Friday, April 8, 2011

Antioch - Canon 13

No bishop shall presume to pass from one province to another, and ordain persons to the dignity of the ministry in the Church, not even should he have others with him, unless he should go at the written invitation of the metropolitan and bishops into whose country he goes.  But if he should, without invitation, proceed irregularly to the ordination of any, or to the regulation of ecclesiastical affairs which do not concern him, the things done by him are null, and he himself shall suffer the due punishment of his irregularity and his unreasonable undertaking, by being forthwith deposed by the holy Synod.

This canon prevented one overseer to visit the area served by another overseer with the intent of ordaining someone to a position.  An entourage would have the semblance of authority, but the practice was still condemned.  Only with the express written invitation of the overseer or metropolitan could such an ordination be practiced.  Any outside attempts was considered seditious and carried whatever punishment was considered apropos.  The force of the canon allowed the spiritual authority in a region to conduct affairs without interference from wolves rising up to devour the flock.  The unhindered work allowed long-range planning and removed fear of an ecclesiastical interloper.

Because of fragmentation within the local (i.e., city) church today with varied denominations vying for the attention of the local church, sheep-stealing has become the norm.  A church perceives an unmet need or service area and exploits it so that those around are attentive to the "up and coming" work.  The notoriety draws unsatisfied believers into their midst where they are summarily fed the latest staple that neither fills nor satisfies the soul, and the cycle begins once again with a new ministry start-up.  Shame on us for not respecting the work of the local church already established in a city.  Lack of attention by the believers in a locale to a particular ministry area does not automatically give another group the right to move in and begin operations as the next big thing.  As per the canon, do not go to establish something new unless the local church gives its blessing.

Of course, what happens if the local church is not doing the work that Christ intended?  Or what if they have abandoned the cause of Christ (as is too often the case).  Here there is clear testimony of scripture that we are to obey God rather than men.  Do the work the Lord Jesus gave you to do.

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