Apostolic Succession - A Brief Explanation
Br. Dylan Littlefield, CFA
There is much talk about apostolic succession in churches today. Why is it important to the modern church?
Apostolic Succession has its roots in the early church and the Apostles themselves. Paul told Timothy "[W]hat you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). This telling is the first three generations of Apostolic Succession defined in scripture. This passing of the mantle of leadership and knowledge has its source in the Holy Spirit, when the Bishop lays his hands upon the crown of the successor’s head.
This passing of the Holy Spirit on from one to the next has a mystical component that is often overlooked. Many will talk about the unbroken line from Peter and Paul to the Bishops of today. Others will talk about truth in teaching as passed across the generations.
Every moment of everyday, there are transformational moments. Some are dramatic and well presented, while others are subtle and discrete. But when a Bishop with Apostolic Succession takes their Cathedra, dons the mitre and carries his crozier, he is transforming the moment into that first Pentecost. His actions draw down the energy of the Divine, connecting each of us to that first in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Its not as if the moment is being recreated. The moment is being lived now as it if it happening for that first time some 2000 years ago. A Bishop who can trace his apostolic ancestry back to the 1st century church connects us through the centuries – bringing the early church to the present and the present to the early church.