On Bishops

The bishop is the first and highest degree of the clergy in the Orthodox Church (επίσκοπος or episkopos in Greek, which means overseer).

A bishop is the successor to the Apostles in the service and government of the Church. The bishop thus serves in place and as a “type” of Christ in the Church. No bishop in Orthodoxy is considered infallible. None has any authority over or apart from his priests, deacons, and people or the other bishops. They have the responsibility of maintaining the unity of the Church throughout the world by insuring the truth and unity of the faith and practice of their diocese. The bishop represent his particular diocese to the other churches or dioceses, and represents the Universal Church to his own particular priests, deacons, and people. According to Church Law, bishops of an area must meet in councils. When doing so, the metropolitan or patriarchate (also bishops) presides administratively. In the Orthodox Church, from about the sixth century, it has been the rule that bishops are single men or widowers. Bishops are also usually in at least the first degree of monastic orders.

Within the first generations after Christ’s crucifixion we see the offices of bishop, priest, and deacon already take on their established role within the Church. St. Ignatius the second bishop of Antioch write: “See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery (priesthood) as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic [Apostolic] Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.”