A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the Anglican churches, bishops claim Apostolic succession, a direct historical lineage dating back to the original Twelve Apostles. Within these churches, bishops can ordain clergy including other bishops. Some Protestant churches including the Lutheran and Methodist churches have bishops serving similar functions as well, though not always understood to be within Apostolic succession in the same sense.
The office of bishop was already quite distinct from that of priest in the writings of Ignatius of Antioch (died c. 107), and by the middle of the second century all the chief centres of Christianity were headed by bishops, a form of organization that remained universal until the Protestant Reformation.
The earliest organization of the Christian churches in Jerusalem was similar to that of Jewish synagogues, which were governed by a council of elders (presbyteroi). In Acts 11:30 and 15:22, we see this collegiate system of government in Jerusalem, and, in Acts 14:23, the Apostle Paul ordains elders in the churches he founded.
Presbyters were apparently identical to overseers (episkopoi, i.e., bishops), as in Acts 20:17, Titus 1:5,7 and 1 Peter 5:1. The earliest writings of the Apostolic Fathers, the Didache and the First Epistle of Clement for example, show the church recognized two local church offices—elders (interchangeable term with overseer) and deacon.
The beginnings of a single ruling bishop can perhaps be traced to the offices occupied by Timothy and Titus in the New Testament. We are told that Paul had left Timothy in Ephesus and Titus in Crete to oversee the local church (1 Tim. 1:3 and Titus 1:5). Paul commands them to ordain presybters/bishops and to exercise general oversight, telling Titus to "rebuke with all authority" (Titus 2:15).
Various Christian communities would have had a group of presbyter-bishops functioning as leaders of the local church. Eventually this evolved into a monarchical episcopacy in certain cities. The monarchical episcopacy probably developed in other churches in Christianity before it took shape in Rome. For example, it has been conjectured that Antioch may have been one of the first Christian communities to have adopted such a structure. The emergence of a single bishop in Rome probably did not arise until the middle of the second century. Linus, Cletus and Clement were probably prominent presbyter-bishops but not necessarily monarchical bishops. Eventually, Rome followed the example of other Christian communities and structured itself after the model of the empire with one presbyter bishop in charge ..." The organizational structure subsequently evolved into the present form of one bishop supported by a college of presbyters.
It is certain that the office of bishop and presbyter were clearly distinguished by the [[Christianity in the 2nd century}second century]], as the church was facing the dual pressures of persecution and internal schism, resulting in three distinct local offices: bishop, elder (presbyter) and deacon. This is best seen in the 2nd century writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch.
The bishop was understood mainly as the president of the council of presbyters, and so the bishop came to be distinguished both in honor and in prerogative from the presbyters, who were seen as deriving their authority by means of delegation from the bishop. Each Episcopal see had its own bishop and his presence was necessary to consecrate any gathering of the church.
Eventually, as Christendom grew, individual congregations no longer were served directly by a bishop. The bishop in a large city (the Metropolitan bishop) would appoint a presbyter to pastor the flock in each congregation, acting as his delegate.
Around the end of the first century, the church's organization becomes clearer in historical documents. In the works of the Apostolic Fathers, and Ignatius of Antioch in particular, the role of the episkopos, or bishop, became more important or, rather, already was very important and being clearly defined.
"Plainly therefore we ought to regard the bishop as the Lord Himself" — Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians 6:1.
"your godly bishop" — Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians 2:1.
"the bishop presiding after the likeness of God and the presbyters after the likeness of the council of the Apostles, with the deacons also who are most dear to me, having been entrusted with the diaconate of Jesus Christ" — Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians 6:1.
"Therefore as the Lord did nothing without the Father, [being united with Him], either by Himself or by the Apostles, so neither do ye anything without the bishop and the presbyters." — Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians 7:1.
"Be obedient to the bishop and to one another, as Jesus Christ was to the Father [according to the flesh], and as the Apostles were to Christ and to the Father, that there may be union both of flesh and of spirit." — Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians 13:2.
"In like manner let all men respect the deacons as Jesus Christ, even as they should respect the bishop as being a type of the Father and the presbyters as the council of God and as the college of Apostles. Apart from these there is not even the name of a church." — Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallesians 3:1.
"follow your bishop, as Jesus Christ followed the Father, and the presbytery as the Apostles; and to the deacons pay respect, as to God's commandment" — Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnans 8:1.
"He that honoureth the bishop is honoured of God; he that doeth aught without the knowledge of the bishop rendereth service to the devil" — Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnans 9:1.
— Lightfoot translation.
It is clear that, by this period, a single bishop was expected to lead the church in each centre of Christian mission, supported by a council of presbyters (a distinct and subordinate position at least by this time) with a pool of deacons. As the Church continued to expand, new churches in important cities gained their own bishop. Churches in the regions outside an important city were served by Chorbishop, an official rank of bishops. However, soon, presbyters and deacons were sent from bishop of a city church. Graudually priests replaced the chorbishops. Thus, in time, the bishop changed from being the leader of a single church confined to an urban area to being the leader of the churches of a given geographical area.
Clement of Alexandria (end of the 2nd century) writes about the ordination of a certain Zachæus as bishop by the imposition of Simon Peter Bar-Jonah's hands. The words bishop and ordination are used in their technical meaning by the same Clement of Alexandria. The bishops in the 2nd century are defined also as the only clergy to whom the ordination to priesthood (presbyterate) and diaconate is entrusted: "a priest (presbyter) lays on hands, but does not ordain." (cheirothetei ou cheirotonei)
At the beginning of the 3rd century, Hippolytus of Rome describes another feature of the ministry of a bishop, which is that of the "Spiritum primatus sacerdotii habere potestatem dimittere peccata": the primate of sacrificial priesthood and the power to forgive sins.
The efficient organization of the Roman Empire became the template for the organisation of the church in the fourth century, particularly after Constantine's Edict of Milan. As the church moved from the shadows of privacy into the public forum it acquired land for churches, burials and clergy. In 391, Theodosius I decreed that any land that had been confiscated from the church by Roman authorities be returned.
The most usual term for the geographic area of a bishop's authority and ministry, the diocese, began as part of the structure of the Roman Empire under Diocletian. As Roman authority began to fail in the western portion of the empire, the church took over much of the civil administration. This can be clearly seen in the ministry of two popes: Pope Leo I in the fifth century, and Pope Gregory I in the sixth century. Both of these men were statesmen and public administrators in addition to their role as Christian pastors, teachers and leaders. In the Eastern churches, latifundia entailed to a bishop's see were much less common, the state power did not collapse the way it did in the West, and thus the tendency of bishops acquiring secular power was much weaker than in the West. However, the role of Western bishops as civil authorities, often called prince bishops, continued throughout much of the Middle Ages.
As well as being arch chancellors of the Holy Roman Empire, bishops generally served as chancellors to medieval monarchs, acting as head of the justiciary and chief chaplain. The Lord Chancellor of England was almost always a bishop up until the dismissal of Thomas Cardinal Wolsey by Henry VIII. Likewise, the position of Kanclerz in the Polish kingdom was always a bishop until the sixteenth century.
In France before the French Revolution, representatives of the clergy — in practice, bishops and abbots of the largest monasteries — comprised the First Estate of the Estates-General, until their role was abolished during the French Revolution.
The more senior bishops of the Church of England continue to sit in the House of Lords of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, as representatives of the established church, and are known as Lords Spiritual. The Bishop of Sodor and Man, whose diocese lies outside of the United Kingdom, is an ex officio member of the Legislative Council of the Isle of Man. In the past, the Bishop of Durham, known as a prince bishop, had extensive viceregal powers within his northern diocese — the power to mint money, collect taxes and raise an army to defend against the Scots.
Eastern Orthodox bishops, along with all other members of the clergy, are canonically forbidden to hold political office. Occasional exceptions to this rule are tolerated when the alternative is political chaos. In the Ottoman Empire, the Patriarch of Constantinople, for example, had de facto administrative, fiscal, cultural and legal jurisdiction, as well as spiritual, over all the Christians of the empire. A recent prominent example of this was Archbishop Makarios III of Cyprus, who served as President of the Republic of Cyprus from 1960 to 1977.
In 2001, Peter Hollingworth, AC, OBE – then the Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane – was controversially appointed Governor-General of Australia. Though Hollingworth gave up his episcopal position to accept the appointment, it still attracted considerable opposition in a country which maintains a formal separation between Church and State.
During the period of the English Civil War, the role of bishops as wielders of political power and as upholders of the established church became a matter of heated political controversy. John Calvin formulated a doctrine of Presbyterianism, which held that in the New Testament the offices of presbyter and episkopos were identical; he rejected the doctrine of apostolic succession. Calvin's follower John Knox brought Presbyterianism to Scotland when the Scottish church was reformed in 1560. In practice, Presbyterianism meant that committees of lay elders had a substantial voice in church government, as opposed to merely being subjects to a ruling hierarchy.
This vision of at least partial democracy in ecclesiology paralleled the struggles between Parliament and the King. A body within the Puritan movement in the Church of England sought to abolish the office of bishop and remake the Church of England along Presbyterian lines. The Martin Marprelate tracts, applying the pejorative name of prelacy to the church hierarchy, attacked the office of bishop with satire that deeply offended Elizabeth I and her Archbishop of Canterbury John Whitgift. The vestments controversy also related to this movement, seeking further reductions in church ceremony, and labelling the use of elaborate vestments as "unedifying" and even idolatrous.
King James I, reacting against the perceived contumacy of his Presbyterian Scottish subjects, adopted "No Bishop, no King" as a slogan; he tied the hierarchical authority of the bishop to the absolute authority he sought as king, and viewed attacks on the authority of the bishops as attacks on his own authority. Matters came to a head when King Charles I appointed William Laud as the Archbishop of Canterbury; Laud aggressively attacked the Presbyterian movement and sought to impose the full Anglican liturgy. The controversy eventually led to Laud's impeachment for treason by a bill of attainder in 1645, and subsequent execution. Charles also attempted to impose episcopacy on Scotland; the Scots' violent rejection of bishops and liturgical worship sparked the Bishops' Wars in 1639–1640.
During the height of Puritan power in the Commonwealth and the Protectorate, episcopacy was abolished in the Church of England in 1649. The Church of England remained Presbyterian until the Restoration of the monarchy with Charles II in 1660.
Bishops form the leadership in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Communion, the Lutheran Church, the Independent Catholic Churches, the Independent Anglican Churches, and certain other, smaller, denominations.
The traditional role of a bishop is as pastor of a diocese (also called a bishopric, synod, eparchy or see), and so to serve as a "diocesan bishop," or "eparch" as it is called in many Eastern Christian churches . Dioceses vary considerably in geographical and population. Some dioceses around the Mediterranean Sea which were Christianised early are rather compact, whereas dioceses in areas of rapid modern growth in Christian commitment—as in some parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, South America and the Far East—are much larger and more populous.
As well as traditional diocesan bishops, many churches have a well-developed structure of church leadership that involves a number of layers of authority and responsibility.
In the Eastern liturgical tradition, a priest can celebrate the Divine Liturgy only with the blessing of a bishop. In Byzantine usage, an antimension signed by the bishop is kept on the altar partly as a reminder of whose altar it is and under whose omophorion the priest at a local parish is serving. In Syriac Church usage, a consecrated wooden block called a thabilitho is kept for the same reasons.
The pope, in addition to being the Bishop of Rome and spiritual head of the Catholic Church, is also the Patriarch of the Latin Rite. Each bishop within the Latin Rite is answerable directly to the Pope and not any other bishop except to metropolitans in certain oversight instances. The pope previously used the title Patriarch of the West, but this title was dropped from use in 2006 a move which caused some concern within the Orthodox Communion as, to them, it implied wider papal jurisdiction.
In Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Anglican cathedrals there is a special chair set aside for the exclusive use of the bishop. This is the bishop's cathedra and is often called the throne. In some Christian denominations e.g. the Anglican Communion, parish churches may maintain a chair for the use of the bishop when he visits; this is to signify the parish's union with the bishop.
The bishop is also the proper minister of the sacrament of confirmation, and in the Anglican Communion and Liberal Catholic communion only a bishop may administer this sacrament. However, in Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches chrismation is always done at the same time as baptism, and thus the priest is the one who confirms. Within Catholicism, it is invariably the bishop who confirms those being received as adults into the Church. Also, a Catholic bishop may delegate a priest to administer the sacrament in his place; these men are called episcopal vicars and are usually responsible for a particular area of the diocese.
Bishops in all of these communions are ordained by other bishops through the laying on of hands. While traditional teaching maintains that any bishop with Apostolic succession can validly perform the ordination of another bishop, some churches require two or three bishops participate, either to insure sacramental validity or to conform with church law. Roman Catholic doctrine holds that one bishop can validly ordain another male (priest) as a bishop. Though a minimum of three bishops participating is desirable (there are usually several more) in order to demonstrate collegiality, canonically only one bishop is necessary. The practice of only one bishop ordaining was normal in countries where the Church was persecuted under Communist rule.
Apart from the ordination, which is always done by other bishops, there are different methods as to the actual selection of a candidate for ordination as bishop. In the Catholic Church the Congregation for Bishops oversees the selection of new bishops with the approval of the pope. The papal nuncio usually solicits names from the bishops of a country, and then selects three to be forwarded to the Holy See. Most Eastern Orthodox churches allow varying amounts of formalised laity and/or lower clergy influence on the choice of bishops. This also applies in those Eastern churches which are in union with the pope, though he is required to give assent.
Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Liberal Catholic and some Lutheran bishops (e.g. Sweden) claim to be part of the continuous sequence of ordained bishops since the days of the apostles referred to as Apostolic succession. Since Pope Leo XIII issued the bull Apostolicae Curae in 1896, the Catholic Church has insisted that Anglican orders are invalid because of changes in the Anglican ordination rites of the 16th century and divergence in understanding of the theology of priesthood, episcopacy and Eucharist. However, since the 1930s, Utrecht Old Catholic bishops (recognised by the Holy See as validily ordained) have sometimes taken part in the ordination of Anglican bishops. According to the writer Timothy Dufort, by 1969, all Church of England bishops had acquired Old Catholic lines of apostolic succession recognised by the Holy See. This development has muddied the waters somewhat as it could be argued that the strain of Apostolic Succession has been re-introduced into Anglicanism, at least within the Church of England.
The Catholic Church does recognise as valid (though illicit) ordinations done by breakaway Catholic, Old Catholic or Oriental bishops, and groups descended from them; it also regards as both valid and licit those ordinations done by bishops of the Eastern churches, so long as those receiving the ordination conform to other canonical requirements (e.g. is an adult male) and an orthodox rite of episcopal ordination, expressing the proper functions and sacramental status of a bishop, is used; this has given rise to the phenomenon of episcopi vagantes (e.g. clergy of the Independent Catholic groups which claim Apostolic Succession, though this claim is rejected by both Orthodoxy and Catholicism).
The Orthodox Churches would not accept the validity of any ordinations performed by the Independent Catholic groups, as Orthodoxy considers to be spurious any consecration outside of the Church as a whole. Orthodoxy considers Apostolic succession to exist only within the Universal Church, and not through any authority held by individual bishops; thus, if a bishop ordains someone to serve outside of the (Orthodox) Church, the ceremony is ineffectual, and no ordination has taken place regardless of the ritual used or the ordaining prelate's position within the Orthodox Churches.
The position of Roman Catholicism is slightly different. Whilst it does recognise the validity of the orders of certain groups which separated from communion with Holy See. The Holy See accepts as valid the ordinations of the Old Catholics in communion with Utrecht, as well as the Polish National Catholic Church (which received its orders directly from Utrecht, and was—until recently—part of that communion); but Roman Catholicism does not recognise the orders of any group whose teaching is at variance with core tenets of Christianity e.g. The Liberal Catholic Church which has a strong theosophist tendency and permits belief in reincarnation; this is the case even though the clergy of the Independent Catholic groups may use the proper ordination ritual. There are other reasons why the Holy See does not recognise the validity of the orders of the Independent clergy: (a) the continuing practice among many Independent clergy of one person receiving multiple ordinations in order to secure apostolic succession, betrays an incorrect and mechanistic theology of ordination as far as the Holy See is concerned (b) the practice within Independent groups of ordaining women demonstrates an understanding of Priesthood which is totally unacceptable to the Catholic and Orthodox churches as they believe that the Universal Church does not possess such authority; thus, any ceremonies performed by these women are considered to be sacramentally invalid. (c) the theology of male clergy within the Independent movement is also suspect according to the Roman Catholics as they presumably approve of the ordination of females, and may have even undergone an (invalid) ordination ceremony conducted by a woman.
Whilst members of the Independent Catholic movement take seriously the issue of valid orders, it is highly significant that the relevant Vatican Congregations tend not to respond to petitions from Independent Catholic bishops and clergy who seek to be received into communion with the Holy See, hoping to continue in some sacramental role. In those instances where the pope does grant reconciliation, those deemed to be clerics within the Independent Old Catholic movement are invariably admitted as laity and not priests or bishops.
Some provinces of the Anglican Communion have begun ordaining women as bishops in recent decades e.g. the United States, New Zealand, Canada and Cuba. The first woman bishop within Anglicanism was Barbara Clementine Harris, who was ordained in the United States in 1989. In 2006, Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Episcopal Bishop of Nevada, became the first woman to become the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.
In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), the largest Lutheran Church bodies in North America and roughly based on the Nordic Lutheran state churches (similar to that of the Church of England), bishops are elected by Synod Assemblies, consisting of both lay members and clergy, for a term of 6 years, which can be renewed, depending upon the local synod's "constitution" (which is mirrored on either the ELCA or ELCIC's national constitution). Since the implementation of concordats between the ELCA and the Episcopal Church of the United States and the ELCIC and the Anglican Church of Canada, all bishops, including the Presiding Bishop (ELCA) or the National Bishop (ELCIC), has been consecrated using the historic succession, with at least one Anglican bishop serving as co-consecrator.
Since going into ecumenical communion with their respective Anglican body, bishops in the ELCA or the ELCIC not only approve the "rostering" of all ordained pastors, diaconal ministers, and associates in ministry, but they serve as the principle celebrant of all pastoral ordination and installation ceremonies, diaconal consecration ceremonies, as well as serving as the "chief pastor" of the local synod, upholding the teachings of Martin Luther as well as the documentations of the Ninety-Five Thesis and the Augsburg Confession. Unlike their counterparts in the United Methodist Church, ELCA and ELCIC synod bishops do not appoint pastors to local congregations (pastors, like their counterparts in the Episcopal Church, are called by local congregations), and are not "bishops for life," they revert to the title "Pastor" after completing their episcopal service. The Presiding Bishop of the ELCA and the National Bishop of the ELCIC, the national bishops of their respective bodies, is elected for a single 6-year term and may be elected to an additional term.
It should be noted that although ELCA agreed with the Episcopal Church to limit ordination to the bishop "ordinarily", ELCA pastor-ordinators are given permission to perform the rites in "extraordinary" circumstance. In practice, "extraordinary" circumstance have included disagreeing with Episcopalian views of the episcopate, and as a result, ELCA pastors ordained by other pastors are not permitted to be deployed to Episcopal Churches (they can, however, serve in Presbyterian Church USA, Reformed Church in America, and Moravian Church congregations, as the ELCA is in full communion with these denominations). The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), the second and third largest Lutheran bodies in the United States and the two largest Confessional Lutheran bodies in North America, do not have a bishop as the head of the church or middle jurisdiction, practicing a form of congregationalism similar to the United Church of Christ. It should also be noted that the second largest of the three predecessor bodies of the ELCA, the American Lutheran Church, was a congregationalist body, with national and synod presidents before they were re-titled as bishops (borrowing from the Lutheran churches in Germany) in the 1980s.
In the United Methodist Church (the largest branch of Methodism) bishops serve as administrative and pastoral superintendents of the church. They are elected for life from among the ordained elders (presbyters) by vote of the delegates in regional (called jurisdictional) conferences, and are consecrated by the other bishops present at the conference through the laying on of hands. In the United Methodist Church bishops remain members of the "Order of Elders" while being consecrated to the "Office of the Episcopacy." Within the United Methodist Church only bishops are empowered to consecrate bishops and ordain clergy. Among their most critical duties is the ordination and appointment of clergy to serve local churches as pastor, presiding at sessions of the Annual, Jurisdictional, and General Conferences, providing pastoral ministry for the clergy under their charge, and safeguarding the doctrine and discipline of the Church. Furthermore, individual bishops, or the Council of Bishops as a whole, often serve a prophetic role, making statements on important social issues and setting forth a vision for the denomination, though they have no legislative authority of their own. In all of these areas, bishops of the United Methodist Church function very much in the historic meaning of the term. According to the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, a bishop's responsibilities are
Leadership.—Spiritual and Temporal.—
- To lead and oversee the spiritual and temporal affairs of The United Methodist Church, which confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and particularly to lead the Church in its mission of witness and service in the world.
- To travel through the connection at large as the Council of Bishops (¶ 526) to implement stategy for the concern of the Church.
- To provide liaison and leadership in the quest for Christian unity in ministry, mission, and structure and in the search for strengthened relationships with other living faith communities.
- To organize such Missions as shall have been authorized by the General Conference.
- To promote and support the evangelistic vision of the whole Church.
- To discharge such other duties as the Discipline may direct.
Presidential Duties.—1. To preside in the General, Jurisdictional, Central, and Annual Conferences. 2. To form the districts after consultation with the district superintendents and after the number of the same has been determined by vote of the Annual Conference. 3. To appoint the district superintendents annually (¶¶ 517–518). 4. To consecrate bishops, to ordain elders and deacons, to consecrate diaconal ministers, to commission deaconesses and home missionaries, and to see that the names of the persons commissioned and consecrated are entered on the journals of the conference and that proper credentials are funised to these persons.
Working with Ministers.—1. To make and fix the appointments in the Annual Conferences, Provisional Annual Conferences, and Missions as the Discipline may direct (¶¶ 529–533). 2. To divide or to unite a circuit(s), stations(s), or mission(s) as judged necessary for missionary strategy and then to make appropriate appointments. 3. To read the appointments of deaconesses, diaconal ministers, lay persons in service under the World Division of the General Board of Global Ministries, and home missionaries. 4. To fix the Charge Conference membership of all ordained ministers appointed to ministries other than the local church in keeping with ¶443.3. 5. To transfer, upon the request of the receiving bishop, minsterial member(s) of one Annual Conference to another, provided said member(s) agrees to transfer; and to send immediately to the secretaries of both conferences involved , to the conference Boards of Ordained Ministry, and to the clearing house of the General Board of Pensions written notices of the transfer of members and of their standing in the course of study if they are undergraduates.
In each Annual Conference, United Methodist bishops serve for four year terms, and may serve up to three terms before either retirement or appointment to a new Conference. United Methodist bishops may be male or female, with the Rev. Marjorie Matthews being the first woman to be consecrated a bishop in 1980.
The collegial expression of episcopal leadership in the United Methodist Church is known as the Council of Bishops. The Council of Bishops speaks to the Church and through the Church into the world and gives leadership in the quest for Christian unity and interreligious relationships. The Conference of Methodist Bishops includes the United Methodist Council of Bishops plus bishops from affiliated autonomous Methodist or United Churches.
John Wesley consecrated Thomas Coke a "General Superintendent," and directed that Francis Asbury also be consecrated for the United States of America in 1784, where the Methodist Episcopal Church first became a separate denomination apart from the Church of England. Coke soon returned to England, but Asbury was the primary builder of the new church. At first he did not call himself bishop, but eventually submitted to the usage by the denomination.
Notable bishops in United Methodist history include Coke, Asbury, Richard Whatcoat, Philip William Otterbein, Martin Boehm, Jacob Albright, John Seybert, Matthew Simpson, John S. Stamm, William Ragsdale Cannon, Marjorie Matthews, Leontine T. Kelly , William B. Oden, Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda, Joseph Sprague, William Henry Willimon, and Thomas Bickerton.
Methodists in the United Kingdom acquired their own bishops early in the nineteenth century, after the Methodist movement in Britain formally parted company with the Church of England. The position no longer exists in British Methodism.
In the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, bishops are administrative superintendents of the church; they are elected by "delegate" votes for as many years deemed until the age of 74, then he/she must retire. Among their duties, are responsibility for appointing clergy to serve local churches as pastor, for performing ordinations, and for safeguarding the doctrine and discipline of the Church. The General Conference, a meeting every four years, has an equal number of clergy and lay delegates. In each Annual Conference, CME bishops serve for four year terms. CME Church bishops may be male or female.
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Bishop is the leader of a local congregation, called a ward. As with most Mormon priesthood, the Bishop is a part-time lay minister and earns a living through other employment; in all cases, he is a married man. As such, it is his duty to preside at services, call local leaders, and judge the worthiness of members for service. The bishop does not deliver sermons at every service (generally asking members to do so), but is expected to be a spiritual guide for his congregation. It is therefore believed that he has both the right and ability to receive divine inspiration (through the Holy Spirit) for the ward under his direction. Because it is a part-time position, all able members are expected to assist in the management of the ward by holding delegated lay positions (e.g. women's' and youth leaders, teachers) referred to as callings. Although members are asked to confess serious sins to him, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, he is not the instrument of divine forgiveness, merely a guide through the repentance process (and a judge in case transgressions warrant excommunication or other official discipline). The bishop is also responsible for the physical welfare of the ward, and thus collects tithing and fast offerings and distributes financial assistance where needed.
A bishop is the president of the Aaronic priesthood in his ward (and is thus a form of Mormon Kohen; in fact, the church's Doctrine and Covenants states that any "descendant of Aaron" who converts to Mormonism has no need to be ordained to the office of bishop as they descend from that lineage directly). A bishop is also a High priest in the Melchizedek priesthood. Each bishop is selected from resident members of the ward by the stake presidency with approval of the First Presidency, and chooses two counselors to form a bishopric. In special circumstances (such as a ward consisting entirely of young university students), a bishop may be chosen from outside the ward. A bishop is typically released after about five years and a new bishop is called to the position. Although the former bishop is released from his duties, he continues to hold the priesthood office of bishop, and is usually still referred to by the title "Bishop" as a term of respect.
Latter Day Saint bishops do not wear any special clothing or insignia the way clergy in many other churches do, but are expected to dress and groom themselves neatly and conservatively per their local culture, especially when performing official duties. Bishops (as well as other members of the priesthood) can trace their line of authority back to Joseph Smith, Jr., who, according to church doctrine, was ordained to lead the Church in modern times by the ancient apostles Peter, James, and John, who were ordained to lead the Church by Jesus Christ.
The Presiding Bishop oversees the temporal affairs (buildings, properties, commercial corporations, etc.) of the worldwide Church, including the Church's massive global humanitarian aid and social welfare programs. The Presiding Bishop has two counselors; the three together form the Presiding Bishopric.
The New Apostolic Church (NAC) knows 3 classes of ministries: Deacons, Priests and Apostles. The Apostles, who are all included in the apostolate with the Chief Apostle as head, are the highest ministries.
Of the several kinds of priest-ministries, the bishop is the highest. Nearly all bishops are set in line directly from the chief apostle. They support and help their superior apostle.
In the polity of the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), the international leader is the Presiding Bishop, and the members of the Executive Committee are Executive Bishops. Collectively, they supervise and appoint national and state leaders across the world. Leaders of individual states and regions are Administrative Bishops, who have jurisdiction over local churches in their respective states and are vested with appointment authority for local pastorates. All ministers are credentialed at one of three levels of licensure, the most senior of which is the rank of Ordained Bishop. To be eligible to serve in state, national, or international positions of authority, a minister must hold the rank of Ordained Bishop.
In 2002, the general convention of the Pentecostal Church of God came to a consensus to change the title of their overseer from General Superintendent to Bishop. The change was brought on because internationally, the term Bishop is more commonly related to religious leaders than the previous title.
The title Bishop is used for both the General (International leader) and the district (state) leaders. The title is sometimes used in conjunction with the previous thus becoming General (District) Superintendent/Bishop.
Some Baptists have begun taking on the title of Bishop.
In some smaller Protestant denominations and independent churches the term bishop is used in the same way as pastor, to refer to the leader of the local congregation, and may be male or female. This usage is especially common in African American churches in the USA. In the Church of Scotland, which has a Presbyterian church structure, the word "bishop" refers to an ordained person, usually a normal parish minister, who has temporary oversight of a trainee minister. In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the term bishop is an expressive name for a Minister of Word and Sacrament who serves a congregation and exercises "the oversight of the flock of Christ." The term is traceable to the 1789 Form of Government of the PC(U.S.A.) and the Presbyterian understanding of the pastoral office.
While not Christian, Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica uses roles and titles derived from Christianity for its clerical hierarchy, including Bishops who have much the same authority and responsibilities as in Roman Catholicism.
The Salvation Army does not have bishops but have appointed leaders of geographical areas known as Divisional Commanders. Larger geographical areas, called Territories, are led by a Territorial Commander, who is the highest ranking officer in that Territory.
Traditionally, a number of items are associated with the office of a bishop, most notably the mitre, crosier, and ecclesiastical ring. Other vestments and insignia vary between Eastern and Western Christianity.
In the Latin branch of the Catholic Church, the choir dress of a bishop includes the purple cassock with amaranth trim, rochet, purple zucchetto (skull cap), purple biretta, and pectoral cross. The accoutrements of a bishop include the pontifical gloves and pontifical sandals, but these items are rarely seen today except within the context of the Extraordinary Form (the Tridentine Mass). The cappa magna, which was once used as choir dress for bishops on solemn occasions, is also rarely seen although its use is permitted. The coat of arms of a Latin Rite Catholic bishop will usually display a galero with a cross and crosier behind the escutcheon; however, the specifics will differ by location and ecclesiastical rank (see Ecclesiastical heraldry).
Anglican bishops generally make use of the mitre, crosier, ecclesiastical ring, purple cassock, purple zucchetto, and pectoral cross. However, the traditional choir dress of Anglican bishops is quite different from that of their Catholic counterparts; it consists of a long rochet which is worn with a chimere.
In the Eastern Churches (Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Rite Catholic) a bishop will wear the mandyas, panagia (and perhaps an enkolpion), sakkos, omophorion and an Eastern-style mitre. Eastern bishops do not normally wear an episcopal ring; the faithful will kiss the bishop's hand. To seal official documents, he will usually use an inked stamp. An Eastern bishop's coat of arms will normally display an Eastern-style mitre, cross, eastern style crosier and a red and white (or red and gold) mantle. The arms of Oriental Orthodox bishops will display the episcopal insignia (mitre or turban) specific to their own liturgical traditions. Variations will occur based upon jurisdiction and national customs.
In the Church of England the potestas ordinis is conferred by consecration. This is usually carried out by an archbishop, who is assisted by two or more bishops. The essential "form" of the consecration is in the simultaneous "laying on of hands" by the consecrating prelates. After this the new bishop, who has so far been vested only in a rochet, retires and puts on the rest of the episcopal habit, viz. the chimere. After consecration the bishop is competent to exercise all the spiritual functions of his office; but a bishopric in the Established Church, being a barony, is under the guardianship of the crown during a vacancy, and has to be conferred afresh on each new holder. A bishop, then, cannot enter into the enjoyment of the temporalities of his see, including his rights of presentation to benefices, before doing homage to the king. This is done in the ancient feudal form, surviving elsewhere only in the conferring of the M.A. degree at Cambridge. The bishop kneels before the king, places his hands between his, and recites an oath of temporal allegiance; he then kisses hands.
Besides the functions exercised in virtue of their order, bishops are also empowered by law to exercise a certain jurisdiction over all consecrated places and over all ordained persons. This jurisdiction they exercise for the most part through their consistorial courts, or through commissioners appointed under the Church Discipline Act of 1840. By the Clergy Discipline Act of 1892 it was decreed that the trial of clerks accused of unfitness to exercise the cure of souls should be before the consistory court with five assessors. Under the Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874, which gave to churchwardens and aggrieved parishioners the right to institute proceedings against the clergy for breaches of the law in the conduct of divine service, a discretionary right was reserved to the bishop to stay proceedings.
The bishops also exercise a certain jurisdiction over marriages, inasmuch as they have by the canons of the Church of England a power of dispensing with the proclamation of banns before marriage. These dispensations are termed marriage licences, and their legal validity is recognised by the Marriage Act of 1823. The bishops had formerly jurisdiction over all questions touching the validity of marriages and the status of married persons, but this jurisdiction has been transferred from the consistorial courts of the bishops to a court of the crown by the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857. They have in a similar manner been relieved of their jurisdiction in testamentary matters, and in matters of defamation and of brawling in churches; and the only jurisdiction which they continue to exercise over the general laity is with regard to their use of the churches and churchyards. The churchwardens, who are representative officers of the parishes, are also executive officers of the bishops in all matters touching the decency and order of the churches and of the churchyards, and they are responsible to the bishops for the due discharge of their duties; but the abolition of church rates has relieved the churchwardens of the most onerous part of their duties, which was connected with the stewardship of the church funds of their parishes.
The bishops are still authorized by law to dedicate and set apart buildings for the solemnization of divine service, and grounds for the performance of burials, according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England; and such buildings and grounds, after they have been duly consecrated according to law, cannot be diverted to any secular purpose except under the authority of an act of parliament.
The bishops of England have also jurisdiction to examine clerks who may be presented to benefices within their respective dioceses, and they are bound in each case by the 95th canon of 1604 to inquire and inform themselves of the sufficiency of each clerk within twenty-eight days, after which time, if they have not rejected him as insufficiently qualified, they are bound to institute him, or to license him, as the case may be, to the benefice, and thereupon to send their mandate to the archdeacon to induct him into the temporalities of the benefice. Where the bishop himself is patron of a benefice within his own diocese he is empowered to collate a clerk to it, - in other words, to confer it on the clerk without the latter being presented to him. Where the clerk himself is patron of the living, the bishop may institute him on his own petition. (See Benefice.) As spiritual peers, bishops of the Church of England have (subject to the limitations stated below) seats in the House of Lords, though whether as barons or in their spiritual character has been a matter of dispute. The latter, however, would seem to be the case, since a bishop was entitled to his writ of summons after confirmation and before doing homage for his barony. Doubts having been raised whether a bishop of the Church of England, being a lord of parliament, could resign his seat in the Upper House, although several precedents to that effect are on record, a statute of the realm, which was confined to the case of the bishops of London and Durham, was passed in 1856, declaring that on the resignation of their sees being accepted by their respective metropolitans, those bishops should cease to sit as lords of parliament, and their sees should be filled up in the manner provided by law in the case of the avoidance of a bishopric. In 1869 the Bishops' Resignation Act was passed. It provided that, on any bishop desiring to retire on account of age or incapacity, the sovereign should be empowered to declare the see void by an order in council, the retiring bishop of archbishop to be secured the use of the episcopal residence for life and a pension of one-third of the revenues of the see, or £2000, whichever sum should prove the larger. Other sections defined the proceedings for proving, in case of need, the incapacity of a bishop, provided for the appointment of coadjutors and defined their status (Phillimore i. 82).
In view of the necessity for increasing the episcopate in the 19th century and the objection to the consequent increase of the spiritual peers in the Upper House, it was finally enacted by the Bishoprics Act of 1878 that only the archbishops and the bishops of London, Winchester and Durham should be always entitled to writs summoning them to the House of Lords. The rest of the twenty-five seats are filled up, as a vacancy occurs, according to seniority of consecration.
Bishops of the Church of England rank in order of precedency immediately above barons. They may marry, but their wives as such enjoy no title or precedence. Bishops are addressed as "Right Reverend" and have legally the style of "Lord," which, as in the case of Roman Catholic bishops in England, is extended to all, whether suffragans or holders of colonial bishoprics, by courtesy.
The insignia of the Anglican bishop are the rochet and the chimere, and the episcopal throne on the gospel side of the chancel of the cathedral church. The use of the mitre, pastoral staff and pectoral cross, which had fallen into complete disuse by the end of the 18th century, has been now very commonly, though not universally, revived; and, in some cases, the interpretation put upon the "Ornaments rubric" by the modern High Church school has led to a more complete revival of the pre-Reformation vestments.
In the Orthodox Church of the East and the various communions springing from it, the potestas ordinis of the bishop is the same as in the Western Church. Among his qualifications the most peculiar is that he must be unmarried, which, since the secular priests are compelled to marry, entails his belonging to the "black clergy" or monks. The insignia of an oriental bishop, with considerable variation in form, are essentially the same as those of the Catholic West.
Besides bishops presiding over definite sees, there have been from time immemorial in the Christian Church bishops holding their jurisdiction in subordination to the bishop of the diocese. (I) The oldest of these were the chorepiscopi, xcopas (Tns 7r 7r co Kooc), i.e. country bishops, who were delegated by the bishops of the cities in the early church to exercise jurisdiction in the remote towns and villages as these were converted from paganism. Their functions varied in different times and places, and by some it has been held that they were originally only presbyters. In any case, this class of bishops, which had been greatly curtailed in the East in A.D. 343 by the council of Laodicea, was practically extinct everywhere by the 10th century. It survived longest in Ireland, where in 1152 a synod, presided over by the papal legate, decreed that, after the death of the existing holders of the office, no more should be consecrated. Their place was taken by arch-presbyters and rural deans. (2) The Episcopi regionarii, or gentium, were simply missionary bishops without definite sees. Such were, at the outset, Boniface, the apostle of Germany, and Willibrord, the apostle of the Frisians. (3) Bishops in partibus infidelium were originally those who had been expelled from their sees by the pagans, and, while retaining their titles, were appointed to assist diocesan bishops in their work. In later times the custom arose of consecrating bishops for this purpose, or merely as an honorary distinction, with a title derived from some place once included within, but now beyond the bounds of Christendom. (4) Coadjutor bishops are such as are appointed to assist the bishop of the diocese when incapacitated by infirmity or by other causes from fulfilling his functions alone. Coadjutors in the early church were appointed with a view to their succeeding to the see; but this, though common in practice, is no longer the rule. In the Church of England the appointment and rights of coadjutor bishops were regulated by the Bishops' Resignation Act of 1869. Under this act the coadjutor bishop has the right of succession to the see, or in the case of the archiepiscopal sees and those of London, Winchester and Durham, to the see vacated by the bishop, translated from another diocese to fill the vacancy. (5) Su f fragan bishops (episcopi suffraganei or auxiliares) are those appointed to assist diocesan bishops in their pontifical functions when hindered by infirmity, public affairs or other causes. In the Roman Church the appointment of the suffragan rests with the pope, on the petition of the bishop, who must prove that such is the custom of the see, name a suitable priest and guarantee his maintenance. The suffragan is given a title in partibus, but never that of archbishop, and the same title is never given to two suffragans in succession. In the Church of England the status of suffragan bishops was regulated by the Act 26 Henry VIII. c. 14. Under this statute, which, after long remaining inoperative, was amended and again put into force by the Suffragans' Nomination Act of 1888, every archbishop and bishop, being disposed to have a suffragan to assist him, may name two honest and discreet spiritual persons for the crown to give to one of them the title, name, style and dignity of a bishop of any one of twenty-six sees enumerated in the statute, as the crown may think convenient. The crown, having made choice of one of such persons, is empowered to present him by letters patent under the great seal to the metropolitan, requiring him to consecrate him to the same name, title, style and dignity of a bishop; and the person so consecrated is thereupon entitled to exercise, under a commission from the bishop who has nominated him, such authority and jurisdiction, within the diocese of such bishop, as shall be given to him by the commission, and no other.
The title of bishop survived the Reformation in certain of the Lutheran churches of the continent, in Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Transylvania; it was tem oraril restored in Prussia in 1 01 for the coronation P Y 7 ?
of King Frederick I., again between 1816 and 1840 by Frederick William III., and in Nassau in 1818. In these latter cases, however, the title bishop is equivalent to that of "superintendent," the form most generally employed. The Lutheran bishops, as a rule, do not possess or claim unbroken "apostolic succession"; those of Finland and Sweden are, however, an exception. The Lutheran bishops of Transylvania sit, with the Roman and Orthodox bishops, in the Hungarian Upper House. In some cases the secularization of episcopal principalities at the Reformation led to the survival of the title of bishop as a purely secular distinction. Thus the see of Osnabruck (Osnaburgh) was occupied, from the peace of Westphalia to 1802, alternately by a Catholic and a Protestant prince. From 1762 to 1802 it was held by Frederick, duke of York, the last princebishop. Similarly, the bishopric of Schwerin survived as a Protestant prince-bishopric until 1648, when it was finally secularized and annexed to Mecklenburg, and the see of Lubeck was held by Protestant "bishops" from 1530 till its annexation to Oldenburg in 1803.1 In other Protestant communities, e.g. the Moravians, the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Mormons, the office and title of bishop have survived, or been created. Their functions and status will be found described in the accounts of the several churches.
See Wetzer and Welte, Kirchenlexikon, s. "Bischof" and "Weihen"; Hinschius, Kirchenrecht, vol. ii.; Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopddie, s. " Bischof" (the author rather arbitrarily classes Anglican with Lutheran bishops as not bishops in any proper sense at all); Phillimore's Ecclesiastical Law; the articles ORDER, HOLY; VESTMENTS; ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION; EPISCOPACY. (W. A. P.)
The term bishop is never once used to denote a different office from that of elder or presbyter. These different names are simply titles of the same office, "bishop" designating the function, namely, that of oversight, and "presbyter" the dignity appertaining to the office. Christ is figuratively called "the bishop [episcopos] of souls" (1 Pet 2:25).
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