So my understanding of the issue is as follows: the C of E says it has apostolic succession and it’s bishops can trace themselves back to the apostles.

But I thought one of the principles of the Reformation was the idea that priests are not raised above people or not separate from them?

So my question is if the second part is true, why does it matter that bishops trace themselves back to Christ?

Sorry if this a silly question. Thanks in advance!

  • 2
    There is nothing 'silly' about your question. You have raised a vitally important issue, for if "the priesthood of all believers" is biblical, then we do have to wonder why any group of Christians would claim that a few of their leaders had a line of 'descent' from apostles of the first century A.D. This needs to be faced up to, so, well done, you!
    – Anne
    Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 19:44
  • . . . . . and the point of the Reformation was that priesthood has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and in the new-born humanity that is under his Headship.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 19:10
  • I have never met an Anglican who thinks that the Apostolic Succession "raises" Anglican bishops above the people or "separates" them. Commented May 16, 2021 at 21:27

1 Answer 1


Your question is going to be very broad indeed, due to the nature of the Anglican Communion generally and the spectrum of attitudes to Apostolic Succession, particularly, within its very wide and welcoming embrace.

The Anglican Communion "has never officially endorsed any one particular theory of the origin of the historic episcopate, its exact relation to the apostolate, and the sense in which it should be thought of as God given, and in fact tolerates a wide variety of views on these points".


This reference in the Wikipedia article is attributed to :

Jay, Eric G. The Church John Knox Press(1980), p.291 quoting the Anglican-Methodist Unity Commission Report 1968 p.37

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