Was John Wesley Consecrated Orthodox Bishop?

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In the land of Facebook, I found myself drawn into a conversation about the foundations of the Methodist Church.

It’s one of those historic treats that I find as tempting as a cat grabbing a puff of catnip. As it turns out, there is controversy as to whether Methodist founder John Wesley requested, or perhaps even obtained, the “historic” bishopric for his mission.

The known facts are: the monk Gerasimos Avlonites, Bishop Erasmus of the Greek Diocese of Arcadia, Crete, was caught up in a civil war between the Greeks and the Ottomans and was forced into exile in 1739. The bishop then established an Orthodox mission in Amsterdam .

He then went to London in 1763. And there Bishop Erasmus met John Wesley.

What happened at the end of these meetings raised endless questions. They go from not much at all, to the bishop ordained a few priests for the mission of Wesley, including “John Jones, Samson Staniforth, Thomas Bryant, Alexander Mather and (unnamed) others,” to categorically state among these ordinations the Bishop also consecrated Wesley a bishop.

The ordinations seem credible and almost certainly took place. The consecration is seriously questioned. However, we have a event photo, and there is that. Well, except it was painted in the 21st century. But, you know, the details …

If he succeeded, but it was sub rosa, in my opinion, that doesn’t change much. Secret consecrations are no better than no consecrations for anyone except the recipient of the honor. After all, it is as much a common matter as it is a private one. This is why in churches which claim apostolic succession, several consecrators are expected and, in some jurisdictions, required.

But if it happened and was released to the world, it opens the imaginative doors of what if. What if his church could and claimed to stand in this tradition with the various Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox and (some) Lutherans?

What exactly would result? Nothing? Something? A bunch of something? Hard to say.

And. I searched YouTube for a clip of the ordination / commissioning / consecration of a Methodist bishop to find the video from Africa that I show below.

So whatever, there is this …

All this intriguing, the stuff of long conversations between theological and ecclesiastical minds, probably involving several glasses of wine …


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