Radner ( A Brutal Unity: The Spiritual Politics of the Christian Church , 181) concludes a rich discussion of the biblical pattern of episcopal ministry with this:

“The early Church’s, indeed the whole developed tradition’s, theological discussion of apostolic episcopacy stands generally to the side of discussions of jurisdiction, territorial boundaries, and placement within the interrelated network of ecclesial structures. It is instead almost exclusively concerned with the sanctity associated with the dominical self-expenditure, in the service of God’s life and word.”

Protests like Milton’s against prelatry, and its cousin “presbyterianism,” are actually attempts to recall the church to the tradition: “For Milton . . . ‘prelatry’ as a political sin determined the failure of episcopal forms of ministry. But this sin was specifically against apostolic self-expenditure.”