A distinction: ministry and hierarchy

The new concept of ministry has begun to have some concrete implications, a point that the Chief Apostle made clear at today’s divine service for ministers, which was transmitted throughout Europe. A Special Edition of the Divine Service Guide is now being issued. The most important points from it follow in brief.

Two significant changes have resulted from the Church leader’s announcement:

  • in future, ministers with leadership functions will, in principle, no longer be ordained, but rather appointed,
  • and divine services will no longer be automatically officiated by the highest-ranking priestly minister.

These are also the central points from Special Edition 4/2017 of the Divine Service Guide. The leaflet will first be published online via the District Churches, and then also distributed in print format. The publication provides information on the most recent resolutions passed by the District Apostle Meeting International (DAMI) on Pentecost 2017.

The basis of this document is comprised of DAMI resolutions that were already published in June 2017. It centres on the insight that the New Apostolic Church really only acknowledges three ministries, which are distinguished from one another by the powers inherent in each:

  • Deacon (proclamation of the word of God, blessing of the congregation)
  • Priest (in addition to the above: Holy Baptism with water, Holy Communion, and absolution)
  • Apostle (in addition to the above: Holy Sealing, ordination)

Leadership tasks: mandate instead of ministry

Another innovation is that the interim rungs in the ministerial hierarchy will no longer be ordained as separate ministries. This is because no additional spiritual authority is conferred.

Spiritual leadership functions in the congregation, district, and District Church will thus be conferred by way of an appointment in future. This act is performed by laying on of hands on the minister, who in turn kneels as he is appointed, in order to emphasise the significance of the appointment. However, this act does not necessarily need to be performed by an Apostle.

A new term in the concept of ministry is “assignment” . This refers to the bestowal of a spiritual service that can also be exercised independently of a church ministry. Such services include the activity of teachers, for example. The assignment is performed by a leading minister. It does not incorporate laying on of hands, but rather a prayer requesting God’s blessing in the exercise of this task.

While District Apostles will be appointed and their Helpers assigned, the Chief Apostle will continue to be ordained. The reasoning for this from the DAMI was that the Chief Apostle discharges the Petrine office and exercises the authority of the keys.

Officiating divine services: variety instead of hierarchy

The new determinations will fundamentally put all priestly ministers on the same level in terms of spiritual authority. In principle, this means that when it comes to the question of officiating divine services, the ministerial hierarchy—which is a construct of church law—no longer needs to be taken into account. This means that a Priest will, in future, be able to conduct the divine service even if the rector is present, for example.

Among others, the Special Edition lists the reasons for this DAMI resolution as follows:

  • the alternation of these ministers enables them to prepare themselves over a longer period of time, and in a more targeted fashion, for the divine service, and thus allows for more thorough preparation.
  • the congregation is enriched as a result of the increased variety.
  • a more balanced distribution of tasks will protect ministers from overload.

The details of this resolution will be implemented independently by the District Apostles in their respective working areas.

Yet to be resolved: the next questions

The questions now waiting to be addressed by the District Apostle Meeting include:

  • which specific duties and services will be conferred by assignment? “Various differences in culture and tradition may be taken into account here,” states the Special Edition of the Divine Service Guide.
  • how will this distinction between spiritual ministry and leadership function affect the priestly ministry? According to the Chief Apostle, this is a matter of “whether the present hierarchical structure is still appropriate to the current needs of the Church.”

The DAMI will inquire into these matters over the coming months.

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