Lively exchange at the Apostle Meeting
The New Apostolic Church witnessed an Apostle Meeting of a different kind at the start of this year’s Pentecost gathering in Frankfurt am Main. Instead of giving his usual keynote address, the Chief Apostle focused entirely on listening. And there was only one subject of discussion.
Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider is serious: that the Apostle ministry is the authoritative ministry of the Church is not just written on the pages of the Catechism. Rather, the Church leader also puts this into practice in a very collegial manner, even outside the circle of the District Apostles.
Interesting and constructive discussions
It was for this reason that he abstained from giving his traditional address—with its spiritual reflections and keynote statements—at the beginning of today’s Apostle Meeting. Instead, the entire morning was devoted to a lively exchange among a total of 43 Apostles, who had come to Frankfurt from all District Churches of Europe. “It was a very interesting and constructive discussion,” said the Chief Apostle in praise of their “brotherly interaction”.
The Apostle Meeting focused on only one subject of discussion, namely the Church’s concept of ministry. The Church leader had already involved the approximately 350 Apostles of the New Apostolic Church by way of previous written correspondence, but this was the first time for the European Apostles to discuss the topic together in such a large circle.
Ministerial authority and organizational structure
What could there possibly be to discuss after 150 years of New Apostolic tradition? As it turns out, there are still a few things that have not yet been formulated exhaustively in the Catechism of the New Apostolic Church—a fact that Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber already pointed out during his tenure. The efforts of the Church’s Work Group and governing bodies began under his successor in spring 2014.
The framework is clear. There are three levels of ministry, each with different spiritual powers, in the New Apostolic Church (CNAC 7.6):
- the diaconal ministry, which serves the congregation in a variety of ways (CNAC 7.9.2), one of which is to preach the word of God (CNAC 7.7),
- the priestly ministries which, beyond that, also have the mandate and authority to dispense Holy Baptism with water, proclaim the forgiveness of sins, and consecrate and dispense Holy Communion (CNAC 7.9.1),
- the Apostle ministry, which also has the authority to baptize with the gift of the Holy Spirit (CNAC 7.4) and ordain ministers (CNAC7.7).
Beyond that, there are also various appointments of a hierarchical character that are associated with a ministry, for example, congregational or district rector, District Apostle Helper, or Chief Apostle Helper (CNAC 7.10).
Second round of global consultations
What is a ministry? What is a service? What is ministerial authority and what is a ministerial mandate? What is a spiritual ministry and what is organisational hierarchy? These are questions that are currently up for debate. The basic theological fundamentals have already been established by the Church’s “Questions of Faith” Work Group. The District Apostle Meeting, which is the highest executive body of the New Apostolic Church, has been discussing this matter regularly since March 2015.
At the initiative of Chief Apostle Schneider, all Apostles around the world have been asked for their comments. At its most recent session, the District Apostle Meeting occupied itself with feedback from the nineteen District Apostle districts around the world. The results of this exercise have been sent back to the expert panel, which is preparing for a second round of global consultation.