Those Who Believe in the Necessity, but Lack Validity
- The Continuity Claim
The continuity claim is brought forward by a great number of sects, a fact showing
how essential a note of the true Church Apostolicity is.
Etymologically1, "to continue" means "to hold together". Continuity therefore, means to have a ongoing existence without constitutional change. An advance in time of the same thing in itself - steady. Steady, but not stationary - it may grow and develop along constitutional lines, and so always developing, yet always the same, and never evolving into something inherently different.
On the other hand, we speak of a "breach of continuity" whenever a constitutional change takes place. A Church enjoys continuity when it develops along the lines of its original constitution; it changes when it alters its constitution either socially or doctrinally.
In the case of the Anglican Church,
Henry VIII did not himself touch the ordination rite, but in the next reign it was set aside by Cranmer and his associates who were engaged in remodelling the whole fabric of the Church of England. These men pronounced the ancient forms to be utterly superstitious and required they be replaced by others more in conformity with the simplicity of the Gospel. Hence the origin of the Edwardine Ordinal, which, under the sanction of the Act of 1550, was drawn up.
We will have more on this part of the history of the Anglican Church later.
After 1930, the Anglican Church reversed their position on the doctrine they had held
for almost four hundred years - the Catholic doctrine against any form of birth control. Most
every other protestant denomination followed soon after. This is neither continuity or
advancement, but an evolution - a change - an abrupt modification. Not long after, all
other protestant denominations followed the Anglican Church's reversal.
In 1992, the Anglican Church voted in favor of ordaining women as priests. This led to a division among the Anglicans - some are now in "conservative" branches, some have accepted the decision, and others have returned to the Catholic faith.
"To be in continuity with the Church founded by Christ affiliation to the See of Peter
is necessary, for, as a matter of history, there is no other Church linked to any other Apostle
by an unbroken chain of successors.
Antioch, once the see and centre of St. Peter's labors, fell into the hands of Monophysite patriarchs under the Emperors Zeno and Anastasius at the end of the fifth century.
The Church of Alexandria in Egypt was founded by St. Mark the Evangelist, the assistant to St. Peter. It flourished exceedingly until the Arian and Monophysite heresies took root among its people and gradually led to its extinction.
The shortest-lived Apostolic Church is that of Jerusalem. In 130 the Holy City was destroyed by Hadrian, and a new town, Aelia Capitolina, erected on its site. The new Church of Aelia Capitolina was subjected to Caesarea; the very name of Jerusalem fell out of use till after the Council of Nice (325)."2
So, from which apostle do these denominations claim their origin?
Not quite able to claim their lineage from an apostle3, Early Church Father, or any other recognizable name in history, they claim their continuity is witnessed through the constitution of their church. But, what is the constitution of the Church of Christ? The answer is as varied as the sects calling themselves Christian. Being convinced that continuity with Christ is essential to their legitimate status, they have devised theories of the essentials of Christianity, and of a Christian Church, not coincidentally suited to their own denomination.
Martin Luther, a validly ordained priest, was at one time a real member of this apostolic continuity. However, he later denied he had been validly ordained - denied such a thing was possible, denied such a thing was necessary. In effect, he denied the continuity, but still wished to claim validity.
"The Thirty-nine Articles teach the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith alone, deny purgatory, reduce the seven sacramentals to two, insist on the fallibility of the Church, establish the king's supremacy, and deny the pope's jurisdiction in England. Mass was abolished, and the Real Presence; the form of ordination was so altered to suit the new views on the priesthood that it became ineffective, and the succession of priests failed as well as the succession of bishops."4
Were the activists of these serious alternations concerned about "continuing" the existing Church? When the hierarchical framework is destroyed, when the doctrinal foundation is removed, when every stone of the edifice is freely rearranged to suit individual tastes, then there is no continuity, but collapse.
It's All in a Name
The name or title of the religious authorities in the Church was another issue during the Protestant Reformation. Accusing the Catholic Church of various Scriptural translation errors, various reformationists thought episcopal was the correct term, not apostle, and so the Episcopal Church was born. Others thought presbyter was the correct term (apparently episcopal wasn't correct after all), so the Presbyterian Church was born. Not long after, a certain John Smith decided all these new denominations were incorrect because they did not baptise correctly (again, according to his interpretation of the Bible), and so the Baptist Church was born.
The actual word chosen to represent the leader of a church or parish is not important - it is only the reality of the sacramental nature of the office that is important. Any of the titles chosen by the various protestant groups could have been considered correct, based on which Greek adjective you chose to use - the problem lies in the denial of the sacramental nature of the office.
Regardless of the word used to describe the office or authority, the person in that office still retains its' sacramental, life giving elements, dependant upon the proper conferrment of the indelible spiritual character.
1. The branch of linguistics dealing with the origin and development of words, prefixes, etc.
2. Catholic Encyclopedia on the Internet.
3. like the Thomist Christians do, for example.
4. Catholic Encyclopedia on the Internet.