Questions and answers concerning the ordination of women 

Starting in 2023, it is possible for women to be ordained to ministry in the New Apostolic Church. This decision raises many follow-up questions. Some initial Frequently Asked Questions have already been assembled, and will be supplemented as needed. 

This catalogue of questions is limited to the global policy decision and issues of a global scope. Any additional questions regarding implementation in the individual Regional Churches will be clarified by the responsible regional leadership. Answers to those questions will be developed and published there.

The team at the New Apostolic Church International is available to answer any questions you may have about the global policy decision:

Basic questions

The understanding of church, the sacraments, and ministry are of essential significance for our Church.

The Catechism contains a well outlined understanding of the church and sacraments, but it only offers a general summary of our understanding of ministry. There was a need to better formulate our understanding of ministry and develop it to the same level as our understanding of the church and the sacraments.

Women may be ordained as Deacons, Priests, or Apostles. Beyond that, women—like men—can be appointed or assigned to perform leadership or assistant functions in the congregation, the district, or the Global Church, for example, as congregational or district rectors, assistants to the congregational or district rector, or as Bishops.

The resolution applies for the New Apostolic Church around the world. The ministerial mandate associated with ordination will be issued wherever it is accepted by the local society and the congregation.

No. Regional problems resulting from a shortage of male ministers are not relevant on an international level, and do not constitute an argument for ordaining women into ministry. The decision taken by the apostolate is the result of a theological and doctrinal process of deliberation.

The essential questions of the doctrine of the New Apostolic Church, especially with respect to its understanding of church, the sacraments, and ministry, were discussed and answered by the apostolate one after the other—and building upon one another. This process took a great deal of time. Before answering the question of “who”, it was necessary to clarify the question of “what”. In other words, what exactly is a ministry? What happens during an ordination? And how should leadership be structured? The results of these deliberations were presented in spring 2019. Over the three years that followed, the question surrounding the ordination of women was discussed and answered.

God elects clergy who correspond to the needs of the believers whom they are to serve. A ministerial mandate can fail if members of the congregation reject a minister. Therefore, the apostolate must ensure that the clergy will also be accepted by their congregation. And this not only applies to the local congregations, but also to the Global Church. This has always been consistent with the will of God, but not always accepted within the human context.

Before asking the question of “Who can bear a ministry?”, it was first necessary to answer some other fundamental questions, for example, “What is a ministry?” “How does it begin and end?” These aspects were processed between 2014 and 2019. The question of “Who?” was then clarified in the comparatively short period of three years thereafter.

The Church is not adapting to the spirit of the times. Over the course of our history there have always been changes and refinements to the doctrine. The gospel remains unchanged and is proclaimed in authority. It is part of the responsibility of the apostolate to make decisions for the future of the Church and the order of congregational life.

No. The decision to ordain women is not a matter of gender equality policy. It is the result of exhaustive theological and spiritual reflection, and not a reaction to societal pressure.

It is the responsibility of the apostolate—irrespective of its composition—to make decisions relating to the future of the Church. Jesus Christ gave the Apostles the authority to order congregational life.

Historically, women served as Deaconesses for a number of decades. Otherwise, however, the New Apostolic Church followed in the Christian tradition of only ordaining men to the clergy. To date, however, the apostolate had simply never answered the question of whether women can be ordained to ministry on a doctrinal level. This changed as a result of the formulation of our concept of ministry.

Reporting on the ordination of women will occur in exactly the same manner as for men.

Further information events at the local level can be organised by the Regional Churches as required. However, those responsible in the local areas have not received any advance information and will now need some time to familiarise themselves with the subject.”

Theological questions

Human beings, as an entity consisting of man and woman, are equally created in the image of God.  According to Paul, no distinctions are to be made between those who are in Christ:  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3: 28). 

There is a physical unity between man and woman. Man and woman are both formed by God from an already existing "material". The existence of both is exclusively and absolutely dependent on their Creator. 

According to Paul, both man and woman have sinned to the same degree in “Adam”. Romans 5: 12: "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned." 

The Apostles were given the mission to preach the gospel in the synagogues. This was forbidden to women. If one insists that only men should be Apostles on the basis of Jesus' actions, one might just as easily demand that the apostolate should consist, not only of twelve men, but of twelve Jews—and even then it would only be possible for it to consist of twelve Jewish men and no more.   
Beyond that, Jesus only called Apostles from among the disciples who had accompanied Him on His travels. Not even Paul would have been able to live up to this requirement. 

In the letter to the Romans, women take on important responsibilities in the congregation: they serve Apostles, lead house churches, and engage in missionary work.  

  • "our sister Phoebe" ( Romans 16: 1, 2) – she stands in the service of a congregation and is thus a Deaconess. Phoebe is an important person who has helped—and perhaps is still helping—the Apostle and the congregation. 
  • Priscilla and Aquila (Romans 16: 3-5) – a married couple who are active in missionary work and now lead a house church. Paul also owes them a great debt of gratitude. 
  • Andronicus and Junia (Romans 16: 7) – likely a married couple who, like Paul, are exposed to persecution. They are designated as being “of note among the Apostles”. The two of them are missionaries.

The first epistle to the Corinthians contains statements pertaining to the proper conduct of men and women in divine service, according to which both men and women are active within divine service: they pray and they prophesy. For Paul, prophetic speech has a similar function to that of the sermon namely, to impart the gospel in a comprehensible manner (1 Corinthians 14: 3– 4b).  
However, the Apostle's remarks on the observance of distinct "gender role symbolism" do not constitute a demand that women should not be active in divine service or congregational life. For example, Paul explains that women should cover their heads when they pray or prophesy, but he does not forbid them to be active. 
It becomes clear here that many elements of the Pauline line of reasoning can only be understood in the context of their time and are not intended to apply universally. 
Many New Testament scholars attribute the contradictory statements in 1 Corinthians 14: 33b-36 to a document from the later Pauline school and not directly to the Apostle. 

Bible passages on which doctrine is based must correspond to the gospel.

There are contradictions in 1 Timothy 2. According to verse 13 and 14, the author sees the reason for the commandment for women to be silent in the fact that sin entered into the world through Eve. However, this contradicts the letters of Paul, who explains in Romans 5: 12–21 that all human beings alike have sinned.

In addition to this, 1 Timothy 2 contradicts itself: in verse 4 the author acknowledges that God desires all human beings to be saved. However, according to verse 15, only women who bear children are saved. And what about women who cannot have children? Does God, the Creator of life, not want them to be saved?

On account of such ambiguities, the apostolate must interpret what is consistent with the gospel of Jesus. The apostolate has the mandate and authority to do so.

Organizational questions

No. It is God who designates an individual for ministry. In principle, being designated for a ministry is not based upon human will but upon the divine will. It is the task of the Apostle to recognise God’s will and act in accordance with it (CNAC 7.7).
Gifts develop from within the congregation for the congregation. Wherever these gifts are recognised, the need to put them into the service of God and the congregation will grow.

No. Since it is God who calls a person to ministry, it is out of the question to determine a specific proportion for men and women in the various levels of ministry. God’s will, not the human will, is the deciding factor here. 

Both elements are important. For women and men alike, the grounds for proposing an individual for ministry incorporate the needs of the congregation or district on the one hand, and the gifts and characteristics of possible candidates on the other. The need cannot simply be measured by a number. Wherever gifts are recognised, the need to put them into the service of God and the congregation will grow.

It would be pure speculation—and thus not serious—to specify a point in time when the first female Apostle will be ordained. Most of today's Apostles have served for many years as Deacons and Priests and have gained experience in various leadership positions in the Church. The same is to be expected for women in ministry.

The same rules apply here to women as to men. As a rule, ordination to the Deacon ministry happens first.

Members can discuss their pastoral needs with their rector. Generally speaking, it will be his concern and responsibility to assure the care of the members and to assign the ministers accordingly.  

As with all volunteer tasks, this question can only be answered individually in the respective family. The opportunities to get involved and to maintain balance in the family should be discussed openly with the responsible leading minister.

When it comes to ordination, the same binding requirements apply to women as to men:

  •  legal age of majority
  • must advocate the New Apostolic Creed
  • ordered finances and personal circumstances
  • regular attendance of the divine services
  • acceptance in the congregation
  • adequate time to dedicate to pastoral care
  • willingness to participate in ministers’ meetings and Church training events

Both male and female ministers are clergy of the Church and, according to the competency profiles for Deacons and Priests, should live in well-ordered circumstances and have sufficient time to dedicate to pastoral care. 

Here too, the same internationally specific rules apply to women as to men.

There are no gender-specific differences in the acts of institution relating to ministry. Through ordination, ministers are authorised, blessed, and sanctified for their service. The holiness of this act and the serving character of the ministry is revealed in that the ministry is received while kneeling.

The offers of the Regional Churches for ongoing ministerial training are available to both male and female ministers alike. New Apostolic clergy commit themselves to the doctrine as it appears in the Catechism. This requires ongoing training in the appropriate framework.

In divine services, female ministers will likewise wear black and white. Attire should be modest and appropriate to the occasion. Cultural conventions are taken into account accordingly.

Since every pregnancy is different, it is impossible to define a general rule here. A leave of absence makes sense in order to avoid personal overload or physical strain owing to ministerial activity. The duration of the leave should be discussed individually with the responsible level of leadership. The wellbeing of the mother and child are the first priority here.

Personal questions

Anyone who is fundamentally willing to take a new direction embarks on a learning process. In the process it is helpful to know that the decision of the apostolate was made responsibly and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The question of acceptance also remains open for every male member of the clergy.

The New Apostolic Church does not tolerate sexual assaults by ministers or members in the exercise of their church service. Ministers undertake to immediately report any justified cases of suspicion to the applicable authorities of their respective country.

In addition, some of the Regional Churches have established committees to address such situations, and the contact persons of these committees are listed on the respective websites. 

The Apostles are the first point of contact in such cases, regardless of gender. In addition, appropriate specialist offices have been established in the various Regional Churches.

Before any possible ordination, the leading minister is to have a conversation with the person in question. It is desired and even stipulated that this conversation be carried out with great openness, empathy, and sensitivity, whether the candidate is a man or a woman. No candidate for ordination, whether male or female, should ever be put under any kind of pressure, not to mention obligation, to say “yes”. In principle, the candidate’s partner should also be included in the discussion. A “no” to serving in ministry is not to be condemned.