What’s a Bishop?

  • The answer might seem obvious, or maybe you’ve never thought about it, or maybe you have no idea! So, just before a new Anglican Bishop of NQ is elected, here are a few thoughts (but certainly not an exhaustive account!) –
  • The word ‘bishop’ comes from the Greek word episkopos, and so sometimes systems of denominational government with Bishops (such as Anglican) are called ‘episcopal’.
  • In the New Testament (NT) an episkopos (usually translated as ‘overseer’) was one of the leaders of a congregation. They were also called an ‘elder’ (presbuteros) or ‘shepherd’. So, to the elders of the church at Ephesus (Acts 20:17) Paul says, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, Be shepherds of the church of God …” (v28). The Apostle Peter says a similar thing in 1 Peter 5:1-5.
  • The office of Bishop (capital ‘B’) is seen by many to be based upon the role that people like Timothy and Titus had at times, where they were the overseer of the overseers, a pastor of pastors, a shepherd of the shepherds. Like, when Titus was on the island of Crete he was pastoring, but he was also responsible for appointing other elders (Titus 1:5). When Timothy was in Ephesus he too was pastoring, but also had an authority above that of the elders: Paul told him not to treat seriously accusations against elders unless there were witnesses, but if the accusations were correct it was Timothy who would publicly reprove them. He also publicly set apart people to be elders (1 Timothy 4:19-22).
  • The roles Timothy and Titus had on Crete and in Ephesus were very important and made a big difference. Likewise, the role of Bishop is very important and can make a big difference.

So, let us all be prayerful this week and coming weekend as this Diocese elects a new Bishop, so that, we pray, the Chief Shepherd will be glorified.

Cameron

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