Does the Continuing Church of God (CCOG) have apostolic succession?
We are the faithful descendants of the apostolic ‘See of Ephesus’ which is sometimes referred to as the ‘See of Smyrna.’ We in the CCOG are NOT Protestant, Roman Catholic, nor Eastern Orthodox Catholic. We assert that we are the best 21st century representation of the original apostolic catholic church (see also the free online book: Beliefs of the Original Catholic Church).
We declare that we are the true spiritual descendants of the apostles. We assert that such descent is not dependent upon a bishop to bishop transfer, but a true holding of teachings in a little flock–Luke 12:32—along with a laying on of hands succession. While ordination is one aspect of spiritual authority, the church’s authority comes not so much from apostolic succession as it does from the word of God. In other words, the ministry is to be followed as it follows Jesus (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1) and what the Bible teaches (e.g. 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
A laying on of hands succession means that, although there were unfaithful bishops/pastors throughout history, we in the CCOG declare that our members and leaders have an unbroken laying on of hands connection back to the original apostles who received God’s Holy Spirit in Acts 2:1-4. We also have the ‘last days signs’ of Acts 2:17-18 (see also Does the CCOG have the confirmed signs of Acts 2:17-18?), which we assert shows God’s confirmation of our church (cf. Mark 16:20; Hebrews 12:2).
While Jesus is perfect (Hebrews 2:10) and He is the true head of the church (Colossians 1:18), unlike the Church of Rome, we do not claim infallibility of any of our human leaders nor any of their writings. Nor do we view our ‘succession lists’ the same way that those in the Roman or Eastern Orthodox Catholic churches view theirs. Plus, we acknowledge that there can be more than one accurate succession list as there were many apostles and branches.
While recognizing that certain historical records are sparse, and many old Church of God documents (including lists) were destroyed, we have put together a tentative list as the details of several leaders as well as dates are not firmly established. While the first two centuries and last four centuries are reasonably firm, there is speculation related to several of the names as we have less information about leaders during the “church in the wilderness” (Revelation 12:6) time c. 380-1640 A.D. To a major degree, the records for that period are mainly reports from those who opposed many COG doctrines.
Continuing Church of God Apostolic Laying on of Hands Succession ListApostle Peter through death circa 64-68 (oversaw churches in many areas, including Asia Minor)
Apostle John through death circa 98-102 (oversaw churches from Ephesus of Asia Minor)
Polycarp through death circa 155-157 (oversaw churches from Smyrna of Asia Minor)
Thraseas through death circa 160 (oversaw the churches from Eumenia, but died in Smyrna)
Sagaris through death circa 166-167 (died in Laodicea of Asia Minor)
Papirius through death circa 170 (oversaw churches from Smyrna of Asia Minor)
Melito through death circa 170-180 (oversaw churches from Sardis of Asia Minor)
Polycrates through death circa 200 (oversaw churches from Ephesus of Asia Minor)
Apollonius of Ephesus through death circa 210 (oversaw churches from Ephesus of Asia Minor).
Camerius of Smyrna through death circa 220 (oversaw churches from Smyrna of Asia Minor).
c. 220 – c. 254 Nepos of Arsinoe
c. 254 – c. 275 Unnamed Antiochian(s) or possibly Dorotheus
c. 275 – 312 Lucian of Antioch
c. 313 – 380 Unnamed Antiochian (s)
c. 380 – c. 470 Unnamed Nazarenes
c. 470 – c. 500 Constantine of Antioch and Aushin
c. 500 – c. 645 Unnamed ‘Paulicians’
c. 645 – c. 650 Leader with New Testament from Syria
c. 650 – c. 684 Constantine of Mananali (Silvanus)
c. 684 – c. 696 Simeon
c. 697 – c. 702 Sergius
c. 702 – c. 717 Paul the Armenian
c. 717 – c. 746 Gegnesius
c. 746 – c. 782 Joseph (Epaphroditus)
c. 783 – c. 800 Unnamed Paulician(s)
c. 801 – c. 835 Sergius (Tychicus)
c. 836 – c. 919 Unnamed Paulicians
c. 920 – c. 950 Basil
c. 951 – c. 980 Jeremiah
1000s Sergius (27 years)
c. 1110 – 1140 Peter DeBruy (Pierre De Bruy)
1140 – 1155 Arnold of Brescia
1156 – 1181 Nicetas
1181 – 1205 Peter Waldo
1205 – 1224 Arnold Hot
1224 – 1300 Unnamed Sabbatarian Waldensians
c. 1310 – 1322 Walter the Lollard
1322 – c. 1335 Raymond the Lollard
c. 1335 – c. 1460 Unnamed Sabbatarian Waldensians
c. 1460 – 1492 Anthony Ferrar
1492 – 1525 Stefano Carlino or Unnamed Sabbatarian Waldenesians
1526 – 1528 Moravian Sabbatarian Anabaptist ‘traveling minister’
1529 – 1540 Andreas Fischer
c. 1540 – 1563 Michiel Rovillart of Arras
1560 – 1579 Francis David
1580 – 1587 Unnamed Sabbatarian
1588 – 1600 Andreas Eossi
1600 – 1616 Simon Péchi
1617 – 1619 John Traske
1620 – 1652 John Pecke
1652 – 1654 Peter Chamberlen
1654 – 1661 John James
1661 – 1678 William Saller/Seller
1678 – 1711 Henry Soursby
1712 or 1716 – 1743 Thomas Lucas
1712 – 1716 John Maxson
1716 – 1718 John Maxson, Jr.
1718 – 1737 Joseph Crandall
1737 – 1748 Joseph Maxson
1748 – 1778 John Maxson
1779 – 1797 Nathan Rogers
1797 – 1820 James Dunn
1820 – 1850 John Cottrell or 1823-1850 Peter Davis
1839 or 1850 – 1871 Asa Bee or unnamed Sabbatarian
1871 – 1900 A.C. Long
1900 – 1905 William C. Long
1905 – 1921 S.W. Mentzer
1921 – 1933 Andrew N. Dugger or 1922 – 1933 John S. Stanford
1933 – 1986 Herbert W. Armstrong
1986 – 2010 Dibar Apartian
2011 – present Bob Thiel
A sermon of related interest is also available:
What is apostolic succession? Is it in line with the teachings of Jesus? Is spiritual succession more important than claims of physical succession? Does any church have both? Is it possible that one city was to be the continual headquarters for Christians for nearly 2,000 years? What about the See of Ephesus or the See of Smyrna? What about the seven churches of Revelation 1-3? What time periods are covered by the Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicean eras of the Church of God? As there were over a dozen apostles in the New Testament, could there be more than one accurate succession list? What are some of the names did the Greco-Romans gave to people who opposed them, whether or not truly part of the Church of God? Who were the early successors in Jerusalem? Who were some of the successors in Asia Minor and Antioch? Have those with Church of God doctrines claimed apostolic succession throughout the centuries? Does the Continuing Church of God claim it has spiritual as well as ‘laying on of hands’ apostolic succession?
Here is a link to the sermon: Church in the Wilderness Apostolic Succession List.
It should be mention that we in the CCOG assert that some ‘records’ about individuals and groups from enemies were not accurate. Various other historians agree:
Enemies have sought to confound, so there might be imputed to the Waldenses any evil which had been brought home to the Albigenses and these last having been convicted of enormous errors in doctrines and practice, that the condemnation might embrace the Waldenses as well. (Trench RC. Lectures on Medieval Church History: Being the Substance of Lectures Delivered at Queen’s College, London. Macmillan, 1877, p. 246)
It is only from the enemies of God’s Church that we have scanty, malicious records of God’s people, who were now defined as “heretics” and “enemies of the church.” These records arrribute beliefs to God’s people which they never held. Heretics and the true Church are often called by the same names. For centuries Catholic writers mention small remnants of the true Church within the bounds of the Roman Empire. Sometimes they were individuals, sometimes scattered families, and especially in the Near East there were still a few local congregations preaching the gospel and keeping the commandments. (Hoeh H. A True History of the True Church. Radio Church of God, 1959, pp. 18-19)
The “Near East” means places like Asia Minor, Antioch, and Armenia. To “confound” means to condemn and confuse, in this case, with misinformation. The pagans and Jews did this related to early Christians (e.g. Acts 25:7-8), but sadly this happened with later Christians as well. So, it should not come as a surprise that less than flattering statements, or even claimed doctrinal issues, related to true Christian leaders has occurred throughout the church age. Hence, no we do not believe all the negative things about relatively old and new leaders on that list.
More on Christian history can be found in the free online book: Continuing History of the Church of God.
Information on some of our spiritual predecessors can also be found in the following:
1. The Ephesus Church Era was predominant from 31 A.D. to circa 135 A.D. The Church of James, Peter, Paul, and John, etc. Here is a link to a related video sermon: Ephesus Church Era.
2. The Smyrna Church Era was predominant circa 135 A.D. to circa 450 A.D. The Church led by Polycarp, Melito, Polycrates, etc. Here is a link to a related video sermon: The Smyrna Church Era.
3. The Pergamos Church Era was predominant circa 450 A.D. to circa 1050 A.D. An especially persecuted Church. Here is a link to a related sermon video: Pergamos Era and the Antichrist.
4. The Thyatira Church Era was predominant circa 1050 A.D. to circa 1600 A.D. The Church during the Inquisition. It claimed succession from the apostles. Here is a link to a related sermon: Thyatira, Succession, and Jezebel.
5. The Sardis Church Era was predominant circa 1600 A.D. to circa 1933 A.D. Discusses some early history of the Seventh Day Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, CG7-Salem, Jerusalem 7DCG, and COG-7th Day-Denver. Here are two historical sermons: Sardis Church Era: Beginnings, Doctrines, and Leaders and Sardis: SDBs, SDAs, & CG7s.
6. The Philadelphia Church Era was predominant circa 1933 A.D. to 1986 A.D. The old Radio Church of God and old Worldwide Church of God, now the remnant of that era is basically the most faithful in the Church of God, like who hold to the beliefs and practices of the Continuing Church of God.