Language: April 2005 Archives

Bishop of Rome

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I find it funny that a number Protestants have been insisting on calling the pope the bishop of Rome. Anglicans consider the pope the bishop of Rome, because they consider all the bishops of equal authority, and they consider the pope the only bishop in Rome. Eastern orthodox have the same view, though they didn't adopt it to justify a king's adultery that Rome wouldn't allow. They simply believed the bishop of Rome was claiming more authority than was really his to claim. Protestants (besides Anglicans) generally don't consider the pope the only bishop in Rome, so why do they think 'the bishop of Rome' refers to him uniquely?

Protestants generally recognize that the word 'bishop' in older English translations of the Bible refers to the local elders of a congregation, the spiritual leaders who carry out the normal teaching function of the congregation, oversee spiritual leadership, and discipline members of the congregation when necessary. Each congregation thus has at least one bishop, ideally a plurality for any local gathering. A leader Protestants wrongly call the pastor should count as one of these elders or bishops, but ideally there will be others in a team, all of whom will teach, even if one or two will be paid full-time. A Protestant might even think Catholics should be calling their whole priesthood bishops or elders rather than priests, since everyone is a priest anyway, and the priests serve the functions that elders do in the biblical records. It just strikes me as funny to see those who believe in many bishops in Rome calling the pope the bishop of Rome, as if that expression is uniquely referring.

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