An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Apostolic Succession

The belief that bishops are the successors to the apostles and that episcopal authority is derived from the apostles by an unbroken succession in the ministry. This authority is specifically derived through the laying on of hands for the ordination of bishops in lineal sequence from the apostles, through their performing the ministry of the apostles, and through their succession in episcopal sees traced back to the apostles. The apostolic succession is continued in the bishops of the Episcopal Church, who seek to “carry on the apostolic work of leading, supervising, and uniting the Church” (BCP, p. 510). The apostolic succession may also be understood as a continuity in doctrinal teaching from the time of the apostles to the present. The apostolic succession is said to be a “sign, though not a guarantee” of the church's basic continuity with the apostles and their time. The meaning of the apostolic succession relative to the historic episcopate has been a significant issue in Lutheran-Episcopal dialogues. See Bishop.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.