I’m often asked such questions as, “Why does your church have bishops?” Or,
“Why do you have organization beyond the local church called synods [dioceses]?”
These questions are good ones, the obvious answer being, “We have bishops and synods
first and foremost because the Bible teaches this system of government. Yet, many times,
folks in churches with bishops aren’t forthcoming with a Biblical defense for why they
have the kind of government that they do, even in such a basic area. They are often silent
in spite of the simple fact that bishops and synods have been in the Church from its
earliest days, as I shall demonstrate from Holy Scripture. They are part of one of the three
truly ancient churches who have historic bishops: Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, and
Eastern Orthodoxy. Yet, they often don’t appreciate the rich Scriptural foundation for
their position. As a matter of fact, they are often made to feel by their evangelical
brethren of other persuasions that the Episcopal structure of government is not Biblical,
and therefore a Scripturally inferior system. Nothing could be further from the truth.
By way of personal background, I must confess that I was one of those people
who thought that the Episcopal structure was unsupported by Scripture. I was a defender
of the so-called elder rule approach, meaning no one presbyter (elder) was
governmentally above another elder. And then, in the mid 1980s, I began doing research
on the Biblical covenant, what would later become a book and many other studies. Little
did I know at the outset of my work that it would force me to change church affiliation.
For, I discovered in the course of study that there are not only courts in the Church but
that there are also what I call captains, one of the Biblical concepts behind the office of
bishop. The following study is a summary of what I agonizingly had to face as I engaged
Holy Scripture. I will present a Biblical basis for a captains and courts system, starting
with an explanation of my methodology. I then develop the basis of New Testament from
the Old Testament, isolating four basic principles of polity. Next, I examine the same
principles in the New Testament. At last, I present a study of the three basic offices of
Deacon, Presbyter, and Bishop. Finally, I do some comparing and contrasting with other
systems, on the one hand demonstrating that hierarchy is inescapable in one form or
another, and on the other hand, showing the advantage of a hierarchical-yetrepresentative
for of Church government.
I wish to thank several people who have participated in this study, most of all the
Rev. Walter Banek, Curate at Good Shepherd Reformed Episcopal
Church where I am Rector. He has the amazing ability of visualizing difficult concepts,
as evidenced in his helpful charts of the different Church systems. He has captured in one
or two pages what takes me thousands of words to say. Thanks also to him and his wife,
Nelda (The greatest proof reader in the world), for reading and editing the manuscript.
I express special appreciation t o the Vestry of Good Shepherd Reformed
Episcopal Church — Bob White, Harold Flowers, Greg Keen, Greg Grigg, and Paul
Howden — for allowing me to present this material to them in original, unedited form.
They made invaluable suggestions as they interacted with the material.
I also thank the following people who read the early draft of this manuscript and
offered many helpful comments: Dr. Gary North, the Rev. James Smith, the Rev. George
Fincke, the Venerable Nathan Mack (Archdeacon of California for the Reformed
Episcopal Church) etc
I express special appreciation to my Bishop, Rt. Rev. Royal U. Grote, who has
taught me more about the episcopacy through his pastoral oversight to me than any book
could ever hope to accomplish. He has been the best pastor I’ve ever had as well as a
teacher and friend to me. I also thank Bishop Leonard Riches of the New York &
Philadelphia Synod for his reading of the manuscript and insightful comments.
As always, these wonderful people who have helped to make this manuscript
more than just a paper are not to be held responsible for any infelicities in this book.