Last week, I had a rather extended quote that revealed the hierarchy of the early Church, indeed a hierarchy that goes a step further than anything that is clearly revealed in the New Testament. By saying that it is a step further than what the New Testament delineates, I am not suggesting that the Church has already gone off the rails by the time St John has died. St Ignatius, the disciple of St John, reveals the organization and hierarchy of the Church and how it had developed (rather properly developed) even in St John's lifetime (one would suppose, since at the time St Ignatius authored this letter it would have been only a few short years since St John's death).
"See that ye all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as ye would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid." – St Ignatius of Antioch (Epistle to the Smyrneans, Ch. 8 – somewhere between A.D. 98 and 118)
I'm not going to belabor the quote. I only think it an important look at the structure of the early Church - indeed the apostolic Church. We need to be cautious in our treatment of hierarchy and authority, especially in an age that devalues it. The authority structure within the Church is not a power play. Though there have certainly been abuses (and there will certainly continue to be - as in any institution that includes us sinners) the hierarchy of the Church is and continues to be about service.