Thursday, April 21, 2011

Antioch - Canon 23

It shall not be lawful for a bishop, even at the close of life, to appoint another as successor to himself; and if any such thing should be done, the appointment shall be void.  But the ecclesiastical law must be observed, that a bishop must not be appointed otherwise than by a synod and with the judgment of the bishops, who have the authority to promote the man who is worthy, after the falling asleep of him who has ceased from his labors.

The early church sought to avoid nepotism of any kind.  Only by a synod could an overseer's successor be named and recognized: the idea being wisdom in a multitude of spiritual counselors.  There had been occasions where this was circumvented—Augustine being one of the most notable—where the synod accepted the agency of the preceding overseer by ratifying the appointment rather than void it as required.  Such was the application of both expediency and politics within the church.

One aspect of this canon which may be easily overlooked is that the office was lifetime.  A man placed in such a position of a particular church did not retire unless unable to fulfill his duties.  This would be a safeguard for the overseer since the congregation could not have him removed without scriptural reason.  This also allowed both short- and long-range planning for catechizing and ministry.  The lifetime appointment also gave the church some security as they knew someone would be available to meet their spiritual needs.

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