Steven Wedgeworth finds Anglicans making the case that the bishop in the early Church was the minister of the local congregation ‘whose primary job was to preside over the Eucharist’. (Ok, maybe I should have used the past tense, because that post was back in May. Whatevs.) He concludes:
When the episcopacy shifted to a metropolitan administrative office, the exception became the norm, and the bishop had to appoint permanent ‘representatives’. But in so doing, the presbyters effectively became Ignatian bishops, though without the name and, in a fateful shift in doctrine, without the authority.
I guess what this means is that, at least formally, all senior pastors of a local congregation can be viewed as bishops, outside of the Anglican churches et al. – the other pastors being presbyters but not bishops – and that denying that the non-Anglican churches necessarily lack apostolic succession depends on faulty presuppositions.
But this seems to raise two general questions and another question of particular concern to bilingual churches. First, what is the spiritual gift of apostleship, and is it necessary for all clergy? Further, is it totally ‘discovered’ before ordination or partly invested by ordination itself? And then for Chinese churches with a head English pastor and a head Chinese pastor, whose congregations occasionally hold combined services but not usually, do we have a problem of overlapping bishops?