Ministry (14): Not without a mandate

Designated and called: but authority alone is not sufficient to permit someone to actually exercise a ministry. This requires something more—something that also plays a role in retirement and transfer from one area to another.

According to the New Apostolic understanding, a ministry comprises both ministerial authority and a ministerial mandate. The authority is of a spiritual nature, while the mandate is of a canonical nature. With the ministerial mandate, the minister

  • is assigned the right and the responsibility
  • to fulfil his specific tasks and duties
  • in the authority he has received
  • within a framework that is limited in terms of both duration and location.

The ministerial mandate thus establishes, above all, the specific working area in which the minister is to exercise his authority. At the same time, he is allocated a specific group of members for pastoral care.

Bound to the congregation

This makes it clear how closely ministry and church are bound together: since the ministry is not a personal possession, but rather always oriented to other people (that is, to the church or congregation), every ordination (regardless of which ministry it involves) is also associated with a ministerial mandate.

While a minister’s authority remains intact if he moves away from his working area (his local congregation, for example), his previous ministerial mandate ceases to apply. The minister can only begin exercising his authority again if he receives an express ministerial mandate—by way of an act known as a reinstatement.

No ministerial exercise without a mandate

The ministerial mandate is also at the heart of the matter when it comes to the typical conclusion of a minister’s activity: he retains the ministerial authority upon his retirement, but his ministerial mandate comes to an end. This means that the retired minister is no longer permitted to exercise his ministry.

In contrast to this, even the ministerial authority is affected in other cases. For example, if a minister gives up his ministry in the context of a resignation, it is not only the ministerial mandate, but also the ministerial authority, that expires. And a dismissal from ministry not only strips the minister of his mandate, but also takes away his authority.

Since the ministerial authority remains intact in the event of a retirement, retired ministers can also be reactivated within a specific framework. The prerequisite is that the Apostle must issue a corresponding mandate: for example, to celebrate Holy Communion with the sick and elderly, or to conduct funeral services. In any event, the ministerial designation (or title) remains intact for all retired ministers.

Photo: Tryfonov -

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Andreas Rother