Friday, July 13, 2012

John Jewell on ‘Apostolic Succession’

Among those who consider themselves to be “Continuing Anglicans”, that is, those who eschew the liberalism of “The Episcopal Church” but still wishing themselves to “continue” in the long-standing traditions of the Church of England (which has independent roots back into the fourth and fifth centuries), there is still a question of “apostolic succession”:

The question that hangs out there in Anglican circles is as follows: Is the church born of the gospel, i.e. the Word of God rightly preached, and thus legitimized by sound doctrine or does the church itself through the official succession of its ministers effect legitimacy upon herself? The one option raises right doctrine as taught in Scripture as the primary and necessary mark of a true church. The other puts forth the continuation of a physical lineage of ministerial successors from the Apostles as the esse of a true church. It is one or the other. It can't be both.

Such questions have been going on for hundreds of years. John Jewell of Oxford (1522 – 1571) saw himself as a “low-church” reformer during the English Reformation, “strongly committed to the Elizabethan reforms” and an a “literary apologist of the Elizabethan Settlement”, which was:

Elizabeth I’s response to the religious divisions created over the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary I. This response, described as “The Revolution of 1559”, was set out in two Acts of the Parliament of England. The Act of Supremacy of 1559 re-established the Church of England’s independence from Rome, with Parliament conferring on giving Elizabeth the title Supreme Governor of the Church of England, while the Act of Uniformity of 1559 set out the form the English church would now take, including the re-establishment of the Book of Common Prayer.

Jewell was a disciple of Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562), himself an Italian theologian within the Reformed tradition, who later came to England and taught theology at Oxford.

Richard Hooker spoke of him as the “worthiest divine that Christendom hath bred for some hundreds of years.” In his Apology Jewell touches upon the above question. But it remained to be more directly addressed in his Reply Unto M. Hardings Answer. Finally in his Homily for Whit-Sunday, Jewell states the confessional position of the Church of England regarding the marks of a true church. Needless to say, while Jewell clearly embraced episcopal polity and proper ordination of clergy, he steered clear of any strict interpretation of apostolic authority residing in bishops or presbyters due to physical succession (via laying on of hands) from the Apostles on down. Rather, he argues and teaches that what ensures the validity of the visible church before God is the retention and communication of sound Apostolic teaching, the faith once delivered.

Here are some further quotes on this:

"To be Peter's lawful successor, it is not sufficient to leap into Peter's stall. Lawful succession standeth not only in possession of place, but also, and much rather, in doctrine and diligence. Yet the bishops of Rome, as if there were nothing else required, evermore put us in mind and tell us many gay tales of their succession." [pg. 201]

"... But Christ's love passeth not by inheritance of succession of sees." [pg. 283]

"... But Christ saith: By order of succession, the scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses chair..." [pg. 322]

"... This is M. Harding's holy succession - Though faith fall, yet succession must hold; for unto succession God hath bound the Holy Ghost." [pg. 347]

"... Now, M. Harding, if the pope and his Roman clergy, by his own friends confession, be fallen from God's grace, and departed from Christ to antichrist, what a miserable claim is it for them to hold only to bare succession! It is not sufficient to claim succession of place: it behooveth us rather to have regard to the succession of doctrine. St. Benard saith: What availeth it, if they be chosen in order, and live out of order." [pg. 349]

"... The faith of Christ, M. Harding, goeth not always by succession. The bishops of Rome have been Arians, Nestorians..." [pg.610]

"And for that cause they say, We are Peter's successors: even as the Pharisees sometime said, We be the children of Abraham. But John said unto them, Put not your affiance in such succession. For God is able even of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." [pg. 439]

The author here says “Now the above quotes aren't intended as any kind of definitive case by Jewell. But his deemphasis and outright dismissal of physical succession as that which validates the ministry is evident.”

I think it’s important to look at how even historical Anglicans who believed in “succession” viewed “succession” – and it is curiously similar to the case made today by Reformed writers.

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