“The apostolate decides that women can be entrusted with ministerial authority.” Isolated Bible verses are cited against this decision. However, these relate less to the authority than to the mandate. And the Church takes this into account.
Women and ministry? The testimony of the New Testament is not clear. This is explained in the essay on the ordination of women in the Divine Service Guide Special Edition 3/2022. At the beginning, there are indications for an intensive involvement of women in missionary work, congregational life, and even in divine service. This contrasts with later statements that deny women active participation.
Rejection without convincing substantiation
The few negative statements are mainly found in so-called pastoral letters addressed to Paul’s co-workers. Most of these texts are fact-based and are bound to the time in which they were written. The objections relate to individual activities in the congregation. They therefore belong to that aspect of the spiritual ministry that the New Apostolic doctrine refers to as “ministerial mandate”.
“Individual negative statements found in some New Testament letters concerning the active participation of women in divine service and the congregation do not constitute sufficient grounds for excluding women from ministry.” There are no arguments as to why women could not be entrusted with a spiritual ministry. So the Bible does not address, neither directly nor indirectly, the other aspect of spiritual ministry, namely ministerial power.
Mandate, authority? What does it mean? Why is this important?
Ministry with authority and a mandate
A spiritual ministry comprises both ministerial authority and a ministerial mandate.
- Ministerial authority constitutes the right to act and speak in the name of the triune God.
- The ministerial mandate governs the right and responsibility to exercise the ministerial authority conferred within a framework that is limited both in terms of duration and location.
The New Apostolic Church theologically justifies the fact that both men and women can be invested with ministerial authority with the biblically guaranteed equality of men and women. According to the account of creation, God makes no distinction here. And according to the epistle of Paul, in Christ “there is neither male nor female”, for all are one. This is why women can be ordained to the three levels of ministry—Deacon, Priest, and Apostle—with their different powers.
However, the Church is also aware of the ministerial mandate and—as in the case of the pastoral letters—of the cultural dimensions: the “ministerial mandate is only to be issued in places where it will find acceptance in the congregation, and where social consensus as well as the law allow for it”, it says in the basic resolution.
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