New Apostolic Church’s embrace of women’s ordination leads to schism in Africa

Following the New Apostolic Church’s decision to accept the ordination of women, fervent protest movements have emerged in Africa, especially in Congo, where one of the 350 or so apostles, Christophe Kabongo Kantu, has placed himself at the head of a dissident church. Protestant theologian Kai Funkschmidt writes in the Zeitschrift für Religion und Weltanschauung (Jan.–Feb.) that the new movement has taken the name Authentic New Apostolic Church and is said to have tens of thousands of followers. Founded in the 19th century and with a membership of more than nine million, three-quarters of which is now in Africa, the New Apostolic Church decided in June 2022 that it was doctrinally right to ordain women to the ministry, stating that “Women can be entrusted with ministerial authority and a ministerial mandate on the basis of gender equivalence and equality before God.” The ordination of women has been possible since January 2023. “I am well aware that this decision marks a significant shift in our tradition,” Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider acknowledged. Officials say women’s ordinations will only take place where there is a need and where both the community and society accept it. Ordination will be possible to all ministries, including that of apostle.

Source: NAC worldwide: the key figures.

Opponents question the biblical basis for the practice and suspect that the ordination of women could pave the way for same-sex marriage and the ordination of homosexual ministers. The reactions are similar to those of some of the African faithful in other Christian churches to developments in the West on these issues, although it should be noted that a huge majority of New Apostolic believers in Africa seem to remain faithful to their church. Kabongo is beginning to be referred to by his followers as Chief Apostle and the new group clearly aspires to go global. But Funkschmidt points out that the New Apostolic Church has already experienced other schisms in its history, and he doubts that the group will be able to pose a real challenge to it worldwide and rally a significant percentage of the faithful around the issue of women’s ordination alone.

(Zeitschrift für Religion und Weltanschauung,;
article by Kai Funkschmidt online (in German):