The Ministry in Saint Matthew's Churches
St. Ignatius of Antioch (c.110 A.D.), one of the Apostolic Fathers, teaches
that the New Testament model of ministers in the church are the people,
bishops, presbyters (priests) and deacons.
The ministry of the people is to represent Christ and His Church; to bear
witness to Him wherever they may be and, according to the gifts given them, to
carry on Christ's work of reconciliation in the world, and to take their place
in the life, worship, and ministry of the church.
The ministry of a bishop is to represent Christ and his church, particularly as
apostle, chief priest and pastor; to guard the faith, unity and discipline of
the whole church, to proclaim the Word of God; to act in Christ's name for the
reconciliation of the world and the building up of the church; and to ordain
others to continue Christ's ministry.
The ministry of a presbyter (priest) is to represent Christ and His church,
particularly as pastor to the people; to share with the bishop in the
overseeing of the church; to proclaim the Gospel; to administer the sacraments
and to bless and declare pardon in the name of God.
The ministry of a deacon is to represent Christ and His church, particularly as
a servant of those in need and to assist the bishop and priest in the
proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments.
It is important to remember that all Christians are to follow Christ, to come
together week by week for corporate worship; and to work, pray and give for the
spread of the Kingdom of God. All of this is to be done in the context of
enabling us to continue in the apostolic tradition and historic Apostolic
Saint Matthew's Churches is Apostolic
The Church was established by the apostles on the foundation of the Person,
teaching and saving deeds of Jesus Christ, who remains its head and
cornerstone. The apostolicity of the church rests on its conformity to the
teachings of the apostles which we know as the apostolic tradition and which is
to be guarded, maintained and perpetuated by bishops in the historic apostolic
succession. For this reason, an official list of the names of the bishops of
each bishopric was made in order to trace the bishops in succession back to the
apostles. Saint Matthew's Churches possesses such a list.
As an apostolic branch of the Church, we believe we have been sent out to
proclaim Christ to the world (an apostle is one who is sent out to preach and
extend the Kingdom of God). The Church, as an apostolic institution, signifies
that it has a great mission to undertake, both in its nature and responsibility
to spread the Word of God and to disciple the people of all nations. Saint
Matthew's Churches is also apostolic in our government. The apostles were the
original overseers of the Church.
Today, catholic believing Christians believe that the successors of the
apostles are the bishops of the Church. The word Episcopal literally means
governed by bishops. The bishops of the Church are to safeguard her unity,
doctrine, worship and discipline. It is their responsibility, or their
delegates, to shepherd and administer the Church until the Lord returns. In the
local church, the pastor is charged by the bishop with the role of shepherding
and administering the flock of Christ entrusted to them.
Saint Matthew's Churches is also apostolic in the authority of its duly and
properly ordained ministry. The apostolic Christian wholeheartedly agrees with
the scriptural admonition, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are
keeping watch over our souls and will give an account. Let them do this with
joy and not with sighing - for that would be harmful to you" (Hebrews 13:17).
Saint Matthew's Churches is apostolic in its adherence to the apostolic
tradition, its maintenance and continuation of the historic apostolic
succession and its apostolic government, nature and mission.
The Sacrament of Holy Orders in Saint Matthew's Churches
A sacrament is an action performed by the Church through its sacramental
ministers in the community of the faithful. The sacraments were ordained by our
Lord Jesus Christ to convey a specific gift of His grace to the recipient. To
be even more precise, it is God Himself, who acts through the minister of the
sacrament. This means that the sacrament is effective in and of itself. It is
God who not only has ordained that the gift be given, but who, in fact, gives
it. Saint Matthew's Churches holds to and practices the Sacrament of Holy
Orders. Since the earliest days of the Christian Church, there have been
specific orders of ministers in the Church. St. Mark 3:14 says, "And He
appointed twelve, whom He also named apostles, to be with Him, and to be sent
out to proclaim the message." These orders we still know today as bishop,
presbyter (priest) and deacon; and each has specific and well-defined functions
within the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. God calls out certain of His followers
to represent Him in this unique way. The proper prayers and the laying on of
hands of a bishop accomplish ordination into any of these orders.
Apostolic Succession and Ordination in Saint Matthew's Churches
Saint Matthew's Churches believes that the ministry is a gift of God through
Christ to His church, which He has given for the perfecting of the life and
service of all its members. The Church as a whole is a priestly body, since it
is the Body of Christ, the great High Priest. All its members, according to the
measure of the gift of Christ, share in its priestly nature. Yet from the
beginning, God has entrusted particular ministries to particular persons within
it, and these have, through the Church, received the commission of Christ.
The ordained ministry of the Saint Matthew's Churches consists of bishops,
priests and deacons. In accepting this ministry, Saint Matthew's Churches
desires to maintain continuity with the historic ministry of the Church as it
has come down to us from early times through what is commonly known as the
historic apostolic succession. An ordination service is the sacramental rite by
which one of these ministries is conferred. It is an act of God in His Church.
Saint Matthew's Churches believes that in all ordinations and consecrations the
One who truly ordains and consecrates is God, who through the words and acts of
a bishop in the apostolic succession, along with other representatives, and in
response to the prayers of His Church, ordains, commissions and empowers for
the office and work to which they are called the persons whom it has selected.
In the earliest ordination of which we have record, that described in Acts
6:1-6, the following parts appear: election by the people, prayer and the
laying on of apostolic hands. This pattern describes for us the scriptural and
historical authority for the essential elements in ordination services; the
same three parts form the basis for every ordination in Saint Matthew's
The presentation of the candidates to one of the bishops, this being the last
step in the process of choice of them by the church;
Prayer for those about to be ordained or consecrated, that they may receive the
gift of the Holy Spirit for their ministry and
The laying on of hands of at least three bishops (in an Episcopal
consecration), of the bishop and priests (in an ordination of priests), or of
the bishop (in an ordination of deacons).
To these have been added an examination of the candidates concerning their
beliefs and duties, proper vesting according to their order, the delivering to
them of the instruments of their office, and the presentation and greeting of
the newly ordained. The above three steps are the means used by the original
apostles themselves and are still in use today. This is considered necessary
for valid ordination, together with the correct intention on the part of the
ordaining bishop. This is why the succession of bishops from the apostles down
to our own day is so carefully guarded and maintained. In Saint Matthew's
Churches, we have been wonderfully blessed with a rich and variegated Apostolic
Succession that connects us to many branches of the Apostolic Churches, both
east and west.
Cyprian or Augustine?
When we look to the writings of the Fathers, we see that they not only affirmed
but also deeply believed in Apostolic Succession. Several of the Fathers wrote
on the subject, fathers such as Clement, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Tertullian,
Hippolytus, Cyprian and Augustine. Each one of them bringing to the Church a
deeper and fuller understanding of what it means to be in continuity with the
church of the apostles.
As time passed, those branches of the church that considered themselves to be
within the historic apostolic succession identified with one of two schools of
thought in regard to apostolic succession. One school of thought is grounded in
the teaching of Cyprian, and is held today by the Eastern Orthodox Churches.
The other understanding of apostolic succession is derived from Augustine and
is held by the apostolic churches of the west. In the Western Church, based
upon the teaching and influence of Augustine, a four-fold criterion was
developed to determine the validity of the consecration of a bishop in the
historic apostolic succession; three are exterior, the fourth is interior. The
four criteria are:
The consecration must be done in the context of the Eucharistic liturgy to be
valid. This is to emphasize the connection of the ordination within the
There must be an actual laying on of hands by a bishop during the liturgy.
Prayer is not sufficient in and of itself.
The one who performs the consecration must be a validly consecrated bishop
within the apostolic succession.
Intention: The intent of the laying on of hands and the prayer within the
liturgy must be to ordain or consecrate the person to hold orders.
In Western Christian thinking, if these criteria are met in a consecration, a
bishop is within the apostolic succession. The Roman Catholic Church, the
churches of the Anglican Communion, the Old Catholic Churches united by the
Union of Utrecht, the Philippine Independent Church, the Mar Thoma Syrian
Church of Malabar, the United Churches of South India, North India, Pakistan
and Bangladesh, as well as other Autocephalaus Catholic bodies hold to the
Augustinian understanding of Apostolic Succession.
The Eastern Orthodox Churches hold to Cyprian's view of Apostolic Succession;
therefore Roman Catholics and Anglicans, as well as the others mentioned above
are not necessarily accepted as being in the apostolic succession, although in
practice, the Orthodox church has received Roman Catholic priests without
requiring them to be ordained in the Orthodox Church.
Saint Matthew's Churches holds to the Augustinian view of Apostolic Succession.
It meets the standard of the four criteria as developed in the Western Church
and stands with the other branches of the church catholic that are in the
historic apostolic succession.
The Apostolic Succession in Saint Matthew's Churches
Saint Matthew's Churches holds a succession of spiritual authority from the
Apostles, perpetuated by a laying on of hands in consecrating our bishops, thus
preserving and validating our sacraments and orders. This unbroken historic
succession of apostolic authority and faith has been handed down through the
centuries of Catholic Christianity to the present day one, holy, catholic and
apostolic church, of which we are members. In Saint Matthew's Churches, we have
been extremely blessed to receive a rich and variegated apostolic succession
that has its roots in both the Eastern and Western branches of the Church.
These lines of succession have helped root us deeply in the historic faith of
patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs and saints of every age. We will
forever be gratefully indebted to those servants from which such a priceless
gift has come. The Apostolic Succession of Saint Matthew's Churches is traced
through the following branches of the church:
Metropolitan-Archbishops of Albania
Armenian Catholicate-Patrichate of Cilicia-Catholic Uniate
Patriarchate of Moscow, Greek Melkite
Patriarchate of Antioch-Melkite Uniate
Catholic/Patriarchate of Assyria (The East)
Chaldean Patriarchate of Babylon of Baghdad-Chaldean Uniate
Syrian "Jacobite" Patriarchate of Antioch
Order for Corporate Reunion
Antioch Orthodox Succession
Roman Petrine Succession-the Roman Catholic Church of Brazil
Holy Russian Orthodox Synod
Roman Petrine Succession-Utrecht Old Catholic Church
Old Roman Catholic