Laying on of Hands Succession and List

By COGwriter

Does the Continuing Church of God have laying on of hands succession from the original apostles?


Consider that Hebrews 2 states:

1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:1-2, NKJV throughout unless otherwise noted).

1 Let us leave behind us then all the elementary teaching about Christ and go on to its completion, without going over the fundamental doctrines again: the turning away from dead actions, faith in God, 2 the teaching about baptisms and the laying -- on of hands, about the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgement. (Hebrews 6:1-2, New Jerusalem Bible)

So, we see in both Protestant and Roman Catholic translations of the Bible that the "laying on of hands" is an elementary teaching, a fundamental doctrine, of the church. It is such a doctrine in the Continuing Church of God (see also Elementary Doctrines of the Church: Hebrews 6 and Laying on of Hands).

Here is a link to a related sermon: Apostolic Laying on of Hands Succession.

Laying on of Hands with Anointing Oil

But what about laying on of hands succession?

The laying on of hands sanctifies, sets apart, the one who has hands laid upon. Related to clergy, the Bible tells of "anointing oil" (that term is found 22 times in the NKJV). Some of the oils used were pure (single ingredient) whereas others were mixed with spices.

The Jewish Encyclopedia states:

In the Bible olive-oil alone is mentioned, although it may be inferred from the expression "shemen zayit" that other oils were known. (Hirsh EG. Löw I. Oil. Jewish Encyclopedia, Funk & Wagnalls, 1905, p. 391)

The term "zayit" is applied in the Old Testament only to the cultivated olive-tree, the wild olive, the oleaster of the ancients. ... For the best oil in Biblical times the fruit was crushed in a vessel without being pressed very hard (Ex. xxvii. 20, xxix. 40; I Kings v. 25; Ps. xcii. 11). Oil so obtained was used in the Temple. (Hirsh EG. Olive. Jewish Encyclopedia, Funk & Wagnalls, 1905, p. 394)

In the Church of God, olive oil has traditionally been used. Part of the reason for that olive oil is supported by the following :

20 "And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually. (Exodus 27:20)

2 "Command the children of Israel that they bring to you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to make the lamps burn continually. (Leviticus 24:2)

Another part of the biblical-reasoning would be the following:

10 But my horn You have exalted like a wild ox; I have been anointed with fresh oil. (Psalms 92:10)

The root of the word Hebrew word translated as fresh above, ra'aab means green. Olive oil is a greenish-oil.

Furthermore, Micah 6:15 essentially shows that olive oil was used for anointing, but those cursed would not be able to do that. Zechariah 4:11-14 also supports the idea of olive oil.

Notice also something from the old Worldwide Church of God:

To Give Authority

God has also willed that THE LAYING ON OF HANDS be used in ordaining His servants to a position of responsibility. Moses passed on his authority to Joshua by laying hands on him. "And the Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and LAY THINE HAND UPON HIM; And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient. AND HE LAID HIS HANDS UPON HIM, and gave him a charge, as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses" (Num. 27:18-20, 23). Notice that IT WAS NOT MOSES who put Joshua over all Israel. Moses merely laid hands on Joshua as a SYMBOL of the fact that GOD HAD PLACED HIM IN THAT OFFICE. (Wiedenheft RA. The Laying on of Hands. Tomorrows World magazine, April 1971)

Anointing was not limited to religious leaders.

The anointing was used for kings. The Bible tells of Saul and David being anointed (1 Samuel 9:27, 10:1; 16:9). Saul actually tried to kill David at least twice (1 Samuel 19:10-11, 20:33), and David had to flee (1 Samuel 20:33-42).

Saul's anointing was public and well known, David's was not.

David was actually anointed king three times. The first via God through Samuel (1 Samuel 16:1-9) which was a fairly private affair.

The second time was after Saul died by the men of Judah (2 Samuel 2:4). The third by the elders of Israel (2 Samuel 5:3).

Additionally, David's son Solomon was anointed twice to be king per 1 Kings 1:39 and 1 Chronicles 29:21.

So, we see precedent where some have been anointed more than once for the same basic role, as well as being anointed by those of a lessor position.

Laying on of Hands for Leaders in the New Testament

The Bible shows that the laying on of hands was done for the newly baptized (Acts 8:17; 19:5-6) as well as church leadership (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Timothy 4:14, 5:17-22; 2 Timothy 1:6) so that the Holy Spirit could be given. And this type of apostolic continuity has occurred with the true Church of God throughout history.


9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. (Romans 8:9)

One is granted the Spirit of God by the laying on of hands.

Essentially, in a sense, all real Christians have a type of apostolic continuity as far as being a Christian is concerned. Thus, so does the true church.

Let's look at scriptures in the New Testament related to baptisms, starting with Acts:

14. Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the Word of God, they sent Peter and John to them; 15. Who, after coming down to Samaria, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit; 16. For as yet it had not fallen upon any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

17. Then they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18. Now when Simon saw that the Holy Spirit was given by the laying on of the hands of the apostles, he offered them money, 19. Saying, “Give this authority to me also, so that on whomever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 8:14-19, A Faithful Version)

Notice that money cannot buy the laying on of hands to gain the Holy Spirit. Oh yes, there are some unfaithful who may take bribes to lay on hands, but God will not respect such a person.

Of course, the leaders' hands had no magical or mystical qualities. They merely symbolized and formally emphasized that God, not man, gave them authority and set them apart for a particular job. God commissioned them and issued them authority and jurisdiction to do His work. This again demonstrates one of the great lessons of the laying on of hands--that God works through man -- even in ordaining His own servants. ... Along with the physical act of baptism is promised the Holy Spirit -- through the laying on of hands. Millions have supposedly been baptized, but very few have had hands laid on them for the receiving of the Holy Spirit after baptism. (Bradley A. Laying On of Hands. Good News, February 1974)

The clergy beseeches the Father to give the person His Holy Spirit via prayer and the laying on of hands. The Spirit is given by the Father, if the Father answers the clergy’s prayer, which is mainly dependent upon the sincerity/repentance of the person. Therefore, even if the specific clergy member who performed the ceremony has issues or falls away from the truth, the procedure is still valid. The Holy Spirit comes from God, not one's hands.

Because of ties to the Apostles, all members of the true Church of God have laying on hands succession from the Apostles and function as witnesses of being part of the true and original church.

Notice the following related to the ordination of deacons:

1 Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. 2 Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. 3 Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; 4 but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word."

5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude. And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch, 6 whom they set before the apostles; and when they had prayed, they laid hands on them. (Acts 6:1-6)

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in Ephesus discussing the laying on of hands:

14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership (1 Timothy 4:14).

6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands (2 Timothy 1:6).

22 Do not lay hands on anyone hastily (1 Timothy 5:22).

Thus, Paul is basically stating that authority was placed by him on Timothy through the laying on of hands, and that Timothy had authority to lay hands on people in Ephesus as well.

The so-called Apostolic Constitutions claims to have recorded statements that the Apostles John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, and Matthew made regarding the need for the laying on of hands for the appointment of the clergy, including deacons and deaconesses (Apostolic Constitutions, Book VIII, Section 3, XVII-XXII; while the apostles did not write this book, some of the information in it appears consistent with apostolic practices, while other information is not).

Hence, one should not baptize oneself nor ordain oneself (the clergy itself does not give God's Spirit at baptism nor ordination--God does THROUGH the laying on of hands).

The laying on of hands is the type of “succession” that the Bible speaks of.

This seems to be recognized even by Eastern Orthodox scholars. Priest Laurent Cleenewerck wrote:

Apostolic succession involves a physical link (the laying on of hands) between the Apostles and their successors. (Cleenewerck L. His Broken Body: Understanding and Healing the Schism Between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches (An Orthodox Perspective). Euclid University Consortium Press, Washington (DC), 2007, p. 53)

The Catholic Encyclopedia also endorses the “laying on of hands,” though it uses a slightly different expression:

The Apostles imposed hands on the newly baptized, that they might receive the gifts of the Holy Ghost in confirmation (Acts 8:17, 19; 19:6); on those to be promoted to holy orders (Acts 6:6; 13:3; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6; Matthew 13); and on others to bestow some supernatural gift or corporal benefit (Acts, passim). In fact this rite was so constantly employed that the "imposition of hands" came to designate an essential Catholic doctrine (Hebrews 6:2). (Morrisroe, Patrick. Imposition of Hands. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910)

As Hebrews 6:2 states, the “laying on of hands” is an essential Christian doctrine.

Notice something from the old Worldwide Church of God:

Recognition of Authority

God has ordained that His Church employ THE LAYING ON OF HANDS AS A PHYSICAL SYMBOL OF THE AUTHORITY THAT GOD PLACED IN HIS CHURCH AND WITH HIS TRUE MINISTERS. Timothy couldn't have jumped up one day and proclaimed himself a minister all on his own — he had to recognize the authority in God's Church and in the Apostle Paul. He had to be placed into the ministry through THE LAYING ON OF PAUL'S HANDS; because Paul had been given authority by God — through THE LAYING ON OF THE HANDS of the elders and apostles before him. Thus the authority in God's Church went back to the twelve apostles, who were called, chosen, and ordained by Jesus Christ Himself.

Timothy couldn't have been ordained by just any church or any minister. He had to be ordained by the TRUE CHURCH and TRUE MINISTRY, THROUGH WHICH GOD WAS WORKING. (Wiedenheft RA. The Laying on of Hands. Tomorrows World magazine, April 1971)

God's word endorses the laying on of hands.

Laying on of Hands and Apostolic Succession?

Many believe that the true church can be traced through what is known as apostolic succession via the laying on of hands from the time of the apostles to the present. Actually, to one degree or another, this is the official belief of the churches that most who profess Christ are affiliated with (e.g. Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Church of God), although the individual churches tend to interpret how and who a bit differently.

The term apostolic succession has several possible meanings. But for the purpose of this article, the following definition from a Roman Catholic priest and scholar will be used:

Apostolic Succession ... In its strict sense, apostolic succession refers to the doctrine by which the validity and authority of the Christian ministry is derived from the Apostles. The outward sign by which this connection is both symbolized and effected is the laying on of hands by the Bishop at ordination.

In its broader sense, apostolic succession refers to the relationship between the Christian church today and the apostolic church of New Testament times. Thus, apostolic succession refers to the whole church insofar as it is faithful to the word, the witness, and the service of the apostolic communities. Understood in this way, the church is not simply a collectivity of individual churches; instead, it is a communion of churches whose validity is derived from the apostolic message that it professes and from the apostolic witness that it lives (McBrien R.P. Apostolic Succession. 01/30/17).

In other words, according to the above priest, apostolic succession is actually related to the acceptance of the succession of biblical truth, as taught by the original apostles--spiritual apostolic succession is the most important factor to consider when it comes to the subject of apostolic succession. Plus, the 'laying on of hands' is also a factor as that is how one is ordained.

In addition to verses related to the laying on of hands, biblical support for the concept of apostolic succession mainly seems to come from a few passages in the New Testament.

The first involved Jesus:

16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:16-19).

This passage shows that the true church will not die out (the gates of Hades essentially means the power of death). Jesus was the Rock (see also Was Peter the Rock Who Alone Received the Keys of the Kingdom?).

The Apostle Paul confirmed that the concept that the true church was built on more than just the Apostle Peter and that Jesus was the Rock. In his letter to the Ephesians the Apostle Paul makes clear that the Church was not just built on Peter but is built on the spiritual foundation of the apostles (plural) AND the prophets, with Jesus as the chief cornerstone, and including all the members in the church as well:

19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Notice further that the passage above, by discussing the apostles and prophets, does not in any way imply that any single city, nor bishop to bishop transfer, is required for succession (which, biblically was prophesied to be impossible, cf. Hebrews 13:14).

Furthermore, as Jesus and Peter used the term prophets (see Matthew 7:12;26:56; Acts 3:18-25) as a description of part of the Bible and the fact that the apostles wrote nearly all books of the New Testament, this verse is a clearer endorsement of apostolic succession being based upon the teachings (especially the inspired writings) of the apostles and prophets as opposed to only some type of bishop succession that Paul does not mention in this passage.

And, I should add here, that the biblical idea that the true church would be built on an apostolic foundation is a valid view. But, it needs to be understood that the leaders are only to be followed if they are faithful to true Christian teachings. Consider what the Apostles John and Jude wrote:

19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. (1 John 2:19)

3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 3-4)

12 These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots; 13 raging waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. 14 Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, 15 to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him." Apostates Predicted 16 These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. 17 But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: 18 how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. 19 These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit. (Jude 12-19)

Notice that both John and Jude are referring to people who claim to be Christians and have had some apostolic contact. Thus, it is more than contact that validates succession--only those who contend earnestly for the original faith could have succession.

Apostolic Successor

Who do the records of history show was the recognized successor to the apostles?

While the apostles ordained many, one leader stands out having succession: Polycarp of Smyrna.

  1. Polycarp is the only possible direct apostolic successor considered by any church I am aware of that there was a letter written to him while he was alive (yes, there were letters written in the New Testament to leaders, but are referred to as apostolic successors).
  2. He is the only possible direct apostolic successor considered by any church I am aware that to have written any document that we still possess to this day (there is a letter claimed to have been written by Clement of Rome, however, it does not say that he wrote it, nor is Clement considered to be the direct successor of any apostle--the Roman Catholic Church currently claims that Linus was Peter's direct successor; there are also letters written by Ignatius of Antioch, but the two Antiochian Churches I am aware of claim that Evodius, not Ignatius, was Peter's direct successor).
  3. Polycarp is the only possible direct apostolic successor considered by any church I am aware that to have any significant document written about him within a few weeks of his death.
  4. Polycarp is the only possible successor to the apostles that was clearly called "bishop" while he was alive.
  5. Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Church of God historians all teach that Polycarp was a spiritually faithful Christian leader. Yet, Polycarp refused to accept the authority of the Roman Bishop Anicetus.
  6. Polycarp is also the only possible successor to have a writing perhaps directed to him in the Bible. Some scholars believe that when John wrote to the "angel of the church Smyrna" that this actually was addressed to the leader of the church (the Greek term translated as "angel" can mean human representatives, e.g. Luke 7:24) who they feel was Polycarp.
  7. Polycarp is also the only possible early successor who was declared to be the Shepherd of the Catholic Church throughout the world (The Martyrdom of Polycarp. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson). No other early leader had that written about him within weeks of his life.

The Catholic, Protestant, and Eastern Orthodox saint Irenaeus wrote (circa 180):

Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome...The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate...

But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom, departed this life, having always taught the things which he had learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the present time (Irenaeus. Adversus Haeres. Book III, Chapter 3, Verses 2,3,4. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

So we see from Irenaeus that there were many churches founded by the apostles, but that he only decided to mention two successors by name: Linus of Rome and Polycarp of Smyrna. Notice that Irenaeus is claiming that Polycarp was appointed bishop (pastor/overseer) of the Church in Smyrna by the apostles in Asia (which would most likely have been John and Philip and perhaps some others like Peter). Notice that Irenaeus is claiming that there was a list of men who have succeeded Polycarp until the late 2nd century and that they held to the teaching of the apostles. Thus, despite Roman and other claims to the contrary, the only universally accepted apostle to “bishop” transfer of leadership for the 1st and 2nd centuries that continued until at least the end of the 2nd century was through Polycarp of Smyrna.

By Tertullian's time (circa 195), he concluded that there were only two possibly apostolic churches, plus the heretics:

Anyhow the heresies are at best novelties, and have no continuity with the teaching of Christ. Perhaps some heretics may claim Apostolic antiquity: we reply: Let them publish the origins of their churches and unroll the catalogue of their bishops till now from the Apostles or from some bishop appointed by the Apostles, as the Smyrnaeans count from Polycarp and John, and the Romans from Clement and Peter; let heretics invent something to match this (Tertullian. Liber de praescriptione haereticorum. Circa 200 A.D. as cited in Chapman J. Transcribed by Lucy Tobin. Tertullian. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Copyright © 1912 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

It is probable that Tertullian was aware of elders in Rome prior to Clement (as Irenaeus wrote prior to him), as well as bishops of Smyrna prior to Polycarp, but that Tertullian felt that apostolic succession could only have gone through Polycarp (who he listed first) or Clement.

Now this poses a problem for the Roman Catholic Church as its two primary sources of succession information disagree with one another. Normally, when there are two possibly reliable sources, historians tend to accept what they agree on, but place lower credence on those that they disagree on. Hence, from the position of a historian, Polycarp would seem to have been universally understood to have been the immediate physical successor to the apostles, but that Linus and Clement were not universally understood to be. It needs to be further understood that there is basically nothing known about Linus nor Clement--pretty much everything truly known about them came many decades after their death.

As far as Polycarp goes, he was the bishop of the Church of God in Smyrna:

Ignatius ... to the Church of God ... which is at Smyrna, in Asia ... See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles ... (Ignatius. Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Chapters 1,8. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885)

Polycarp called the true Church the "Church of God" in his Letter to the Philippians.

Polycarp, himself, was called, "the father of the Christians" by anti-Christians, hence it was he that they apparently would have considered to have been an apostolic successor:

12:1 Saying these things and more besides, he was inspired with courage and joy, and his countenance was filled with grace, so that not only did it not drop in dismay at the things which were said to him, but on the contrary the proconsul was astounded and sent his own herald to proclaim three times in the midst of the stadium, 'Polycarp hath confessed himself to be a Christian.'

12:2 When this was proclaimed by the herald, the whole multitude both of Gentiles and of Jews who dwelt in Smyrna cried out with ungovernable wrath and with a loud shout, 'This is the teacher of Asia, the father of the Christians, the puller down of our gods, who teaches numbers not to sacrifice nor worship.' Saying these things, they shouted aloud and asked the Asiarch Philip to let a lion loose upon Polycarp (Lightfoot J. Martyrdom of Polycarp).

Anyway, Polycarp would have had hands laid upon him, as would his successors.

Three Early Succession Lists

While there were successions from the apostles in many parts of the world, here we will list three: Jerusalem, Antioch, and Asia Minor.


Because we have more information on these leaders and/or areas which support that they are Church of God. Others, the reports are more like legends and/or too incomplete to go very far with a succession list.

That being said, the in the Continuing Church of God consider that the following, presuming the Greco-Roman historian Eusebius’ information was accurate, had apostolic succession in Jerusalem through 134/135 A.D.:

Jerusalem Succession List Per Eusebius

The first, then, was James, the so-called brother of the Lord;
the second, Symeon;
the third, Justus;
the fourth, Zacchæus;
the fifth, Tobias;
the sixth, Benjamin;
the seventh, John;
the eighth, Matthias;
the ninth, Philip;
the tenth, Seneca;
the eleventh, Justus;
the twelfth, Levi;
the thirteenth, Ephres;
the fourteenth, Joseph;
and finally, the fifteenth, Judas.

These are the bishops of Jerusalem that lived between the age of the apostles and the time referred to, all of them belonging to the circumcision. (Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book III, Chapter V, Verses 2,3.& Book IV, Chapter 5, Verses 2-4,  pp. 45, 71)

We consider the above Church of God leaders. They held to many COG doctrines that Protestants do not hold to, as Protestant scholars will normally admit. The Christian church originated in Jerusalem of Judea, was based out of Jerusalem for a time, and the twelve apostles reportedly remained there for at least twelve years before venturing out (Eusebius Book V, Chapter 18). The Church of Rome also teaches that the Jerusalem church was the original Christian church (Joyce G. The Church. The Catholic Encyclopedia). According to the Apostle Paul, Gentile Christians should be “imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 2:14a), but Protestants do not do that.

That being said, we do not consider that a later claimed successor, the ‘Latin’ Marcus of Jerusalem who compromised with doctrine and came to power 134/135 A.D. (and was allegedly there until 185), as a true successor or part of the Church of God. Nor did Irenaeus of Lyon as he wrote that apostolic fruits in Jerusalem ended immediately before the time Marcus gained power (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book IV, Chapter IV, Verse 1). Even the Roman Catholic monk and historian Jean Briand reported what happened after 134:

135. The direction of the Church in Jerusalem was then entrusted to bishops of pagan origin. (Briand J. The Judeo-Christian Church of Nazareth Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1982, p. 13)

Those “bishops of pagan origin” were apostates.

As far as how apostasy could hit Jerusalem, 2nd century writer Hegissipus wrote that the corruption in Jerusalem began a decade or two prior to the rise of Marcus. Hegissipus reported that one called Thebuthis had doctrines of Simon Magus (of Acts 8:9-14) and Marcion of Pontus (discussed in the next chapter), but that the Jewish Christians and their leaders would not then accept them (Eusebius. Church History, Book IV, Chapter 22, verses 1, 4-5).

As it turned out, in order to be ‘legally’ allowed back into Jerusalem after the Jewish Bar Kochba revolt, history shows Marcus finally implemented some of the false doctrines that Simon (Magus) and Marcion taught. That is why we in the CCOG do not accept Marcus as an apostolic successor (but the Eastern Orthodox do). Anyway, some of the spiritual descendants of the faithful who had to leave Jerusalem were called Nazarenes—consistent with what Christians associated with the Apostle Paul were called (cf. Acts 24:5).

Antioch was originally part of the true Christian church (cf. Acts 11:26-27), and Serapion of Antioch held COG doctrines. We in the CCOG consider that there was apostolic succession in Antioch through his death (died c. 211/212). The following names and dates are from Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America ( accessed 01/24/20) and may or may not be precisely accurate:

Antiochian Succession List

1 45-53 The Episcopacy of St. Peter, the Apostle, in Antioch.
2 53 The Episcopacy of Eudoius in Antioch.
3 68 The Episcopacy of St. Ignatius (d. 107) in Antioch.
4 100 The Episcopacy of Heros in Antioch.
5 127 The Episcopacy of Cornelius in Antioch.
6 151 The Episcopacy of Heros II in Antioch.
7 169 The Episcopacy of Theophilus (d. 181/182) in Antioch.
8 188 The Episcopacy of Maximianus (d. 190/191) in Antioch.
9 191-212 The Episcopacy of Serapion in Antioch.

Scholars are aware of writings from at least four on that list. Those writings demonstrate that they held Church of God as opposed to Protestant or Eastern Orthodox doctrines on matters such as Passover and the Godhead.

Prior to heretical changes taking hold in Asia Minor, Serapion of Antioch warned of a “lying confederacy” (Serapion. From the epistle to Caricus and Ponticus) of Greco-Roman churches that was forming (and which enveloped Antioch after his death). Also, it should be pointed out that Polycarp in Smyrna had warned earlier of the “vanity of many” (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter VII).

Neither Polycarp nor Serapion wanted to be in communion with the growing number of compromisers who would not hold to the original apostolic faith. The “vanity of many” Polycarp warned about led to the “lying confederacy” which Serapion saw develop further that ended up resulting in the Greco-Roman churches, from which Protestantism later sprang.

Note that we do not consider that Asclepiades the Confessor (c. 211/212-220, who is next on Orthodox Church succession lists for Antioch) was a faithful successor to Serapion. Throughout church history, the mystery of iniquity has been present (2 Thessalonians 2:7; 1 John 2:19) and false leaders have appeared.

We in the Continuing Church of God consider that the following had laying on of hands apostolic succession in Asia Minor:

Peter/Paul/James through death circa 64-68 (mainly oversaw churches from Asia Minor and Jerusalem, though Paul was imprisoned in Rome)
John through death circa 95-100
(oversaw churches from Ephesus of Asia Minor)
Polycarp through death circa 155-156
(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).
Eudaemon of Smyrna from 220 through his compromise
with the pagans seems to have been a successor that lost the 'mantle' of succession while alive.
Pionius of Smyrna through death circa 250 (was faithful during the time of a leader, Eudaemon of Smyrna)

The above succession list is consistent with what Irenaeus and Tertullian wrote, and based upon what Polycrates of Ephesus wrote through his time, plus with some other successors we have information on.

Polycrates wrote that all who proceeded him (Polycrates specifically mentioned John, Polycarp, Thraseas, Sagaris, Papirius, Melito, as well himself) were kept the original faith.

There basically is a Church of God 'apostolic succession list' from the original apostles that we can document through the middle of the third century (details on most those leaders can be found in the related links).

Later Succession?

What about after the middle of the third century?

Essentially, because of the severe persecutions was under the reigns of Decius and Gallus in the mid-3rd century, the names of the successors are not clear. But a laying on of hands succession would have continued. Groups from Asia Minor, including some of the Paulicians claimed ties.

Many of the leaders in the ‘succession list’ above in Asia Minor wrote letters or had treatises about them that survive until this day (and parts of several are cited throughout this book).

Roman Catholic scholars have noted that the Greco-Roman Catholic historian Eusebius intentionally did not report later details about those they have considered to be Judeao-Christians (e.g. Briand, p. 66 and Bagatti B. Translated by Eugene Hoade. The Church from the Circumcision. Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi, 13 Maii 1970. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari, 14 Junii 1970. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, died 26 Junii 1970. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1971, p.11).

Since the 4th century Greco-Roman Eusebius was the official Imperial historian for Emperor Constantine, this is one reason the CCOG early succession lists do not have named Christian leaders past certain points—such as a gap on the names of the faithful after Pionius through the time of Eusebius.

We in the Continuing Church of God would call the previously shown list of successors Smyrnaeans, partially because of the time that Polycarp of Smyrna arose in prominence as well as Tertullian’s use of the term (plus earlier, Ignatius also wrote that Polycarp was the bishop of the Smyrnaeans in his Epistle to Polycarp). However, some of the Greek Orthodox have claimed at least some of these leaders as part of the Patriarch of Ephesus. That is despite the fact that the Greek Orthodox do not hold to many of the teachings these early leaders had.

Whether referred to as Smyrnaeans or the See of Ephesus, the leaders in the list shown above clearly held Church of God doctrines that were later condemned by the Greco-Roman churches (and doctrines often considered as an anathema to Protestant ones).

As far as being faithful to original Christianity and scripture goes, notice the following:

The lineage of bishops in the region of Asia Minor may be the most important area of all for crystallizing Christian theology by providing a direct link between the writings of the Scripture and the tradition of the fathers. (Simons J. “Ecclesia enim per universum orbem”: Unity in Ephesus as Claimed by Irenaeus. Wheaton College Graduate School, April 2016, p. 57).

And that is why they are often quoted in this book as advocating original Christianity. Further consider that the Asia Minor leaders held beliefs that we in the CCOG still hold that the Greco-Roman-Protestant churches do not. The CCOG truly has spiritual (as well as physical) succession from these leaders, as well as the faithful early leaders in Jerusalem.

In the late 4th century, the Greco-Roman saint Jerome reported that the Christians he did not care for and called Nazarenes, who seemed to have fled into the wilderness (cf. Revelation 12:6), held COG doctrines. But Jerome did not list the leaders’ names. The Nazarenes, themselves, claimed to have ties to Jerusalem and seemingly Asia Minor and/or Antioch (Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1910).

It is known that various records originally retained by early COG sources were destroyed, lost, and/or supressed (Schaff P. NICENE AND POST-NICENE FATHERS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH. 2nd series, Volume I, Chapter XXVI, Note 1, p. 203). Plus, not everything was written down or retained. What we do know is that in 380 A.D. Emperor Theodosius made various statements (Theodosian Code XVI.1.2.) that seemed to drive the faithful Christians into the wilderness.

After the third century, many dispersed all over. Some apparently ended up in the British Isles. Interestingly, the Celtic/Keltic churches, around 600 A.D. claimed to have been descended from the church of the Ephesians/Smyrnaeans:

The Keltic Churches of Ireland, of Galloway, and of Iona were at one with the British Church. These claimed, like Southern Gaul and Spain, to have drawn their faith from the Apostolic See of Ephesus. Their liturgies, or such fragments as have come down to us, bear marks of belonging to the Oriental family of liturgies. (Dawson W. The Keltic Church and English Christianity. Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (New Series), 1884, p. 377 doi:10.2307/3677978 )

These people had practices like the seventh-day Sabbath and Passover on the 14th of Nisan (see The Pergamos Church Era and The Smyrna Church Era).

The Bible teaches that there would be a succession of seven churches throughout history, until the end of the age (Revelation 2-3). The genuine Church of God traces itself through those seven churches, and holds the basic beliefs of them down to this day (more information can be found in the article The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3). Each era is connected through the laying on of hands, which in the New Testament church began with the apostles.

Interestingly, The Catholic Encyclopedia article on Paulicians admits:

They honoured not the Cross, but only the book of the Gospel. They were Iconoclasts, rejecting all pictures ... The whole ecclesiastical hierarchy is bad, as also all Sacraments and ritual. They had a special aversion to monks ... Since Gibbon the Paulicians have often been described as a survival of early and pure Christianity, godly folk who clung to the Gospel, rejecting later superstitions, who were grossly calumniated by their opponents. ...

The emperor Alexius Comnenus is credited with having put an end to the heresy. During a residence at Philippopolis, he argued with them and converted all, or nearly all, back to the Church (so his daughter: “Alexias”, XV, 9). From this time the Paulicians practically disappear from history. But they left traces of their heresy. In Bulgaria the Bogomile sect, which lasted through the Middle Ages and spread to the West in the form of Cathari, Albigensians, and other Manichaean heresies, is a continuation of Paulicianism. In Armenia, too, similar sects, derived from them, continue till our own time. (Fortesque A. Paulicians)

Notice that even some Roman Catholic scholars admit the possibility that some of the Paulicians were the survivors of an early and pure Christianity and that they had spiritual descendants that continued into the future (Alexius Comnenus died in A.D. 1118 and essentially dealt with the Paulicians at Philippopolis in the late eleventh century: Hamilton J, Hamilton B, Stoyanov Y.  Christian dualist heresies in the Byzantine world, c. 650-c. 1450: selected sources.  Manchester University Press ND, 1998, pp. 166-170), such as those within the Thyatira era, as well into modern times! This, combined with Gibbon’s account, is supportive of the view that a laying on of hands continued from the beginning, through the late eleventh century and beyond.

Walensian Succession?

The Cathari were also known to be pacifists, as were the faithful among the Paulicians. The same would be the case for the faithful among the Waldenses.

The Waldenses had at one time bishops but that was when the sect was more widely spread than it now is. [Much has been said of the origin of the Waldenses. Their own historians assert that the community has remained from apostolic times independent of the church of Rome and they boast they can show a regular apostolic succession of bishops from the earliest period of Christianity, till that of the reformation. ...] (Blackwell DC. A Handbook of Church History. Chapter V - Series: 1: Waldenses and Anabaptists. Ambassador College Thesis, 1973)

The ... Waldenses ... Their own historians assert that the community has remained from apostolic times independent of the church of Rome and they boast they can show a regular apostolic succession of bishops from the earliest period of Christianity, till that of the reformation. (Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association: ... Annual Meeting with Constitution and By-laws and List of Members, Volume 17; Volume 19. The Association, 1919. Original from the University of Michigan Digitized Oct 28, 2005, pp. 190-191)

The Waldenses claimed to have had a complete list of bishop succession from the apostles to the 16th century, but such document(s) were either lost, hidden, or destroyed. A list was reportedly given to a Roman Catholic bishop in 1467 (Podmore C. The Moravian Church in England, 1728-1760. Clarendon Press, 1998, p. 213). They claimed to have originally descended from the Greek church (Martin JH. Historical Sketch of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania With Some Account of the Moravian Church. Philadelphia, 1873, p. 8), which would have been Asia Minor or Antioch.

Hence, at least part of their succession list (which has since seemingly has been lost, destroyed, or hidden) likely was similar to that which the CCOG points to in the first couple of centuries of the Christian church. In 1749, the validity of a succession list of a group that claimed to have been from the Waldensians was actually accepted by the British Parliament (Atwood CD. Community of the Cross Moravian Piety in Colonial Bethlehem. Penn State Press, 2004, p. 23). So, yes, there are references to a list once that stretched over a millennium of leaders with apostolic succession that were not Greco-Roman Catholics.

We do not possess the list that the Waldenses claimed to have, but it may well have listed faithful leaders through out the church age from Acts 2 to the 15th or 16th century (the one beginning in 1467 and running through 1865 that I found related to the Moravians was not a Church of God list).

Here is an insert related to the Waldensians

After seeing several published claims in the 19th and 20th centuries of apostolic succession related to a group known as the Waldensians [1-6], I contacted historians and librarians associated with the American Waldensian Society to see if they had a list to back up such claims—I also contacted leaders in several Sabbatarian churches.

Those I was in communication with were unaware of any such list, even though several documents claimed that early Waldensians (also known as Vaudois) had true succession and/or some type of list prior to the time of the 16th century Protestant Reformation [1-7].

However, to assist, the Waldensians referred me to Moravian scholar Dr. Craig Atwood as well as the Archivo Della Tavola Valdese--the historical archives of the Waldensian Church in Italy—for more information.

Dr. Atwood provided information that the succession of Moravian prelates was accepted by the British Parliament in 1749 (Ada Fratrum Unitatis in Anglia), because they claimed succession via the Waldensians [2, 7].

The Waldensians, or at least a Moravian portion, claimed to have originally descended from ‘‘a branch of the Greek church’’ from the 9th century [3]. Moravia is a historical region in the east of the Czech Republic and one of three historical Czech lands, with Bohemia and Czech Silesia. In the 18th century, the Episcopal Church seemed to accept the Moravians as having valid Greek church succession [3].

Some indicate that the Waldensians came from a branch of the 4th century Greek church [7], which would point to Asia Minor and Antioch. Another source seems to point to the Waldensians being a branch of the 3rd or 4th century Antioch church [8]. Even Roman Catholic sources acknowledge that there were Sabbath-keeping leaders in Antioch in the 3rd or 4th centuries [9]

While there were different groups called Waldensians by the Roman Catholics, some did keep the Sabbath as well as hold to other doctrines not held by the Roman Catholics or the bulk of the Protestants [10].

Although modern Waldenesians observe Sunday, notice the following:

Sabbathkeeping among Waldensians was most widespread in Bohemia and Moravia, places to which they fled during papal persecution. A fifteenth-century manuscript, published by church historian Johann Döllinger in History of the Sects, reports that Waldensians in Bohemia “do not celebrate the feasts of the blessed virgin Mary and the Apostles, except the Lord’s day. Not a few celebrate the Sabbath with the Jews.” [11]

Here is what Johann Döllinger published in Latin in the above source, with my translation below it:
festa divae virginis Mariae et Apostolorum non celebrant, solam diem Dominicam aliqui. Nonnulli vero cum Judaeis sabbatum celebrant, [12]

the festival of the blessed virgin Mary and the Apostles not celebrated, only some the Lord’s day. Not a few of the people celebrate the Sabbath with the Jews,

There were differences among the Waldenesians. Some kept the Sabbath. The succession list in this article only includes leaders, starting with the apostles, who seemingly kept the seventh-day Sabbath.

Marco Fratini of Archivo Della Tavola Valdese emailed me (Bob Thiel) and said he did not have a list. He also emailed me on September 3, 2020 to encourage me to send him such a list if I came up with one. In June 2021, I sent him a list with through 1525.

I did so, and he thanked me for it later [13].

[1] Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association:...Annual Meeting with Constitution and By-laws and List of Members, Volume 17; Volume 19. The Association, 1919, pp. 190-191
[2] Podmore C. The Moravian Church in England, 1728-1760. Clarendon Press, 1998, pp. 210-239
[3] Martin JH. Historical Sketch of Bethlehem in Pennsylvania With Some Account of the Moravian Church. Philadelphia,1873, pp. 8, 51
[4] Adeney W. Waldenses, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics Volume 12. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1922, p. 664; the cited earlier source for this was from ‘‘Contra Valenses, in Maxima Bibliotheca..., Lyons, 1677-1707, xxv, 262 ff’’
[5] On the Episcopacy of the Herrnhuters, Commonly Known as the Moravians. The British Magazine, volume 7. 1835, pp. 645-647
[6] Benham D. Notes on the Origin and Episcopate of the Bohemian Brethren. Dalton & Lucy, 1867, p. 104
[7] Atwood CD. Community of the Cross Moravian Piety in Colonial Bethlehem. Penn State Press, 2004, p. 23
[8] Edwardson C. FACTS of FAITH. Christian Edwardson, 1943, pp. 18, 153
[9] Cardinal Newman, John Henry. The Arians of the Fourth Century. Longmans, Green, & Co., New York, 1908, pp. 7, 9
[10] Robinson R. Ecclesiastical Researches. Francis Hodson, publisher. 1792. Original from University of Chicago, Digitized Nov 19, 2015, pp. 299-304
[11] DamsteegT GF. Were the Waldensians Sabbathkeepers? Adventist World - November 11, 2017, p. 15
[12] Döllinger J. Beiträge zur Sektengeschichte des Mittelalters (Munich: Beck, 1890), Vol. II, p. 662
[13] Re: Waldenian Prima successione dell'elenco dei leader. Email from Marco Frateri to Dr. Thiel, June 17, 2021

The list sent ran from "the Greek Church," if you will, starting with the Greek Polycarp as a successor to the Apostle John (who was not Greek, but a Jew and/or Levite).

Cotterellis and Later

In the Third Lateran Council in 1179, the Cotterili were condemned (Third Lateran Council, Canon 27. 1179 A.D. Translation taken from Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Norman P. Tanner). It has also been observed that some of Coterelli (spelled Cottrell when Anglicized) moved to England and were also Sabbath-keepers who came to Rhode Island in the early 17th century (Nickels R.C. Six Paper on the History of the Church of God. Giving & Sharing, Neck City (MO), 1993, pp. 160-163 ) and some descendants continued at least two centuries longer than that with COG doctrines. Thus, it would seem that a succession through the laying on of hands has to have occurred, in at least one continuous family with Church of God doctrines, from 12th to the 19th centuries (Nickels,  Six Paper on the History of the Church of God. pp.41, 161-163; Spalding , Arthur Whitefield. Captains of the Host: A History of the Seventh Day Adventists. Published by Kessinger Publishing, 2005, p. 198; The Memorial: Portraits of William Bliss [and others].  G.B. & J.H. Utter, 1874.  Original from  the New York Public Library, Digitized Mar 3, 2009, p. 127).

I also confirmed the centuries long tie with Stanley Cottrell, and SDA historical lecturer, on 7/29/2008 and 7/30/2008.

I would also add that, from another source in the 21st century, I was told that some Cottrels were in the old Worldwide Church of God in Canada in the 2oth century.

Historian Philip Schaff understood that there were many (at least seventy-two) groups considered to be Cathari (c. 8th--14th centuries, but with claimed ties to the Paulicians and the apostles) and he indicates that some of the doctrines they held we would consider to be Church of God doctrines:

Agreed as the Cathari were in opposing many customs and doctrines of the established Church, they were divided among themselves and broken up into sects. According to one document seventy-two existed.

There are two Churches they held; one of the wicked and one of the righteous. They themselves constituted the Church of the righteous, outside of which there is no salvation, having received the imposition of hands and done penance according to the teaching of Christ and the Apostles. Its fruits proved that the established Church was not the true Church. The true Church endures persecution, does not prescribe it ... The Roman Church is the woman of the Apocalypse, a harlot, and the pope anti-Christ. The depositions at their trials indicate that the Cathari made much use of the Scriptures ... the Cathari also renounced priestly vestments, altars, and crosses as idolatrous. They called the cross the mark of the beast, and declared it had no more virtue than a ribbon for binding the hair. It was the instrument of Christ’s shame and death, and therefore not to be used. Thorns or a spear would be as appropriate for religious symbols as the cross. They also rejected, as might have been expected, the doctrines of purgatory and indulgences. (Schaff, Philip, History of the Christian Church, Chapter X)

The Cathari seemed to recognize that there were basically two church groups. The persecutions from the unfaithful church tended to make the true Christians flee to more mountainous regions as those areas were more remote and thus a safer place to live during then.  However, the faithful still had to have outside interactions and apparently many compromised to some degree to remain alive. The fact that they taught they had “received the imposition of hands” helps demonstrate that the laying on of hands practice was continued among the faithful.

History records that the 17th century Sabbath-keeper, Edward Stennett, who descended from a Lincolnshire family in the British Isles, specifically taught the doctrine of the laying on of hands (Ball B. Seventh Day Men: Sabbatarians and Sabbatarianism in England and Wales, 1600-1800, 2nd edition. James Clark & Co., 2009, p. 120).

Another Sabbath-keeper in the 17th century, William Hiscox endorsed the laying on of hands and mentioned one of the Cottrells (who apparently he had issues with) as he wrote:

The general meeting of the church at Westerly, Sept the 17th, 1698, being the Sabbath; Samuel Beebee and MaryCrandall submitted to the ordinance of hands, and were added to the church ... John Cottrell, for some time stood as a brother in this congregation, and having for a long time neglected his duties in the church, ... and having withdrawn his communion from us, the church do take themselves discharged, from their watch and care over him ... (The Memorial: Portraits of William Bliss [and others].  G.B. & J.H. Utter, 1874.  Original from  the New York Public Library, Digitized Mar 3, 2009, p. 127)

One question was did Sabbath-keeping people with the laying on of hands make it to the Western Hemisphere?

This was something I wondered about, and so did research.

Nicholas Cottrell’s name is on a list of immigrants who settled in New England, primarily Rhode Island, and were Sabbath-keepers in what appears to be the late 17th and early 18th centuries (Dedication of Minsters’ Monument, Aug. 28, 1899. By Hopkinton (R.I. : Town). First Hopkinton Cemetery Association, First Hopkinton Cemetery Association, Hopkinton, R.I. First Hopkinton cemetery association, Hopkinton (R.I. : Town). Published by Printed for the Association by the American Sabbath tract society, 1899. Original from the University of Michigan. Digitized Mar 15, 2006, pp. 6,22). The reasonably long list of about 150 names indicates that perhaps many Sabbath-keepers did come to the New World (though many on the list appear to be descendants of those who arrived to the New World).

A “General Meeting” was held in late May, 1684, shortly after Pentecost. All the brethren in New London, Westerly, Narraganset, Providence, Plymouth Colony and Martha’s Vineyard were invited to attend.

The object of this meeting was to bring the members, so widely scattered together at a communion season. ...

By this time, more members lived on the mainland than at Newport. Sabbath keepers had lived at Westerly since 1666, converts of Mumford. At a yearly meeting of the Church, at Westerly, on September 28, 1708 (New Style), the decision was made to separate into two churches. There were 72 at Westerly and 41 at Newport. (The Feast of Tabernacles for that year started Saturday, September 29.) Previously it was common to hold the yearly meeting at Westerly. Its first elder, John Maxson, was ordained October 1, `by fasting and prayer and laying on of hands.' (Nickels RC. Sabbatarian Baptists in America, pages 8-9, as cited by Fletcher).

In the year 1705, a church of Sabbath-keepers was organized at Piscataway, N.J. The first record in the old church record book, after the articles of faith, was the following statement. The record reads:

“The Church of God keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ, living in Piscataway and Hopewell, in the province of New Jersey, being assembled with one accord, at the house of Benjamin Martin, in Piscataway, the 19th day of August, 1705 -- we did then, and with one mind, choose our dearly beloved Edward Dunham, who is faithful in the Lord, to be our elder and assistant, according to the will of God; whom we did send to New England to be ordained; who was ordained in the church-meeting in Westerly, Rhode Island, by prayer and laying on of hands, by their elder, William Gibson, the eighth of September, 1705.” -- Idem, p. 121, Vol. 2, No. 3. (as cited in Dugger, A History of True Religion, pp. 275-277)

Here is a report of succession of early Sabbath-keeping leaders:


WAS constituted or organized, by Mr. Hubbard’s account in October, 1671. First number, seven members. Their first pastor was William Hiscox—He died, May 24th, 1704, in the 66th year of his age. Their second elder was William Gibson, from London...He died, March 12, 1717 ... Their next, or third elder, appears to be Joseph Crandall, who was ordained, May 8, 1715, and was a colleague with elder Gibson for two years, and then took the lead in said church.—He died, Sept. 13, 1737.

It appears, by the church records of Hopkinton, that Joseph Maxson was chosen to the office of an evangelist or travelling preacher, at Westerly, the 17th of September, 1732 ... and died, Sept. 1748, in the 78th year of his age ...

There was also, one or two elders, by the name of Peckham, who officiated as ministers in the Sabbatarian order, about this time: but I find no regular account of what church they belonged to, or when they died. One of them I well remember, when I was young. (Clarke H. A history of the Sabbatarians or Seventh Day Baptists, in America; containing their rise and progress to the year 1811, with their leaders' names, and their distinguishing tenets ...  Seward and Williams, 1811. Original from the New York Public Library, Digitized Jul 21, 2008, pp. 19-22)

So there was some type of leadership succession in the Rhode Island area in the 17th and 18th centuries (there are also later records of this at two of those churches, but those later individuals seemed to have adopted some non-COG doctrines).

Regarding succession in the 19th century, A.C. Long was a pre-Civil War Sabbatarian (later of Church of God in Missouri, later called General Conference Church of God in 1884) who seemed to hold the succession mantle from 1871-1900. He was followed by his brother W.C. Long from around 1900 -1905. He was succeeded by S. W. Mentzer 1905-1921. A.N. Dugger of the same church, renamed Church of God, Seventh Day (in 1923) specifically claimed to have the succession mantle. He may have held it from 1921 through 1933 (the group that went to Salem, West Virginia still claims it to this day (though they have no list as I asked its minister David DeLong about this on the telephone 06/24/20--see also CG7-S: Church of God 7th Day, Salem, West Virginia).

In 1933, that church organization lost the mantle and it passed to Herbert W. Armstrong (Church of God Seventh Day, then in 1934 Radio, then in 1967 Worldwide Church of God), who held it until his death in 1986. It was seemingly picked up by Roderick C. Meredith or Dibar Apartian then (Radio, then Worldwide, then in 1993 Global, then in 1998 Living Church of God), until Dr. Meredith lost it no later than 2011 (consistent with a prophetic dream) or when Dibar Apartian died in December 2010, when Bob Thiel (Worldwide, then Global, then Living, was in 2012 Continuing Church of God) anointed to receive a double portion of God's Spirit and was told by an LCG minister this was reminiscent of passing of the mantle and that seemed applicable: for more on the mantle, check out the article: Herbert W. Armstrong, the Philadelphia Church, & the Mantle).

One who claimed to be an early 20th century Church of God "successor" was A.N. Dugger. Notice some of what he wrote:

Apostolic Succession…

“The view that a wise and perfect form of church government and organization was set in order by the New Testament founders of the church, which has right to continue, and that that order has been handed down by the apostolic succession, was maintained by many.”… -- Britannica Encyclopaedia, volume 5, page 759, article, “Church.”…

That succession of the apostolic power has come down unbroken… Gladstone attacks this in a friendly criticism, by expressing doubt as to why a church would remain silent for some thirteen centuries and then be able to speak. This mystery, however, is made clear with a correct understanding of the prophecy of Revelation, where it was clearly shown beforehand that it would be so. The church was to go into the wilderness and be nourished there for 1260 years, from the face of her persecutor, the beast. Then as the earth helped the woman, she was to come forth again. This actually took place, and while remaining in silence, as far as the world was concerned, yet she is not only able to speak, but divinely empowered with the right to do so.

Britannica Encyclopaedia, volume 2, page 194 says, “Very early, however, the notion that the apostleship is essentially an hierarchical office, found entrance into the church…”

The Scriptures teach us most emphatically that the apostolic virtue and power was handed down from apostle to apostle by the divine ordinance of laying on of hands and prayer. -- Numbers 8:10, 27:28; Acts 6:6; 13:3; I Timothy 4:14; II Timothy 1:5.

That the Sabbath-keeping "Church of God," has a most definite link of connection back through holy men to the days of the apostles is certain. The very same faith, and practice in divine worship, have been definitely handed down to the present time by strong men of God, filled with His blessed Holy Spirit, zealous for the precious commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus, fervent in zeal, and faithful unto death. (Dugger AN, Dodd CO. A History of True Religion, 3rd ed.  Jerusalem, 1972 (Church of God, 7th Day).  1990 reprint, p. 308)

Some will claim that these are simply A.N. Dugger's assertions, yet only those who kept the original apostolic practices could have "apostolic succession." (The clergy itself does not give God's Spirit at baptism nor ordination. The clergy beseeches the Father to give the person His Holy Spirit via prayer and the laying on of hands. The Spirit is given by the Father, if the Father answers the clergy’s prayer -- which is mainly dependent upon the sincerity/repentance of the person. Therefore, even if the specific clergy member who performed the ceremony has issues or falls away from the truth, the procedure is still valid.)

HWA claimed that A.N. Dugger had been unfaithful to the word of God (and he was) and that A.N. Dugger/CG7 no longer possessed the 'mantle' of leadership past 1933 (if not sooner, and if he ever had it. An other Sardis era leader, John S. Stanford, may have held it instead of A.N. Dugger). The old Worldwide Church of God taught:

Since Church leaders are appointed and not voted into office, and since, therefore, the members are not watchdogs over the leaders, who is responsible for keeping these leaders on track spiritually and administratively?

  1. The answer is that God's government in His Church is a government of faith. Simply put, this means members believe that behind the physical, outward appearance of the Church, is the unseen hand of Jesus Christ, who directs its affairs.

  2. True Christians today trust Christ to direct the Church, bless it, correct it or its officers if need be and steer its general course.

  3. From the time of Moses and the rebellion of Korab (a leader in the congregation who was killed by God for insubordination — Numbers 16), through the age of the apostles and the rejection of Judas Iscariot from his apostleship, to the present day, Christ has demonstrated His ability to:

    1. run His Church,

    2. place capable men in their proper positions,

    3. discipline those who need it,

    4. and reject from the Church those unfit to wear the Christian mantle.

  4. The very existence of the Church and the Church's continuing vitality proves this beyond dispute! (Doctrines of the Church: Church Governance. Worldwide Church of God, 1986/1987)

From the time of Moses and the rebellion of Korah (a leader in the congregation who was killed by God for insubordination — Numbers 16) , through the age of the apostles and the rejection of Judas Iscariot from his apostleship, to the present day, Christ has demonstrated His ability to run His Church, place capable men in their proper positions, discipline those who need it and reject from His Church those unfit to wear the Christian mantle. The very existence of the Church and the Church's continuing vitality prove this beyond dispute! (Prove All Things: Governance in the Church. Good News, May 1986)

This is important as, even though many have had hands laid upon them, they were not always faithful, yet the true Church has continued from the time of the apostles. But leaders who are not truly faithful, lose the mantle.

The old Radio Church of God did teach that the true church always had laying on of hands succession. Notice:

Paulician Church Government

The Paulicians claimed to be THE "holy universal and apostolic church" founded by Jesus Christ and his apostles. Of the false churches, they would say: "We do not belong to these, for they have long ago broken connection with the church."

They taught that the Church is not a building, not just an organization, but an organism — the body of truly converted baptized persons, which has continued unbroken with the apostolic traditions from its beginning. Jesus Christ was and is the HEAD of that Church. ...

Four of their greatest leaders, the Paulicians called APOSTLES and PROPHETS. These directed the other ministers — "synecdemi" (itinerant evangelists), "poimenes" (pastors) and "notarii" (teachers who also had the responsibility, in the absence of printing, to laboriously hand-copy the Holy Scriptures). These ministers exercised the power of "binding and loosing." ...

Did Jesus Christ Himself put men directly into the highest office of this chain of authority? And did He "ordain" them by the laying on of His hands? Mark 3:14; John 15:16. ...

Only by the choice of Jesus Christ, by the Scriptural ordinance of the laying on of hands, were different ranks of ministers ordained to authority, and that by those who were ministers before them. The succession of ministers thus begun by the hands of Jesus Christ remained unbroken in the True Church through all ages.

(Lesson 50 - I Will Build My Church, Part 2. 58 Lesson: Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, 1965)

Regarding prophets, those in the Church of God believe that prophecy is one of the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:10). And that one would have to have to be anointed one to become a prophet in the Christian era.  Here is something the Radio Church of God published in 1965:

God gives special gifts-special powers of His Spirit-to those who are set apart by the laying on of hands. Remember that it was by the laying on of hands that Timothy received the added ability, called “prophecy” by the King James translators...(I Tim. 4:14 and II Tim. 1:6)...This spiritual gift of inspired preaching was conferred to Timothy by the laying on of hands. (Ellis, William H. Why We Have the Laying on of Hands Ceremony. Good News. April-May 1965)

More on prophets can be found in the articles Church of God Leaders on Prophets and Does the CCOG have the confirmed signs of Acts 2:17-18?

Laying on of Hands Succession List

An evangelist in the old WCG published the following as part of his Ambassador College dissertation:

Church of God

   Jones then quotes from Peter Allix, History of the Churches of Piedmont:
In his church history of the churches of Piedmont, Allix mentions the church as the Church of God. It will be observed that the people called them Waldenses.
   They called themselves the Church of God. ...

Unbroken Chain

They declare themselves to be the apostles' successors, to have apostolic authority. Even their ministers have been ordained in an unbroken chain since the apostles.

That is some claim, but it is true. They claimed "...the key of binding and loosing." ...

Their religious views are further stated by Allix, 'they declare themselves to be the apostles' successors, to have apostolical authority.' (Blackwell DC. A Handbook of Church History. Chapter V - Series: 1: Waldenses and Anabaptists. Ambassador College Thesis, 1973)

The late WCG evangelist Dean Blackwell also wrote:

We can know the minister of God's church from the time of John and James right on down to today and probably even a lot more than those. (Blackwell DC. A Handbook of Church History, Ambassador College Thesis, 1973)

But Dean Blackwell's extant writings do not contain a list. Nor did Herbert W. Armstrong ever publish a full one--though he did publish a few pieces from time to time (e.g. Lesson 50 - What Became of the Church Jesus Built? Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, 1968; Lesson 51 - The Light In The Dark Ages. Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, 1968).

Yet, we in the CCOG have put together a fairly long list.

We in the Churches of God do not view the following list the same way that those in the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches view theirs. We believe that we are the true spiritual descendants of the apostles and this is not dependent upon a bishop to bishop transfer, but a true holding of teachings in a little flock--Luke 12:32. In a sense the "Smyrnaean" leaders could also be considered as the "apostolic succession list of the see of Ephesus" as it was accepted from centuries that there was apostolic succession in Ephesus/Asia Minor, with the succession after the early-mid third century considered to be "lost".

Lest this cause misunderstanding, it needs to be understood that we believe that the true COG never completely died out and thus that the true COG existed from the beginning to now, and will so until the end--we did not just appear or "pop-up" as the descendants of the Apostolic Church--we are a continuation (but we did not always call our leaders by the expression "bishops").

While recognizing that certain historical records are sparse, and many COG 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 and last couple of centuries are firm, there is speculation related to some of the names as we have less information about leaders during the “church in the wilderness” (Revelation 12:6) time.

That being said, the following imperfect list includes leaders from the time of the Apostles and may best represent a/the top COG leader/pastor at the time throughout history (with the understanding that there could be other acceptable lists) or at least apparent Sabbath-keeping leaders whose teachings seemed to suggest having laying on of hands succession:

Peter through death circa 64-68 (mainly oversaw churches from Asia Minor, Antioch, and Jerusalem)
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) 1
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). 1
Camerius of Smyrna through death circa 220 (possibly oversaw churches from Smyrna of Asia Minor). 1
c. 220 - c. 254 Nepos of Arsinoe
c. 254 - c. 275 Unnamed Antiochian(s) or possibly Dorotheus 2
c. 275 - 312 Lucian of Antioch 2
c. 313 - 380 Unnamed Antiochian (s) 2
c. 380 - c. 470 Unnamed Nazarenes 3
c. 470 - c. 500 Constantine of Antioch and Aushin 3
c. 500 - c. 645 Unnamed ‘Paulicians’3
c. 645 - c. 650 Leader with New Testament from Syria 4
c. 650 - c. 684 Constantine of Mananali (Silvanus) 4
c. 684 - c. 696 Simeon 4
c. 697 - c. 702 Sergius 4
c. 702 - c. 717 Paul the Armenian 4
c. 717 - c. 746 Gegnesius 4
c. 746 - c. 782 Joseph (Epaphroditus) 4
c. 783 - c. 800 Unnamed Paulician(s)
c. 801 - c. 835 Sergius (Tychicus) 4
c. 836 - c. 919 Unnamed Paulicians
c. 920 - c. 950 Basil 5
c. 951 - c. 980 Jeremiah 5
1000s Sergius (27 years) 6
c. 1110 - 1140 Peter DeBruy (Pierre De Bruy)
1140 - 1155 Arnold of Brescia
1156 - 1181 Nicetas 6
1181 - 1205 Peter Waldo 6
1205 - 1224 Arnold Hot 7
1224 - 1300 Unnamed Sabbatarian Waldensians
c. 1310 - 1322 Walter the Lollard 8
1322 - c. 1335 Raymond the Lollard
c. 1335 - c. 1460 Unnamed Sabbatarian Waldensians 3
c. 1460 - 1492 Anthony Ferrar 9
1492 - 1525 Stefano Carlino 8  or Unnamed Sabbatarian Waldenesians 3
1526 - 1528 Moravian Sabbatarian Anabaptist ‘traveling minister’10
1529 - 1540 Andreas Fischer 11
c. 1540 - 1563 Michiel Rovillart of Arras 12
1560 - 1579 Francis David 13
1580 - 1587 Unnamed Sabbatarian 14
1588 - 1600 Andreas Eossi
1600 - 1616 Simon Péchi
1617 - 1619 John Traske 15
1620 - 1652 John Pecke 15
1652 - 1654 Peter Chamberlen 15
1654 - 1661 John James 15
1661 - 1678 William Saller/Seller 15
1678 - 1711 Henry Soursby 15
1712 or 1716 - 1743 Thomas Lucas 16
1712 - 1716 John Maxson 16
1716 - 1718 John Maxson, Jr.
1718 - 1737 Joseph Crandall 16
1737 - 1748 Joseph Maxson
1748 - 1778 John Maxson
1779 - 1797 Nathan Rogers 16
1797 - 1820 James Dunn 17
1820 - 1850 John Cottrell 18 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 19
1933 - 1986 Herbert W. Armstrong
1986 - 2011 Aaron Dean 1986 -2011 or Roderick C. Meredith 20 or 1986 - 2010 Dibar Apartian 21
2011 - present Bob Thiel

1 Note : Though he had laying on of hands succession, Polycarp may not have had the succession leadership mantle until 135 as someone else in Asia Minor or Jerusalm could have held it from the death of the Apostle John until then. History concerning Apollonius is not totally clear, but strong indications are that he was most likely in the true church (the 210 date came from The Catholic Encyclopedia). There is basically no information about Camerius of Smyrna, other than he is listed as bishop of Smyrna prior to the third century in sources like The Catholic Encyclopedia and the questionable book The Life of Polycarp. After Polycrates and Apollonius, the official history (with Eusebius the main writer) says almost nothing about the true church in Ephesus, though a compromised church from there develops importance in the fourth century. It may also be of interest to note that the succession that Polycrates provided was NOT limited to a single city, but to the predominant leader/bishop at the time. Although historian F. Arundell has listed 70 so-called "bishops of Ephesus" (Arundell Francis V.  Discoveries in Asia minor: including a description of the ruins of several ancient cities and especially Antioch of Pisidia: in two volumes, Volume 2. Bentley, 1834. Original from the Bavarian State Library. Digitized Feb 9, 2010, pp. 272-273), he failed to name most of the early ones (though he did list Timothy, the Apostle John, Polycrates, and Apollonius) and has a gap of over 100 years after Apollonius (and it need to be understood that during this gap, there was so much apostacy, that those he listed after Apollonius were not faithful Christians). Many have listed Timothy in lists of Ephesus succession along with Polycrates and Apollonius, yet although Timothy was in Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:1-3), he would not have been above the Apostle John (though historians like F. Arundell place the Apostle John after Timothy in a list of "the bishops of Ephesus"). Also, if Timothy is included in the list, and Polycrates was referring to people like him and John as "his relatives", in that sense then Polycrates was the "eighth" in the above succession list. F. Arundell lists Timothy as 1, John as 2, Polycrates as 8, Apollonius as 9 in his list (while erroneously listing Onesimus as 3 and no one as numbers 4-7). Perhaps it should be added that Pionius of Smyrna was faithful when killed c. 250 A.D., but the claimed bishop there at that time (Eudaemon/Euctemon) was not. Although Eudaemon/Euctemon looked to many to have the 'mantle' of succession (and may have held it for some years), spiritually Pionus appears to have had it at that time in Smyrna, though the top mantle seems to have been held by Nepos of Arsinoe at that time.

2 The reason we have “unnamed Antiochian(s)” is that it is that there is evidence there were those in Antioch who were not part of the Greco-Roman churches who kept the seventh-day Sabbath and the biblical holy days (and were not allegorists) before (like Dorotheus who, according to Eusebius, knew Hebrew, and he may have initially founded the ‘school’ that Lucian taught at; see also Downey G. History of Antioch. Princeton University Press, 2015, pp. 327-328) and after Lucian being the leader. The existence of these COG practices in Antioch are supported by homilies by John Chrysostom against them into the late 4th century (Harkins PW. Discourses Against Judaizing Christians (The Fathers of the Church, Volume 68). Catholic University of America Press, pp. xxxvii-xliv). Scholars of various sorts have concluded that his homilies against the Jews were really against “Judaizing Christians” in Antioch (Hadjioannou T. PAUL AND THE LAW IN JOHN CHRYSOSTOM AND MODERN SCHOLARSHIP. Submitted to the Faculty of Divinity University of Glasgow for the Ph. D Degree. June 2005, pp. iv, 258-308). Presuming Lucian was truly COG, then one of his followers/former students seemingly would have followed him; we suspect that some succession would have taken place in Antioch until about 380 A.D. when Emperor Theodosius made his decree against “heretics” which would have driven people out into the wilderness.

3 c. 380 – c. 1640 or c. 331 - c. 1591. This time represents a possible time for the 1260 years in the wilderness (Revelation 12:6). Faithful leaders would be in some minority of groups called Nazarenes, Paulicians, Cathari, Waldenses, Anabaptists and/or sometimes other names. Jerome and Epiphanius taught that the Nazarenes were Sabbatarians. We later have limited leaders’ names, though we hear of some early missionaries from Antioch into Aushin of Armenia named Constantine, Petrus, and Theodore (Key of Truth, cix). Symeon and Sergius were Greek (Garsoïan, p. 92). The Waldenses claimed to have had a complete and unbroken list of bishop succession from the original apostles until the 16th century, but such document(s) were either lost, hidden, or destroyed. A Moravian portion claimed to have originally descended from “a branch of the Greek church” from the 9th century and a branch of the Episcopal Church seemed to accept that in the 18th century (Martin JH, pp. 8,51). The tie to the “Greek church” seemingly would have been Asia Minor or Antioch. Some indicate that the branch came from the 4th century Greek church (Atwood, p. 23); In the 1740s, a Waldensian Bishop named Stephen pointed to descent from in the 4th century (Acta Fratrum Unitatis in Anglia, Appendix, pp. 112-113), seemingly from the Greek church through the Apostle John and Polycarp, but later some apostates (Ibid, p. 113). Another source seems to point to the Waldensians being a branch of the 3rd or 4th century Antioch church (Edwardson C. FACTS of FAITH. Christian Edwardson, 1943, pp. 18, 153). “The claim of apostolic succession through the Waldensians did help the Moravian Church to be recognized by the Parliament of England in 1749” (Atwood CD. Community of the Cross Moravian Piety in Colonial Bethlehem. Penn State Press, 2004, p. 23) and called it “the Moravian Apoftolical See” (Acta Fratrum Unitatis in Anglia, p. 4). While the current Moravian Church is not COG, note that it was because some of them claimed to have succession from the Waldenesians (and because some Moravians were Sabbatarians in the 16th century), we include this information about them. Many specific leaders named during this ‘wilderness period’ have been considered to have had COG doctrines, but information is sparse.

4 Most of these names and dates came from COG literature, with the most detailed being: Lesson 50 - What Became of the Church Jesus Built? Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, 1968. ‘Paulicians’ became later known as Bogomils per Blackwell, p. 66.

5 From Kahzdan A, editor-in-chief. Bogomil. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Volume 1. Oxford University Press, 1991, p. 301. Some say Basil preceded Bogomil. Some say Jeremiah was Bogomil, where others assert Jeremiah was a successor. We have sketchy information on these these men, but one or more may have had succession. For Bogomil himself, we only have a report of an enemy and do not believe that source accurately reported all beliefs—his (as well as Basil’s and Jeremiah’s) personal status as COG is not certain, though some of his claimed doctrinal positions were COG—as were some who were derisively called Bogomils or Bogomiles.

6 Mainly from: Dugger AN, Dodd CO. A History of True Religion, 3rd edition, 1972. Johnson Graphics 1995 reprint.  pp. 133-134. There was also a leader named Berengarius who taught from about 1035 to 1079. The reason he is not in the list is that he reportedly recanted on three different ocassions before the Roman Catholic authorities. Jesus mentioned that those who deny Him before men would also be denied (Matthew 10:33; Luke 12:9), hence he is not in the above list. But his existence does show that there were people in the Vaudois area with ‘Waldensian’ beliefs prior to Peter Waldo--we also do not consider Waldo possessed succession until a period of time after he rejected the Church of Rome, plus we are of the view he later would have had hands laid upon him when he had more understanding, cf. Acts 18:24-27 (this is also consistent with what happened with various ‘Anabaptist’ leaders). Nicetas (not to be confused with NiketasStethatos of the 11th century) was in France (Wilkinson, p. 260). There was also a Frederick Reiser in the 15th century who taught at least some COG doctrines, but he too recanted under pressure and is also not shown in the list above. However, there were others who remained faithful that we simply do not have the names of.

7 From: Lesson 51 - The Light In The Dark Ages. Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, 1968.

8 From: Armstrong HW. The Church They Couldn’t Destroy, Good News, December 1981. “Be careful, because two separate groups were termed Lollards. One group, the followers of John Wycliffe, were called Lollards. Also the followers of Walter Lollard were called Lollards … The monk of Canterbury derives the origin of the word Lollard from Lollium, a tare, as if the Lollards were the tares sown in Christ’s vineyard. Abell says that the word signifies ‘praising God’ from the German word “lobin” to praise and hear, Lord, because the Lollards employed themselves in travelling about from place to place singing Psalms and hymns.” (Blackwell, pp. 161-162)

9 Anthony Ferrar from: Davis, Tamar. A General History of the Sabbatarian Churches. 1851; Reprinted 1995 by Commonwealth Publishing, Salt Lake City, pp. 87-88. Stefano Carlino was “tortured tlil his guts gushed out” (Dugger, pp. 128-129).

10 Oswald Glaidt later had contact with the Moravian Sabbatarians (Clasen, pp. 256-279). As Andreas Fischer “supported the idea of a traveling ministry and perhaps considered himself something of an itinerant apostle” (Liechy D. Andreas Fischer and the Sabbatarian Anabaptists. Herald Press, 1988, p. 63), it seems likely a traveling minister preceded him.

11 Goertz HJ. The Anabaptists. Taylor & Francis, 2013, p. 18. Oswald Glaidt and Andreas Fischer worked together, but since Oswald Glaidt seemingly apostatized and Andreas Fischer did not (Goertz, p. 18), we did not include Oswald Glaidt on the above list.

12 From: Pastor Jan Voerman to Bacchiocchi S. End Times Newsletter 87 A REPLY TO CRITICISM, Did the Waldenses Observe the Sabbath? August 2002. Michiel Rovillart was killed in 1563, but prior to that used the Old and New Testaments, plus writings from the early “Church Fathers” to confront the Jesuits and others who did not hold to original doctrines (Adrianus Haemstedius, Historie der Martelaren, Utrecht, Herdruk 1980, p. 804).

13 From: Lesson 52 - The Book And The Church They Couldn’t Destroy. Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, 1968. But doctrinal information on Francis Davis is sparse. That being said, it should be pointed out that many binitarians were called unitarians or otherwise grouped with them—and though the true COG was never strictly unitarian, the Arian label has sometimes been applied to groups and individuals in the true COG.

14 Christiern Francken and Jacob Paleologus were both martyred and were public Sabbatarian teachers during this time (Davis, p. 99). But it is unlikely that Christiern Francken or Jacob Paleologus were truly COG as several reports indicate that they were not. It is possible, though, they may have had COG exposure.

15 Most of this comes from: Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America: a series of historical papers written in commemoration of the one hundredth anniversary of the organization of the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference, celebrated at Ashaway, Rhode Island, August 20-25, 1902, Volume 1. Printed for the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference by the American Sabbath Tract Society, 1910, pp. 39-40. But let me add here that we do not consider that Robert Cornthwaite, who is listed in the early 1700s in the SDB reference for the British Isles was COG. John Maulden, who is also listed by the SDBs, had lost some truth (Revelation 3:1-6). One source that helped distinguish COG from SDB was: Ball B. Seventh Day Men: Sabbatarians and Sabbatarianism in England and Wales, 1600-1800, 2nd edition.  James Clark & Co., 2009.

16 Sometime in the 1660s, John Maxson and John Crandall embraced the Sabbath. Though the Seventh Day Baptists who reported about them are not sure from where (Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America, p. 611). But it may have had to do with a ‘Mr. Cotton’ who Dr. Chamberlen had contact with who had came over from England (Clarke H. A History of the Sabbatarians Or Seventh Day Baptists, in America; Containing Their Rise and Progress to the Year 1811, with Their Leaders’ Names, and Their Distinguishing Tenets, etc. Utica, 1811, pp. 12-13). John Crandall was an elder no later than 1671 (Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America, p. 612). We have limited information on Nathan Rogers (ibid, p. 132) who became a pastor (Davis, p. 168) but suspect he was COG and not SDB: cf. Randolph CF. A History of the Seventh Day Baptists in West Virginia, 1905. Reprint 2005. Heritage Books, Westminster (MD), p.79 and Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America, p. 132. At this basic time, Thomas Lucas was in the British Isles and seemed to hold the leadership succession there (there is a document that only exists at the Bristol Baptist Library, per Ball p. xxxiii, which could assist with that determination which I have not seen), with the essentially overlapping of dates here shown as there was a transition from the Isles to the Americans then.

17 James Dunn was a Sabbatarian who seemingly objected to the SDB confederation but his ordination status is not certain. There were other non-SDB Sabbatarian ministers at the time.

18 John Cottrel did not have association with the organization known as Seventh Day Baptist for apparently decades because of differences of doctrine (Nickels R. Six Paper on the History of the Church of God. Giving & Sharing, 1977 pp. 41, 161-162). However, when he was elderly and influenced by his son Roswell, he fell to become a Seventh Day Adventist, so lost whatever succession he may have had by 1851 when he and Roswell (who advocated for the name “Church of God”) both became SDAs. Note the SDAs were not trinitarian at that time, but well before then the Seventh Day Baptist organization was. Furthermore, it is not clear that the elderly John Cotterell understood various matters related to Ellen White, but perhaps mainly felt that James White's idea to get Sabbatarian non-SDBs to cooperate was a good one.

19 A.N. Dugger claimed to have apostolic succession, yet lost what he may have had shortly after he knowingly refused to teach truth. John S. Stanford taught doctrines like the Holy Days that A.N. Dugger refused to teach, but lost whatever succession he had when he basically ‘faded out’ of leading the work (probably at least partially because of some of his prophetic misunderstandings).

20 Three leaders, out of many possible, are listed here in the transitional phase from Philadelphia to the Philadelphian remnant to lead the final phase of the work. All three had laying on of hands succession (as do all true Christians and ministers) as well as reasons why they could have had the Philadelphian succession mantle as well as reasons why that would not remain. Aaron Dean though maintaining many Philadelphian traits, has remained supportive of a non-Philadelphia-era governance structure. In Dr. Meredith’s case, he followed in the error of A.N. Dugger by refusing to teach what he said was true. Dibar Apartian, himself, died December 2010, and had tried to get Dr. Meredith to change.

21 We accept that scores of others from the time of Herbert W. Armstrong have laying on of hands succession related to Laodicea (and perhaps other eras), but since Philadelphia was to continue (cf. Hebrews 13:1) it is through Dibar Apartian to Bob Thiel that we tend to assert the Philadelphian leadership succession occurred.

When looking towards the beginning of the list, we further wish to state that we do not believe that the Apostle John was subservient (in God’s eyes) to any Roman, Ephesian, Smyrnaean, Antiochian, or other non-apostle bishop/overseer while John was still alive.

And, yes, people like Polycarp of Smyrna and Bob Thiel share the same basic doctrines and practices--including those that have been condemned by Greco-Roman church leaders, who gained political dominance in the third and later centuries.

The old Worldwide Church of God taught:

I spoke ..., reading from Matthew 28:19-20 that he who taught was to baptize those taught, after which by laying on of hands they would receive the Holy Spirit, then teaching them the way of the Christian life. ...

Anyway, the meetings closed at the end of that week, and afterward I organized the 19 we had, including the Fishers and Ellises, into the parent church of the present Worldwide Church of God. This was the "Philadelphia" succession of the CHURCH OF GOD founded the day of Pentecost, A. D. 31, by Jesus Christ. It was founded entirely through living FAITH in Jesus Christ. It was founded in poverty in the midst of the worst economic depression within the memory of man. (Armstrong HW. The History of the Beginning and Growth of the Worldwide Church of God - Chapter 4. Good News, August 1980)

Anyway, God grants the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands and succession was taught in the old Radio and Worldwide Church of God, and has extended into the Continuing Church of God.


God used the laying on of hands in the Old Testament.

In the New Testament, God used the laying on of hands to grant His Holy Spirit to the baptized as well as to those that are to be in His ministry. Plus, it is a tool God uses, when people avail themselves of it, for healing.

Church of God leader have recognized the doctrine of the laying on of hands throughout history.

The true Church of God has had laying on of hands succession from the time of the apostles in Acts chapter 2 to present.

The laying on of hands is an elementary doctrine of the true church (Hebrews 6:1-2).

It is an official belief of the Continuing Church of God (see Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God).

Here is a link to a related sermon: Apostolic Laying on of Hands Succession.

Thiel B. Laying on of Hands. COGwriter (c) 2017/2019/2020/ 2021 / 2022 0506

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