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Title: Did Apostolic Continuity Ever Start?
Subtitle: Origins of Apostolic Continuity in the New Testament
Author(s): O'COLLINS, Gerald
Journal: Louvain Studies
Volume: 21    Issue: 2   Date: summer 1996   
Pages: 138-152
DOI: 10.2143/LS.21.2.583429

Abstract :
The question I face here is: originally was the Church meant to be a completely egalitarian community, totally shaped by mutuality and reciprocity, and free of any kind of subordination to office holders and hierarchical organization? Should one agree with Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza's reconstruction of such a totally egalitarian start to Christianity? In The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q and Christian Origins Burton Mack assures his readers that 'at first no one was in charge of the groups that formed around' the teachings of Jesus. Did the original vision of Jesus exclude any form of institutionalized authoritative leadership entailing leaders and those they led, as actually happened in the handing on to subsequent generations of a hierarchical organization (with a threefold ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons) that claimed to stand in apostolic succession? Did that historical development of ordained leadership betray Jesus' dream (shared for a brief period by some or all of his first followers?) of a community of male and female disciples as copartners variously and directly or personally empowered by the Holy Spirit to minister for the good of all? Did and does that hierarchical development necessarily involve male dominance in a patriarchal rule that inevitably brings oppression by abandoning the vision of Jesus and his first disciples? Should then the whole Christian Church collaborate in restoring the earliest state of things, that normative first era which flourished without supervisory authorities and any official establishment? In short, what do the Scriptures indicate about God's foundational designs for the Church, its ordering, and its leadership? But first let us hear some more challenging voices from the present and the past.

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