Ministry (15): Review and outlook

The year of reform to the ministerial order: that is how the year 2019 will go down in the history books of the New Apostolic Church. But there is something much more fundamental behind this. And the topic is still current. .

The new ministerial order took effect on Pentecost 2019: the previous ministries of Evangelist, Shepherd, District Evangelist, and Bishop, will no longer be occupied. This follows from the same principle that has already applied to the level of the Apostles since 2017. Leadership functions will no longer be ordained, but rather appointed. Ministry and hierarchy are now separate.

This is not the whole purpose, but certainly one result, of a rather lengthy process: since 2014, the New Apostolic Church has reconceived and exhaustively reformulated its understanding of ministry. This point had not yet been conclusively treated in the Catechism published in 2012.

Fundamental questions clarified

This was not only a matter of structural issues, but of theological foundations: everything that human beings do for the community of the duly baptised is a service in the church of Christ. Ministry is required wherever a human being expressly speaks or acts in the name of God.

Jesus Christ instituted ministry by imparting powers to the Apostles. His dual nature, with its invisible divine side and visible human side, also defines the nature of ministry.

Neither He nor the apostolate of the early church prescribed a binding ministerial order. Holy Scripture speaks of various functions and gifts. The three levels of church leadership, priesthood, and diaconate developed in the post-New Testament period.

Decisions made

This means that what is decisive for ministry is the authority inherent in each. By that measure, the New Apostolic Church has traditionally only ever known three levels of ministry, namely Apostles, Priests, and Deacons. The previous intermediary levels of ministry did not incorporate any different elements of authority, and are not biblically compulsory.

Ministers are invested with a ministry through the act of ordination. Leadership functions are imparted by appointment, and assistant functions are conferred by way of assignment. The working area of a minister is determined by the ministerial mandate. One way or another, the objective is to recognise the divine will as well as the personal competencies in the minister.

New questions posed

“I am absolutely convinced that this reform will have a beneficial impact on the Church.” So emphasised Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider in his video address concerning the concept of ministry, before going on to explain the very concrete advantages — for the Church’s leadership, the ministers, and each and every member of the congregation.

But the “concept of ministry” is still far from complete. The current discussions on the subject revolve around the ordination of women. And as the Chief Apostle has already noted on several occasions, it is not only theological—but rather also social—considerations that play a role here: what will the congregation accept, not only on an international level, but also in regional terms?

Photo: Gaj Rudolf / Fotolia

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Andreas Rother