Better Bishops

Mar 5, 2019 by

by Mark Burkill, Church Society:

An extract from Mark Burkill’s Reform booklet, which outlines the biblical principles of episcopacy, its historical development and ends with some challenges for the contemporary church.

How episcopal ministry should be reformed today
A vision for the reform of the ministry of bishops in the present time can be articulated if we are willing to bear in mind basic biblical principles about episcopal ministry, alongside the way its ancient practice was consonant with the New Testament, and we do not make the mistake of making secondary features essentials. We must remember that bishops are of the same order as priests/presbyters, and therefore should essentially be engaged in pastoring through preaching and teaching. Episcopal ministry (as distinct from that of presbyters) emerged from a desire to conform the organisation of the Christian community to that of the society it was seeking to reach with the gospel.

Therefore its practice today should reflect the sociological characteristics of present day communities and networks. The bishop today should have a ministry that is not essentially different from that of the vicar/rector, but the sphere in which he exercises this ministry will differ.The local church leader naturally relates primarily to the local congregation, however the bishop’s distinctive ministry comes from his additional, connectional role. The following general points can be made in relation to this:

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