THE PASTORAL OFFICE OF BISHOPS AND ABBESSES
HIS GRACE ARCHBISHOP SIR Dr. GODFREY GREGG
ON FEBRUARY 08, 2014
Jesus Christ our Lord, Son of the living God, came that He might save His people from their sins and that all men might be sanctified. Just as He Himself was sent by the Father, so He also sent His Apostles. Therefore, He sanctified them, conferring on them the Holy Spirit, so that they also might glorify the Father upon earth and save men, “to the building up of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12), which is the Church.
In this Church of Christ, The Mystical Order of Spiritual Baptist Inc. His All Holiness The Patriarch and Presiding Prelate, is the founding Leader, to whom Christ entrusted the feeding of His sheep and lambs, enjoys supreme, full, immediate, and Mystical authority over the care of souls by divine institution. Therefore, as Leader of all the faithful believers, he is set aside and Consecrated to provide for the common good of the Mystical Church and for the good of the Affiliate churches. Hence, he holds supreme and Patriarchal power over all the churches.
The Bishops, Abbesses and other Ministers, however, having been appointed by the Holy Spirit, are to continue the work of the Apostles as pastors and teachers of souls. Together with The Patriarch and Presiding Prelate and under his authority they are Consecrated and established to continue throughout the ages the work of Christ which He gave the Apostles. The command and the power to teach all nations, the truth, and to feed them. Bishops, Abbesses and other Ministers, therefore, have been made true and authentic teachers of the faith, and pastors through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to them.
Bishops, Abbesses and other Ministers sharing in the solicitude for all the Affiliate churches, exercise this Mystical office of theirs, which they have received through Mystical consecration, and communion with and under the authority of The Patriarch and Presiding Prelate. As far as their teaching authority and pastoral government are concerned, all are united in a body of The Executive Council with respect to the Mystical Church of God.
They exercise their office individually in reference to the portions of the Lord’s flock assigned to them, each one taking responsibility for their individual Office committed to them, or sometimes some of them jointly providing for certain common needs of various churches.
This sacred Office of the Archbishop, therefore, attentive to the conditions of human gathering which have brought about a new order of things in this time, intends to determine more exactly the role of the office of Bishops and Abbesses, therefore, has decreed and publishes the following. (www.mysticalorderinc.org)
The Role of Bishops and Abbesses in the Mystical Church
By virtue of Mystical consecration and Patriarchal communion with the Archbishop and members of the Executive Council, bishops are constituted as members of the Mystical Court. “The order of bishops and Abbesses are to continue the work of the apostles in teaching and pastoral direction, or rather, in the Mystical order, the apostolic body continues without a break. Together with its head, The Patriarch and Presiding Prelate, and never without this head it exists as the subject of supreme, plenary power over the Mystical Church. But this power cannot be exercised without the authority given by the Grand Commanding Officer of The Mystical Court.
Bishops and Abbesses should realize that they are bound together and should manifest a concern for all the Affiliate churches. For by divine institution and the rule of their Mystical office each one together with all other Ministers is responsible for the Church. They should especially be concerned about those departing from the precepts of the Christian life, and even of losing the faith itself. We are to focus on the missing sheep from the fold and go in search for them.
Let Bishops and Abbesses, therefore, make every effort to have the faithful believers actively support and promote works of evangelization and the Mystical Church of Jesus Christ. Let them strive, moreover, to see that suitable qualified ministers are prepared for the missions and for spreading the Gospel of Christ. They should also see to it, as much as possible, that Ministers engage in evangelizing the world. It is the duty of every Ordained minister and congregation.
Bishops should also be mindful, in administering ecclesiastical property, of the needs not only of their own Churches but also of the other particular churches, for they are also a part of the one Church of Christ. Finally, they should direct their attention, according to their means, to the relief of disasters by which other churches and regions are affected. Consideration must be made, not neglecting the edification of the Church in times of emergencies.
Let them especially embrace in brotherly affection those Ministers who, for the sake of Christ, are plagued with corruption, slander and indigence, detained in prisons, or held back from their ministry. They should take an active brotherly interest in them so that their sufferings may be burdensome and alleviated through the prayers and good works of their profession.
Bishops and Abbesses in The Mystical Court
To bishops, as successors of the Apostles, in the congregations entrusted to them, there belongs per se all the ordinary, proper, and immediate authority which is required for the exercise of their pastoral office. But this never in any way infringes upon the power which The Patriarch and Presiding Prelate has, by virtue of his office, of reserving cases to himself, the Archbishop or to some other authority.
The Rules and Bylaws of the Church grants the faculty to each Affiliate Bishop or Abbess to dispense, in a particular case, the faithful believer over whom they legally exercise authority as often as they judge that it contributes to their spiritual welfare, except in those cases which have been especially reserved by the supreme, Mystical authority of the Church.
In exercising supreme, full, and immediate power in the Mystical Church, The Patriarch and Presiding Prelate makes use of all officers which, therefore, perform their duties in Christ Name and with the authority of the Grand Commanding Officer for the good of the churches and in the service of the sacred Ministers.
Affiliate Bishops and Abbesses
An Affiliate Church is a portion of the people of God which is entrusted to a Bishop or Abbess to be shepherded by him or her with the cooperation of the Executive Council. Thus by adhering to its pastor and gathered together by him through the Gospel and the Holy Spirit, it constitutes a particular church in which the one, Mystical Church of Christ is truly present and operative.
Individual Bishops and Abbesses who have been entrusted with the care of a particular church-under the authority of The Patriarch and Presiding Prelate are required to feed their sheep in the Name of the Lord as their own, ordinary, and immediate pastors, performing for them the office of teaching, sanctifying, and governing. Nevertheless, they should recognize the rights which legitimately belong to The Patriarch, Archbishop and other Senior authorities.
Bishops and Abbesses should dedicate themselves to their Mystical Office as witness of Christ before all men. They should not only look after those who already follow the Leaders of the Church but should also wholeheartedly devote themselves to those who have strayed in any way from the path of truth or are ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and His saving knowledge until finally all men walk “in all goodness and justice and truth” (Ephesians 5:9).
In exercising their duty of teaching-which is conspicuous among the principal duties of bishops, they should announce the Gospel of Christ to men, calling them to a faith in the power of the Spirit or confirming them in a living faith. They should expound the whole mystery of Christ to them, namely, those truths the ignorance of which is ignorance of Christ. At the same time they should point out the divinely revealed way to give glory to God and thereby to attain to eternal happiness.
They should show, moreover, that earthly goods and human institutions according to the plan of God the Creator are also disposed for man’s salvation and therefore can contribute much to the building up of the body of Christ.
Therefore, they should teach, according to the doctrine of the Church of Christ, the great value of these things: the human person with his freedom and bodily life, the family and its unity and stability, the conception and education of children, civil society with its laws and professions, labor and leisure, the arts and technical inventions, poverty and affluence. Finally, they should set forth the ways by which are to be answered the most serious questions concerning the ownership, increase, and just distribution of material goods, peace and war, and brotherly relations among all countries. Abstaining from the shedding of blood through wars and other means of punishments.
The Bishops and Abbesses should present Christian doctrine in a manner adapted to the needs of the times, that is to say, in a manner that will respond to the difficulties and questions by which people are especially burdened and troubled. They should also guard that doctrine, rituals, teaching the believers to defend and proclaim it. In putting forward this doctrine they should manifest the maternal solicitude of the Mystical Church toward all men whether they are believers or not. With a special affection they should attend upon every man equally to which the Lord sent them to preach the Gospel.
Since it is the vision of the Church to interact with the community in which we live it is especially the duty of Bishops and Abbesses to seek out men and women both request and promote dialogue with them. These conversations on salvation ought to be noted with good behavior and integrity as well as humility and mildness in order that at all times truth may be joined to fellowship and understanding with love. Likewise they should be noted for due prudence joined with trust, which fosters friendship and thus is capable of bringing about a union of minds.
They should also strive to make use of the various media at hand nowadays for proclaiming Christian doctrine, namely, first of all, preaching and living example which always hold the first place, then meetings of every kind, and finally its dissemination through public statements at times of outstanding events as well as by the electronic media of communication, which by all means ought to be used in proclaiming the Gospel of Christ. (www.mysticalorderinc.org)
In exercising their office of sanctification, Bishops and Abbesses should be mindful that they have been taken from among the congregation, appointed and Consecrated as representative before God in order to minister and teach the people of God. Bishops and Abbesses enjoy the fullness of leadership with the authority given at Consecration by His All Holiness The Patriarch and Presiding Prelate. Therefore Bishops and Abbesses are the principal dispensers of the mysteries of God, as well as being the governors, promoters, and guardians of the entire life in the church committed to them.
They should, therefore, constantly exert themselves to have the believers know and live the paschal mystery more deeply through the preached word and thus become a firmly-knit body in the unity of the Church of Christ. “Intent upon prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4), they should devote their labor to this end that all those committed to their care may be of one mind in prayer and through the reception of the Word of God may grow in grace and be faithful witnesses to the Lord.
As those who lead others to perfection, Bishops and Abbesses should be diligent in fostering holiness among their Ministers, and congregation according to the special vocation of each. They should also be mindful of their obligation to give an example of holiness in charity, humility, and simplicity of life. Let them so set apart the congregation entrusted to them that the feeling of the Mystical Church of Christ may shine forth fully in them. For that reason they should fast and pray and “mourn” as much as possible, and should take a special interest in congregating with others.
In exercising their office leadership, Bishops and Abbesses should stand in the midst of their congregation as those who serve. Let them be good shepherds who know their sheep and whose sheep know them. Let them be true leaders who excel in the spirit of love and solicitude for all and to whose divinely conferred authority all gratefully submit themselves. Let them so gather and mold the whole family of their flock that everyone, conscious of his own duties, may live and work in the communion of love.
In order to accomplish these things, Bishops and Abbesses, should be “ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21) and “enduring all things for the sake of the chosen ones”(2 Timothy 2:10), should arrange their life in such a way as to accommodate it to the needs of our times. They should deal lovingly with the separated brethren, urging the believers also to conduct themselves with great kindness, humility and love in their regard and fostering spiritual awareness as it is understood by the Church. They should also have a place in their hearts for the unbeliever so that upon them too there may shine the love of Christ Jesus, to whom the Bishops and Abbesses are witnesses before all men.
In discharging their office, which concerns the salvation of souls, Bishops and Abbesses enjoy full and perfect freedom and independence from any governmental authority. Hence, the exercise of their ecclesiastical office may not be hindered, directly or indirectly, nor may they be forbidden to communicate freely with His All Holiness The Patriarch and Presiding Prelate, or ecclesiastical authorities.
Assuredly, while sacred Ministers devote themselves to the spiritual care of their flock, they also in fact have regard and respect for their social and civil progress and prosperity. According to the nature of their office and as necessary Bishops and Abbesses, they collaborate actively with public authorities for this purpose and advocate obedience to just laws and reverence for legitimately constituted authorities unless otherwise advised by The Patriarch and Presiding Prelate.
Since the Mystical office of Bishops (Abbesses) was instituted by Christ the Lord and pursues a spiritual and supernatural purpose, this Executive Council declares that the right of selecting and appointing Bishops and Abbesses belongs properly, peculiarly, and exclusively to the competent Ordination and Consecration Committee, with the review and recommendations of the Archbishop and approval of The Patriarch and Presiding Prelate.
Therefore, for the purpose of duly protecting the freedom of the Mystical Church and of promoting more conveniently and efficiently the welfare of the believer, this Executive Council desires that in future no more rights or privileges of election, nomination, presentation, or designation for the office of Bishop and Abbesses be granted to any one person.
Since the pastoral office of bishops is so important and weighty, Bishops and Abbesses, who have become less capable of fulfilling their duties properly because of the increasing burden of age or some other serious reason, are earnestly requested to offer their resignation from office either at their own initiative or upon the invitation of the competent authority. If the competent authority should accept the resignation, it will make provision both for the suitable support of those who have resigned and for special rights to be accorded them. They will still maintain their title as “Emeritus”.
The Affiliate clergy
All Clergy both Affiliate and Central, participate in and exercise with the Bishop the one Royal Priesthood of Christ and are thereby constituted prudent cooperators of the Mystical Order. In the care of souls, however, the first place is held by Affiliate Ministers who are incardinated or attached to a particular church, for they have fully dedicated themselves in the service of caring for a single portion of the Lord’s flock. In consequence, they form one council and one family whose father is the Bishop (Mother is the Abbess). In order to distribute more equitably and properly the sacred ministries among their Ministers, the Bishop should possess a necessary freedom in bestowing offices and titles with consultation of the Ordination and Consecration Committee. Therefore, rights or privileges which in any way limit this freedom are to be granted by His All Holiness The Patriarch and Presiding Prelate on the recommendation of the Archbishop.
The relationships between the Bishop and the Affiliate Minister should rest most especially upon the bonds of supernatural love so that the harmony of the will of the Minister with that of their Bishop or Abbess will render their pastoral activity more fruitful. Wherefore, for the sake of greater service to souls, let the Bishop or Abbess call the Ministers into dialogue, especially about pastoral matters. This he or she should do not only on a given occasion but at regularly fixed intervals insofar as this is possible.
Furthermore all Affiliate Ministers should be united among themselves and so should share a genuine concern for the spiritual welfare of the whole Mystical Community. They should also be mindful that the benefits they receive by reason of their ecclesiastical office are closely bound up with their sacred work. Therefore they should contribute generously, as the Bishop or Abbess may direct and as their means permit, to the material needs of the Church.
In exercising this care of souls, pastors and their assistants should so fulfill their duty of teaching, sanctifying and governing that the believer and the communities will truly realize that they are members both of the city and of the Mystical Church. For this reason, they should collaborate with other pastors and Ministers who exercise a pastoral office in the area, as well as with those engaged in the works of the Church. In this way the pastoral work in the community will be unified and made more effective.
Moreover, the care of souls should always be infused with a missionary spirit so that it reaches out as it should to everyone living within the community. If the Bishop or Abbess cannot contact certain groups of people, he should seek the assistance of others, even ministers who can assist him or her in this effort.
In the exercise of their teaching office it is the duty of Ministers to preach God’s word to all the Christian people so that, rooted in faith, hope and charity, they will grow in Christ, and as a Christian community bear witness to that charity which the Lord commended. It is also the duty of pastors to bring the faithful to a full knowledge of the mystery of salvation through a catechetical instruction which is consonant with each one’s age. In imparting this instruction they should seek not only the assistance of the Clergy but also the cooperation of the congregation.
In discharging their duty of sanctifying their people, pastors should see to it that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is the center and culmination of the whole life of the Christian community. They should labor without stint that the faithful believers are nourished with spiritual food through the devout and frequent reception of the Sacraments and through intelligent and active participation in the Preached Word. Pastors should also be mindful of how much the sacrifice of Prayer and Mourning contributes to developing the Christian life and, therefore, should always make themselves available to hear the testimonies of the faithful. If necessary, they should invite the assistance of Ministers who are experienced in various skills.
In fulfilling their office as shepherd, pastors should take pains to know their own flock. Since they are the servants of all the sheep, they should encourage a full Christian life among the individual faithful believer and also in families, in associations especially dedicated to the hierarchy, and in the whole community. Therefore, they should visit homes and schools to the extent that their pastoral work demands. They should pay special attention to adolescents and youth. They should devote themselves with a paternal love to the poor and the sick. They should have a particular concern for workingmen. Finally, they should encourage the faithful believers to assist in the works of the Ministry. They should assist one another with counsel, help and example, providing a united will and common zeal in the service of the Ministry.
In forming a judgment on the suitability of a minister for the administration of any office, The Ordination and Consecration Committee should take into consideration not only his or her knowledge of doctrine but also their piety, apostolic zeal and other gifts and qualities which are necessary for the proper exercise of the care of souls and the furtherance of the Ministry.
Now the Church exists solely for the good of souls. Wherefore, the Ordination and Consecration Committee should be able to provide more easily and effectively for ministers willing to serve. Ministers should enjoy in their Church that stability of office which the good of souls demands..
Pastors who are unable to fulfill their office properly and fruitfully because of the increasing burden of old age or some other serious reason are urgently requested to tender their resignation voluntarily upon the invitation of the bishop. The bishop should provide suitable support for those who have resigned. Finally, the same concern for souls should be the basis for determining or reconsidering the erection or suppression of a Church and any other changes of this kind which the Bishop or Abbess is empowered to undertake on his own authority.
In all that follows with Religious are included also the members of other institutes who profess the evangelical counsels. All Religion have the duty, each according to his proper vocation, of cooperating zealously and diligently in building up and increasing the whole Mystical Body of Christ and for the good of the particular churches.
It is their first duty to foster these objectives by prayer, works of fasting and the example of their own life for which this Executive Council strongly urges them to increase their esteem and zeal. With due consideration for the character proper to each religious community, they should also enter more vigorously into the external works of the Ministry.
Religious Ministers are by Consecration assumed into the responsibilities of the Conciliate so as to become themselves the prudent cooperators of the Mystical Order. Today they can be of even greater help to Bishops or Abbesses in view of the greater needs of souls. Therefore, they can be said in a real sense to belong to the clergy of the Affiliate Church inasmuch as they share in the care of souls and in carrying out works of the Ministry under the authority of The Patriarch and Presiding Prelate.
Other members of religious communities, both men and women, also belong in a special way to the Affiliate Church family and offer great assistance to the sacred hierarchy. With the increasing demands of the Ministry they can and should offer that assistance even more and more. In order that the works of the apostolate be carried out harmoniously in individual Affiliate Churches and that the unity of affiliate discipline be preserved intact, these principles are established as fundamental:
All Ministers should always look upon the Bishops or Abbesses, with devoted respect and reverence. Whenever they are legitimately called upon to undertake works of the Ministry, they are obliged to discharge their duties as active and obedient helpers of the Bishops. Indeed, Ministers should consider it an honor to respond promptly and faithfully to the requests and desires of the Archbishop and in such a way they may assume an even more ample role in the ministry of human salvation. This they should do with due respect for the character of their institute and in keeping with Rules and Bylaws which, if needs be, should be accommodated to this goal in accord with the principles of this Ecclesiastical DECREE.
This DEGREE will include The Queen Abbess, the Senior Bishop, the Chief Bishop and the Cardinal, nothing in this document shall hinder the performance of the holders of the offices. They shall on behalf of the Mystical Order and under this DECREE by the Archbishop and sanction by His All Holiness the Patriarch and Presiding Prelate. They shall perform the following duties:
- Funeral Service and Burial of the dead
- Marriage Counselling
- Weddings (Only license ministers)
- Hospital visits, Sick and shut-ins
- Prison visitation
- Ordinations and Consecration with the recommendation of the Archbishop and approval of the Patriarch
This DECREE shall come into effect on FEBRUARY 28, 2014