What is a ministry? How does it work? Who can be called to ministry? The New Apostolic Church has formulated its definition of ministry. To conclude this series, we present the big picture—as a starting point for a better understanding.
Everything that people do in faith and for the benefit of the community of the duly baptised is a service in the church of Christ. Ministry is required wherever a human being expressly speaks or acts in the name of God.
Neither Jesus nor the early apostolate specified a binding or structured ministerial order. Various functions and gifts are reported. The three levels of church leadership, priesthood, and diaconate only developed in the post-New Testament period.
Ministerial authority and ministerial mandate
Decisive for ministry is the authority. With respect to spiritual authority the New Apostolic Church traditionally recognises only three levels: Apostle, Priest, and Deacon. Earlier intermediary levels of ministry did not incorporate any different powers, but rather different leadership functions.
Ministers are installed by ordination, leaders by appointment, and their assistants by assignment. The working area of a minister is determined by the ministerial mandate, which has to do with external circumstances. Unlike the sacraments, a ministry does not leave an indelible mark on the person.
Similarities and differences
Both men and women can be entrusted with ministerial authority: they are both equally created in the image of God and therefore have the same dignity and the same mandate. Both the first and second account of creation document this in a similar way. The fall into sin changed everything.
Jesus Christ only called men to be Apostles. This, however, was not a gender statement, but a signal of restoring a new people of God. Jesus made women the crown witnesses of His resurrection. And they served in leading positions in the early church.
The more the church ministry developed, the more it was male dominated. In the New Testament, for example, there are isolated cases where women were prohibited from speaking and teaching in divine service. But these were based more on cultural prescriptions rather than theological ones. And they contradict other biblical passages.
Election and calling
For want of a doctrine and because of contradictions, the apostolate must exercise its authority to establish the church order—similar to the ministerial structure. The point is: women and men are of the same nature and dignity, they are equally in need of redemption, equally one in Christ, and equally called to the universal priesthood of believers and the kingdom of peace.
The ordination of women has a tradition in the New Apostolic Church: for around half of its history, it practised the appointment of Deaconesses—taken over from the Catholic Apostolic Church. Deaconesses were appointed in the same way as male ministers.
It is God who designates an individual for a ministry, irrespective of gender. And it is up to the apostolate to recognise this calling. Even if this can sometimes go wrong: speaking and acting in the name of God remains effective.
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