Official responses to some fundamental questions
Before we can begin to look at who can carry a ministry, we have to answer the big question of what: what is a ministry; what constitutes, determines, and terminates it? Here is a summary with links that will take you deeper into the subject matter.
“A look at our concept of ministry” is the title of an article published in the latest issue of community. The article is the summary of an essay published in a special edition of the Divine Service Guide 2/2022, which was published four months ago under the title “The New Apostolic understanding of the spiritual ministry”.
Serving in accordance with the nature of Christ
The starting point of the considerations is the term service: everything that Christians do to proclaim the gospel or to care for and see to the good in the community of the Christian church constitutes a service. The duties of speaking or acting on behalf of God require the authority of a ministry.
Key to understanding ministry—as with church and sacrament—is the dual nature of Jesus Christ as true man and true God. This aspect, above all, determines how ministry and person are related: they enter into a temporary bond with each other, which also concerns personal talents and lifestyle.
A question of authority
Decisive for ministry is the term “authority”: Jesus Christ Himself established the Apostle ministry and empowered it out of His powers to proclaim the gospel, to administer the sacraments, to proclaim the forgiveness of sins, to bestow blessings, and to ordain. The apostolate in turn passes on part of its authority.
This results in today’s ministerial order comprised of Apostles, Priests, and Deacons. The three stages already began to emerge in early Christianity and have undergone many changes in the course of history.
A mission with limits
Important in practice is the interaction of ministerial authority and ministerial mandate. Ministerial authority constitutes the right to act and speak in the name of the triune God. The ministerial mandate sets the scope in terms of both duration and location in which the authority may be exercised.
This, in turn, determines the manner in which a ministerial activity begins and ends. The first step is always ordination to a ministry, in which authority, blessing, and sanctification are conferred. In addition to the ministerial levels, there are leadership functions and other spiritual services or tasks that are conferred by appointment or assignment.
Now that the fundamental question of what a ministry is has been answered, the community magazine will, in the coming year, publish the official doctrinal treatise on the more advanced question of who can hold a ministry?
Photo: Björn Renz
ministry, Doctrinal statements, Doctrinal instruction