2021: Ministry, women, and the Bible
Now that we’ve covered the question of what, it’s time to tackle the question of who: expanding on our understanding of the concept of ministry was also high on the Church’s list of things to do in 2021. And some initial answers have indeed been found since, along with a detailed roadmap for the rest of the journey.
The comprehensive formulation of the concept of ministry has been an ongoing project since 2014. The results to date range from basing the concept’s theological foundation on the doctrine of the dual nature of Christ to concentrating on a three-level ministerial structure as of Pentecost 2019.
Now that the question of what has been answered, the questions about who can follow. Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider already made that much clear at the International Church Convention of 2014: approaching the matter from the perspective that “we do not have enough men, so you women will need to preach”, is not a good starting point. However, there are also other questions to think about, such as: “What will the congregation accept?”
Women and men are equal
In his annual interview the Church leader explained how these deliberations are currently going. Accordingly, the decision-making process endeavours to answer the basic questions: “What does God say?”, “What does the Bible say?”, “What does the Church say?”, and “What does the regional culture say?”
The first question—namely about the will of God—has already been answered on the basis of the biblical accounts of the creation. This was something the District Apostle Meeting discussed in November 2020, before going on to publish a doctrinal paper on the subject of “Man and woman in the image of God” in March 2021. The core statements of this paper are as follows:
- women and man are equally created in the image of God. They are equal to one another and interdependent. They are of the same nature and dignity.
- women and men are both called in equal measure to protect and have dominion over the creation. In giving them this mandate, God did not assign them any different areas of domain or activity.
- the duties of woman and man are understood differently owing to social and political developments within human society, among other things.
Content takes precedence over authorship
The second question—namely as to the further biblical findings—is of a twofold nature: “What prompted Jesus to call only men to the Apostle ministry?” And: “What does the early church, as reflected in the Pastoral Letters, for example, have to say about the matter?”
In November 2021, the New Apostolic Church also made its position known in this context: as a guideline for interpreting the Bible. Accordingly, it is the content of the biblical books, not the name of their authors, that confers upon them their spiritual authority.
The resolution reads as follows:
- “God is the actual author of the biblical books. The authority of the biblical writings is based upon their divine inspiration, and is not dependent on their authors, whether or not they were Apostles and prophets.
- “Therefore, the exegetical conclusion that a particular text derives from a particular author or not is of no relevance whatsoever for the authority of that text.
- “The teaching authority of the apostolate does not serve to solve individual exegetical problems. Rather, it is given to assure the purity of the Church’s doctrine and preaching.”
Independent and at our own pace
This much is clear: the Church leadership will not allow itself to be put under pressure by one side or the other, nor by societal circumstances, to make a specific decision one way or another. “The matter is too important to deal with hastily or by considering only social trends,” said the Chief Apostle at the most recent conference of the District Apostles. “We will take our time. We will decide for the New Apostolic Church as a whole, not for one or the other side.”
In the process, the Church leader made reference to the great developments of the past decades, above all, the opening of our understanding of church under Chief Apostle Richard Fehr and the recognition of the baptisms of other denominations under his successor Wilhelm Leber. “That took years!” summarised the incumbent Chief Apostle.
There is one significant difference to the current decision-making process. In its public relations work, the Church has opened itself up more than ever before: this time, the Church media have been able to monitor the developments right from the beginning and share them in detail with all interested parties.
Photo: Jakub Krechowicz - stock.adobe.com