Like all other parts of the Holy Catholic Church, Anglicanism claims “Apostolic Succession” as one of its hallmarks. What does this term mean?
It means that Anglican Churches preserve intact the faith and the ministry of the earliest primitive Christian Church -- the Church of the Apostles. It means a system of Church organization which provides traditional and strong assurance against departure from the Faith of the Apostles.
The marks of Apostolic Succession in faith and ministry are several. In their entirety, they are confined to Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and the Old Catholic Communion, and possibly a few other scattered ecclesiastical bodies.
Anglicans believe that to be in Apostolic Succession, you must abide by four precepts:
- You must appeal unfailingly to Holy Scripture and abide by it;
- You must accept and use at least one of the historic Creeds;
- You must accept the two Gospel Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion (though by no means implying thereby a rejection of the other five Sacraments of Confirmation, Penance, Unction, Holy Orders and Matrimony);
- You must preserve the historic episcopate begun in the time of the Apostles.
These elements -- essential elements -- of Apostolic Succession have been proclaimed by Anglicanism in the Chicago and Lambeth Quadrilaterals (statements officially promulgated by the American episcopacy and by the whole Anglican episcopacy, respectively). In other words, Anglicans hold themselves bound -- and privileged -- to preserve the historic faith and also the historic ministry and government of the Church.
The continuing Anglican bodies in the United States, as part of historic Anglicanism, remain entirely Catholic in faith and order, while being also non-Roman Catholic and non-Papal (and therefore Protestant in this sense only). Thus, Anglicans stand secure in the knowledge that they are in complete and unbroken continuity with the early undivided Church of Jesus Christ. This is a precious heritage and one largely assured to us by adherence to the principle of Apostolic Succession.