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I noticed in a comment that Lutherans have apostolic succession I figured this was a purely Catholic/Anglican/Orthodox thing is there a comparable Sacrament of Holy Orders in the Lutheran world?

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Actually, apostolic succession was very important to the Methodist church in America too; so much so that they sent ministers to Scotland to receive the formal blessing from the Anglican church there when the English church refused it (if I am not getting my denominations and history mixed up). – user32 Sep 8 '11 at 20:44
@software monkey, yeah I think you probably mean Episcopal instead of Methodist. Or maybe not since it's in Scotland, that's pretty interesting anyway. – Peter Turner Sep 8 '11 at 20:46
The early Episcopalians (as distinguished from loyalist Anglicans) in the new USA did have a bishop, Samuel Seabury, consecrated in Scotland. . I don't know about the Methodists. – user116 Sep 8 '11 at 23:46
A link in the question to what (apostolic succession)[] is (supposed to be) would have been nice (no need to use WP, if you prefer some other site, that'd be grand). – Jürgen A. Erhard Sep 9 '11 at 20:05

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America embraces apostolic succession. This has been true since Called to Common Mission, an agreement of full communion with the Episcopal Church of the USA, took effect a decade ago. When our bishops are installed (only pastors are ordained) a bishop who holds apostolic succession (often an Episcopal bishop) is present.

Agreeing to this was not simple, because North American Lutherans have long rejected it. But the churchwide assembly accepted the argument that full communion was more important than staying divided from the Episcopalians over this.

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Apparently different Lutheran churches have different practices, with two Scandinavian state churches being the most notable proponents of apostolic succession (source):

  • Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland
  • Church of Sweden

These churches don't have the Sacrament of Holy Orders, as Luther rejected it. Still, bishops, priests and deacons are ordained, thus retaining apostolic succession.

A chart of the succession shows how Luther (an ordained Catholic priest) passed the succession to Mikael Agricola, the bishop of Turku, Finland.

Note that not all Lutheran churches hold the doctrine of apostolic succession.

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This is something I'm not very familiar with, but I know a lot about ELCF and tried to answer to the best of my ability. Sorry if there are errors. – dancek Sep 8 '11 at 22:55
This doesn't make any sense to me. Martin Luther was (as far as I know) only a priest, never a bishop in RC church. Also, he was excommunicated long before ordaining any successors. Any references on exactly what it takes to constitute apostolic succession? – disciple Sep 22 '14 at 22:13
@disciple obviously excommunication by the Catholic church wouldn't matter to Lutherans. There probably are different views to this; I've heard it claimed that being ordained as a priest is enough. OTOH… mentions that in Sweden Catholic bishops converted to Lutheranism. – dancek Sep 23 '14 at 13:02

United Methodists have a "clandestine" form of apostolic succession. John Wesley an Anglican priest and founder of the Methodism movement was secretly and illicitly consecrated a bishop by a rogue Greek Orthodox Bishop named Erasmus. There is much debate as to whether the succession from Wesley onward was validly continued or whether there is a break in the succession.

As for the Evangelical Lutherans, in 1999 the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Episcopal Church formed an ecumenical full communion agreement known as "called to common mission". As part of the agreement from that point forward all evangelical Lutheran bishops will be consecrated by episcopal bishops until all evangelical Lutheran bishops are in the apostolic succession. Additionally, all future evangelical Lutheran pastors will be ordained by bishops in apostolic succession. Strict adherence to the called to common mission document requires that any Lutheran pastor that wishes to serve in an episcopal church must be ordained by a bishop in the apostolic succession.

Also, the Swedish Lutheran church always retained apostolic succession as did several other European Lutheran branches. The Lutheran church when it came to America began having pastors ordain other pastors, then pastors installing bishops and in doing so, broke the line of succession. The episcopal church simply gave American Lutherans back something which they had but lost... The historic episcopate. Luther was never against the concept of the apostolic succession. He was against papal supremacy and the intense divide between the clergy and the laity that existed during the Middle Ages. After his death some of his followers took it a step further renouncing apostolic succession completely and purposely breaking the line of succession. This was done by the Danish Lutheran church as well as several other Lutheran branches.

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Lutherans have NEVER believed in the TRIFOLD "Office of the Keys", that is: that there is indeed a "spiritual distinction" in the rankings of the Priest, Deacon, and Bishop, from an Ordination perspective.. That there is but ONE office of ministry called "Pastor", and so all that is needed for Holy Orders - which like Confirmation, is a solemn rite, not a Sacrament - is another Ordained Minister of the Word to declare them (should they be found worthy) not in sacrament become, but in duty hold, the Authority of the "Office of the Keys" (which is Christ himself) and all of the Priestly powers thereof (such as the consecration of the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, the preaching office of the scriptures, and the 'In Persona Christi' for the Sacrament of Absolution)..

However, (not a doctrine) the ranks of Deacon, Parish Pastor (parish priest), and Bishop have all been retained for the sake of organization, THOUGH WE DON'T AND NEVER WILL ACCEPT THE NECESSITY FOR AN EPISCOPATE - as this contradicts our teaching in Sola Scriptura, that Bishops and Councils must always submit to the inspired Scriptures as HIGHEST AUTHORITY.

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