Our conception of ministry is being revised

“After the Catechism is before the Catechism …” This was the motto that accompanied the introduction of this fundamental reference work in December 2012. And driven by this motto, the District Apostle Meeting continues to work on fundamental concepts. Currently in the District Apostles’ focus is our conception of ministry.

How do we understand ministry? This question demands an answer especially in churches with such a pronounced hierarchy as the New Apostolic Church. The Catechism of the New Apostolic Church dedicates a whole chapter to this issue.

The seventh chapter defines “ministry” as the “authorization, blessing, and sanctification issued through ordination for service in the church of Christ”. It is “exercised in the power of the Holy Spirit”. Ministry is to be distinguished from the “various duties which serve for the proclamation of the gospel and the benefit of the believers, and which can also be performed without ordination”.

Further, the Catechism illuminates the source of ministry—it is founded upon the sending of Jesus Christ—and gives biblical references that support this. Also discussed is the ordination into a ministry as well as the exercise thereof. The most comprehensive definition of ministry in the Catechism is dedicated to the Apostle ministy.

And yet the explanations with respect to ministry are not final. “The publication of the Catechism was an important step,” Chief Apostle (ret.) Wilhelm Leber said, under whose direction this fundamental work was completed and published. “But now follow-up questions are being raised, which are being discussed under the leadership of the new Chief Apostle,” he said in an interview in October 2013, five months after his retirement. “One of the things that has come up is our conception of ministry. Of course there are statements about this in the Catechism, but these can and should be deepened.”

Already at a panel discussion at the International Church Convention in Munich in June 2014, the Chief Apostle stated that work on this was already in progress. The responsible working group Questions of Faith has been working on compiling material for the District Apostle Meeting on behalf of the Chief Apostle since March 2014. The leadership board of the New Apostolic Church has been consulting on this regularly since then.

In March 2015 in Zurich in Switzerland, the District Apostle Meeting discussed the distinction between ministerial authority and ministerial commission. Further questions were discussed by the Chief Apostle, the 19 District Apostles, and nine District Apostle Helpers in a workshop specifically set up for this. Specific questions could be raised here and illuminated from different international perspectives. Also the recent session in Johannesburg in South Africa dealt with the development of our conception of ministry.

“It is perfectly clear that such a fundamental analysis takes time,” Peter Johanning, spokesman of the New Apostolic Church said, when asked by nac.today. Naming a concrete date by when the work will be completed is therefore hardly credible. “The Chief Apostle and the District Apostle Meeting are definitely very keen to deliberate over these fundamental issues thoroughly.”

Photo: Oliver Rütten

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