Early Church 3: The Rise of the Bishops

By the year 200 the polity of the church was settled and dioceses were the norm. In these dioceses a single bishop/overseer was appointed from among the elders/presbyters, and these were aided in various ways by the deacons of the churches. How do we get from the melange of forms of church government in the New Testament to a universally applied system called the monarchal episcopate so quickly? That is the question we address in lecture three.

Delivered at Christ Church in San Antonio on October 2nd.


Author: duanemiller

I was born in Montana and grew up in Colorado and Puebla (in Mexico). I completed a BA in philosophy at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and then an MA in theology at St Mary's University (also in San Antonio). Later life took me to Jordan where my wife and I studied Arabic, to Israel where I helped found a seminary, and to Scotland for doctoral work, among other places. I live in Madrid now where I teach and minister. I'm highly interested in the interactions of Islam, Christianity and secularism in modern contexts. My main areas of research for my PhD in divinity were religious conversion from Islam to Christianity, contextual theology, and the shari'a's treatment of apostates. I've also published research on global Anglicanism and the history of Anglican mission in the Ottoman Empire. I've had the pleasure of teaching in many places over the years: from Costa Rica to Turkey, and Kenya to Tunisia. I am at-large lecturer and researcher in Muslim-Christian relations at The Christian Institute of Islamic Studies (www.tciis.org), and deacon at the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer in Madrid, Spain. Visit my blog (duanemiller.wordpress.com) or academia.edu page for more information or to have me speak at your church, university or seminary.

2 thoughts on “Early Church 3: The Rise of the Bishops”

  1. Interesting. For the sake of curiosity, do any of these lectures cover the roles of women in early Christianity? A good friend of mine insists that women were prominent leaders until The Way became the official religion of the Holy Roman Empire and the process of standardizing Christianity pretty much destroyed the ability of women to serve in positions like deaconess. I’m having a hard time finding proof either way.

  2. Hi Jamie, good question. But no, I’m not going to be focusing on that issue in any of these lectures. The reason is that these are supposed to be a very brief intro to key topics, rather than a critical evaluation of current debates that are ongoing.

    However, my short answer would be that yes, women were clearly prominent leaders in some churches. But no, they did not hold any ordained positions (i.e., elder or bishop). There may have been some deaconesses, but it is not clear to me that they had received the laying on of hands (i.e., ordination).

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