Saturday, April 09, 2011

John Jewel: Apostolic Succession

The question that hangs out there in Anglican circles is as follows: Is the church born of the gospel, i.e. the Word of God rightly preached, and thus legitimized by sound doctrine or does the church itself through the official succession of its ministers effect legitimacy upon herself? The one option raises right doctrine as taught in Scripture as the primary and necessary mark of a true church. The other puts forth the continuation of a physical lineage of ministerial successors from the Apostles as the esse of a true church. It is one or the other. It can't be both.

John Jewell was a disciple of Peter Martyr Vermigli. He was also a Marian exile and later Bishop of Salisbury, as well as the chief author of the Homilies Book II. Richard Hooker spoke of him as the "worthiest divine that Christendom hath bred for some hundreds of years." In his Apology Jewell touches upon the above question. But it remained to be more directly addressed in his Reply Unto M. Hardings Answer. Finally in his Homily for Whit-Sunday, Jewell states the confessional position of the Church of England regarding the marks of a true church. Needless to say, while Jewell clearly embraced episcopal polity and proper ordination of clergy, he steered clear of any strict interpretation of apostolic authority residing in bishops or presbyters due to physical succession (via laying on of hands) from the Apostles on down. Rather, he argues and teaches that what ensures the validity of the visible church before God is the retention and communication of sound Apostolic teaching, the faith once delivered.

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