of the spirit of Elijah.

4 I understand that Jesus said to call no one “Father,” but I felt it wise to simply pray for the soldier rather than lecture him about calling me Father.