A bishop is an ordained, consecrated, or appointed member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight.
The title of bishop is used to designate a person who is charged with oversight of a local congregation (pastor) and/or multiple congregations. The term “bishop” (episkopos) is used in the New Testament only six times. Five of these occurrences are Pauline and speak to oversight of the church (Acts 20:28; Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:1ff; and Titus 1:7). The fourth occurrence is Petrine and speaks to the ministry of Christ as he who is “Shepherd and Guardian of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25). In his farewell address to the church elders at Ephesus, the Apostle Paul exhorted, “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 2:28). Here Paul offers a paradigm for understanding the ministry of bishop in the apostolic church.
First, the bishop is appointed by Holy Spirit. There is no suggestion here of an ontological order of ministry, but it does suggest a functionally hierarchical office. In the apostolic church all believers were being filled with Holy Spirit. There is no qualitative distinction in Spirit baptism between Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free. Nor is there a qualitative distinction in Spirit baptism between deacon and bishop. However, being “placed” or “appointed” by Holy Spirit implies a qualitative distinction in terms of ministry leadership. The question now before us is, “How were bishops appointed by the Holy Spirit?” The answer may be discerned by examining the selection of various leaders in the Acts of the Apostles: the selection of Matthias as apostle; the selection of the seven; the selection of Barnabas and Saul as apostles; and the selection of Judas and Silas to accompany Paul and Barnabas to Antioch (Acts 1:21-26; 6:1-6; 13:1-3; 15:22). The need for leadership is assumed and is prompted by various events in the life of the church. There are elements common to the leadership selection process in these situations. The church is gathered together in prayer and worship. The leader(s) are chosen from within and affirmed by the gathered church. In each case, the chosen leader(s) had a demonstrated history of faithfulness and charismatic leadership. The chosen leaders possessed certain qualitative distinctions that prompted the gathered church to set them forth in ministry. The gathered church was of “one mind.” There was a consensus – unity – prevalent within the gathered church in the presence of Holy Spirit (Acts 15:22, 28). Finally, in two of these occasions the selection process was confirmed with the sacramental act of the laying on of hands, which could suggest that this was a common practice.
Second, the bishop is to “guard… the church of God.” The church is under attack by “savage wolves,” that is, pseudo-apostles, false teachers, and antichrists. These “savage wolves” will practice deceit, proclaim “a different gospel,” “introduce destructive heresies” and deny that “Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 20:29; 2 Corinthians 11:3-4; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 2:18-24). The bishop is to faithfully preach and teach “sound doctrine,” and offers a ready defense of the Faith (1 Timothy 3:1-2; 4:6; 6:1-4; Titus 1:5-9; 2:1-10). Those who seek to serve as bishop must demonstrate the qualities of one faithful to Christ, to family, the church, and “have a good reputation with those outside the church” (1 Timothy 3:1-7). As the guardian of the faith, the bishop is canon. That is, the faithful life and the faithful teaching of the bishop becomes the standard by which Christian faith and life are to be measured.
Third, the bishop is to “shepherd the church of God.” The motif of leader as shepherd is prevalent throughout the ancient world and a favorite in the Holy Scriptures (Psalm 23; John 10:11-12; 21:15-17). Following the biblical model of shepherd, the bishop offers guidance, care, nourishment, and protection to the church. And, in extreme cases, the bishop, following the example of Christ, may suffer persecution and become a martyr for the cause of Christ. There is an implied functional relationship between the words “bishop” and “shepherd.” This suggests an apostolic consensus that the shepherding ministry of bishop is to reflect, and even represent, Christ who is the “Chief Shepherd” of the church” (Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4). Speaking as “a fellow elder,” the Apostle Peter charged the elders of the “alien” and “scattered” church to “…shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:1-3). Peter is writing as the rock upon which the church is built (Matthew 16:18). The model of leadership that he offers is that of the Lord Jesus. Just as Jesus was moved with compassion because the multitudes were “distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36); Peter is moved with compassion because the church is scattered and sojourning through an alien land. The shepherd/bishops are to exercise oversight “according to the will of God.” As we have seen, the will of God is discerned by the prayerful church gathered together in the presence of Holy Spirit. As the bishops exercise oversight, they are acting in the interest of Christ for the benefit of Christ’s church. Peter insists, with Paul, that the shepherd/bishops must not be motivated by personal financial gain. The shepherd/bishops are to exercise authority without being authoritarian. That is, they are to follow the example of Christ as servants.The bishop is a sacramental presence, that is, a mediator of grace. The presence of the bishop is qualitatively distinct because the bishop is appointed by Holy Spirit, and affirmed by the gathered church. As the bishop faithfully shepherds the “flock of God,” the bishop reflects the compassion of the “Chief Shepherd” and is a sacramental symbol of Christ’s presence. The Spirit-filled, gathered church is a sacramental presence in the world. The bishop serves within the context of the sacramental community. This does not suggest that the bishop is the exclusive mediator of grace within the church. But it does suggest that the ministry of the bishop is functionally hierarchical, qualitatively distinct in the apostolic church
What are the Biblical qualifications of a Bishop?
BIBLICAL QUALIFICATIONS OF A BISHOP
A bishop must be temperate, self-controlled, not quick-tempered, disciplined and not given to drunkenness (I Timothy 3:2-3, Titus 1:7-8) A bishop must have control over the various appetites of excess or sin. This person must exercise self-control over their anger and temper in dealing with various people and problems.
A bishop must be respectable and hospitable (I Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8) A bishop must not be self-centered or self-willed.
A bishop must be able to teach (I Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:9) A bishop must have the gift of teaching and be able to demonstrate that the Holy Spirit can work through him as a teaching vessel. College degrees do not replace the gift of teaching regardless of pedigree. The bishop must demonstrate that he has a working command of scripture in order to properly "divide the word of truth." A bishop must be able to "Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers." (KJV, Titus 1:9).
A bishop must not be violent, but gentle, and refrain from quarreling ( 1 Timothy 3:3) A bishop must maintain a disposition of gentleness to all of those who are in their care. The abuse of power is prohibited in which one would threaten believers in any way.
A bishop must not be a lover of others' property (1Timothy 3:3, Titus 1:7, I Peter 5:2) A bishop should be willing to serve out of a generous heart willing to give, rather than a heart that is hungry for assets.
A bishop must rule his own household well (I Timothy 3:4-5) A bishop must rule his household in accordance with the Word of God. Issues pertaining to his individual family should be judged by the accuracy of the Word of God and not the church.
A bishop must not be a recent convert (I Timothy 3:6) A bishop must be a believer who has walked with the Lord for a long length of time. Furthermore, a newly appointed bishop elect must have been an ordained minister with the CCOEB for a minimum of 3 years before applying. Existing Consecrated Bishops wishing to join the college may do so immediately.
A bishop must be faithful to but one wife (1 Timothy 3:2) Paul himself would be disqualified, and likely Timothy as well, according to the church's interpretation of this passage; if being a husband of one wife was a requirement for church leadership. Rather, a bishop needs to be a person who remains faithful to but one wife.
A bishop must be blameless and have a good reputation (1 Timothy 3:2 & 3:7, Titus 1:7) A bishop must be free from any current criminal activity nor possess a current criminal record.
What Does It Mean To Be Blameless?
A bishop then must be blameless… 1 Timothy 3:2
Many Christians who are called to a leadership position in the Church feel excited about their new role until they read First Timothy 3:2, which says, “A bishop then must be blameless....” The moment their eyes fall on the word “blameless,” they feel disqualified because it seems to imply that they must be “perfect.” However, this is a misinterpretation of that scripture. No man or woman is perfect except for Jesus; therefore, no one would qualify to be a spiritual leader if that was really God’s requirement to be called to ministry. So what then does the word “blameless” mean?
The word “blameless” in this verse is the Greek word ‘anepilemptos’, which is a combination of the Greek prefix ‘a’ and the words ‘epi’ and ‘lambano’. In the context of this verse, the word ‘epi’ means against, and the word ‘lambano’ means to receive or to take something into one’s possession. Finally, the addition of the prefix ‘a’ to the beginning of the word has a canceling effect that essentially gives the word the opposite meaning.
To better understand this word ‘anepilemptos’, we must first look at its meaning without the prefix ‘a’. If only the words ‘epi’ and ‘lambano’ are compounded to form the word ‘epilemptos’, the new word describes a person whose character is so wrong that others have lodged a charge or accusation against him. Because of that person’s nefarious behavior, other people have a legitimate complaint against him and cannot receive him as a leader. Perhaps it was a past crime, a sin, or bad behavior that tarnished his reputation. Whatever the case may be, in the minds of those who know him, the person is guilty. In fact, the word ‘epilemptos’ can describe a person who has so much wrong in his life that others can reach out, take hold of it, and use it to accuse him. The obvious sin in that person’s life disqualifies him from leadership.
It is simply a fact that if a person is living a blatant life of sin or disobedience to the Word of God and the Christian community knows about it, that behavior will disqualify him from leadership in the Church. Or if an individual’s actions don’t correspond with the Bible’s requirements for spiritual leadership and he does nothing to self-correct, he shouldn’t be considered for a leadership position. The Word of God makes this perfectly clear.
However, what if an individual who was once living in sin repents and experiences a genuine transformation of character? Is he forever disqualified from leadership in the Church because of actions in his past that in no way reflect on his character today? The answer to these questions is found in the prefix ‘a’ in the Greek word ‘anepilemptos’ used in First Timothy 3:2. That little ‘a’ totally reverses the meaning of this word, and it is good news for the person who has brought correction to his or her life!
When the prefix ‘a’ is added to the front of the Greek word ‘epilemptos’, it has a canceling effect. The resultant word carries the idea that if a person truly repents and undergoes a transformation of character, his old sins are irrelevant — regardless of how reproachable or shameful that person once was. Because time has passed, corrective action was taken, and his reputation was restored, this individual can be viewed as “blameless.” There is nothing active in his life that would disqualify him from serving in a higher capacity in the Church. He can therefore now be viewed as a candidate for leadership.
You may have sins in your past that make you feel unworthy to be called “blameless.” But have you repented and reestablished your testimony? If your answer is yes and you are now walking right with God, your blame has been removed and you are eligible for leadership. Although you were once guilty, God’s forgiveness, along with your commitment to live a holy life, has freed you from any charges that people may have once legitimately held against you.
Remember that it was the apostle Paul who wrote the word “blameless” in First Timothy 3:2. Before he came to Christ, he had watched Stephen’s murder (see Acts 7:58), and he had personally overseen the arrest, imprisonment, and even execution of numerous believers (see Acts 26:10). If God judged people by their past actions, Paul would have never qualified for leadership or apostleship. But Christ’s forgiveness — coupled with Paul’s obedience to the Word of God — transformed his lurid reputation into a glorious testimony!
Paul referred to this dramatic change in his own life when he wrote, “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious…” (1Timothy 1:12-13). By the grace and love of Jesus Christ, Paul was forgiven and restored, and the person he used to be was no longer relevant. He met God’s requirement of “blameless” and went on to serve the Body of Christ as the most famous apostle who ever lived.Today I encourage you to review your life and see if there are any areas that require attention. And if you desire to be a leader but the devil keeps reminding you of past failures for which you’ve already sought forgiveness and experienced restoration, tell him to shut up and get behind you in Jesus’ name! If you have dealt with your past sins and failures before God — and, if necessary, before anyone you may have hurt or offended — that means you, too, can qualify for leadership!
If applying as a new Bishop, you must be an ordained member with the Canadian College of Evangelical Bishops for a minimum of three (3) years or recommended by a Bishop who is a member of Canadian College of Evangelical Bishops.
The Bishop must display a level of loyalty and commitment to the organization.
The Bishop must be at least thirty years of age.
While acknowledge that all humans could fall into sin, the Bishop must strive to maintain a clear criminal record.
The Bishop must exhibit the characteristics and virtues of a bishop that are described in this handbook.
The Bishop must not be a novice in Christian doctrine or ministry, but one who has served in leadership capacities within the church.
The Bishop must reside in the diocese, or domiciled in the geographical location the bishop is overseeing.
The Bishop must have internet access to be able to communicate.
The Bishop must be able to communicate effectively in the English/French/Spanish language.
The Bishop must be able to travel internationally in order to attend meetings involving the College of Bishops.
The Bishop must have the financial means to support himself.
The Bishop must wear the proper vestments for all CCOEB conferences.
The Bishop must have an evangelistic plan for outreach within their diocese.
Responsibilities of a Bishop
CCOEB is the visible and literal presence of God’s government on the earth. The rule of CCOEB, through the power of the Spirit, in this present age anticipates the rule of the righteous in Christ’s millennial kingdom. For these early Pentecostals, a revelation of the “real Bible Church” was essential to their spirituality. Membership in “the Bible Church” was a significant event in the Pentecostal way of salvation.
The church of the New Testament was to reflect proper ecclesiastical order, unity of fellowship and mission, a common confession, and the power of Holy Spirit. Because these early Pentecostals viewed themselves as “the real Bible Church” the nomenclature of ministerial offices must reflect the Bible (the King James Version). The title “bishop” was used freely to refer to the highest rank of ordained ministry from the earliest days of the Church of God.
CCOEB must reflect the “divine order” of the apostolic church; therefore, early adherents believed that the ministerial offices were essential, even ontologically necessary. CCOEB recognized “officers” of the CCOEB as the Apostles (represented in Holy Scripture), Bishops, Prophets, Ordained Ministers, Evangelist, and Deacons. Further, the International Council gave the title of “Archbishop” to the Chief Prelate and “Diocese Bishop” to the Dioceses Bishops.
Bishop as a Leader
Bishop leadership is defined as one who is leading the church/diocese in its mission into the world, as opposed to one whose leadership efforts are focused toward maintenance within the existing institutional church or diocese. It is in this context that the understanding and ministry of the bishop must be defined. Although administration is a role of the bishop, it is not the role of the bishop. Much of the daily business administration of the institutional church does not require ordained clergy. However, the essential mission of the church/diocese – worship, discipleship, and evangelism – does indeed require leadership gifts that have been entrusted to those who have been called into specialized ministry (Ephesians 4:11-13).
The first central leadership task of the Bishop leader is to “help persons rediscover power in their own lives and destinies”. Because of bureaucratization and centralization in human society (and in the church), there is an increasing sense of powerlessness which breeds apathy and anger. People begin to feel as if they are disenfranchised, that is, they are insignificant in the matters of the world around them. This leads to inactivity, and in the church, it leads to schism, and ultimately to decline and even apostasy.
The challenge of bishop leadership is to empower. Lamar Vest has written, “Empowerment is an alternative to negative politics and bureaucracy” (Charting the Course, 2006). We need a vision of empowerment which requires a leadership paradigm shift that defines leadership in terms of mission rather than position. There is another effect of this paradigm shift that is significant in empowering the church/diocese.
It may be that from the decline of the institutional, homogeneous church or diocese, there may rise a church/diocese that celebrates the diversity of the church/diocese as the people of God. In this paradigm, the church/diocese is local and universal, national and international, large and small, traditional and contemporary. There will not be “a model church/diocese,” but a church/diocese of many models. The emphasis must not be on the definition of the model, but upon the defining the mission. Any model that facilitates the mission of worship, discipleship, and evangelism is a model that must be celebrated.
The second central bishop leadership task of the bishop is “to construct new communities of reconciliation, wholeness, caring, and justice in the name of Christ”. The emerging postmodern society celebrates cultural diversity to the point of societal fracture.
The task of the bishop as a leader is to form from a group of hopeless exiles a new community that brings estranged people together, that seeks to heal the fractures, and seeks to address injustices. In short, this new community is a place where a misfit fits. To use the words of Peter, “…for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God…” (1 Peter 2:10).
The third central bishop leadership task of the bishop is “to create a new theological direction and specific, shared purposes. This does not mean that the theological truths which have been proclaimed by the church/diocese through the ages are now untrue or irrelevant. However, it does mean that the church/diocese must articulate the timeless truths of the gospel in a manner that is relevant to the present age. Further, the purposes of the church/diocese must move beyond programs designed to stabilize a declining institution, and instead focus on means and methods of effectively fulfilling the mission.
The fourth central bishop leadership task of the bishop is “to launch and lead intentional missional teams to meet specific, concrete human hurts and hopes…” In truth, life is more than church/diocese, and salvation is more than forgiveness of sin. Our churches/dioceses are full of people who have given their hearts to Christ, but are still hurting from years of abuse, or suffering the emotional pains of divorce and abandonment. The task of the CCOEB and the bishop as a leader is to proclaim abundant life in Christ, which begins with the forgiveness of sin, and then continues in a life of sanctification, that is, being transformed by the power of the Spirit. That means the church/diocese, as the people of the Spirit, must demonstrate the fullness of the Spirit in a community that provides for the healing of humanity.
If the bishop is to be an effective leader in a church/diocese, then the church/diocese must provide the proper theological and missional understanding of the office which moves beyond such terms as executive, administrative, or jurisdictional. Each of these terms implies institutional maintenance.
The primary role of the bishop must be defined in terms of the ministry objectives – worship, discipleship, and evangelism – of the church/diocese. The leaders of the first century church were not satisfied to offer as qualification for an office of leadership in the church only a subjective statement such as “full of the Spirit and of wisdom” (Acts 6:3). They defined in an objective manner what it meant to be “full of the Spirit and of wisdom.” Such objective qualifications included personal, familial, and ministerial integrity that is to be demonstrated before the church and the world (1Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:7).
Because of our emphasis on the priesthood of the believer, we tend to view the church as an egalitarian society. However, if the leadership role of the bishop is to be effective in a church/diocese, then we must readily admit that not every consecrated bishop is qualified to serve as a bishop of bishops.
Further, egalitarianism and subjectivity encourages the perception of a culture of political manipulation and distrust. We should insist upon an understanding of the ministry of bishop and the necessary qualifications for the office that is objective and acknowledges the integrity demanded by the office.
The bishop as an effective leader must be one who has demonstrated the ability to effectively articulate the message of the church/diocese. In effect, the bishop must be a capable theologian, or in Paul’s words, the bishop must be “skillful in teaching” (1 Timothy 3:2 Greek – didaktikos). This implies that the bishop has dedicated oneself to the study of the Scriptures, as well as the history and traditions of the church.
This does not imply that a bishop must have formal seminary training, but it does suggest that one who serves as a bishop must have an education that is adequate to the task. The bishop must be more than knowledgeable, the bishop must be skillful in teaching, that is, the bishop must be able to communicate the knowledge he has received. It is also significant that Paul sets forth skillful teaching, rather than preaching (euaggelizo) as a qualification.
Whereas, preaching is the proclamation of the gospel unto repentance, teaching is the training of the converted. If the bishop is to be a leader who can “create new theological direction and specific, shared purposes” the bishop must be conversant with theological principles.
If the bishop is to be a leader who can effectively represent the church/diocese before the world, then the bishop must be able to effectively explain and defend the message of the gospel in a society that is moving toward a theological pluralism in which everything is truth.
If the bishop is to be instrumental in the creation of the church/diocese as a new community of reconciliation, care, and justice, the bishop must be able to effectively address issues of reconciliation and justice before the church/diocese and the world.
The teaching ministry of the bishop may be best utilized in the mentoring ministers and pastors through the ministerial development programs of the CCOEB. This can be done through regular mentoring sessions on regional level through direct involvement with the ministerial develop programs offered by the CCOEB and Shiloh College.
Further, the bishop can be helpful in encouraging ministers to continue their education at Shiloh College. The teaching ministry of the bishop includes theological dialogue in church diocese conferences and councils. Throughout the history of the church, such councils have been called in order to search the scriptures and clarify the teaching of the church. It is here that the training (or lack thereof) of the bishop becomes significant. If the bishops are inadequately educated in matters of theology and polity, then the representation of local congregations is diminished because the discussion of these vital matters is left to a small number of formally trained theologians who serve in the church’s institutions. If the CCOEB is to experience a leadership paradigm shift, then the church’s/diocese’s theology must be well articulated and demonstrated by local, district, and regional bishops.
The bishop as an effective leader must be one whose ministry acts to preserve the unity of the church. This is more than a theological principle; it is a missional and relational objective that is vital to the integrity of the fellowship of the church/diocese. The bishop is charged with the spiritual oversight of congregations, pastors, and other ministers. This requires that the bishop be a person whose vision of the church/diocese reaches well beyond one’s own congregation, one’s own methodology, and one’s own view of the model church/diocese. The bishop must recognize and affirm the diversity of the dioceses, churches and pastors under the bishop’s care. To be effective in maintaining the unity of the church, the bishop must excel in conflict resolution. This will have an empowering effect upon those pastors who are inclined to withdraw from active fellowship. CCOEB offers “Alternative conflict solution course” through our affiliation with Shiloh College.
Finally, the Pentecostal bishop is a sacramental presence because the bishop embodies the Spirit of grace. The life and ministry of the bishop is to faithfully reflect the sacramental presence of Christ. When the people of God are in distress, suffering, sick, or dying, they want their bishop – the person charged with the care of souls. In my thirty years of serving as the bishop of a local church, many have come to my office to “confess.” As they shared their failures with me, I have often quoted, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Then, after we have prayed for forgiveness, I have often declared, “Your sins are forgiven.” I am not suggesting that the bishop has the authority to absolve the sinner, but that bishops have the authority to declare forgiveness. At that moment, the bishop becomes the sacramental presence of Christ to the sinner. Many times as we pray with dying saint, we invoked the presence of Holy Spirit, and proclaim our hope in the resurrection. Many dying saints have found comfort and hope in the words and prayers of their bishop. In this regard, the bishop is a mediator of grace.
A Bishop will provide theological direction on theological issues in the region they oversee. Working in conjunction with the International Council, they must always be available for counsel and direction in making decisions regarding difficult cases.
A Bishop can preside over the ordination Council in their region, if requested by the Chief Prelate.
A Bishop should be actively involved in supervising various ministries. Bishops will visit ministers, churches, ministries and attend the yearly regional, national and International conference.
A Bishop will remain well versed in the scriptures in order to teach effectively and defend the faith.
A Bishop must seek to maintain good standing within the community.
A Bishop will correct, guide, teach and preach the Word to keep the church faithful to sound doctrine. The bishop will provide instruction and guidance to ministers who are in need.A Bishop will speak as a public representative on behalf of the CCOEB to civic and religious authorities only with the direct instruction of the International Council
How do you learn to be a bishop? For most of the Episcopal Church’s life, new bishops learned on the job with little or no outside help.
The influence of the bishop grew with the passing of the original apostles so that the bishops came to be viewed as the successors of the apostles. The term “bishop” became narrowly defined. Ignatius, the second century bishop of Antioch, understood the primary task of the bishop in terms of preserving the unity of the church. Therefore, to be in fellowship with the bishop was to be in fellowship with Christ and His church and submission to the bishop, as to Christ, was encouraged. The role of the bishop as a mediator of grace was not questioned. The role of the bishop in the ministry and worship of the church was so important that Ignatius wrote, “Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop(Ignatius to the Ephesians 5, 6, 8). By the end of the third century the office of the bishop was officially recognized by the Roman government and was organized according to a territorial structure, normally with the seat of the bishop in a larger city. In years to come, the bishops would define Christian orthodoxy in terms of the Holy Trinity and the nature of Christ, establish the canon, and guide the mission of the church throughout and beyond the Roman Empire.
In summary, the bishop was one who was called by the Spirit and recognized by the church to guide the worship and ministry of the church and to represent the Christian church before the state as well as the various church councils. The bishops were the church’s teachers and theologians, charged with establishing the orthodox doctrines of the church and defending those doctrines against pagans and heretics. In fulfilling their charge, the bishops were to preserve the unity of the church.