The concept of ministry in a nutshell

The concept of ministry is on every channel: in addition to the latest issue of community , the Divine Service Guide and are busy explaining the most current doctrinal statements—sometimes more exhaustively, and sometimes more succinctly. Here is the abridged version for those who are in a real hurry.

Everything that church is, and everything on which it is based, has its origin in the person and deed of Jesus Christ. Therefore it is only logical that the doctrines of church, sacrament, and ministry should be aligned with the doctrine of Hypostatic Union, or the dual nature of Jesus Christ: Jesus Christ is true Man and true God.

Thus the ministry corresponds to the divine nature of Christ, while the person of the minister corresponds to the human nature. Ministry and person are thus interwoven. However, the ministry is neither the personal possession of the minister, nor an indelible mark on his person. Rather, it remains a gift of Christ. Thus it is possible for the ministry to be separated from the person.

Jesus was sent by God and equipped with various powers. The Apostle ministry, which was established by Christ Himself, shares in this authority, and can impart a portion of it to others. After all, the Apostles function as “stewards of the mysteries of God.” This means that the apostolate is also obliged to structure the ministerial order in a manner appropriate to the needs of the time.

Ministry and authority

Ministerial authority constitutes the right to act and speak in the name of the triune God, which is founded upon Jesus Christ. The apostolate is of central importance here, as it contains all sacramental powers necessary for the church.

Upon ordination, the Deacon receives the authority to properly proclaim the gospel in divine service and in pastoral visits, as well as to dispense the Trinitarian blessing in a word service. In addition to these powers, the Priest receives the authority to proclaim the forgiveness of sins in the commission of the Apostle, to dispense the sacraments of Holy Baptism with water and Holy Communion, and to perform acts of blessing.

The ministerial structure is based on three levels of ministry, each equipped with different kinds of spiritual authority. In the future, only Apostles, Priests, and Deacons will be ordained. Effective Pentecost 2019, the other ministries will no longer be occupied, as was already the case in the past with Community Elders and Sub-deacons.

Ministry and mandate

In addition to ministerial authority, a ministry also incorporates a ministerial mandate. While the authority is of a theological nature, the ministerial mandate is of a canonical nature. With this mandate, the minister is assigned the right and responsibility to fulfil his tasks in the ministerial authority he has received, within a framework that is limited in terms of both duration and location.

The ministry, with its two components of authority and mandate, can come to a conclusion in several ways. In a retirement it is only the ministerial mandate that ends. In the case of a resignation from ministry or a dismissal from ministry, both the ministerial mandate and the ministerial authority come to an end.

Ministry and services or duties

The fact that it is God who designates a person for a ministry and that this is the foundation for every ordination continues to apply unreservedly in the ministerial order now in effect. The good qualities and abilities the person possesses are then put into the service of the ministry. No new talents are imparted in the ordination, however.

Ministerial authority is imparted through ordination. This only applies to the ministries of Chief Apostle, Apostle, Priest, and Deacon. The ordination is received while kneeling and under laying on of hands, in a divine service after the celebration of Holy Communion.

The act of appointment proceeds in similar fashion. However, only a spiritual leadership function—no new authority—is conferred in the process. This applies to District Apostles, district rectors, and congregational rectors. The appointment is not bound to the time of the ministerial activity, but does end with it.

The assignment is the allocation of a service or duty with a spiritual emphasis. The blessing of God is requested for the fulfilment of this service or duty. This applies to the assistants or representatives of leading ministers (Chief Apostle Helpers, District Apostle Helpers, Lead Apostles, and Bishops). In addition, the primarily responsible teachers, as well as youth leaders active over the long term, will be officially assigned.

Photo: Oliver Rütten

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Andreas Rother
Doctrinal statements, ministry