quod pro nobis traditum est

Thursday, September 23, 2010

St. Linus, Pope and Martyr

On the traditional calendar, today is the feast of St. Linus, Pope and Martyr (d. ca. 76). He is considered to be the first Bishop of Rome after Peter by the Apostolic Constitutions and early fathers such as Irenaeus, Jerome and John Chrysostom and the historian, Eusebius. Others contest this saying that Clement was the first to follow the Apostle. Historically speaking, this is a fascinating question. The witnesses here in support of Linus carry weight.

There is little or no difficulty with Apostolic Succession. This is understood in my tradition and confession as succession of the "apostolic doctrine," which I wholeheartedly support. Still, it is not possible to have succession in teaching without succession in office and succession of holy men called to fill the office. Therefore, the burden of proof, in my mind, lies more with those who have rejected the vast majority of Christianity on this particular teaching and practice. In my tradition it is rationalized away, like so many other things, as adiaphora or de-constructed. We ought not just hear the Gospel but also have those men who are sent to preach to us. There is clear Scriptural example.

Gregem tuum, Pastor aetérne, placátus inténde . . .

"Look forgivingly on Thy flock, Eternal Shepherd, and keep it in Thy constant protection . . ." (Collect of Si díligis me . . .)


Joseph Schmidt said...

Do you think the modern Lutheran church has a valid Apostolic succession? If not, where do you think should Lutherans go to obtain it?

Fr. Timothy D. May said...

The whole question on whether or not Lutheranism has the Apostolic Succession is quite complex. My answer will be general as I am not a scholar on this question. There are Lutheran Churches overseas that claim it. American Lutheranism, if it ever had Apostolic Succession, generally moves in the direction of de-emphasizing and de-constructing the ministry in favor of auxiliary offices. This makes the whole question of "ministry" murky.

I have no doubt that the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, with their respective differences, have Apostolic Succession for this is part and parcel how they view the Church. Lutheranism has a high view of the "apostolic doctrine," but their seems to be difficulty in connecting this doctrine with the ministry in a way that they are not pitted one against the other. Since the radical schism that took place in the 16th c. the question of ministry has become more one of branches rather than roots, as long as the roots are not also cut.

There are some bright spots in Lutheranism with a growing appreciation of the sacramental nature of ordination (ie, "holy orders") However, since, in today's milieu, Apostolic Succession is not a burning issue among many Lutherans (except maybe at the stake) it is really difficult to assess.

Obviously, these are reflections and observations of a non-dogmatic nature. Hopefully, someone else in cyberspace can help you, especially with your second question.