Ministry (17): Effective in combination

Ministry without authority? That won’t work. Ministry without a mandate? This happens more often than one might think. One is universally valid, while the other is bound to circumstances. And yet the two are closely interconnected.

“A ministry comprises both ministerial authority and a ministerial mandate.” So states the central definition from Special Edition 02/2022 of the Divine Service Guide , which is hot off the presses. The article is entitled “The New Apostolic understanding of the spiritual ministry” and goes on to state that

  • ministerial authority is of a theological nature: it constitutes the right to act and to speak in the name of the triune God, which is founded upon Jesus Christ and issued through the Apostle by way of ordination in the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • the ministerial mandate is of a canonical nature: thereby 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.

Active in the name of God

The concept of ministerial authority is based on the belief that

  • Jesus Christ has been sent by God and has been equipped with various powers,
  • the apostolate shares in the authority of Jesus Christ, and
  • the apostolate is also capable of delegating authority to other ministers.

The right to speak and act in the name of God incorporates various kinds of powers, namely the authority

  • to proclaim the word of God,
  • to administer the sacraments,
  • related to the forgiveness of sins, and
  • to dispense blessing.

The ministerial structure of the New Apostolic Church explains the varying degrees of participation in these powers by distinguishing between Deacons, Priests, and Apostles.

The mandate relates to the congregation

The ministry is not a personal possession, but is rather always geared to a specific group of people. It is for this reason that every ordination (into any ministry) is also associated with a ministerial mandate. This regulates the context in which the ministerial authority is to be exercised: for Deacons and Priests, for example, this would be the congregation, and for the Apostle it would be the respective working area.

Ministry and congregation are also closely linked in a broader sense: if a minister changes working areas—for example, by changing his home congregation—his ministerial authority remains intact, but his previous ministerial mandate no longer exists. The minister can only begin to exercise this authority again in a new congregation if he receives an express mandate to do so.

Authority can also exist without a mandate

The ministerial mandate is also a focal point when it comes to the typical conclusion of ministerial activity: upon retirement, the ministerial authority remains intact, however, the ministerial mandate ends. This means that the retired minister can no longer actively exercise his ministry.

Due to the fact that the ministerial authority remains intact upon retirement, retired ministers can be reactivated within a specific framework of activity. In order for this to occur, the Apostle must issue a corresponding mandate, for example, to celebrate Holy Communion with sick and elderly members or to conduct funeral services.

Ministerial authority is therefore only distinguished by the way in which the various levels of ministry are equipped. The ministerial mandate, on the other hand, has to do with external circumstances.

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Andreas Rother
ministry, Doctrinal statements