Jean-Luc Schneider, the Chief Apostle of the 10 million-strong New Apostolic Church (NAC), has recently spoken in favor of a more liberal ethical approach toward homosexuality during a March trip to Canada. However, it remains to be seen how African faithful — who now make 80 percent of the worldwide membership of the German-born movement — will react toward such moves, writes Protestant theologian Kai Funkschmidt in the journal Materialdienst der Evangelischen Zentralstelle für Weltanschauungsfragen, (July). Schneider put into question a focus on homosexuality as sin because it is not a topic either in the Ten Commandments or in Jesus’ message. True, the Chief Apostle said it is condemned in the Old Testament (along with the consumption of pork) and in the New Testament (along with drinking or power-hungry attitudes). This cannot be ignored, but ethical obsession with sexuality should be seen as a legacy of Roman Catholicism, with its gradation of sins. Schneider emphasized that greed for money is much worse than homosexuality.
There is an ongoing dialogue between church authorities and Rainbow-NAC since 2003, with annual meetings. A group for homosexual, bisexual and transsexual Christians in the New Apostolic Church, Rainbow-NAC is allowed to have a display table at the International Church Convention. While ministerial duties are not accessible currently to people living in a homosexual partnerships, the possibility to bless (or pray for) homosexual partnerships has existed since 2009 in the New Apostolic Church; however, the use of such blessings varies from one area to another, including Europe. Some NAC ministers acting cautiously invoke the impact it might have in places such as Russia and, most of all, Africa. In the NAC as in other denominations, the divide between a relatively liberal approach toward homosexuality in the West and a much more conservative one in Africa and some other places of the world will continue to be a source of potential tensions and controversies, with Africans resenting any suspected primacy of Western concerns.