“We are doing things at our own pace”

The fall session of the District Apostle Meeting has ended. Prominent topics were our concept of ministry, biblical authorship issues, and a new Guide for Ministers.

For many Christian denominations issues of authorship are important. Was the epistle of Paul really written by Paul or by one of his students? Who wrote the gospels? And there were many other questions in this connection. The District Apostle Meeting made it clear that the New Apostolic Church should not be involved in a debate between authority and science: “For us it is important to emphasise that Holy Scripture was inspired by the Holy Spirit. It is not the question of authorship that is decisive but the content of the respective biblical text. What does it say about our salvation, our redemption?” This is how Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider began his explanations regarding this point on the agenda.

Authority is not a question of authorship

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 they were Apostles and prophets or not. 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.

The Catechism is also clear on this point. There it says: “The author of Holy Scripture is God, while its writers were human beings whom the Holy Spirit inspired (2 Peter 1: 20-21). God made use of their abilities to commit to writing that which was to be passed on in accordance with His will. Although the contents of the biblical books have their source in the Holy Spirit, they bear the mark of their respective writers and their perceptions of the world in terms of style and form of expression” (CNAC 1.2).

Guide for Ministers

A new Guide for Ministers is currently being worked on. It will contain canonical requirements as issued by the Church leadership on how ministry and mandate are to be performed. In addition to explanatory notes, there will be detailed chapters on the order of ministry; the binding nature of liturgical texts, the celebration of the sacraments, and acts of blessing. Notes on pastoral care, ecumenism, and public relations are also included.

The District Apostles unanimously approved all the documents and commissioned the working group Guide for Ministers with the editing and proofreading and subsequent finalising of the publication.

Intensive and careful deliberations

After a thorough discussion on the subject of the ordination of women into a spiritual ministry, the District Apostles unanimously agreed to a procedure proposed by the Chief Apostle.

  • This subject requires intensive and careful deliberations. The District Apostles believe that the Church should not create the impression that it is allowing itself to be put under pressure by societal changes. In earlier years, there was no official theological response to the question of whether there are biblical reasons that speak against the ordination of women. Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider pointed out that the recently published document on man and woman in the image of God has created the basis for further discussion.
  • This will be followed by a look at the Church, its traditions, and values. “We are giving ourselves time for these consultations and will—as soon as all decisions have been made—publish a paper as was done in 2019 with our revised concept of ministry.” The arguments of those whose thinking is conservative in this matter, and who fear that cherished traditions will go lost, he said, must be taken just as seriously as the wish of those who would like to see changes and a faster pace in our deliberations. “We are doing things at our own pace; we decide for the New Apostolic Church as a whole, not for one side or the other,” Chief Apostle Schneider said in summing up the discussion.

Definition of church, sacrament, and ministry

He went on to explain that there have always been changes in the New Apostolic Church, and that they were necessary. In the 1990s, Chief Apostle Richard Fehr began with preparations for a New Apostolic catechism. At that time the question was what definition of the church of Jesus Christ the catechism should present.

Up to that point it had always been said that the New Apostolic Church is the church of Christ—a statement that was revised and modified after careful deliberations. This certainly caused some turmoil in many congregations, but it was indispensable in order to take on a catechism in a serious and reliable manner. “It took years,” the Chief Apostle summed up.

The continuity of change

Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber advanced the work of the catechism and devoted his term in ministry to the important topic of defining the sacraments. The information event he presented in our church in Uster in Switzerland on 24 January 2006 remains unforgotten: the baptisms of other Churches were recognised, and the relationship of baptism and sealing redefined.

Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider dedicates a great deal of time and commitment to our concept of ministry and, in connection with it, the question of the ordination of women. The Church leader says: “As we looked into this subject, we realised just how extensive and deep it is. It will not do to give it a simple yes or no. Whatever the outcome of our deliberations will be, the subject is too important to be dealt with hastily and solely on the basis of societal trends.”

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Peter Johanning
District Apostle Meeting (DAMI)