Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Antioch - Canon 4

If any bishop who has been deposed by a synod, or any presbyter or deacon who has been deposed by his bishop shall presume to execute any part of the ministry, whether it be a bishop according to his former custom, or a presbyter, or a deacon, he shall no longer have any prospect of restoration in another Synod; nor any opportunity of making his defense; but they who communicate with him shall all be cast out of the Church, and particularly if they have presumed to communicate with the persons aforementioned, knowing the sentence pronounced against them.

If a person in recognized church leadership was deposed for whatever reason, he was forbidden from practicing normal ministerial functions.  Should he do so, he should forfeit any possibility of restoration to position.  Furthermore, if someone else attempts to communicate with that leader, they also were cast out of the church.  This action would certainly quell insurrectionist attempts against the church, but there is the nagging question: what if the leader was put out for political reasons as was (and is) wont to happen?  Sadly, a brief survey of church history is replete with examples.  For instance some have asserted that this canon conceived to oppose Athanasius and used later against John Chrysostom.1  The issue was doctrine, but the heterodox were holding the keys to reconciliation.  Arianism was untenable to Athanasius, therefore his banishment.

Properly used, this canon was beneficial as heeding the apostle John's admonition:
If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.  (2 John 1:10-11)
However, if the wicked are in authority, God is to be obeyed rather than men.  Conversely, we do not want to receive back or encourage the following of one who is leading the sheep astray and possibly feeding on them.  Those leaders are to be noted and avoided.  How do we know the difference? First and foremost, be in the Word of God and in active discipleship with a believer more mature in the Lord; and second, there is a helpful guide I found here that is useful for discerning what type of spirit is behind what we are hearing and reading.

1See notes on Canon IV, NPNF2, 110.

No comments: