Ministry (22): Man and woman and what the Church teaches
The Bible has quite a bit to say about the relationship and the responsibility of man and woman. What doctrinal conclusions does the New Apostolic Church draw from this? Here are the relevant passages from the Catechism and teaching documents.
“The fact that man has been created in the image of God is the hermeneutic key to the question of justifying the ordination of women.” This is made clear in a special edition of the Divine Service Guide (3/2022). But what exactly do we mean when we talk about humankind in the likeness of God?
Humankind in the likeness of God
“Being created in the image of God brings to expression the fundamental relationship of mankind with God and the relationship of God with mankind.” And this does not mean equality with God, on no account: “The discussion of man in the image of God is not intended, by any means, to level out the infinite qualitative difference between God and man.”
The point is: “Man as the image of God can only be recognised and understood by way of reference to the God who reveals Himself and speaks. The self-declaration of God is the prerequisite for properly understanding man, his creatureliness, his nature, and his mandate in the world.”
“God gave His most distinguished creation a life force and also permitted them to share in divine characteristics such as love, personality, freedom, reason, and immortality,” it says in the Catechism. Therefore it is clear: “The fact that man has been created in the image of God means that he has been given an exceptional position within the visible creation: he is the one whom God loves and to whom God speaks.”
“What distinguishes human beings here is that they are just as much a part of the visible as the invisible creation,” the Catechism continues. “Because it is God who gave man both a physical and a spiritual nature, both of these aspects should receive the dignity due them.”
And the special edition of the Divine Service Guide 2/2021 adds: “Beyond that, the notion that man has been created in God’s image can be regarded as an important biblical foundation for human dignity—that is, the equivalence and equality of all human beings, irrespective of their gender.”
“Man and woman are both equally created in the image of God and are thus directly related to God Himself,” the special edition of the Divine Service Guide 3/2022 explains. “The fact that human beings are created in the image of God is the foundation for the essential identity of man and woman.”
It must be pointed out: “When the Catechism states that man and woman are different, this refers to their differing biological constitutions, their distinct genders, and not any sort of inequality affecting the person as a whole.” Considered together the following is true: “Man and woman are thus partners of equal dignity, even though they are biologically distinct from one another.”
The Catechism expressly points out that man and woman have both received the same mandate to “have dominion over the earth, in other words, to shape and protect it”. The latest teaching document adds: “In terms of substance, the dominion of man and woman is not in any way distinct. Therefore they do not each have their own assigned domains.”
That means: “Having been created in the image of God, the full potential of the earthly creation as a whole has been entrusted to both genders. It is thus impossible for any one individual to fulfil God’s mandate to have dominion over the earth. This can only be achieved in community and solidarity.”
The doctrinal conclusion
The theological conclusion is: “The New Apostolic Church teaches that both woman and man are created in the image of God and are therefore of the same nature and dignity. Both of them together are called to have dominion: they are to protect and shape the creation.”
“The mandate to protect and shape the earthly creation also entails that women and men assume equal responsibility.” And finally: “It is on the basis of this finding that both can be equally entrusted with ministry and service, both in the Church and in the respective local congregation.”
So much for the conclusion from the Old Testament. No clear picture emerges if one looks at the New Testament record. This is what we will look at in the next parts of this series.
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