New Apostolic Church: Wikis

  
  
  

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

New Apostolic Church (NAC)
Huerth-Hermuelheim-Neuapostolische-Kirche-005.jpg
New Apostolic church hall with emblem
Classification Chiliastic, partly Restorationist
Orientation Irvingian movement
Christianity
Polity Apostolic Hierarchical
Leader Chief Apostle
Wilhelm Leber
Distinct fellowships International Apostles' Meeting
District Apostles' Meeting
Project Groups:
-Faith Questions
-Ecumenism
-Music
-Communication
-Youth
Committee for special affairs
and others
Associations Consortium of Christian Churches, Germany and Switzerland
Geographical area 181 nations,
divided into 18
District Apostle areas,
Int. headquarters:
Zürich, Switzerland
Origin 4 January 1863
Hamburg, Germany
Branched from Catholic Apostolic Church
Separations Restored Apostolic Mission Church, Old Apostolic Church,
United Apostolic Church,
Congregations 66,388 (12/31/2007)[1 ]
Members 11,239,935 (12/31/2007)[1 ]
Ministers 259,515 (12/31/2007)[1 ]
Aid organization NAK karitativ, Germany
Official Website www.nak.org

The New Apostolic Church (NAC) is a chiliastic church, numbered to Protestantism as a free church of the Catholic Apostolic Churches or Irvingism. The church has existed since 1879 in Germany and since 1897 in the Netherlands. It came forth from the Hamburg schism in 1863 in the Catholic Apostolic Church, which was founded in 1847 in England and started in the 1830s as a renewal movement in, among others, the Anglican Church and Church of Scotland.

Premillennialism and Second Coming of Christ are to the fore of the New Apostolic doctrines. Most of its doctrines are akin to Christian mainstream, and especially its liturgy, to Protestantism, whereas hierarchy and organisation could be compared with the Roman Catholic.

The church considers itself to be the re-established continuation of the Early Church, and led by the successors of the twelve apostles. This doctrine resembles Restorationism in some aspects.

The official abbreviation in English-speaking countries is NAC (for New Apostolic Church), whereas it is NAK in German (Neuapostolische Kirche), ENA in French (Eglise Néo Apostolique), and INA in Portuguese (Igreja Nova Apostolica) and Spanish (Iglesia Nueva Apóstolica).

The emblem of the church portrays a white Latin cross, hovering above stylized waves on blue background. The sun rises at the horizon of those waves, symbolized by 10 rays. There is not any definite interpretation of its meaning. According to Peter Johanning, spokesman of the church, the various elements can be interpreted as Crucifixion of Jesus Christ (cross), Holy Baptism (water) and as Holy Sealing (sun), referring to the three sacraments of the church. Sunrise or sunset in the emblem could also be regarded as the immediate Second Coming of Christ. The first official emblem was set up by Chief Apostle Schmidt in 1968, which may still be found on many church buildings, although it was changed to a more modern appearance by Chief Apostle Richard Fehr in 1995.

Contents

History

The Catholic Apostolic Church

Through prophecies in England in 1832 John Bate Cardale was called as the first apostle of the second sending. Until 1835 eleven more men from various Christian denominations, social positions and religious training were called to the newly founded apostle ministry. After a long period of combined preparation, these apostles started to travel around the world, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. The main point of their gospel was the Church had deviated from its origins, only through restoring the Universal Church to its perfect state could the return of Christ be ensured. They were convinced that the restoration of the apostle ministry was necessary to achieve that perfect condition.

Apostle Schwartz later in life

After the death of three apostles in 1855, the apostolate declared that there was no reason to call new apostles.[2] During a meeting at Albury in 1860, the German Prophet Heinrich Geyer called two evangelists to be Apostles. After deliberation, the Apostles rejected this calling, and explained the callings of substitutes as coadjutors to the remaining apostles, and affirmed that no further callings to the apostolate would be accepted.

Break from the Catholic Apostolic Church

Later, on 10 October 1862, while traveling with the Apostle Woodhouse in Königsberg, the Prophet Geyer called Rudolf Rosochaki to be an apostle while staying in his home; however, as callings in private were not longer accepted by the English apostles, Rosochaki was told to wait patiently until God would confirm his calling in the presence of witnesses. In December, Geyer informed Angel (Bishop) F.W. Schwartz of the Hamburg congregation that Rosochaki had been called, who then invited them to Hamburg. In the afternoon service of January 4, 1863, Angel Schwartz asked these men to relate what happened, and Schwartz along with most of the congregation accepted this calling of Rosochaki to the apostolate.[3] A few days later Apostle Rosochaki came under strong influence of some of the other apostles who were able to instill in him uncertainty as to the divine origin of his calling as an Apostle. Eventually, he again subordinated himself to Apostle Woodhouse and left the schismatics to return to the Catholic Apostolic congregation on 17 January 1863.[4] On 26 January 1863 Angel Schwartz met with Apostle Woodhouse and Archangel Rothe in Berlin and expressed his belief in the need for continuing the Apostle ministry. Therefore, on 6 February 1863 Apostle Woodhouse informed the Hamburg congregation in writing of its expulsion from the Catholic Apostolic Church.[3] Commonly this is called the "Hamburg Schism". The Hamburg congregation along with Prophet Geyer split-off to form the Allgemeine Apostolische Mission (General Apostolic Congregation) in 1863 and shortly thereafter the Dutch branch of the Restored Apostolic Mission Church (at first known as Apostolische Zending, since 1893 officially registered as Hersteld Apostolische Zendingkerk (HAZK)). Today, 4 January 1863 is considered the date the New Apostolic Church was established.[4]

As Rosochaki returned to the Catholic Apostolic Church, this left the newly independent Hamburg congregation without apostolic authority; no more believers could be sealed, no ministers could be ordained. On 12 April 1863 a Deacon uttered a prophecy calling Priest Carl Louis Preuss as an Apostle. A little later, Prophet Heinrich Geyer confirmed this calling. Shortly thereafter, on 25 May 1863, Friedrich Wilhelm Schwartz was also called as an Apostle through many prophetically gifted members in the congregation, but also through Prophet Geyer.[4] Thus began the work of the Apostles of the New Order, with German "apostles" spreading "the word" around the world.

The First Schism

The Prophet Geyer, while instrumental in the schism from the English Apostles, initiated the first schism in the new body for the very same reason as leaving the Catholic Apostolic congregations- Apostles not validating the Prophet's call for an Apostle. Friction existed between the Prophet Geyer and Apostle Pruess regarding which had higher authority, Prophets or Apostles. The conflict broke out openly when Apostle Preuss died on July 25, 1878. Geyer had already called the coal dealer Johannes F.L. Gueldner as an apostle in a private meeting four months before apostle Preuss' death. Apostle Preuss had refused to recognize this calling and designated Elder Wichmann as his successor on his deathbed. However, he was not able to stop Geyer because "the word of a prophet carried more weight in those days than the word of the Lord". Consequently, Geyer called Gueldner again as an apostle and as the successor of Preuss in a service on Aug. 4, 1878 after Preuss' death. The major part of the Hamburg congregation protested against this and Wichmann stepped to the altar and without much ado relieved Geyer from his ministry. A "bad tumult" ensued and an inflation of apostle callings began: Wichmann's wife, supported by her son, called him an apostle through prophecy. A maid called her master as an apostle, also by prophecy. Other prophetic people called yet another fourth person as an apostle. The result of this chaotic prophesying was that none of those who were called could prevail; Wichmann told Geyer that he had to leave, so Geyer left the church with his followers, and they took their vestments and several sacramental items along. A successor for Preuss was not selected at this time (this happened later in 1880); going by a prophecy, the remaining Hamburg congregation gave themselves under the care of Apostle Menkhoff. The congregation suffered severe losses with the schism created by Geyer. Geyer and his followers founded a new congregation in Hamburg named Apostolische Mission (Apostolic Mission), built a chapel and "served" together with Gueldner, also in Silesia. But his congregation never gained any importance and wasted away after his death in 1896.[5] The remainder of the Hamburg congregation adopted the name Allgemeine Christliche Apostolische Mission (General Christian Apostolic Mission).

The Chief Apostle Office established

Upon the death of Apostle H. F. Schwartz, the remaining active Apostles of the New Order formed a central ruling ministry in form of the "Chief Apostle" in either 1895[6], 1896[7] or 1897[8], designating Friedrich Krebs to this office. In 1895, there were only six Apostles active, three in Europe and one each in South Africa, Australia, and Indonesia. With the establishment of a higher Apostolic office, the Chief Apostle appointed all subsequent Apostles[3], as opposed to prophetic calling which had been fundamental since the formation of the Catholic Apostolic Church. By 1899, the traditional limit of twelve apostles was discarded[3] and more men were ordained as Apostles. Parallel to the progress of the New Apostolic denomination, there occurred schisms throughout the world on several occasions. The reasons for these divisions were different but mainly related to disputes regarding the central ministry of the Chief Apostle. It is significant to note that this office did not exist until after the death of Apostles F.W. Schwartz. He had been an Angel (Bishop) in the Catholic Apostolic Church, which was opposed to designating any one person as head of the church, citing that Christ is the head of the Christian Church. To contrast, the role of the Chief Apostle ministry was not intended to usurp the leadership of Christ but more realistically aimed to continue the succession of Simon Peter, as Christ's immediate subordinate on Earth.

Development during the 20th century

Chief Apostle Hermann Niehaus

In August 1906 Chief Apostle Niehaus ordained Apostle Helper Johann Gottfried Bischoff as District Apostle of the Middle Germany and Württemberg district replacing the late Apostle Ruff. He also renamed the Neuapostolische Gemeinde (New Apostolic Congregation) as Neuapostolische Kirche (New Apostolic Church) and gained its state of public corporation. He ordained numerous young ministers and regularly convened conferences of apostles. He founded the periodical church publication Apostolisches Sonntagsblatt (Apostolic Sunday Paper), later Neuapostolische Rundschau (New Apostolic Review), in 1907 as an additional weekly lecture beside Der Herold and Wächterstimme von Ephraim (Guardvoice from Ephraim). In 1908 he issued the Allgemeinen Hausregeln (General House Rules) and in 1916 the first textbook about the New Apostolic faith Fragen  &  Antworten (Questions  &  Answers). It still exists in its revised version of 1992, but is going to be replaced by the new catechism.

As the first of the Chief Apostles, he and Apostle Carl August Brückner visited the United States congregations on August 19, 1909. The breakout of war in 1914 brought high exposure for the church. The soldiers at the frontlines were administered the Holy Communion by field post as bread hosts with three drops of wine on it. This practice was established in every congregation in 1917 and remains to this day. While the Holy Communion had originally been celebrated separately with bread and wine, the current practice involves unleavened bread wafers that are manufactured with three drops of wine trickled onto each.

In the late 1920s the name Neuapostolische Kirche (New Apostolic Church) was uniformly adopted in Germany, while this name had been in use in North America as early as 1918. Previously in North America, a variety of names had been used, including German Apostolic Church and Apostolic Church.

A cult of personality materialized around the Chief Apostle, which became apparent at the festivities of his birthday. On the occasion of his 80th birthday and 60-year anniversary of church ministry, a book with the name Der Grösste unter ihnen (The greatest among them) was published by the other apostles. On October 3, 1926 Chief Apostle Niehaus celebrated his silver wedding, then an accident on January 25, 1930 (he fell down the stairs on the eve of his 25-year Chief Apostle anniversary) pressured him to forfeit his tasks. He remained diligent however, and eventually was retired by the council of apostles on September 21, 1930. He died on August 23, 1932 at the age of 84 years. The members of the church called him "Vater (Father) Niehaus".

In 1905 Chief Apostle Niehaus oversaw six Apostle Districts with 488 congregations; at the end of his period there were twelve European Apostle Districts with about 1,600 congregations and further 200 congregations overseas, which developed at that time. The New Apostolic Church in Germany counted 138,000 members in 1925.

The initially deep ecumenical conviction, which was cultivated in the Catholic Apostolic Church and still by Heinrich Geyer, had abated over time because of the heavy conflicts with other Christian denominations. There are several possible reasons for this: the theologian education of ministers in the Catholic Apostolic Church may have been lacking (only a few had been Catholic Apostolic ministers before), or there may have been rejection by the national churches.

The lower social classes, from which important ministers were drawn, were essential for the growth of the church. Also nationalistic appeals can be found in hymnaries and theologian scriptures of that time. Significant for that age is the church's increasingly hierarchical structure. The charismatic element of the Catholic Apostolic Church, prophecies, became rarer (the last oral lores date from the 1980s) and the Prophet Ministry disappeared. In actuality, a total reform to the evangelical pattern can be observed, which became apparent by expelling Catholic Apostolic influences.

Schisms from the church

By a dispute for succession after Apostle Preuß' death in 1878 a separation came about between the majority of Hamburg's congregation with Prophet Heinrich Geyer and Apostle Johannn Friedrich Güldner on one side (still under the name Allgemeine christliche apostolische Mission) and the Apostles Friedrich Wilhelm Menkhoff, Eduard Wichmann, and Fritz Krebs on the other.

The second schism occurred in 1897 in the Netherlands with the HAZK due to the introduction of the office of the Chief Apostle. The name Hersteld Apostolische Zendinggemeente in de Eenheid der Apostelen (HAZEA), that was adopted after the schism of 1897 by the group following the Chief Apostle, had been maintained until the 1960s.

Niemeyer and later Klibbe began to criticize the worshipping of Hermann Niehaus' person (he was Chief Apostle of the NAC at that time), resulting in Niehaus' announcement of Wilhelm Schlaphoff as Klibbe's replacement in 1913. (Another point of view says that there was a misunderstanding: The ship sank on which Klibbe was believed to traveling after a conference of apostles. He was considered to have drowned, although he had actually chosen another ship. Nevertheless, Schlaphoff declined to resign his Apostle Ministry.)[9] After his exclusion Klibbe went on working under the name New Apostolic Church. In 1926 an agreement was reached between the followers of Klibbe and Schlaphoff. As per settlement Klibbe renamed the church founded by him in 1889 as Old Apostolic Church of Africa. According to court papers filed, the Klibbe group became independent from the New Apostolic Church in 1915.[10][11] At the time of Klibbe's death in 1931 the Old Apostolic Church had more than 1 million adherents.

On October 10, 1920 Niehaus appointed Apostle J. G. Bischoff as Chief Apostle Helper and on December 14, 1924 he assigned Bischoff to succeed him, even though the Saxon Apostle Carl August Brückner had already been declared as his successor. Chief Apostle Hermann Niehaus was led more and more by emotions, dreams and visions after 1914. Brückner became the solicitor for all those who criticized the spiritual views of the Chief Apostle and the worshipping of his person. The different opinions led to the exclusion of Apostle Brückner and some thousand believers in 1921. The excluded founded the Reformiert-Apostolischer Gemeindebund. A further schism occurred, when the Australian Apostle Hermann Niemeyer was excluded from the church on his way home after a conference of apostles. Like Brückner he had opposed against the claim to power of the Chief Apostle. After his return he founded the Apostolic Church of Queensland. As a reaction upon these crisis-hit times, Niehaus let all of the Apostles pass a vote of confidence in him and teamed them up in his own association, the Apostelkollegium der Neuapostolischen Gemeinden Deutschland.

Great splittings of the New Apostolic Church occurred in Switzerland Vereinigung Apostolischer Christen , South Africa (again) Apostle Unity, and the Netherlands (again) Apostolische Geloofsgemeenschap in 1954 and in West-Germany Apostolische Gemeinschaft and Apostolische Gemeinde des Saarlandes in 1955 due to a new teaching from 1951 of the then-reigning Chief Apostle Johann Gottfried Bischoff. This teaching presumed that he would not die before Jesus Christ returned to take the predestined into his kingdom (First Resurrection). In 1954 this teaching, called "The Botschaft", became an official dogma.[12] Those ministers, especially the apostles who denied to preach this also after several interlocutions, lost their offices and were excluded from the New Apostolic Church. Chief Apostle Bischoff died in 1960 without his prophecy being fulfilled.[13] There was no restoration of the excommunicated ministers. The various communities and congregations like the Apostolic Church of Queensland or the Apostolic Church of South Africa - Apostle Unity which evolved out of these conflicts in different countries (Australia, Europe, South Africa) gathered 1956 in the "United Apostolic Church".

An earlier splitting was the break with the Apostelamt Juda in 1902, from which the Apostelamt Jesu Christi emerged.

On May 1, 2005 a document of first steps of reconciliation was signed by the Swiss New Apostolic Church and the United Apostolic Church in Switzerland (Vereinigung Apostolischer Christen).

Setbacks in Nazi Germany

The New Apostolic Church, like many other small organizations and societies, had to accept compromises with the National Socialist regime so as not to be prohibited or persecuted. Even though the Christian faith and basic principles of the New Apostolic Church fundamentally contradicted the world view of National Socialism, the church was not prohibited as were a number of other religious communities (or sects). To what extent National Socialist views and attitudes were spread within the church, and whether this happened out of fear of reprisals or one's own expulsion, is it still today a main controversial subject between the church and its critics.

In 1933 all the New Apostolic congregations were prohibited. Then-Chief Apostle Bischoff tried to establish relations with the National Socialist regime, in order to remove the prohibitions. As a result, Mr Müller-Scheid, head of regional administration Hessen-Nassau in the Reich Ministry for Propaganda, and assistant of Joseph Goebbels, wrote a recommendation letter for Chief Apostle Bischoff (translation):
"Friedrich Bischoff is a party comrade, known to me for years, and politically and humanly utterly reliable."

On 21 March 1933, Day of Potsdam, Bischoff preached that the Führer sent by God had come now. The text of that speech he let send to the Reich Chancellery. In a circular letter to the ministers of 25 April 1933 Bischoff explained that it would be good concerning membership applications of believers "to submit personal data of such persons to the responsible chapter of the NSDAP for a verification" and fulfill their admission into the church not until after presence of a declaration of no-objection by the NSDAP. The Hebrew word "Zion " in the title of the church publication was cancelled.

Racist and political phrases as follows found the way into the church's publication on the occasion of a travelogue by Bischoff (translation):
"Blacks and Jews are climbing the social ladder up and up, with their cheap manpower they also dislodge the better salaried white from positions which should appertain to the white only...The coloured element has proceeded to attack...Validly, we have denied everything we have been offered in cinemas, theatres and literature as a product of a Jewish-Marxist clique."

In the same year was told later on (translation):
"It is true, the white has been able to preserve a certain dominance, but it has begun to totter und it is going to totter evermore, the more influence the Jew wins; it is his goal namely, to split all the nations, to hold them down, and to exploit them."

According to Nazi requirements every divine service had to be finalised by a "Heil Hitler". Some ministers congregation chiefs did not obey those orders, especially in rural areas. That is why several congregations had been closed again and again over time.

Despite the National Socialist propaganda, which the church had to spread, some sources tell about converted Jews in the congregations who were helped by the New Apostolic Christians. Although many of the Apostles joined the NSDAP for the reasons of fear, there were a few Apostles and District Apostles publicly expressed their adverse attitude toward the regime.

Some critics explain that general attitude toward the Nazis has never been critically examined, but rather "glossed over" or excused.

According to depictions of the NAC it was managed with hardship to recancel prohibitions partily. That becomes apparent by other measures adopted: The Nazis burdened the New Apostolic Church with inordinately high duties, suppressed youth care, declined purchases of land and establishments of chapels unfoundedly, did not allow to collect offerings, and prohibited the release of church publications as well as printing of bibles and hymnaries. New Apostolic Christians did not disgust members with Jewish origins, but did support them in every thinkable way.

This attitude was explained in 1996 by Chief Apostle Richard Fehr, while church spokesman Peter Johanning elaborated on it in 2003. Johanning gave an account of a Jugendfreund article of July 1933, in which "allegiance" was invoked shortly after Hitler's seizure of power already. By the reference to Sir 10 EU that text legitimized the relation of church and state: "It may be regarded as naive today, but age back then revealed different reasonings."

At that time ministers of the church were actually invoked by churchy guidelines to abstain from political representation. "This avowal for unpolitical work of the church" signalized "the purposive idea of church administration unambiguously to abstain from any political representation, even though reality looked differently here and there." Furthermore, the spokesman described Richard Fehr's explanations concerning this issue, which regards the church administration's adaption as purpose "in order to perform preaching the Gospel further more."

"Botschaft" by Chief Apostle Bischoff

On Christmas Day 1951, during service in Giessen Germany, Chief Apostle J.G. Bischoff declared his "Botschaft" ("message"), announcing that the Lord had made known to him that he would not die before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, during which the chosen people were to be taken into His kingdom (the First Resurrection). In 1954 this teaching became the church's official dogma.[14] Those ministers, especially the apostles, who did not preach this message lost their positions and were excommunicated from the New Apostolic Church. Approximately one out of four apostles active during this time resigned or retired early[15], several schisming to form their own denomination. The most important "victim" of this policy was Peter Kuhlen, who had been ordained in 1948 as the successor to J.G. Bischoff. Interestingly, the impact of this message varied regionally: all of the Apostles active in South Africa resigned or retired (1954), both Apostles in South America resigned (1957), several apostles in Europe (1954–55) resigned, however, no schism formed in North America. When Chief Apostle Bischoff died on July 7, 1960, his dogma about Christ's return had not been fulfilled.[16] In the service on July 10, 1960, Walter Schmidt was introduced as the new Chief Apostle, and during that service, the admonition to the members was to answer external critics with silence regarding the Bischoff Prophecy.

Even today, the church administration has not yet renounced the "Botschaft", but has set it at liberty for every church member to make his/her own opinion. According to Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber it is "no dogma anymore".[17] The excommunicated ministers and members were not reinstated, up to the present day.

The first official removal of all exclusions, apology for opponents of the Botschaft prophecy, not for the prophecy itself, and attempted rapprochements regarding the prophecy were started in 2005 and 2006 in Switzerland and Saarland. Since then members of Apostolische Gemeinde des Saarlandes have been visiting New Apostolic divine services. At the moment NAC and United Apostolic Church are reviewing common historical topics, which is supported and propelled by liberal members.

Spread

New Apostolic Church building in Paris, France
...in Krasnoturyinsk, Russia
...in Cape Town, South Africa
...in Berlin, Germany

The New Apostolic Church's origins are in Europe, where less than half a million New Apostolic Christians live. Almost 370,000 believers live in the origin country Germany, 35,000 believers in Switzerland, and more than 5,200 in Austria. The membership in Central Europe is slightly decreasing due to obsolescence and emigration, whereas in Eastern Europe it is growing.

The largest number of New Apostolic Christians live in Africa. Nearly 3 million are located in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and roughly 12% of the inhabitants of Zambia are New Apostolic. The church also maintains high membership in Ghana, Nigeria, Angola, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique and South Africa.

Nearly 1.5 million members live in Asia. The New Apostolic faith had been brought by European emigrants initially to Indonesia, where 20,000 believers live today. Zealous missionaries of the Church spread their faith in other countries as well at the beginning of the 1970s. Most Asian believers live in India (920,000) and Pakistan (200,000). About 25,000 believers live in China, and 15,000 in Thailand.

The New Apostolic Church in North America was built by German ministers in the 1870s who had emigrated to the United States or Canada.

In the 1920s some German ministers emigrated to Southern Argentina, where they evangelized among other European emigrants. Thus live the most believers in Argentina today, namely more than 200,000. Also many believers living in South America are located to Brazil (60,000) and Peru (35,000).

There are 360 apostles of the church more than the half living in Africa.

  • Out of 11,239,935 believers...:
    • 77.9% live in Africa.
    • 12.8% live in Asia.
    • 4.4% live in Europe.
    • 3.6% live in South America.
    • 0.9% live in Australia and Oceania.
    • 0.4% live in North America.
  • Membership in Anglophone countries:
    • Great Britain, 2,722 (2005)[18]
    • USA, 37,514 (2005)[19]
    • Canada, 13,315 (2007)[20]
    • Continent Australia, more than 100,000 (2008)
    • South Africa, 440,000 (2008)

Chronology of worldwide membership

Numbers of believers between 1960–2007[21]

Year Worldwide Africa America Asia Australia Europe
1960 524,341 97,370 46,047 3,443 1,199 376,282
1970 744,194 168,303 85,861 6,569 1,870 481,591
1980 1,758,525 519,595 146,354 592,840 27,841 471,895
1990 5,936,610 3,193,905 298,104 1,897,694 59,923 486,984
2000 9,913,250 7,375,139 403,892 1,517,030 87,040 530,149
2001[22] 10,117,444 7,652,065 412,041 1,435,360 89,144 525,163
2002[23] 10,387,378 7,912,428 419,533 1,441,545 91,118 522,754
2003[24] 10,624,911 8,132,225 429,372 1,449,210 92,827 521,227
2004[25] 10,811,754 8,308,006 438,789 1,451,237 94,615 519,107
2007[26] 11,239,935 8,758,430 461,233 1,436,190 103,567 480,515*

(*)The decrease of membership in Europe 2007 refers to a revision of the NAC computer network's (IAKOP) numbers.

Beliefs

The New Apostolic Church sees herself as the re-established work of salvation and continuation of the first Apostolic Church, thus constituting together the true congregation established by Jesus Christ.

New Apostolic Christians believe in the Triune God: God the Father, the Creator of the world, the Son, Jesus Christ the Son of Man, personified God, redeemer, and Head of the Church, and the Holy Spirit, who reigns the church by His revelations, gives knowledge to the believers, and acts universally. Concerning this theologian issue NAC hardly differs from other Trinitarian churches.

See also: New Apostolic Creed

Questions and Answers is the name of the New Apostolic Church's catechism. Available for decades, it was most recently revised in 1992[27]. An online summary of New Apostolic positions on a wide range of doctrines can be found here.

Bible

In the New Apostolic Church the Bible is granted a high authority, because the writers were inspired by the Holy Spirit. The English congregations have officially used the New King James Version since 1998. It is duty of the Apostles to watch over the regular exegesis. The apostles interpret the Bible in nearly all aspects alike Protestantism and Catholicism except for their interpretation of Holy Sealing and beliefs about the departed.

The District Apostles' meeting from 22 – 24 September 2004 in Nice emphasised again that the Holy Scripture is recognised and regarded as the basis of the doctrine of NAC. In particular, the statements of the New Testament, especially the gospel of Jesus and the epistles of the Apostles, are of definitive importance. Individual Biblical books and passages, along with statements of Apostles and ministers of the New Apostolic Church, must have grounding in the Holy Scriptures. The doctrine and its proclamation must not contradict the fundamental statements of the gospel.[28]

The church regards the basis of this faith as being found in the Bible, including the Apocrypha. In 2005 a District Apostles Meeting declared that "the Apocrypha are just as binding for the faith and doctrine of the New Apostolic Church as the other writings of the Old Testament" (see official statement here).

Sacraments

The New Apostolic Church knows three sacraments:

Conventional Communion host
Glutenfree Communion host

Holy Baptism with water:[29]

In the NAC the Holy Baptism with water is part of the spiritual rebirth and a prerequisite for receiving the Holy Spirit. Everyone can be baptised, both children and adults. The child itself will confess the baptism later on in the age of 14–16 by confirmation. The baptism can be transferred by priestly ministries.
It is taught to be the first and fundamental act of grace of the Triune God bestowed on a man believing in Christ. The act of this sacrament includes the remission of the original sin. In this respect, the candidate for baptism has a share in Christ's merit and experiences his first close relationship with God. The person becomes a (visible) Christian and is thus adopted into the fellowship of those who believe in Jesus Christ and avow themselves to him.
The Christian Baptism by another Christian Church is recognized, provided that it has been processed with water and in the triune name of God.

Holy Communion:[30]

In every service the sacrament of Holy Communion is celebrated "as a fiest of joy and thankfullness".
The NAC teaches that it commemorates the sacrificial death of Christ, Son of God, who allowed himself to be crucified for the sins of mankind despite his innocence. Holy Communion preserves the eternal life of the soul and accords it the security of remaining in the fellowship of life with its redeemer Jesus Christ.
For the New Apostolic Church, the "body and blood" of Jesus are dispensed as bread and wine in the form of a consecrated wafer. By partaking of it in faith, an individual assimilates the nature of Jesus and receives "strength from God".
The Holy Communion is accessible for baptized members of the Church and those who have been invited as guests. Priestly ministries direct the holy communion.

Holy Sealing:[31]

The sacrament of Holy Sealing is the dispensing of Holy Spirit. By this act the believer is filled with Holy Spirit as a strength of God, not as the third person of Triune God. It is carried about through prayer and laying on of hands of an apostle, provided that the believer has been baptized with water.
The Holy Baptism with Water and the Holy Sealing together constitute the rebirth out of Water and Spirit; by this the "childhood in God" is attained. As a child of God the believer is appointed to participate the Second Coming of Christ. From this moment on the believer is an adherent of the New Apostolic Church.
In the New Apostolic Church the Holy Sealing is also dispensed to children whereby the parents must profess their faith in the doctrine of Jesus and the apostles.
The church interprets the sacrament for example with the biblical text of Acts 8:14–17 8:14–17 and Acts 19:6.
Because Holy Sealing is an institutional manner of giving the Holy Spirit conducted by the apostles of Early Christianity, New Apostolic Church considers the "childhood in God" possible for other Christians as well referring to the overall acting of the Holy Spirit (John 3:8, Romans 18:7, 1. John 4:2).

Sins and forgiveness

The remission of sins (absolution) is conducted in the name of Jesus by an apostle or by order of the apostle by a lower minister in every single divine service. Mistakenly, many New Apostolic Christians assume that absolution belongs to the sacrament of Holy Communion or is even a sacrament on its own. Actually it is no more than a mission of Jesus (John 20:23).

Chief Apostle Leber clearly stated in 2009 that this special mission of absolution is bound to the apostle ministry, which does not mean that other Christians or human beings would have no access to God's forgiveness. The forgiveness of sins, with or without absolution, is eventually a sovereign decision of God himself.[32]

Second Coming of Christ and eschatology

NAC represents the most frequent form of premillenialism. The Church teaches that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is imminent, and the goal of faith is to be worthy to be the Bride of Christ when He returns.[33]

Eschatology in the New Apostolic Church has been refined recently to this end-time sequence:[34]

  1. The completion of the true body of Christ (Invisible church)
  2. The return of Jesus Christ and the rapture of His bride
  3. The marriage of the Lamb and, simultaneously, the great tribulation on earth – Steps 2 and 3 build the First Resurrection as written in the Bible.
  4. The return and Jesus Christ and His congregation to the earth
  5. The binding of Satan
  6. The resurrection of the witnesses of Christ from the time of the great tribulation (martyrs)
  7. The establishment of the thousand-year kingdom of peace under the unrestricted rule of Jesus Christ
  8. The Last Judgment
  9. The new creation

Apostle ministry and exclusivism

The spiritual leaders of the New Apostolic Church are called Apostles. They are considered to be indispensable to prepare their members for the goal of faith. This goal is being led into eternal community with God at the Second Coming of Christ. It takes center stage of a New Apostolic Christian's faith.

The Apostles of the New Apostolic Church understand themselves as successors of the first Apostles during Early Christianity, who had been sent by Jesus Christ. In their tradition, they act as missionaries, who go to all men to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and prepare them for the Second Coming of Christ and eternal life. According to NAC, the apostles are the only ones on earth who have the mission to forgive sins and baptize with the Holy Spirit. It is also a duty of the apostles and all the ministers of the NAC to firm corporate feeling within the church and to support the members with pastoral care.[35]

The New Apostolic Church teaches that Apostles are necessary for salvation. That means that God has re-established the apostle ministry in order to collect all the Christians for the Second Coming of Christ. Therefore, the expression "necessary for salvation" connotes the plan of God that the apostle ministry must act on earth until His son will return. The question: Who will attend the Second Coming of Christ? is not answered with it. Because the Holy Spirit acts in other churches as well, God alone forgives sins, and may find His "Children" without Holy Sealing. The NAC considers the affiliation of non-members to Second Coming of Christ possible.

The NAC also claims they would not contradict other churches who teach that final salvation is granted on day of Last Judgement. The NAC sees the period of activity of the apostles reaches to the Second Coming of Christ and no further. By Last Judgement, there will be no visible church, but the faith in Christ will be the lonely element. Thus denies NAC any claim of absoluteness or religious totalitarianism.[36]

New Apostolic Church also believes in resurrection of all the dead martyrs of Christian history.

Faith on beyond and afterlife

A denominational feature of the New Apostolic Church is its doctrine about the departed. Three times annually a special divine service of remembrance and intercession in prayer takes place. In such divine services the apostles also administer the sacraments to them at a living subsidiary minister. Regarding this, New Apostolic Christians refer on several biblical texts such as 1 Corinthians 15:29. There are no limitations of who in the beyond may be baptised by apostles.

The Holy Communion is equally administered in divine services held by a District Apostle or the Chief Apostle each Sunday. It is possible because the departed can find grace before God and be forgiven their sins. It is possible by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that also the departed can find to faith. Just as it is possible to saved by finding to the New Apostolic faith, the departed can be saved by another way of Christ's grace, therefore without help of Apostles.

The New Apostolic Church clearly states that most things on this issue cannot be answered entirely.

Moral conduct

The behaviour of New Apostolic Christians in their personal environment is marked by the wish to lead their lives according to God's will. This means to treat everybody with respect and to be helpful. The Second Coming of Christ is the main component of New Apostolic faithlife. Other significant elements are missionary work for Jesus Christ, openly confession to New Apostolic Church, and love for one's fellow human being.

The New Apostolic Church emphasises the personal accountability of its members for their actions. The individual is responsible to God for his behaviour. The gospel of Christ and the system of values inherent in the Ten Commandments provide clear orientation in this respect. However, the church itself is politically neutral and independent. It is financed by the voluntary donations of its members.[33]

New Apostolic Creed

The New Apostolic Creed circa 1995[37]

Article 1: I believe in God the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

Article 2: I believe in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried, entered the realm of the departed, rose again from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, from whence he shall return.

Article 3: I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy apostolic church; the community of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and life everlasting.

Article 4: I believe that the Lord Jesus rules his church through living apostles until his return, and that he has sent them into the world and still sends them with the commission to teach, to forgive sins in his name and to baptise with water and the Holy Spirit.

Article 5: I believe that all ministers in the Church of Christ are chosen and ordained into their ministries only by apostles and that all gifts and powers must come forth out of the apostle ministry; equipped with these, the community becomes a legible letter of Christ.

Article 6: I believe that the Holy Baptism with water is part of the rebirth, and that a person baptised with water is entitled to the Holy Sealing. It is furthermore the covenant of a good conscience with God.

Article 7: I believe that the Holy Communion was instituted by the Lord himself, in memory of the once brought eternally valid sacrifice and the bitter suffering and death of Christ. The worthy partaking of the Holy Communion establishes our fellowship with Jesus Christ, our Lord. It is celebrated with unleavened bread and wine, such to be blessed and dispensed by a priestly ministry of the Church.

Article 8: I believe that those baptised with water must receive the Holy Spirit through an apostle, to obtain the childhood in God, whereby they become incorporated as members in the body of Christ.

Article 9: I believe that the Lord Jesus will return as sure as he ascended to heaven and that he will transform and take unto him the dead in Christ and the living bridal souls, who have hoped for and were prepared for his coming; that after the marriage in heaven he will return to earth with them, to establish his kingdom of peace and that they will reign with him as kings and priests. After conclusion of the kingdom of peace, he will hold the Last Judgement when all souls who did not take part in the first resurrection shall receive their part according to their conduct, be it good or evil.

Article 10: I believe that I am obliged to obey the worldly authorities provided no godly laws are thereby transgressed.

Vision and Purpose of the New Apostolic Church, official Self-Image

Vision Statement of the New Apostolic Church:
A church in which people feel at home and, inspired by the Holy Spirit and their love for God, align their lives to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and thus prepare themselves for His return and eternal life.

Purpose Statement of the New Apostolic Church:
Reaching out to all people in order to teach them the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to baptize them with water and the Holy Spirit. Providing soul care and cultivating a warm fellowship in which everyone shall experience the love of God and the joy of serving Him and others. [38]

The Self-Image of the New Apostolic Church:[39]

  1. The New Apostolic Church is led by Jesus Christ through living Apostles. Its doctrine is based on the Holy Scriptures.
  2. The Apostle ministry is the ministry authorized by Jesus Christ to convey salvation.
  3. Apostles are essential to prepare His church for His promised return.
  4. The New Apostolic Church recognizes three Sacraments: Holy Baptism with water, Holy Sealing and Holy Communion.
  5. Dispensing of Holy Sealing and Holy Communion as well as forgiveness of sins is bound to the Apostle ministry.
  6. New Apostolic Christians have received the gift of the Holy Spirit through Holy Sealing.
  7. Jesus Christ, of whom the Holy Scripture bears witness, is central to the faith life of New Apostolic Christians. He is active in His church today and He will return. The goal of faith of New Apostolic Christians is to be united with Christ when He returns.

Current changes

Committees (project groups) within the NAC meet from time to time under the authority of the Chief Apostle to discuss and revise some fundamental or exclusive views of the church concerning authority, historical or linguistic background. Frequently they cite examples of the regular activity of large churches. This has led to corrections and clear distinctions to previous doctrines. The Chief Apostle describes these corrections as "focusing", because the church believes in a constant act of the Holy Spirit, who gives knowledge.

Social issues and ethics (official statements)

Blood transfusion, organ donation, stem-cell research:
The New Apostolic Church does not have any objections to blood or organ donation, provided that either the donor consents or that brain death has already taken place. The Church regards fertilisation as the beginning of life. Each embryo is said to deserve urgent protection whether inside or outside the womb; it is not suitable material for research or destruction. However, the Church approves research with adult stem-cells.[40]

Concubinage:
Concubinage, or a so-called trial marriage, is not approved by the New Apostolic Church, if it consists of a couple living together in intimate relations in a common domicile without having been married, without Church blessing, and without the intent to eventually marry. The Church recommends marriage and emphasizes the importance of the marriage blessing for living together. Members in concubinage are not permitted to practice a ministerial or teaching function unless they intend to marry. Such lifestyle is not considered exemplary to others.[41][42]

Ecumenism:
The New Apostolic Church is open toward the ecumenical movement. Contacts on local and institutional levels serve principally to facilitate better mutual acquaintance and to dismantle prejudices. Due to differences in doctrinal statements, it is not possible for the Church to participate in ecumenical divine services or acts of blessing. The New Apostolic Church has reinforced its efforts to cultivate good neighborly relationships with other churches and denominations. This occurs primarily through invitations to both the community and church congregations for special events, and through combined benefit events for charitable purposes.

The question as to whether this may lead to membership status in the ecumenical movement cannot be answered at this time.[43]

See also: Paragraph Ecumenism

Evolution and evolutionary theory:
The New Apostolic Church does not consider the broad theory of evolution to be a suitable explanation for the creation of life because this theory does not take into consideration the presence of God as the Creator. However the Church does not consider scientific insights on evolution to be in contradiction to the statements of the Bible.

The Church is careful to distinguish between evolutionary theory and evolution itself. While the theory as a science does describe the laws according to which evolution takes place, it does not give any explanation as to the origin of the creation. By contrast, evolution — the continuing development within the living and the inanimate world — occurs according to the divinely prescribed laws of nature and does not contradict the statements of the Holy Scripture.[44]

Homosexuality, Transsexuality:
The Church does not approve of homosexuality on a biblical basis but it does offer tolerance. It is solely for God to determine whether, and to what extent, a person who is absolutely confirmed in his or her homosexual disposition, acquires guilt before God through the practice of his or her homosexuality. In this regard, the Church expressly states that sexual disposition has no relevance in the pastoral care. Believers who are practicing homosexuals, or living in a homosexual partnership, are barred from discharging ministerial and teaching duties in the Church because of the general intolerance towards homosexuals.[45]

The Church published an official statement on sexual conduct in January 2005, and has issued several other written publications about the ideal lifestyle.

Suicide:
According to the understanding of the Holy Scriptures, suicide is sin, because life is a gift of God. No human being has the right to take his own life or that of any other human being. Likewise, no one has the right to condemn someone who has committed suicide. Only God is able to see all the factors involved, and He can also be gracious to such a soul according to His good pleasure.[46]

Divine service, practices and pastoral work

The main focus of church activities are Divine Services and pastoral care of the individual members. In addition, the New Apostolic Church is engaged in charity activities within the bounds of its limited possibilities. If, in individual cases, help is urgently required, it is given directly and according to the need.

Liturgy

The liturgy of the New Apostolic Church was initially consistent with the liturgy of the Catholic Apostolic Church, which contained strong elements of the Roman Catholic and Anglican rite. This lasted until 1885 when emphasis of the divine services shifted towards the liturgy of the word (with higher part of sermon) under the influence of Dutch Calvinism. Today, a few rudiments of the Catholic Apostolic tradition still can be found in the New Apostolic liturgy. The Holy Communion was originally commemorated on Sunday and ecclesiastical holidays only, but in 1998 this changed to include divine services during the rest of the week.

Schema of a New Apostolic divine service:

The believers or visitors enter the church building for getting together with other members and sitting in the church hall where they pray quietly.

  • Before the divine service:
    • Some musical contributions are played e.g. organ or instrumental music, choral singing, etc.
    • Possible announcements are given before the congregation by a minister.
    • Stage of silence for inner preparation of each participant.
    • The participants begin to sing the Opening Hymn. Meanwhile, the ministers leave the vestry and enter the church hall going towards the altar. The officiant, who holds that particular divine service, stands behind the altar.
  • During the divine service:
    • Free prayer by the officiant
    • The officiant reads out the biblical word for the sermon.
    • Choir, musicians or the partcipants sing.
    • Sermon of the officiant
    • Further musical contribution
    • Other ministers chosen by the officiant preach.
  • Celebration of Holy Communion:
    • The Lord's Prayer is prayed by all participants.
    • Absolution – forgiveness of sins by officiant
    • Officiant's constituted prayer of intercession
    • The officiant consecrates the wafer (hosts consisting of bread and wine) and gives them to the ministers
      • possibly afterwards:
        • Holy Baptism with water
        • Holy Sealing
        • Adoption (of a baptised Christian)
        • Confirmation (Act of blessing – usually on Easter Day or Palm Sunday)
    • The ministers give the hosts to the participants, while the sitting ones are singing the Communion Hymn. Further Hymn or choral singing possibly afterwards.
    • In divine services of apostles only: Giving Holy Communion to chosen ministers assistant for the departed.
      • Acts of blessing possibly afterwards e.g.
        • Marriage ceremony or wedding anniverary
        • Ordination or retirement of a minister
  • Close:
    • Thank prayer of the officiant
    • Benediction, then the participants sing the Threefold Amen.
    • Possible administrative announcements with regard to deadlines by a minister.
    • Musical contribution

Sermon

The New Apostolic ministers preach without manuscript. They prepare themselves for the sermon with the small Divine Service Guide publication released monthly by the church administration. The Guide was reformatted in December 2007[47] to offer the officiant a structured introduction into the subject matter, along with background knowledge about the biblical word, historical knowledge, cross-references, additional sources and much more. The contents of one topic may be spread out to several divine services within a month, so that each divine service can cover a subtopic and build upon the main topic, in order to better teach and guide the listeners.

A theological education is not necessary to bear a New Apostolic ministry. Continuing the tradition of Apostle Peter, the Holy Spirit is believed to act through the ministers during the sermon, but the Church does not cite this to mean that the ministers are infallible. One prior criticism has been that ministers under stress preach habitual content and verbage between sermons. Also, ministers insufficiently instructed in New Apostolic theology and doctrines have accidentally preached false teachings which led to misunderstandings. The Church counteracts this with numerous seminars and requests the ministers of each congregation to coordinate their sermon topics together.

Attendance

Anywhere from 20 to 100% of the official members who are registered as members in the Church visit the divine services regularly, whereas the attendance statistics in Central Europe are declining. In Eastern and Western Europe, South America and Africa the attendance numbers are relatively high. Regular participants frequently engage in church life and stand out due to their feeling of togetherness. A distinctive care exists for children, youth, and seniors. The Church culture tends towards formal dress and appearance, although as in other denominations this has lost significance over time.

Church music

The choirs of the congregations meet regularly whenever possible for choir rehearsal, as do the various orchestras and instrumental groups. Music is promoted in the New Apostolic Church to a great extent.

The cultural life in the NAC has continued to develop, just as it has opened to public. In addition to traditional church choirs, which are partly known even among other denominations due to their quality, there are progressive music groups and ensembles which also perform in public. Musical works of the nineteenth century or later are the essential part of the church's music literature.

Portions of the New Apostolic music literature are being revised and supplemented by literature from other Christian churches. Most of the hymns in the New Apostolic songbook are sung as well in the Roman Catholic Church or Protestant Churches. Since Easter 2005 in the German countries and since September 2008 in the Anglophone countries[48], a new songbook is used, which has replaced the old one of 1925.

Fellowship

The church and delegates of other denominations regard the communal fellowship of the New Apostolic Christians as one of their biggest strengths. `We keep together. We aid another, we are on first-name terms with each of us, we know all of us. If someone of us builds a garage, then we muck in. We are a small family.` says Andreas Fincke, former religion scholar of the Protestant Church of Berlin.[49] Many New Apostolic Christians have deep friendships within their congregation or district.

Organization

Appropriate to the pattern of the Early Christian Church, the church ministers have no theological training. In addition to their family, professional and social obligations, they perform their pastoral duties in an honorary capacity. One of their most important duties is to give pastoral care to the several believers disposed to them.

The NAC does not conduct ordination of women. Regardless, many women administer teachings in the Pre-Sunday School, Sunday School, religious education and Confirmation School as well as leading positions in administrative duties, and in music. Some congregations and districts have women who take over functions relating to a deacon. Some areas even officially assigned deaconess ministries until recently. Chief Apostle Richard Fehr said at the end of his term that he considered the potential ordination of women as deaconesses, and since then the issue remains in the attention of the apostles.

To become a minister, a male member of a congregation must accept an offer of ordination from senior ministers. It is the desire of the Church for these candidates to be elected with the assistance of prayer. This shall happen among the higher ministers, although ministries like priests or deacons are given to those under adequate circumstances (time, job, etc.). If the candidate accepts, an apostle will ordain him during a divine service. Apostles, and if possible bishops as well, are ordained by the Chief Apostle.

The congregations are the centre of religious life. They are in the care of Shepherds, Evangelists or Priests commissioned by the Apostles. The Rectors of the congregations are assisted by Priests, and Deacons.

If a minister spreads teachings which are clearly against New Apostolic doctrines or canonical Christian interpretation of bible, he might be suspended temporary or be released from his ministry. A minister may also ask for time off or resign from his voluntary ministry.

Political neutrality:
The New Apostolic Church abstains from all political statements. It expects its members to fulfill the laws and the civil obligations of their countries provided divine laws are not transgressed. The church attaches importance to open and trusting relations with governments, authorities and the general public. New Apostolic Christians are free to engage in public life.

Hierarchy

The ministries in the NAC are hierarchical. The highest minister present in a congregation conducts the service. The different ministries are:

Apostles:

Chief Apostle 
The Chief Apostle is the head of the church. His position is taught to be as Apostle Peter had 2,000 years ago in the circle of the Apostles. Traditionally only the Chief Apostle appoints new apostles although at times of necessity, such as during World War II, he can commission an apostle to ordain other apostles. Not to be confused, the Chief Apostle is head of the church here on earth, but Jesus Christ is the one who is head of all souls. The current Chief Apostle is Wilhelm Leber.
District Apostles 
Those working closest to the Chief Apostle are the District Apostles. They are the heads of the different regional churches and are assisted by other Apostles. Together with the Chief Apostle they provide global unity in church doctrine and in pastoral care. District Apostles can serve holy communion to the departed, as well as baptize and seal the departed.
Apostles 
The apostle ministry is a very important ministry in the NAC. Only apostles can carry out the gift of the Holy Spirit and ordain new ministries. Presently around 360+ apostles are working around the world. Apostles can also assist their District Apostle in the commission of District Apostle Helper. District Apostle Helpers can serve holy communion to the departed, as well as baptize and seal the departed.

Priests: The different priestly ministries work in the local congregations and have responsibility for the direct spiritual care of the congregations. Priestly ministries can carry out the holy baptism and the holy communion. They also are often cross-scheduled to conduct divine service in other congregations. The ministries that are considered priestly are as follows:

Bishops 
A bishop works in several church districts, often in directly supporting the apostle working in his district.
District Elders 
District Elders are mostly leading a regional church district. Some districts are too small to warrant this ministry.
District Evangelists 
District Evangelists support the district elders.
Shepherds 
A shepherd is local working, mostly leading large congregations.
Evangelists 
An evangelist is local working, leading congregations. The evangelist ministry is charged with testimony of the faith. It is usually associated in newly built congregations responsible for testifying the faith to non-members and members alike.
Priests 
Priests have direct responsibility for the spiritual care of the members. Several priests can belong to one congregation, depending on the local need. Priests and up can be commissioned to care for a congregation as the Rector. Unless a higher ministry is present, a priest conducts the service. Often, priests are swtiched around to conduct divine service in nearby congregations.

Deacons:

Deacons 
The deacon ministry is a local ministry. A Deacon generally works in his home congregation to support the priests. If a priest is unavailable, a Deacon will hold a divine service without the act of communion. Deacons are also allowed to participate in a service, as well as the priests.
There was also a ministry known as Sub-Deacon. However, over time, the responsibilities of Deacons and Sub-Deacons had begun to converge. Thus, after a District Apostles Meeting, it was decided that, as of January 1, 2002, no more Sub-Deacons would be ordained.

Structure

The international office of the New Apostolic Church is located in Zürich, Switzerland, and is the seat of the New Apostolic Church International Apostle Unity (NAKI). The members of NAKI are the Chief Apostle, the District Apostles and the Apostles. From here the worldwide church is led. The church is split up in several regional churches (districts), covering entire countries or continents. Depending on national laws, the District Apostles are the head of the regional churches (often incorporated) and have sole fiscal authority for their district. The NAC finances herself thanks to voluntarily gifts of the church members. The NAC does not collect taxes. The received money is used for building maintenance, social aid and aid to the developing countries. The church is politically neutral and expects her members to comply with local laws.

The Chief Apostle and the District Apostles meet regularly to consult each other on church matters of international significance. Every three years all Apostles gather for an international general assembly.

Finances

The budget of the NAC consists of voluntary offerings of the believers only. A special committee has recently begun to put on stock exchange for ensuring charitable donates. This intention has been examined by Certified Public Accountants, who have recognized it as social non-profit institution.[50]

The international church is financed by allocations of District Apostle areas, and coordinates the aid of financially weak areas by financially strong ones. The lion's share of earnings flows in construction and maintenance of church buildings, which are maintained by District Apostle areas. Also a considerable part of the budget are spent for missionary work. The church endeavours to manage its affairs with as little administration as possible. All financial records are public upon request. They are published on churchy websites and in Our Family, the official magazine of the Church. Bookkeeping and accounting requirements are largely handled by independent Certified Public Accountants.

Pastoral and organisational duties in the congregations are carried out in an honorary capacity. All acts and blessings performed by the Church, e.g. baptisms, wedding ceremonies or funeral services are carried out free of charge. Some ministers have full-time employment by the Church, generally only Bishops and Apostles. Their salary comes from the offering cash settled by Public Accountants.

Church Institutions

In keeping with the various needs of the congregations, there are a great number of other services provided. Administering to the needs of the children (Sunday Pre-school, Sunday School and religious instruction), the youth (youth evenings, Youth services, youth events) and the senior members (senior events) is an important part of church activities. Thus, fellowship is cultivated, and the bonds between members of the Church strengthened.

Publisher

Friedrich Bischoff, son of Chief Apostle Johann Gottfried Bischoff (1930–1960), founded the Friedrich Bischoff Verlag Gmbh in the 1930s. The domicile is located in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The publisher is imputed to NAC Southern Germany. Considered as Christian publisher it publishes three church-internal magazines for the NAC:

Our Family:
Our Family has an international total circulation of 350,000 exemplars. In German, French, English, Spanish, Portuguese and Indonesian the magazines are released twice a month. It is released once a month in 21 further languages. The content deals with accounts of Chief Apostle's divine services or travelogues on one side, and religious or historical background knowledge, accounts from different congregations and advertisements on the other side. Since 2008, Our Family has a German web presence.

We Children:
We Children has an international total circulation of 18,000 exemplars and is released bimonthly in German, English, French, Russian, Portuguese and Dutch. The content handles topics about "Christians and Bible". The magazine provides typical elements of children magazines e.g. reading texts, crayon images, handicrafts instructions, brainteasers and public activities.

Spirit:
Spirit is a magazine particularly for young New Apostolic Christians. Current issues are taken on and illumined for churchly and critical purpose. The magazine also publishes many accounts over denominational borders. There is a German web presence.

Children

There are many opportunities for children within the Church. They usually run through several education steps: In Pre-Sunday School (children under 6) and Sunday School (6–10 years old) are they introduced to general Christian faith and bible stories. After the two first steps, a child may join the Religious Education, where it covers topics of Christian and denominational history. As a last step a child may attend the Confirmation School, where it meets New Apostolic belief in detail. Then a 14 to 15 years old youth can be confirmed with the blessing of the Church. During these years many education materials and a bible are given.

There are many childrens' activities besides the Church education, one of the better examples being the famous Cape Town Children's Choir.

Children celebrate the Holy Communion just as adults do. However, in some congregations appointed "priests for children" give them the sacred wafer in a particular education room after a little explanation for making understandable that process.

Youth

The New Apostolic Church annually conducts national youth days with a particular divine service. Stadiums, fair halls or others are venues for these events. Usually such youth days are shared into two main parts. Mornings a divine service, which is held by the District Apostle or Chief Apostle, takes place for the youth followed by a common lunch. Afterwards an afternoon program follows. There are choirs, orchestra or bands making music and religious issues are presented in the form of movies, theatre pieces, workshops or similarly. Many organisators have recently begun to integrate youth's opinions and suggestions about churchy matters intensely.

In May 2009, a special youth day for entire Europe, the European Youth Day 2009, will take place in the LTU Arena of Düsseldorf, Germany.[51]

Within the districts take place various youth activities, namely monthly divine services, local or regional youth hours, choir rehearsal, sport events and many leisure activities. Many youth organise themselves independently in particular groups for special activities e.g. photography, journalism, ecumenism, etc. There are also many youth websites of the New Apostolic Church.

Host Bakery

The main bakery is located in Bielefeld, Germany.[52] Every 1.5 seconds emerges one host, so that 1.2 million hosts can be produced per diem. In 2007, 230 millions hosts were dispatched into 50 countries in Europe, Americas and few countries in Asia and Africa. The bakery was founded in 1925 by a New Apostolic master baker named Pflug from Herne, Germany. Chief Apostle Niehaus let produce the first ones for New Apostolic Christians at the front-lines during World War I. The time before Holy Communion had been celebrated appropriate to the Catholic Apostolic custom, with a piece of bread and a draught out of a special wine jar.

A further host bakery was built in Cape Town, South Africa in 2003. It supplies the southern states in Africa with hosts, producing 240,000 of them per diem.[53]

Charitable work

Charitable and social work is also growing in significance. This includes donations of food, medicine and clothing. Ministers hand on many donations. In poor countries and regions, kindergartens, schools, orphanages, hospitals, retirement homes and clinics also receive financial support. One example would be the "Amazing Graze" children homes in South Africa. The church supports interdenominational missionary or charity organisations as well.

The head office of NAK-karitativ, association for relief projects of the church, is located in Dortmund, Germany. It is officially valued as exemplary social organization.

Regenbogen-NAK

In 1999, an initiative group called Regenbogen-NAK (Rainbow-NAC in English) was found by homosexual and transsexual believers of the NAC. The main issues are the particular problems which affect them in public and church. The committee for special affairs of the church holds a dialog with the German and Swiss representatives.

Ecumenism

Historical development

Chief Apostle Richard Fehr (1988–2005) found the "Ecumenism Project Group" in 1999, that has the function to represent the church among other Christian denominations, establish contacts with other denominations and churches, and involve the NAC in common activities and affairs. The church administration is deliberate of changing some rather exclusive doctrines by ecumenism, whereas they also have to keep their own profile.[54]

In 1963, the World Council of Churches offered Chief Apostle Schmidt to send some deputies for a session in Geneva, Switzerland. He declined the offer because the ecumenical movement of that time was not politically neutral. Walther Schmidt also feared a too strong occupation by the Roman Catholic Church. Later on, he spoke out unpublicly to have been sure of triggering conflicts and criticism between the church and larger denominations with a participation in ecumenism.

Only when Chief Apostle Hans Urwyler sought contact to schism churches, an interest in ecumenism seemed to appear. In 2000, Richard Fehr summoned an Apostolic Council, which embraced discussion about common topics and interests. Since 2005, a common regeneration of the Apostolic history is carried out. Although this brought single conflicts, both sides want to continue and strive for reconciliation.[55] All officiall "excommunications" of excluded members have been annulled so far.

However, in 1994 the church refused an ecumenical offer of Arbeitsgemeinschaft Christlicher Kirchen (English: Consortium of Christian Churches) with the justification that the ecumenical way of Christian unity would not be an appropriate manner in Jesus Christ.

The new founded "Ecumenism Project Group" has contacted other churches officially and has achieved amicable relations between various congregations. The first dialogs have been held in Southern Germany, where the New Apostolic congregations in Memmingen and Aschaffenburg[56] have joined the ecumenical institution Arbeitsgemeinschaft Christlicher Kirchen. The New Apostolic district Thun, Switzerland[57] is a guest member of them as well. The leaders of this institution have published a brochure about the New Apostolic Church in April 2008. The church has been having dialogues with various other churches, especially Protestant Church, Methodists, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Anglican Church, and Roman Catholic Church.

There are also ecumenical efforts in the USA, Argentina and South Africa. In Argentina, the NAC is regarded as one of the national churches.[58] The District Apostles Freund[59] and Barnes[60] have already carried out meetings with deputies of other churches, which have led to good results. The new District Apostle of the USA, L. Kolb, explained in an interview that the New Apostolic Christians can learn a lot from other churches and that he will go after ecumenical contacts.[61]

Current standing

The New Apostolic Church is not member of World Council of Churches yet.

The New Apostolic Church allows assertively each person, no matter which denomination he or she has, participating in the Holy Communion. It is also possible that a New Apostolic Christian participates in the Eucharist of another church.

The New Apostolic Christians pray the Our Father out of the New King James Version since Pentecost 2008. It is very similar to the most of other churches.

The New Apostolic baptism is recognized by Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church because it is carried out in the name of the Triune God. Also the NAC recognizes every baptism which is carried out in the name of the Triune God and with water. This means for example that NAC does not recognize baptism by Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons.[62]

The church does not attend ecumenical divine services because the church administration regard acts of blessing as "not sharable". But they regard with prayers or greetings at the altar as possible e.g. during a wedding. If a New Apostolic Christian accepts to marry another Christian in the very church, the blessing of this church is fully recognized. The New Apostolic Church lends its buildings to other denominations and makes the buildings available for public events. They also try to sell churches, which are not used anymore, to religious organisations. Therefore, the New Apostolic Church is accounted as rather modern and progressive in comparison with other free churches or religious groups.

New Apostolic Church believes in a Universal acting of the Holy Spirit (Christian church), which becomes apparent given the fact that elements of truth could be found in various Christian churches.[63]

On 24 October 2005 Chief Apostle Leber encouraged ministers to engage in ecumenism, which means approaching one another and talking together.[64]

Controversies

Because the NAC has showed very introvertively till several years ago, and has represented a strict guidance, they have to cope with loud criticism today. After professional assessment of this criticism many times becomes apparent though, that many of these points come from the "ancient" 1960s to 1990s.[65] By the ecumenical opening process outwards the church changed many doctrines and guidelines partly drastically, thus looks the church more modern today in comparison with other churches.

Past

By the 1990s, the church had to fight with following controversial points, which made them look as a sect in public[66].

Obedience system:
Resting upon the statement that direct discipleship only leads to eternal life, the Primitive Church established just after Jesus' death already an obedience system toward Jesus' apostles. In this tradition is the strict thought of obedience toward the apostle ministry intended to appear. That social opinion (to obey a predecessor strictly) was distinct so much that members had to obtain information of their "leaders". That information was binding then. If only unconscious, the ministers controlled life of many members, telling that their information matches God's will.

When a new generation of freethinkers appeared in Europe in the 1950s, that development passed by the church. One reason was that the church publicly withdraw into a hedgehog-like defense position through fear of attacks of other churches, thus social changes became impossible. That dictatorial hierarchy remained until the 1980s and their ecumenical opening. It was strongly criticised that obedience in faith often was linked to participation in the Second Coming of Christ.

"Rules":
Before the ecumenical opening under Chief Apostle Hans Urwyler since the beginning of the 20th century, some prohibitions of many ministers became internally known as "rules"[67] e.g.: Having a television; going to disco, cinema, and sport events; Growing a beard or long hair for men and jeans or shorts for women during church attendance; making a journey outside the church or marrying someone from outside the church, from "the World". Ministers often threatened members that they would not participate in the Second Coming of Christ, if those rules were not abode by.

Although the majority ignored those rules from the beginning, for others it resulted in phsychological problems still under Chief Apostle Richard Fehr.

Former points of criticism at church life:
Numerous former members, especially in Germany, criticize that the role of the women within the church had confined to church cleaning, tasks on parenting such as Sunday school, and choir participation. Recently, the New Apostolic woman has been granted a major importance. Thus have women in several congregations overtaken partily the tasks of deacons or administration. Although women cannot be ordained ministers, this point of criticism is no topical anymore.

Some critics fault that there were ministers who held out the prospect of divine blessing to the sacrificers, while threatening blessing deprivation against them, if they retained their offerings.

Cult argumentation:
The French Commission on Cults registered the New Apostolic Church as a cult in 1995 and 1999 reports (see Groups referred to as cults in government documents). In 1997, the Belgian parliamentary commission established a list of 189 movements containing the New Apostolic Church. In its report of 2001, the Mission Interministérielle de Lutte contre les Sectes did not agree with the official recognition of the New Apostolic Church in 1984 in New-Caledonia.[68]

Ecumenical opening process:
The death of Chief Apostle Bischoff triggered a slow, but continual change, which has brought about for example the phrasing "self-reliance" – every single believer is personally responsible for the salvation of his soul – by Chief Apostle Urwyler in 1986. This has led to contacts with different churches, especially religious groups who splitted from NAC because of the "Botschaft". Totally, the spectrum has broadened for the last ten years. Thus is it apparent there is a conservative wing and a liberal wing among the church members.

Current criticism

Historical events:
Many former members criticize the behaviour of the church at the time of the "Botschaft" as the most controversial subject in New Apostolic history. Furthermore, the official political attitude toward the regimes both in Nazi Germany[69] and in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) are heavily discussed, which actually seems to be a result of ignorance; these topics are elucidated by independent historians from various Apostolic churches, who bring out reliable and objective results.

Criticism of other churches at some doctrinal points:
From the Protestant and Roman Catholic side criticism becomes audible at following doctrinal points, which have not been trashed out so far:

  1. the assertion, the New Apostolic apostle ministry corresponds with that of the Primitive Church
  2. the doctrine, that genuine childship to God can only be received by the New Apostolic apostle ministry

Also the faith on departed causes trouble and incomprehension. In ecumenical approachings, the NAC gets the chance to explain.

It is also criticised that the hierarchy of the church has no theological education.

Handling of criticism

Siegfried Dannwolf, former member from Germany, describes in his book Gottes verlorere Kinder how he was defamed with lies and misrepresentations in his congregation when he had already retired himself from the church. "Even my wife didn't believe me anymore. That figures, says Dannwolf. The problem goes mid through the family, marriages break up. With my parents I haven't had any contact for years.[70] Further possible mental consecutive symptoms of membership in the NAC and individual difficulties of quitting are described by Olaf Stoffel in his book Angeklagt.

For the New Apostolic Church are such negative experiences with its ministers lamentable exceptions:
"Aside from the fact that such cases occur in every church, in the NAC they are relatively seldom when faced with its large membership." says a commissioner of the Protestant Church in Germany.

"It is quite a difference, whether a tree withers at the roots and thus is the entire tree lost, or whether some branches which have withered break away from the tree." commented Chief Apostle Schmidt the importance of single critics who have left the church.[71]

This is also confirmed by the cult commissioner of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Freiburg, Albert Lampe. He sees no comparison with dangerous groups such as Scientology, because "for this, there are too many New Apostolic Christians leading a normal life and not standing in absolute dependence."[72]

Chief Apostle Leber explained at a news conference, what adjustments he would undertake and how he would take criticism: "In the past individual persons or groups have spread a vehement temper against the church. The peak of that criticism of former members was over long ago. (...) But we have learned as well to be able to take criticism. This must be learned, this is a process as well." Right on the catchword "readiness to engage in dialogue" he uttered: "If there are factual requests, I will always espouse that answers are given. For this, I will always be on hand. But if frontiers of fair contact were trespassed or polemical arguments appear, a continuation of the dialogue would make no sense then."[73]

Literature

Publications by NAC

  • New Acts of the Apostles NAKI Verlag Friedrich Bischoff Frankfort am Main 1985
  • History of the New Apostolic Church G. Rockenfelder, editor Verlag Friedrich Bischoff Frankfort am Main 1970
  • Questions and Answers concerning the New Apostolic Faith NAKI Verlag Friedrich Bischoff Frankfort am Main [ed unknown]
  • History of the Kingdom of God v. I & v. II Apostles College of the New Apostolic Church, Verlag Friedrich Bischoff Frankfort am Main 1971 (vI) 1973 (vII)

See also

External links

Official New Apostolic Church sites

Unaffiliated sites

References

  • New Apostolic Church and Ecumenism – by Apostle Volker Kühnle (German)
  1. ^ a b c NAC International around the world
  2. ^ Gathered Under Apostles; A Study of the Catholic Apostolic Church; G.C. Flegg: Oxford, 1992. – ISBN 0-19-826335-X
  3. ^ a b c d New Acts of the Apostles NAKI, Verlag F. Bischoff 1985
  4. ^ a b c Teacher's Manual for Religious Instruction in the New Apostolic Church Vol 3., NAKI 2001
  5. ^ Translation from Seher, Grübler, Enthusiasten. Das Buch der traditionellen Sekten und religiöse Sonderbewegungen, 15th edition, Kurt Hutten, Quell Verlag, Stuttgart 1997.
  6. ^ History of the Kingdom of God vol I The Apostles College of the New Apostolic Church, Verlag F. Bischoff 1971
  7. ^ History of the New Apostolic Church Editor G. Rockenfelder, Verlag F. Bischoff 1970
  8. ^ New Apostolic Church International website, http://www.nak.org/en/about-the-nac/history-of-our-church/ as of July 4, 2007
  9. ^ Pienaar. K. Die openbaring van die dwaalleer van die Ou Apostelkerk. 2003. Volhard Uitgewers.
  10. ^ Kreunen v Klibbe and the New Apostolic Church, 432 of 1926 (SA)
  11. ^ Duncan. B.R. Die Nuwe Apostoliese Kerk: Waarheid of dwaling. Christelike Opleiding en Kerkgroei. Kuilsrivier.
  12. ^ Letter to all members in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, J.P. Fendt and E. Hiby, January 1955
  13. ^ "Letter to Administration Brothers and Members at home and abroad", Signed by the Apostles, July 7, 1960
  14. ^ "fendt_hiby"
  15. ^ "bischoff-1985"
  16. ^ English Transcription of REPORT OF THE DIVINE SERVICE HELD IN FRANKFURT-MAIN WEST, Chief Apostle Schmidt et al, JULY 10, 1960
  17. ^ New Apostolic Church International website, http://www.nak.org/en/about-the-nac/history-of-our-church/ July 5, 2007
  18. ^ New Apostolic Calendar – Our Family 2005 – Page 82
  19. ^ New Apostolic Calendar – Our Family 2005 – Page 80
  20. ^ New Apostolic Calendar – Our Family 2007 – Page 82
  21. ^ Booklet for religious education – third part – page 80
  22. ^ Annual report 2001 – NAC International (german)
  23. ^ Annual report 2002 – NAC International (german)
  24. ^ Annual report 2003 – NAC International (german)
  25. ^ Annual report 2004 – NAC International (german)
  26. ^ Annual report 2007 – NAC International (german)
  27. ^ NAC International – Catechism
  28. ^ NAC International – Announcement September 2004
  29. ^ NAC International – Baptism
  30. ^ NAC International – Holy Communion
  31. ^ NAC International – Sealing
  32. ^ glaubenskultur.de – German and fee required article
  33. ^ a b About the NAC
  34. ^ Questions and Answers about the New Apostolic faith; Questions 250 – 263
  35. ^ District Apostles and Apostles
  36. ^ Apostle Ministry necessary for salvation
  37. ^ New Apostolic Creed
  38. ^ NAC International – vision and mission
  39. ^ NAC International – Self-Image of the Church
  40. ^ New Apostolic Church – stem cell research
  41. ^ opinion sexuality 2005
  42. ^ New Apostolic Church – concubinage
  43. ^ NAC – official statement on ecumenism
  44. ^ NAC – official statement on evolution
  45. ^ New Apostolic Church – sexual behaviour
  46. ^ NAC – official statement on suicide
  47. ^ NAC International – New "Divine Service Guide"
  48. ^ NAC International – New Hymnbook
  49. ^ christ-im-dialog: Interview with Dr. A. Fincke, EZW (German)
  50. ^ NAC International (german)
  51. ^ EYD 2009 homepage
  52. ^ Host bakery in Bielefeld – German
  53. ^ Host bakery in Cape Town – German
  54. ^ NAC Southern Germany – Speech about Ecumenism
  55. ^ Chief Apostle's desire for reconciliation
  56. ^ nak.org: Guest membership in ACK of Aschaffenburg
  57. ^ District of Thun – Ecumenism
  58. ^ Maran atha – Our Lord coms – Biography Richard Fehr
  59. ^ New Apostolic Calendar – Our Family – Interview with Richard Freund
  60. ^ Our Family magazine: "Apostle Ordination in Cape Town 2007" – Interview with Noel Barnes
  61. ^ Our Family magazine: "New District Apostle of USA area 2008" – Interview with Leonard C. Kolb
  62. ^ NAC recognizes Trinitarian Baptisms
  63. ^ nak.org – The Holy Spirit and its diverse ways of activity
  64. ^ nak.org – Chief Apostles encourages to engage in ecumenism
  65. ^ evangelical times; example for former points of criticism
  66. ^ Unfactual description as cult
  67. ^ NACBoard discussions
  68. ^ MILS (2001). "MIVILUDES report of 2001" (in French) (PDF). p. 76. http://www.miviludes.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/MILS_Rapport_2001_fr.pdf. Retrieved 6 October 2009.  
  69. ^ Critical thinking about Nazi-NAC links
  70. ^ New Apostolic Church on religio.de (German)
  71. ^ Quotation: Chief apostle Walter Schmidt, 14 April; in "Angeklagt", 1999, P. 128
  72. ^ Recension M. Koch, w.r.t. Lecture by Peter Johanning. (German)
  73. ^ naktuell.de: News conference chief apostle reversal 18 May 2005 (German article)







Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message