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ADD TO YOUR LEARNING - The Philippine Teaching Ministry
The Philippine Teaching Ministry ADD TO YOUR LEARNING

THE RISE ROMAN CATHOLICISM AND PAPAL HIERARCHY

By Rolan D. Monje, May 2004

Introduction

For centuries, Roman Catholicism has dominated the religious landscape of the Philippines. From the time Ferdinand Magellan set foot on Mactan, the Catholic faith has continued its steady advance. It is the main religious denomination in the country, and will continue to have this standing perhaps for the next few decades. No other branch of Christendom has had such a profound an effect on Philippine life.

The goal of this paper is not to vilify religious tradition or cast doubt on Catholic religious experience. Rather, my goal is to objectively present the history of the leadership hierarchy which clearly characterizes Catholicism. This way, our church can avoid the kind of mistakes they made.

A. The First Three Centuries

The first century of Christianity proved to be a resounding success. The Book of Acts testifies that the Holy Spirit's power enabled the disciples to witness effectively in their world. The work began in Jerusalem, but quickly spread to other centers. In every step of the way, the Spirit was leading and directing them disciples. Despite the challenges facing them, the apostles were able to carry the message far beyond the borders of Palestine. Thirty years later the new faith had reached most parts of the eastern section of the Roman Empire, and probably even beyond, as well as westwards to Rome itself. The growth of the number of disciples was astounding. This should come as no surprise. The message of the cross (and with it, the inspiration of the resurrection) was more than enough to launch the few believers into their bold mission. The few disheartened followers were transformed into the most dynamic movement in the history of mankind.

Despite the triumph of the first century, Christianity started to drift from the line of truth early in the second century. Growth, not properly handled, became a bane more than a blessing. In many ways, the drift was proportional to its expansion. As followers of the new religion increased, so did the possibilities for certain sources of error. The truth was not always protected, and in time, small compromises added up to create a religion devoid of its original and most important elements.

Early Drift

From the start of the second century, many churches started abandoning the leadership characterized by "apostles and elders" in the book of Acts. The Didache shows that, in one region, some prophetic teachers were settling down, others had become self-seeking, and 'bishops' were gaining dominance. In many ways, theology became obscured in the organization. Other local leaders emerged and new names were used-pastor, ruler, president. The status and function of the different posts varied and were considered flexible. However, it became apparent that the age of the apostles was reaching its end. Along with this, the pressure to lead almost inevitably called for a more permanent structure of office and ministry. In the second and third centuries, bishops became the single dominant figures. They were usually above a group of men called 'presbyters', patterned after the band of apostles. The number of bishoprics varied depending on the age of the church and its size.

There were other negative consequences of church's increase in size. In the third century, the growth of the church had so increased the responsibilities of the bishop, at least in the cities and larger towns, that it was no longer possible for him to know all his flock. What resulted was a leader quite isolated and emotionally distant from his people. Originally, the bishop was to act as a shepherd, guiding the flock and feeding it. A large congregation could not have the dynamic that a smaller church had. Theoretically a bishop could have been appointed for each small congregation, but the idea of dividing the church by having more than one bishop in a city seems never to have been considered in the West. Instead, the number of presbyters (priests) assisting the bishop was increased and more minor clergy appointed. This gave rise to an increasing number of tiers in the leadership. There was little control on the liturgical and organizational matters of the clergy. By the mid-third century, exorcists in Rome had joined readers on the bishop's liturgical staff and sub-deacons and acolytes had become his personal and secretarial assistants. A motley crew of church staff emerged. The bishop closely controlled this developing organization.

The Rise of Rome

Location also played a major factor. The respect enjoyed by the various Christian leaders in the second and third century was more or less dependent on the rank of the city in which they resided. It was possible then, for a bishop of a large town to supervise the surrounding congregations. At that time, Rome was the hub of the Imperial Roman Empire. It was undoubtedly the largest, wealthiest, and most influential city in the world. Eventually, the Roman bishop gained influence on the others. When the issue of apostolic succession came up, Irenaeus described the Roman church as: "the very great, very ancient and universally known church, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul."
It is not surprising then that Rome became more and more influential as a religious center. The earlier statement of Irenaeus hints as some of the reasons why Rome acquired a leading position among the churches. Was not Rome the capital of the empire? All roads led to it. Rome had strode out of Italy early in the second century B.C. and never looked back. The expansion of Rome had other than military aspects. The various facets of Roman development in history is another voluminous study in itself. The continuing economic, social, and internal political development of Rome produced enduring effects. This marked the last great phase of ancient history.

In many ways, Rome prepared the way for Christianity to expand. I'm sure their emperors did not have the slightest about this. The pax romana created a perfect backdrop for the gospel. Rome controlled business and trade. It also influenced literature and philosophy. A main element in the spread of Christianity was the fact that the pagan world was already moving in the direction that Christian thought was to take more consciously. Roman writers and poets, much like the Greeks introduced reflection and the search for meaning in a vast, materialistic world.
The tail end of Acts mentions Rome. So do other NT books. To me, history gives much evidence that Rome was part of God's great plan for the church. After Peter and Paul, many high-powered leaders like Polycarp and Justin had made their way to it. These leaders recognized the importance of the city as a religious center. Thus, even when pagan Rome fell to the barbarian nations, some of the political and religious esteem that she had won from the nations of the earth remained. The Barbarian overthrow of the Western Roman Empire was succeeded by the gradual rise of Papal Rome.

Compromise in Rome

Although for some time the faith of the Roman church was celebrated, before long it was steeped in compromise. It was by small beginnings that both imperial and Christian Rome imbibed worldly dominion. Yet, it was increasingly influenced by the world and "the prince of this world." As mentioned earlier, the most immediate manifestations of drift came from the leadership. The leadership structure as well as the practices among ranking men fell short of biblical expectations. Further, since Rome was the leading city politically, I think Satan was all too ready to use it against Christianity itself. The city that was to inadvertently pave the way for the gospel was to become the major factor in its corruption.
Gradually, bishops from different parts of the empire, seeing themselves as above ordinary elders, yielded to the bishops of Rome. From this esteem, the Bishops of Rome began to demand submission. They considered as a right that superiority which the surrounding Churches had freely yielded. The ecclesiastical power could not escape the temptation to pride oneself and seek to mount still higher. The Western bishops favored this encroachment of the Roman pastors. This probably stemmed from either from jealousy of the Eastern bishops, or because they preferred submitting to a pope rather than to an emperor or king.

In these centuries also, as the true Gospel was watered down, there came in its place the growth of ritualism in the churches. Sadly, true worship of God and the inner conviction of the Holy Spirit was replaced by ceremonialism. Idolatry became rampant. Pagan practices also took on a veneer of Christianity. The compromise was more noticeable as more non-Jews and "northern barbarians" became Christians. More and more of the "ordinary people" were converted. Eventually, the wedge between the pulpit and pew was driven deeper. The clergy-laity division of the people of God became the accepted base. This further devolved into a hierarchy of the ruling clergy. By the end of the fifth century, the early ministers of the Gospel, who had taught the Scripture, had become replaced by a sacrificing priesthood. In the first quarter of the third century, Hippolytus presents us with Apostolic Tradition, with more or less a defined church order: the bishop is the high priest, shepherd, teacher, and the person who makes the decisions for the community. This depicted a truly clerical church. Much like the OT (but in violation of the NT), the priest presumed to mediate between God and men. The church was no more the fellowship of believers under Christ, but rather an institution dominated by a hierarchy, with the most powerful individual being the Bishop of Rome.

B. The Fourth to Sixth Centuries

The next centuries were to contrast the earlier ones. The Christian Church had been persecuted by the Roman Empire until the start of the fourth century. This changed dramatically. The turning point came when Emperor Constantine was "converted" to Christianity. After several convincing religious experiences, the emperor made an alliance with the Church. He represents the passing of the Age of Catholic Christianity, and the beginning of the age of Christian Empire.

Constantine's Reforms

Constantine pronounced freedom of worship for all in the Edict of Milan in A.D. 313. At that time the Church became Roman in both mindset and organization. Church officials dressed and behaved like Roman noblemen, and soon Christianity (a watered-down version of it) became the official religion of the Empire. Constantine retained the pagan high priest's title of Pontifex Maximus, and for a decade his coins continued to feature some of the pagan gods, notably his own favorite deity, the Unconquered Sun. He also delayed Christian baptism until the end of his life. In a few decades Roman Christianity became increasingly watered-down, even though it was a threat to paganism. In 380 A.D. Emperor Theodosius required Roman subjects to accept Rome's version of Christianity. Pagans, Jews and Christians who refused to comply were punished as heretics.

Resolving Controversy

The fourth, fifth and sixth centuries were also marked by prolonged controversies, chiefly in the Eastern church. While most today are content to treat doctrine as a piece of sublime mystery, Christians then felt nagging restlessness about the doctrine. These were about how Christ, the Son of God, was himself God (the doctrine of the Trinity), and how he was both man and God (the doctrine of the person of Christ, or Christology). In order to solidify their stand, church leaders had to meet and deliberate. Numerous councils of bishops were held. Four of them, Nicaea (325), Constantinople (381) Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451), came to be accepted as general or ecumenical (universal) councils, binding upon the whole church. Two later general councils, at Constantinople in 553 and 680-81, dealt with similar questions, but have influenced Western Christianity much less. Many creeds and statements of doctrine were produced. Perhaps the most famous ones are the Nicene Creed and the Chalcedonian Definition. Undoubtedly, despite the great number of controversies and the unrest that ensued, the resultant efforts were worth it. These three centuries are some of the most important in formation of Christian theology.

At the same time it was an age of interference and even domination by the emperors, of colorful and abrasive personalities, and of bitter antagonism between leading bishoprics. Disunity led to arguments and unhealthy debates. Soon, meetings were resulting in deviations from the truth rather than clarifications of it. Technical terms without biblical origins were made key-words in authoritative statements of belief. Their use contributed to the Latin-speaking West and the Greek-speaking East misunderstanding and misrepresenting one another. Even between different segments of the Greek church misunderstandings arose; these disputes contributed to major division in the Christian world. The differences became more and more pronounced as the church approached the seventh century.

Crisis in the West

Problems of disunity and disparity grew in the church. Two sides emerged. Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) stands at a crossroads in this serious development. The division between its Eastern (Greek and Orthodox) and its Western (Latin and catholic) halves had been under way from at least the fourth century. Any semblance of political unity between East and West under the eastern Roman Empire was mere pretence.

From 400 to 600 the Emperors in the West increasingly relied on bishops to assist in secular matters. The fall in population and the penetration of the German peoples into the interior of the Roman Empire helped create a need for new leaders. It was the Christian bishop who increasingly filled this role. By the year 600 the effective legislation and leadership of western Europe was provided by the Christian clergy, particularly the bishops meeting in local councils.

Intense competition had arisen earlier among the bishops of the great imperial cities - Antioch, Alexandria, Rome and Constantinople. Long before 600 Rome and Constantinople had emerged as the two chief rivals for pre-eminence. Constantinople was, of course, the junior of the two. But since it was associated with the imperial capital, the church of Constantinople inevitably rose in prestige and influence.

The power of the Bishop of Rome ascended as the imperial power of the Emperor declined. Edicts of the Emperor Theodosius II and of Valentinian III proclaimed the Roman bishop "as Rector of the whole Church." The Emperor Justinian, who was living in the East in Constantinople, in the sixth century published a similar decree. These proclamations did not create the office of the Pope but from the sixth century there was such advancement of power and prestige that from that time the title of "Pope" began to fit the one who was Bishop of Rome.

C. The Seventh to Fourteenth Centuries

The Rise of Kingdoms

The time period from A.D. 600 to 800 marked the rise of Latin-teutonic Christianity. The emperors in Constantinople generally believed that the church should be under the control of the state. They started to take back some of the powers that were previously given to the bishop of Rome. Two medieval kingdoms developed: the Frankish kingdom and the Carolingian kingdom. For the next centuries, the Eastern Asiatic section of the empire continued under the rule of the emperor at Constantinople. The Frankish kingdom of Clovis grew into the Christian empire under Charlemagne and united the now Christian Teutons and the citizens of the old West empire.

From the late ninth century until the mid-eleventh century, internal and external problems steadily weakened western Christendom. The Carolingian Empire fragmented; no major military power existed in the West. The continued attacks of the Muslims in the south, a new wave of attackers from central Asia, the Magyars (Hungarians), and the almost overwhelming movement of Norsemen from Scandinavia, brought yet more fragmentation and chaos. A contemporary chronicler lamented, "Once we had a king, now we have kinglets!" The end of the world seemed at hand. It was seriously expected by many as the year 1000 approached. Ideally, these dark times were moments for men to truly solidify and clarify what they believed in. However, compromise continued to increase as no real biblical leadership emerged.

Dark Times

For the papacy this was an era of despair; the pope no longer had Carolingian `Protectors' to come to his assistance. The papacy was increasingly involved in the power struggle among the nobility for the rule of Italy. Popes became the captive partisans of one political faction or another, and the result was spiritual and moral decline. For example, Pope Stephen VI took vengeance by having his predecessor's body disinterred and brought before a synod, where it was propped up in a chair for a trial. Following conviction, the body was thrown into the River Tiber. Within a year Stephen was overthrown. He was strangled while in prison.
There was an almost total collapse of civil order and culture in Europe during the tenth century. Everywhere church property was either devastated and ransacked by foreign invaders, or fell into the hands of catholic nobility. Noblemen treated bishoprics and monasteries as their private property to dispose of as they wished. The clergy steadily became indifferent to duty, and their ignorance and immorality increased.

Starting the twelfth century, whole areas of Europe began to show tendencies either to purify (for example, the Waldensians), or to provide alternatives to (for example, the Cathars), the established church. Both of these movements were persecuted by lay rulers as well as diocesan authorities. By the end of the twelfth century the papacy had entered the battle against such disruptive groups. Pope Alexander III in 1162-63 suggested that lay and clerical informers who brought reports of heretics should be supplemented by officials who went out to discover evidence of heresy. He called upon lay rulers to combat heresy, and in the Third Lateran Council of 1179 announced a crusade against the Cathars of France. These efforts were not particularly effective. The Fourth Lateran Council was held in 1215 during the reign of Pope Innocent III. It decreed that heretics were to be turned over to secular authorities to be killed. Catholics who helped exterminate heretics were given the same indulgences and privileges as Crusaders.

The Crusades

The Crusades were primarily religious in nature, although there were economic and political repercussions. Popes had Crusades mainly to take the Holy Land from the Muslims (mostly Seljuk Turks). Previously, Christians had already carried on wars against the Moors in Spain and the Muslims in Sicily for some time. Preachers were commissioned to inspire people to join the Crusades. The Pope gave indulgences to the Crusaders promising that if they died while on the Crusade then their sins would be remitted and they would go to Heaven.

The Crusaders went through Europe on their way to the Holy Land. While going through Europe, they killed Jews and "heretics". When they reached the Holy Land, the Crusaders killed Orthodox Christians and desecrated Orthodox churches. When the First Crusade conquered Jerusalem, there was massive slaughter. Six thousand Jews took refuge in a synagogue. The Crusaders set it on fire. While the Jews were being burned alive, the Crusaders rode around the synagogue singing hymns. Thirty thousand Muslims took refuge inside the Dome of the Rock (an important mosque) and were slaughtered there. The Fourth Crusade conquered Constantinople instead of going to the Holy Land. Constantinople was the center of the Orthodox Church, the location of its ruler (the Patriarch) and its greatest cathedral (Hagia Sophia). The Crusaders killed the men, plundered the city and set many buildings on fire. They raped and murdered matrons, girls and Orthodox nuns. They vandalized tombs of Orthodox emperors.

The Inquisition and the Crusades have made it difficult for some people to believe the Gospel and receive salvation. Even though these movements were "holy wars" against the enemies of the cross, Western Christendom will have to answer for the abuses done in those days. Also, the rest of the world will have to wrestle with the consequences of history as it plays in the minds of people today, whether they are believers or not.

The Zenith of Papal Power & Inquisition

No doubt, the last three centuries before the reformation was a time of great temporal power for the pope. The popes had tremendous authority. Innocent III was powerful enough to force rulers of rising nation-states to conform to his will. Further, the rise of universities and scholasticism strengthened the intellectual foundations of papal power. This was coupled with the various efforts toward monastic reform, increasing the influence of the pope among the masses.
People who disagreed with any Catholic doctrine or any papal pronouncement were considered to be heretics. The Inquisition expanded the definition of heresy to include things like reading the Bible or eating meat during Lent. When the Spanish came to Latin America they brought the Inquisition with them. Natives were tortured and killed for refusing to convert to Catholicism. When people were accused of heresy, they were not allowed to know what the charges were or who their accusers were. They were tortured. If they confessed then they were usually sent to prison. If they refused to confess then the Inquisitors sentenced them to be killed by the civil authorities. If the civil authorities failed to cooperate, then the Inquisitors accused them of heresy. As a result, the civil authorities became victims of the system. The Inquisitors said that they would rather kill 100 innocent people than let one heretic go free.

The Catholic Church was able to technically keep its hands clean of bloodshed. The Inquisitors used methods of torture which caused intense pain but usually did not cause bleeding. According to the rules the Inquisitors were not supposed to kill people. However they tortured them severely which in some cases would result in death due to shock, heart failure and other stress-related causes. When the Inquisitors sentenced heretics to death the local civil authorities did the actual killing (under threat of being condemned as heretics if they refused). Through various schemes, they were able to convince innocent bystanders to denounce the guilty.

D. The Reformation and Counter Reformation

With the moral decline of the clergy and the growing need for change, a critical mass was reached in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Reformation was the time of definition for the church in all its aspects, especially in doctrine. Theology was challenged and presented in a clearer way than the Church had ever seen.

Taking from the previous actions of Wyclif and Hus, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the church door at Wittenburg. This marked a new era for the church and its followers, who for the most part were simply waiting for reform. Called to answer for his actions in front of a Catholic council, Luther refused to show himself. Instead, he burned the papal bull and continued spreading his views.

The response of the church of Rome to Martin Luther's `95 Theses' and his attack upon its authority is both curious and revealing. It is curious because the Roman church seemed unaware of the widespread unrest among the faithful which Luther's protest represented. It is revealing in that the first response to the rumblings in northern Europe was low-key and almost nonchalant. Yet the way in which the church of Rome reacted to Luther and his cause was to have far-reaching consequences.

Leo X (1513-21), pope at the time of the circulation of Luther's "95 Theses", had other things on his mind. Leo was in many ways a typical Renaissance pope: elegant, worldly, sophisticated, intelligent, consumed with political and family ambition, more of an administrator than `a servant of the servants of God'. He was also an enthusiastic patron of Renaissance art and ideals. He aimed to advance the fortunes of his own family - the Medicis of Florence - and to increase the political power of the Papal States in central Italy, of which he was ruler. He revelled in Renaissance activities and spent a great deal of money on the arts and gambling.

In addition, the day-to-day routine of managing the large and corrupt papal bureaucracy took much of his time and energy. All of this sapped his ability to give any kind of moral leadership over Christian Europe at a critical point in its history.
Protestantism grew deep roots in Europe north of the Alps. By 1545, it was firmly planted in Germany, Scandinavia, France, Scotland, Switzerland, and England. However, counter measures by the Roman Catholic church resulted in Belgium and Poland remaining Cathol ic. Of course, Italy and Spain never gave the reformers more than an inch.

Under the leadership of the upper-class clergy and the papacy, Catholicism fought back hard. The Counter Reformation brought renewal and reform in the church. In addition, it developed an outward negative reaction to Protestants. The Thirty Years War (1618-1648) was one large clash of opposing forces. Overall, I see the Counter Reformation as a war against the Reformed faith fought on four fronts.
First, national leaders such as Charles V and Philip II of Spain openly declared antagonism towards Protestants. Catherine de Medici and Louis XIV of France did the same. With their mandate, Catholic leaders started banning the reading of Reformation material. Paul III for example, proclaimed a list (called an "index) of prohibited books. Second, they also supported the creation of religious orders, which started as Monastic groupings. The initial orders were Mystics, Jesuits (Society of Jesus) , Theatines, and Ursulines. All these orders put behind the pope loyal individuals dedicated to the service of the church in Rome. Social service and piety were placed at a high premium. Third was the thrust of mission work. Jesuits, Franciscans, and Dominicans led religious expeditions to Central and South America, Quebec, China, and the rest of Asia. Japan, the Philippines, and parts of Indochina were visited for the first time. The rend result is that these adjustments and efforts simply added to the hierarchical levels that were already there.

E. The Modern Era

Several movements led to the establishment of Roman Catholicism in various parts of the globe. Foremost of these groups are the Jesuit, Domincan, and Franciscan orders. Later groups called the Jansenists and Quietists added muscle to the lengthening arm of Rome. There were losses however in the political arena from 1789 to 1815. Certain ideologies from the likes of Rousseau and Montesquieu led to the decline of religion as a basic need of man. Voltaire favored a religion of reason rather than the religion of the leaders of the Roman Catholic church in France. Uprisings were inevitable.

However, rulers of Europe still managed to support the papacy whenever possible. The claims of papal power kept increasing. In 1870 the Pope was declared to be infallible. A new surge of devotion in the church was encouraged by the holding of the eucharistic congresses, starting in 1881. Peculiar doctrines such as emphasis on the Virgin Mary at Lourdes were allowed to enter the church. The Benedictines encouraged stress on liturgy and put the liturgy for some sacraments into the vernacular. The 1917 Code of Canon Law increased the power and authority of the Pope. In 1983 Pope John Paul II revised the Code of Canon Law. He added new laws that further increased the legal basis for the power and authority of the Pope.

Today, the Pope is considered to be infallible by Catholic dogma. He is called "Holy Father" and "Your Holiness". He is called the "Vicar of Christ". He demands loyalty and obedience. The Inquisition tortured people and had them killed for disagreeing with the Pope.

One of the main tenets of Catholicism is the succession of Papal authority from Peter, the so-called "first pope." The Bible says that Peter was given "the keys" to the Kingdom, but this is thoroughly abused by Catholic theology. The Roman church professes that only Peter had the power of the keys. It follows then that only Peter's true successor would have the same claim. Also through the years, Popes have claimed that there is no salvation apart from the Pope. The most recent Pope to say this was Pope John XXIII who reigned from 1958 to 1963. However the Bible, speaking of Jesus, says "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Christian salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ, not faith in popes; it is in the name of Jesus, not the name of a Pope.

Pope Leo XIII said in 1894 that as Pope, he held on the earth the place of God Almighty. Pope Pius X ruled from 1903 to 1914 and was canonized as a saint. He said that when the Pope speaks, it is Jesus Christ Himself speaking. Pope Pius XI reigned from 1922 to 1939. He said that because he was the Vicar of Christ he was "God on earth". To this day, the stature of the Pope has remained the same. At the top of the hierarchy, he is considered infallible.

Conclusion

The Spirit of God has always desired to build up the Church of Christ. He has raised up leaders and servants to strengthen and feed the flock. However, the example of the church in Rome shows us how leadership can be corrupted, leading to an ungodly hierarchy.

From the foregoing, it is clear that biblical drift was one of the major causes of apostasy in the early church. This has continued to be the main problem for Catholic dogma as it retains its monolithic adherence to tradition in parallel with Scripture. By removal of the Bible from its seat of highest authority, other questionable practices such as the veneration of men and mystical sacraments became acceptable.

I pray that our movement will learn from the mistakes of others. History has ways both obvious and subtle of teaching its serious students. May God bless our efforts to develop a leadership the truly pleases Him.

POSTSCRIPT

Some helpful lessons can be learned from the brief Catholic history we have seen. I pray that we take heed of the warnings in the soonest time possible.


1. The Church should understand the "priesthood" of all Christians.

The concept of priesthood in the Old Testament had its value. It served to explain the holiness of God and prepared the way for recognizing Jesus as high priest (Heb 3:1, 4:14, 5:10). However, God's grace has allowed us disciples to share in many blessings through Christ. We are considered as members of the royal priesthood. Just as the OT priests made sure the worship was excellent, we as NT priests are to render worship to God and make sure others do the same. There is no room for hierarchical, organizational clergy in New Testament theology.

2. The Church should understand the meaning of New Testament Sacrifice.

Sacrifice in the Old Testament was largely ritualistic, part and parcel of God's way of teaching the Israelites about holiness. Many of the practices were symbolic and had later meaning in the New Testament. Now, according to Rom 12:1-2, all disciples of the NT offer sacrifice to God by their lives. We do not need others to render sacrifice for us since Jesus is the only mediator (1 Tim 2).

3. Christian churches should practice plural leadership.

The Apostles quickly realized the need for others to partake in the responsibilities of ministry (Acts 6). In the same way that Jesus empowered the seventy, the Twelve saw the need for others to serve in their capacity. This was probably the start of a deaconship. By the time of Acts 11, the natural leadership of elders was recognized in the early church. This was a Jewish setup that was employed all throughout Acts and beyond. Ephesians 4 specifies the different top roles in the church. Remember also that in Acts 20, Paul recognized a plural eldership as the leadership of Ephesus.

4. Christian churches should practice healthy interdependence.

Although many early churches looked at Jerusalem for help, it was not as if Jerusalem was "over" them. We know that different churches had different strengths (Macedonians for giving, Corinthians for giftedness, Ephesus for perseverance, etc.) but none was really "over" another. Today, our churches should strive for interdependence, which is sort of a balance of dependence and independence. Though none is above any other, different strengths (and needs) are recognized.

R.M.

© 2004-2008 Rolan Monje. All Rights Reserved.