"Lay hands suddenly on no man." I Timothy 5:22a
"And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." II Timothy 2:2
"For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee." Titus 1:5
Like many others, he assumed that Apostolic Succession was extra-Biblical. This is a common view among many Protestants, and therefore they reject our sacramental theology about Holy Orders. Others who make the same assumption include those in one school of thought among Roman Catholics, namely, the people who believe Newman's theory of Doctrinal Development. The Protestants who see Apostolic Succession as extra-Biblical believe (as the Puritans did in Hooker's day) that it serves no genuine purpose. Among these are Liberal Episcopalians, as we see by their preference of the term "historic episcopate" in place of the term "Apostolic Succession." It includes also the more serious believers, like the young man who visited us, who see nothing real or charismatic in the laying on of apostolic hands. The followers of Newman, on the other hand, assume it is extra-Biblical also; but, they assume as well that this does not matter. Their mistake is to believe that anything can be taught with authority as doctrine that does not come from revelation. Once again we take that famous Anglican Middle Road, or via media, between erring extremes.
I said to our young visitor, "The scriptural pattern shows that the gift (χάρισμα, charisma) of God is given through the laying on of apostolic hands 1. Furthermore, we see that the Apostle Paul left Timothy and Titus in his own place, Timothy in Ephesus and Titus in Crete, and that it was specifically their duty to select the right men, train them to teach others also, and ordain (καθίστημι, kathistēmi) them. The scriptures show this as supernatural and charismatic, teaching also that it involves the laying on of hands."
We know from the Canon Laws (which in England were also the Law of the land) that the Apostolic Succession of bishops, and the distinctly episcopal function of ordaining, seen as consistent with the scriptural pattern I have outlined, provides the only possible meaning of Article XXIII:
Of Ministering in the Congregation. It is not lawful for any man to take upon him the office of public preaching, or ministering the Sacraments in the Congregation, before he be lawfully called, and sent to execute the same. And those we ought to judge lawfully called and sent, which be chosen and called to this work by men who have public authority given unto them in the Congregation, to call and send Ministers into the Lord’s vineyard.
Since Anglicans have never deviated from the practice of Apostolic Succession and episcopal ordination (as a requirement) it is obvious how the Article was to be applied.
The young visitor gave a most interesting objection to my summary of what we find in scripture. "We would regard Timothy and Titus as special evangelists who served a unique function." I replied: "Whereas you must treat the actual pattern we see in scripture as something unique, which explains it away rather than dealing with it, we simply accept the pattern we see in the word of God, and continue to practice it to this very day. That is the difference between your Church Government and our polity, and it is a theological difference." I could add, it is a spiritual difference.
It is generally understood that the word "bishop" (ἐπίσκοπος, episkopos) and "elder" (πρεσβύτερος, presbyteros)2 meant the same thing in the earliest days of the Church, and that they were synonyms in the New Testament. Within a generation, as early as the days of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr, the word episkopos was reserved for the successors of the Apostles, men like Titus and Timothy who were, as the Pastoral Epistles of St. Paul show clearly, Ordinaries (those who ordained).
The Church has kept records of Apostolic lines for two thousand years. From this fact we can see how Tradition interprets Scripture for us. Does the scripture actually say anywhere that the Apostolic Succession is necessary? That I cannot find, and it is useless to try to prove it. But, does the scripture give this as the pattern? Yes. Does it give or even suggest any alternative pattern? No, it does not. Since this is what we see in Scripture and Tradition, is it Reasonable to ignore it?
Update on Nov. 20, 2009: At this link some questions have been asked and answered.)
1. I Tim. 4:14 gives a more detailed picture: "Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery." The difference is important. The charism comes by prophecy, a spoken word, not through the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery, but merely with it. Whereas II Tim. 1:6 teaches that the charism came "by" the laying on of Paul's hands, i.e. the hands of an Apostle. The prophecy, then, mentioned in I Timothy, could very well be what we would call today the "form." That is, words of Ordination spoken by St. Paul. This was written at a time when the Church seemed more readily to have spoken in terms of its own charismatic nature and ministry, all of which comes from the Holy Spirit.
2. It is from the word presbyteros that the English word "priest" evolved, just as the word "bishop" evolved from episkopos.
3. The preface to the Ordinal opens with these words: "It is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church; Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which Offices were evermore had in such reverend Estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same; and also by publick Prayer, with Imposition of Hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful Authority. And therefore, to the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed in the Church of England, no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, in the Church of England, or suffered to execute any of the said Functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereunto, according to the Form hereafter following, or hath had Episcopal Consecration, or Ordination." Notice the reliance on how Tradition interprets Scripture in those words: "It is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors..."