The fact is that the Reformers practiced self-ordination,

The fact is that the Reformers practiced self-ordination, as do the founders of every Protestant Denomination. But this practice is unbiblical.

Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen. (Acts 1:2)

A chain of succession is necessary to preserve sound teaching and doctrine. Certainly this policy served the early church well. The chain of succession:

Jesus Apostles Subsequent church leaders Next generation of church leaders and so on .

The practice is called presbyter ordination, and has even been practiced by Catholics in the past.

Although the Lutheran symbols affirm the desire to retain the apostolic succession and hististoric episcopate (Ap XIV 1, 5) only a few canonically consecrated bishops accepted the Reformation and, except in Sweden, political and other considerations prevented them from transmitting the apostolic succession to the Lutheran community. Lacking bishops to ordain their candidates for the sacred ministry, the Lutherans appealed to the patristically attested facts that originally bishops and priests constituted only one order; that the right to ordain was inherent in the priesthood (a principle on which a number of popes of the 15th c., among them Boniface IX, Martin V, and Innocent VIII, acted in authorizing Cistercian abbots who were only priests to ordain); that thence “an ordination administered by a pastor in his own church is valid by divine law” (Tractatus 65); and that when the canonical bishops refuse to impart ordination “the churches are compelled by divine law to ordain pastors and ministers, using their own pastors for this purpose (adhibitis suis pastoribus)” (ibid., 72). The succession of the ministry in the Lutheran Church may therefore be presumed to be a valid presbyterial one.

Anglicans can legitimately trace their succession. Some Lutherans in Europe can trace their succession. Some Lutherans in America can trace their succession through Anglican lines. Whether or not the CC recgnizes them is besides the point.


Evidence for this? I can’t think of an example offhand. However, there were Reformers who never seem to have been ordained–Calvin is the most famous example. It appears that he considered his call to serve in Geneva as equivalent to an ordination (and it’s not surprising that the person who issued the call, William Farel, doesn’t seem to have been ordained either). However, it was important to him–as to the Reformers generally–that he *was *called and did not simply assert authority on his own behalf.

You will have a lot more trouble finding anything like “self-ordination” among the Lutherans, I think.

Most of the Reformers–Calvin and Farel being obvious exceptions–were already ordained in the Catholic Church.

as do the founders of every Protestant Denomination.

Not true. John Wesley, for instance, was an ordained presbyter of the Church of England. And the founders of the Methodist Church in the U.S. were ordained by Wesley and/or other Protestant clergy.

It’s true that Protestants generally (with the obvious exception of Anglicans–to whom again Wesley is an exception the other way in spite of never leaving Anglicanism!) reject the distinction between presbyter and bishop, so they see no need for a distinctly episcopal succession. And some of the more free-church Protestants further see no need to have ordination performed by ordained clergy, giving this authority to the congregation. But that is not the same thing as self-ordination. If you have any examples of self-ordination, please name them!


It seems to me there are two problems with your argument.

The first is that it is not true of all the Reformers.

The second is that for other Reformers, they did not see the need to be ordained at all. So they wouldn’t have a problem with your accusation.

Huhhhhh? Without getting into the tired old issue of Anglican Apostolic succession, the fact is that their Bishops trace their mechanical lineage back to the apostles in unbroken succession.

That does not even get into all the reformed Catholic groups (100’s of them) that trace their succession through Duarte (Catholic Bishop) and back through the same lines as the Catholic Church does.

PS Since some Eastern Orthodox consider the Pope to be the first Protestant when he broke with the church Christ founded and left the other Patriarchs (their idea not necessarily mine so don’t attack me), do you include the Roman Catholic Church in your statement about “every Protestant Denomination”. :smiley:


I don’t think it really matters one way or the other whether the Catholic Church “recognizes” the ordination of Anglican or Lutheran clergy. If that were the case, the the Catholic Church could simply refuse to “recognize” the validity of Orthodox orders and be done with it.

Instead, I think it matters whether these consecrations meet objective criteria.

The Anglican and Lutheran orders have failed to live up to these standards.

It is true that some of the Reformers were not concerned with this, and those clergy will not have valid orders because they never concerned themselves with maintaining it.

Unfortunately, even those (such as the Anglicans) who did make some effort to keep up appearances, etc. did not maintain proper form or intent. Thus, despite their efforts, they lost valid orders.

Can those objective criteria change?


  1. Since Jesus named Peter to lead the Church, and
  2. Since Peter was the Bishop of Rome, and
  3. Since Catholic popes are all successors of Peter, the Bishop of Rome,
  4. The Catholic Church cannot be said to have left herself.


The Bishop of Rome charts the course, and it is up to the other bishops to follow.

'Nuff said.

There was a satirical book of English History, [1066 and All That was the tile I think]. It included a chapter on how the pope and his people broke away from Henry VIII and the true church. :smiley:

And you should believe this! That is what your church teaches. Most Protestants would probably disagree on scriptural and historical grounds. The EO disagrees since from their point of view the RCC was guilty of innovations to the faith and left the other Patriarchs. They all have a right to believe that.

In the end I guess you can ask Jesus about it. He may find the whole thing ridiculous…or not. :coffeeread:

This is what was concluded in Apostolicae Curae, Leo XIII"s signature over Raphael Merry del Val’s words. It is what all RCs should affirm. You will understand if Anglicans have a different view of the matter (so to speak).

And good catch on the point that both form and intent are involved. Both have to be considered together. That’s often missed.


The Catholic Church could enact canon law that would make Orthodox ordinations invalid, but for many good reasons the Pope has not done so.

The originals of the documents allowing priests to ordain can be found in Denzinger’s Enchiridion - they are genuine Papal documents, & do allow those priests to ordain others.

I don’t know what the theory behind this is - but what you mention does seem to show that the ordainer need not be a bishop. It does also suggest that some kind of hierarchical superiority of ordainer to ordinand is implied or required; whether as a matter of ecclesiastical law, Divine law, or of the intrinsic nature of ordination, is not clear.

Anyone ever heard of the Alexandrian Precedent? I bet the Catholic Church wishes none of the rest of us had…

'Nuf said? I don’t think so!

I know it’s a tired, stale point, but the Dutch Touch by the Old Catholic Church is an example of Protestants having valid succession (Anglicans) in many cases. And the Old Catholic Church, which in many ways is a Protestant church (though I know that’ll spark some debate) has valid succession. Some Lutheran churches in Europe maintained apostolic succession as well.

I also read the comment that the reformers didn’t believe in ordination. That’s not true of all reformers, but many.

The point to focus on, from a Catholic point of view, is not so much valid ordinations but rather the teachings and theology of these denominations. Jon is correct about presbyter ordinations. Though they were and remain an embarrassment to Catholic Church, they did take place in the Middle Ages. The Lutherans followed that model due to a lack of apostolic succession through bishops and in most cases they didn’t feel the need to keep succession. Many Lutherans I have spoken with believe succession takes place through keeping to the proper BELIEFS of the apostles, not a laying on of hands and an official ceremony from bishop to bishop.

In either case, I feel it’s most important to contrast beliefs and theology rather than apostolic lines. Case in point are Episcopal priests who have valid succession through Dutch Touch Utrecht lines but teach women’s ordination, gay lifestyle as normalcy, preach a false gospel, sanction abortion, and have a skewed view of church polity and sacraments. They may have valid lines but what good does it do?:shrug:

Hello Jon,
I can see Luther’s and others use of “presbyter ordination” to get the new churches off the ground, but is this still practiced by Lutheranism today? Is it to your knowledge practiced by any of the other litergical big boys?

Some Lutherans in America can trace their succession through Anglican lines.

Interesting. . . . .

Hi Randy,

This may be true, speaking from the Catholic perspective now, of Anglican orders, as a result of Apostolicae Curae. I am not aware of any such statement about the orders of Northern European Lutherans who maintained succession through (converted) Catholic bishops. I’m sure someone here does know.


=mark a;5607801]

Hello Jon,
I can see Luther’s and others use of “presbyter ordination” to get the new churches off the ground, but is this still practiced by Lutheranism today? Is it to your knowledge practiced by any of the other litergical big boys?
Hi Mark,
Not sure what you mean by liturgical big boys. Do you mean Anglicans, Methodists, reformed?
It is the principal practice within the LCMS (I’m sure the WELS), though I personally would prefer that we would reach out to other Lutheran bodies that have A.S. In Europe, I think it depends on which country you are in. Maybe LutheranDK will catch this thread and respond.

Interesting. . . . .

When the ELCA and the TEC signed their “Call to Common Mission” statement, institutiing full communion, one of the agreements was to transfer the Anglican AS lines to ELCA clergy. It is my understanding that Episcopal Bishops now participate in Lutheran ordinations for this purpose, but once again, perhaps someone in the ELCA could give more details.



When the ELCA and the TEC signed their “Call to Common Mission” statement, institutiing full communion,

even more interesting!!

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