Erasmus of Arcadia, John Wesley and Apostolic Succession

A few Sunday’s ago, we were talking about the importance (to some) of Apostolic Succession, who one wondered how Methodism got around the notion of Apostolic Succession. For those unfamiliar with the term, it is the Catholic/Orthodox belief that they can be traced back through ordinations of bishops to the Apostles themselves. Now, to some, this important and a hallmark of the Church (the Creed gives for points of the church, one of them being Apostolic). Of course, the term has come to mean something differently than it once did, encompassing not just historic congregations, but the entire faith. Anyway, the apocryphal story of Apostolic Succession and John Wesley, and hence Methodism, goes like this:

(Erasmus of Arcadia) apparently visited London in 1763 during a time when John Wesley faced a dilemma. It seems Anglican bishops wouldn’t ordain Methodist preachers, yet more and more people were coming for Communion. Wesley refused to allow unordained lay preachers to consecrate Communion, but people wanted to receive the Sacrament from them anyway. I guess getting all the new Methodists into Anglican parishes wasn’t as easy as Wesley thought it would be. So when Erasmus visited, we know that he ordained some of Wesley’s preachers (which Wesley scholar William Abraham called “bizarre in the extreme”), and by some accounts, he ordained Wesley a bishop. (here)

Interesting, if you are into that sort of thing…

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