Episkope 2
Home Up Act of Synod Interpreting Authority Episkope 1 Episkope 2 Diaconate Reception

Centre for the Study of the Christian Church

& St George's House, Windsor Castle



A second ecumenical Consultation on leadership and authority in the Christian Church was held at St George’s House, Windsor Castle from 30 September to 2 October 1999 under the title ‘Episkope and Episcopacy’. Like the first Consultation, it was one of a series of Consultations on various aspects of the ministry, mission and unity of the Church sponsored by the Centre for the Study of the Christian Church and St George’s House.

Once again the participants included representatives of the faith and order committees of various churches, on this occasion including the United Reformed Church, the Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church of the USA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the Church of England. The Consultation heard papers on episkope (pastoral oversight) and episcopacy in various traditions of the Christian Church from the Revd Canon Professor J. Robert Wright, Professor Bruce Marshall, Dr Mary Tanner, the Revd Dr William Rusch and the Revd Prebendary Dr Paul Avis.

In plenary discussion the following points received substantial support:

  • The notion of episkope or pastoral oversight itself needs further explication. It certainly includes ministries of discernment, nurturing and decision-making. What other functions does it include? What authority does it have? Does it apply differently to lay and ordained people?
  • The visible unity of the Church includes a common or single form of oversight, though in moving towards fuller visible unity, the joint exercise of oversight may be appropriate.
  • The communal, collegial and personal modes of oversight also need further explication. How do they differ between various traditions? How are they manifested at local, regional and national levels?
  • Further work is also required on the connection between unity in faith, in the sacraments and in ministry.
  • The ‘neuralgic points’ between churches are where ecumenical memories surface. Episcopal ministry requires theological analysis that penetrates ‘the myth of the bishop’. How can episcopacy be ‘earthed’ so that local traditions and minority groups can be heard?
  • Churches should get beyond a sense of self-sufficiency, which is a major obstacle to unity, and realise where they need each other’s gifts and insights. We should ask, Where are we weak? What are we lacking? What can we offer and what can we receive?
  • Our ecclesiologies are shaped by contingent historical and sociological factors. We need to be aware of these and to be self-critical where necessary. Our traditions provide resources, not a blueprint for unity. The aim is to bridge divergence not to stifle diversity.
  • There is much to learn from the experience of Lutheran - Episcopal Dialogue (LED) in the USA, but there are Anglican anxieties about aspects of the Concordat, particularly the proposed temporary suspension of the requirement of episcopal ordination and the parallel jurisdiction of bishops of churches in ‘full communion’ that was being contemplated.
  • In considering models of episkope, patterns of social change that militate against uniformity and homogeneity in society should be taken into account.
  • How is it possible for a church with a three orders of ministry to unite with a church that recognises only one order of ministry?

Paul Avis,
Centre for the Study of the Christian Church,
The Sub Dean's Office,
Exeter Cathedral,
1 The Cloisters,
Exeter, EX1 1HS.
(01392 425229)

& Church House,
Great Smith Street,
London, SW1P 3NZ.
(0171 222 9011)

Laurence Gunner,
Directing Staff,
St George's House,
Windsor Castle,
Berkshire, SL4 1NJ.
(01753 866313)

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