I've been wondering lately whether the "apostolic succession" would be better viewed as passing through the rite of baptism — and thus to all baptized Christians — instead of through the rite of consecration as a bishop.
In giving the Great Commission after the Resurrection, Jesus directed the eleven remaining disciples only to make additional disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything he had commanded (Matt. 28.19-20).
Jesus said little or nothing about how the disciples — old or new — should govern themselves; before his death, he had said only that they must serve one another. 
Neither did Jesus direct the Eleven to anoint themselves and their self-chosen successors as rulers over all other disciples; that seems to have been a later 'innovation' in some precincts of the early church. 
Jesus' silence suggests that governance issues were, and remain, things that the disciples — that is to say, all of his baptized followers — could and should work out for themselves. In the Episcopal Church (TEC), we've done that in a particular way, as documented in our constitution and canons.
This is relevant, of course, because the Primates' Communiqué seems to assume that TEC's bishops, as the allegedly-exclusive successors to the apostles in our branch of the church, can effectively bind TEC even if the House of Deputies objects. The Primates don't seem to understand that TEC's sees and dioceses are creatures of our democratic polity of the baptized, not vice versa.
Putting it bluntly: Apostolic succession notwithstanding, traditionalist Primates and their allies need to keep firmly in mind that our bishops work for us, not the other way around.
 Roman Catholics, of course, claim that bishops are the designated successors to the apostles, who as such must govern the church, with Peter and his successors as the supreme leaders. Certainly Jesus had previously told Peter that the latter was the rock upon which the church would be built, and that he had the power to bind and loose sins (Matt. 16.18-19). But that didn't seem to settle the matter of the church's governance: Sometime after that episode, ten of the Twelve got angry because the mother of James and John had asked that her sons be seated at Jesus' right and left hands. Jesus responded to them that whoever wished to be first among them must be their servant — suggesting that the question of leadership of the disciples was still (and would remain) an open issue (Matt. 20.20-28).
 After Judas' death, the remaining eleven disciples made some governance decisions purely on their own authority, with no recorded instructions from Jesus. First, they decided, based on their reading of Psalms, that they needed to replace Judas so that their number would be back up to twelve (Acts 1.15-26). The reconstituted Twelve also appointed Stephen and others as deacons, because they regarded themselves as too important to do the grunt work of feeding the needy (Acts 6.1-6) It's not apparent that the Twelve's decisions to anoint themselves as a self-perpetuating elite — who even before Jesus' death were markedly interested in their own status and positions (see note 1 above) — should be binding on all the baptized for all time.
As you point out, there was not a specific office of bishop at the beginning of the Church. It evolved, as did the other two clerical offices we still have. In fact, we lost a whole load of offices, such as prophets.
However, as far as I can see, the first person who could have the title of bishop given to him retrospectively would have been James, the brother of Jesus, and leader of the Jerusalem Church (Church being the wrong word, but you know what I mean). James was not an apostle.
Posted by: MadPriest | February 25, 2007 at 05:54 AM
You just seem to always have yourself in a twist. I figure you're mostly joking or prodding in the posts I have read for some kind of response.
But, just for the sake of whatever, I'll bite on this one. I guess the premise of your argument, referring to scripture (which is a little ironic for your apparent beliefs) is that
"Jesus said little or nothing about how the disciples — old or new — should govern themselves;"
So, I'd like to know, from your research, what DID Jesus say about how the disciples should govern themselves? "Little or nothing" is either a rhetorical phrase on your part meaning (as you also have said) "silence", or you concede you saw something somewhere in the bible that you are willing to include as the "little" from Jesus.
Posted by: Rob Eaton | August 21, 2009 at 03:52 PM
Hi Rob — please read endnote 1 of the main posting. Did I miss anything?
BTW, to address your subsidiary point, I refer to Scripture from time to time for two main reasons:
• First, to show that 'reasserters' too often ignore those portions of the Bible that are inconvenient to their ideologies. In litigation, turning around an adversary's own evidence on him is a standard tactic in the playbook; it often works nicely in other contexts too; and
• Second, to establish my credentials and bona fides — I flatter myself that I'm not just some village-atheist crank, making a nuisance of himself criticizing things he's never studied.
Posted by: D. C. Toedt | August 21, 2009 at 04:40 PM