Ministry (10): What advantages does the reform entail anyway?
It is far more than an exercise in theological principles or structural management: the reform in our concept of ministry has some very concrete benefits—for Church leadership, for the ministers, and for every individual member of the congregation.
The benefits of this work on the concept of ministry were already clear beforehand: although our understanding of church and the sacraments was precisely defined in the Catechism already, our understanding of ministry was still incomplete. And the Church wanted to configure the organisational structure in a manner corresponding to the realities of the present.
In his video address introducing the concept of ministry, Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider explains what these efforts have indeed achieved. The two reasons cited above have resulted in a fourfold benefit.
Ministry is now clearly defined in a manner consistent with our understanding of church and sacrament. Jesus Christ defines ministry in His word, actions, and nature. Ministry incorporates the services and powers that derive from Him, namely to speak and act in the name of God. And the ministry likewise has a dual nature comprised of a visible human side and an invisible divine side.
The value of the congregational and district rector has been heightened. Up to now, these important functions were simply conferred by way of a handshake. In the appointment, both the congregational and district rectors receive blessing and sanctification through laying on of hands while kneeling, just as is also the case for District Apostles now.
The separation of ministry and leadership function facilitates a more collegial leadership style. For the Chief Apostle it is no longer conceivable for a Church leader to be a lone warrior. Eliminating the previous intermediate levels of ministry and concentrating on the five structural entities (congregation, district, Apostle district, District Apostle district, and Global Church) reduces the number of decision-makers. This makes it possible to streamline communication and decision-making.
Appointments and assignments allow for the flexibility required today. Changes in residence for occupational reasons and the amalgamation of congregations and districts have repeatedly created unclear circumstances for the reinstatement of ministers and the allocation of their duties. Now leadership functions can be exercised independently of a particular ministry, and thus also over a specific period of time.
Yet the benefits extend far beyond leadership function and even encompass everyday divine service. This is because the separation between ministry and hierarchy allows a Priest, for example, to conduct a divine service even when his rector, Shepherd, or Evangelist is present. Here the Chief Apostle sees a threefold benefit:
ministers are protected from overload. Appropriate preparation for a divine service requires time and effort. If this duty is well distributed, no one will be overwhelmed. After all, even ministers have families and professions.
the officiant has more time to prepare. As more ministers take turns conducting services, each of them will be able to prepare himself for the divine service further in advance, in a more focused way, and more thoroughly. This can only be of benefit for the quality of the sermon.
greater variety enriches the congregation. Each minister has his own profile. Constant repetition entails the risk of fatigue. More frequent alternation among the officiants increases the attention of the members and provides fresh inspiration.
The Chief Apostle’s conclusion: “I am well aware that this amounts to a significant change in our tradition. It will certainly take time in order to become accustomed to it, but I am absolutely convinced that this reform will have beneficial effects for the Church.”
What ministry actually is and what purpose it serves—these matters have now been explained. But who receives a ministry? How? And why? These questions will be the focus of upcoming topics in this series.
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