Father Moyer or Bishop Moyer? (Multiplying Bishops, and more Rosemont.)

This is on the one from yesterday.

When talking about the situation at Good Shepherd, Rosemont, I’ve been (almost always) referring to David Moyer as Father or Reverend. Because as far as the Episcopal Church goes, that was the title he held and probably still should hold. If the posting is about the Episcopal Church, I’m going to try and use the terms that would be used in that denomination.

But I do know that in something called the “Traditional Anglican Communion”, David Moyer was consecrated a Bishop. From my research, this was done by three other bishops, two of which have ties to Canterbury (+Davies and +Kapinga), and one in Australia whose ties aren’t that tight anymore (+Hepworth).

In press reporting, only so much is made of the varying titles of Father or Bishop, Reverend or Right Reverend. Most people look at this as something to do with rank, but as I understand it, consecration of a bishop is actually transferring some special sacramental power, like electricity moving from one receiving station to the other.

So enough about Father Moyer for a moment, and a bit more about electricity and where it’s going.

The electricity, so to speak, is a power from the Holy Ghost (a/k/a Holy Spirit). The claim is this power goes all the way back to Jesus Christ and St. Peter. To people not familiarized with Christianity, this would be like a “magic power” that you can only get through specific people, who in turn received it from someone earlier. This chain of people is called apostolic succession.

Sacramental churches take this very seriously. In fact, a number of the Eastern churches trace the line of apostolic succession all the way back, in records, to Jesus and the twelve apostles. Ironically, the denomination you’d think would be right on top of it with records, every “i” dotted and “t” crossed, the Roman Catholic Church, only has verifiable records going back to the 16th century. That is, according to this website by a man, Charles Bransom, who claims to be, and I have no serious doubt is, a 40-year researcher of the subject.

According to Bransom, as fate has it, over 90% of today’s Roman Catholic bishops got their power from Scipione Cardinal Rebiba, (“the Rebiban Succession”) who was a bishop to the Western-rite (Latin) followers in Constantinople. His site explains:

More than ninety percent of the more than 5,000 Roman Catholic bishops alive today trace their episcopal lineage back to one bishop who was appointed in 1541 – Scipione Rebiba. Why so many bishops trace their lineages to this one bishop can be explained in great part by the intense sacramental activity of Pope Benedict XIII, who ordained 139 bishops during his episcopate and pontificate, including many cardinals, papal diplomats, and bishops of important dioceses who, in turn, ordained many other bishops. The bishop who ordained Benedict XIII gives us the direct link to Scipione Rebiba. It is widely believed that Rebiba was ordained bishop by Gian Pietro Cardinal Carafa, who became Pope Paul IV. However, no documentary evidence has been found to verify this hypothesis.

The lack of documentation of the episcopal ordination for the last bishop in any episcopal lineage should not be considered as evidence that the lineage ends with that bishop or that the bishop in question never received episcopal ordination. It simply means that the details of that bishop’s episcopal ordination have not yet been found and that the bishop in question is the last known bishop in that lineage.

You have to remember that a Cardinal or a Pope is, in essence, a bishop. This is why Benedict XVI is referred to, in various styles, as the Bishop of Rome. And that of course a lot of the fighting in Christianity has, as a generality, surrounded the matter of what significance there is to being the Bishop of Rome.

It’s highly likely, as the commentator said, that Cardinal Rebiba got the power from the bishop who became Paul the Fourth. And there’s probably an unbroken line going back to St. Peter on that chain, too. It’s just missing the contemporaneous evidence. So Cardinal Rebiba is the power-giver of the current Pope, the last several popes, and the 90% of current RC bishops.

And then, it turns out, Rebiba is also the power-giver for any bishop that fell out with Rome or became their own independent holy man, where they’d received a consecration from someone in the Rebiba line.

So there are these countless dozens of bishops out there, who, in terms of the Holy Spirit, are as much a bishop as the Pope in Rome is. Even if they are holding services in the basement of Howard Johnson’s using a borrowed table for an altar (semi-seriously, folks!) And, as Rebiban Succession bishops go, they have the ability to lay hands on and consecrate still other valid bishops.

For example: Patricio Robles, here, of Chile. He was consecrated a bishop in the “Anglican Independent Communion” in 2004, and is styled a “Metropolitan Archbishop”. (The title has a nice Greek-Latin fusion to it.) As is his claim, and I don’t have any reason to doubt it, he is a bishop in the Rebiban Succession, except his website calls him Cardinal Rabiba, not Rebiba. (Maybe because these independent bishops are multiplying like RAB-bits.)

Well, anyway.

Whether or not the Metropolitan Archbishop’s webmaster has the name right, look at the list of other lines of succession Robles follows in. Or as the site puts it, “the following lines of succession were received through the consecrators” of Robles:

Old Catholic
Roman Catholic
Russian Orthodox
Anglican Non-Juring
Order of Corporate Reunion
Armenian Uniate
Chaldean Uniate
African Orthodox
Coptic Orthodox

Fourteen lines ( * ) , if I’ve counted right.

So basically, if you can think of any line of apostolic succession coming from one of the twelve apostles, the Metropolitan Archbishop has it covered. If apostolic lines were part of the Monopoly board, he’d be able to put a house on every one.

So now back to Father Moyer. If Moyer wanted to, no doubt, he could produce his own list of the apostolic lines of succession that he became part of in 2005. And if one happened to be the Rebiban one or another recognized by the Roman Catholics, Moyer would be as much a bishop as the Pope. And certainly, having at least one consecrator who had a consecration recognized by Canterbury made Moyer as much a bishop as Bennison.

But my own view is that referring to Father Moyer as “Bishop Moyer” simply confuses the issue in a place where there is so much confusion as it is. He’s a bishop whose consecration is not really recognized in the denomination where he’s a parish priest, which is a little different from a bishop who is “independent” and operating out of the basement of Howard Johnson’s.

And the fact is, when all the trouble started in March or September 2002, he wasn’t a bishop at all in any denomination.

So I just prefer to keep things simple. Metropolitan Archibishop Robles with the fourteen (!) lines of succession might disagree with me, but I think it’s just a better way to cover the bases.

( * – How do you get fourteen lines of succession when there were only twelve apostles?)