Bishops in Council: Are They Representative?

Public Orthodoxy

by Peter Bouteneff

It is commonly understood in the Orthodox Church that the bishop represents the Church, particularly within its conciliar life. But can he truly represent the Church, in its diversity, in every way and context?

The bishop represents the Church in at least two ways: (1) He distinguishes the local manifestation of the Universal Church from any random gathering of like-minded individuals. (Ignatius’s second-century epistles testify to this episcopal function with reference to the person of Christ.) (2) He carries the duty to maintain continuity with the apostolic faith, the traditio of right doctrine. The early church established a clear succession: Christ → Apostles → Bishops.

Our bishops live out that continuity in the roles they play in our conciliar life. Councils developed as the Church’s foremost instrument of insuring apostolic faith and order. Since the bishops are ex officio charged with that task, the councils are constituted…

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