Centre for the Study of the Christian Church & St
George's House, Windsor Castle.
CHURCH LEADERSHIP IN ECUMENICAL PERSPECTIVE: EPISKOPE
An ecumenical Consultation on 'Episkope and Episcopacy', sponsored by
the Centre for the Study of the Christian Church and St George's House, Windsor
Castle, was held at St George's House from the 10th to 12th September 1998. The
participants included representatives of the faith and order bodies of the
United Reformed Church, the Methodist Church and the Church of England. The
Consultation heard papers on episkope (pastoral oversight) and epsicopacy
in various traditions of the Christian Church from the Revd Dr Paul McPartlan,
the Revd Murdoch Mackenzie, Dr Gareth Jones, the Revd Neil Dixon and the Revd
Prebendary Dr Paul Avis.
In plenary discussion the following points received substantial support:
Pastoral oversight in all its forms is a ministry of Christ himself. The
pastoral ministry that is entrusted to individuals is grounded in baptism.
Therefore all Christian churches have episkope. There needs to be a
formal mutual recognition of authentic episkope in the churches. It would
help the Free Churches if the Church of England initiated this mutual
diversity of forms and expressions of episkope, together with the fact of
anomalies and inconsistencies in all traditions, should be acknowledged. The
complex fabric of structures pastoral oversight in the churches makes ecumenical
convergence difficult at the practical level.
There is a need for public, representative persons in the leadership of the
churches and the symbolic element in their role may be acknowledged. The Lima
Statement of 1982 Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry helpfully distinguished
communal, collegial and personal forms of ministry at every level of the
Church's life. But the relation between the personal forms of ministry and the
other two needs further clarification. The Free Churches are not as comfortable
with the personal as with the communal and the collegial. They are concerned to
place constraints on the authority of individuals.
the Free Churches consider the possibility of adopting episcopacy, they ask,
What sort of bishop do we mean? For them leaders must be primarily servants and
models of the ministry of word and sacrament. Bishops would have to fit in to
their ecologies of episkope with their conciliar checks and balances.
There must be structures of mutual accountability.
A need for further work was identified in the following areas
Educational - to overcome stereotypes and fantasies about leadership
and bishops in particular. Some Free Church people may not be fully aware of how
the Church of England now operates a bishop-in-synod model of episcopacy.
Theological - to explore the tension between functional and ontological
concepts of ordained ministry and the relation between orders and offices. Also
how apostolicity is expressed through structures that provide visible
Practical - to consider such concrete matters as terms of office, titles and
forms of commissioning for bishops in a Free Church context. The phrase of the
Lambeth Quadrilateral 'the historic episcopate, locally adapted in the methods
of its administration' was thought worthy of further study.
The Consultation was judged to have been a worthwhile and constructive. It
was agreed that a follow-up Consultation was desirable and that it would be
appropriate for there to be some input from the Lutheran tradition. The dates
for the 1999
Consultation on Episkope and Episcopacy are 30th September to 2nd
Centre for the Study of the Christian
The Sub Dean's Office,
Exeter, EX1 1HS.
& Church House,
Great Smith Street,
(0171 222 9011)
St George's House,
Berkshire, SL4 1NJ.