The New Apostolic Church (NAC) is a chiliastic church, existing 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.
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 believed the restoration of the apostle ministry was necessary to achieve that perfect condition.
After the death of three apostles in 1855, the apostolate declared that there was no reason to call new apostles. 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.
Later, on October 10, 1862, while traveling with the Apostle Woodhouse in Konigsberg, 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, he (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. 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 January 17, 1863. On January 26, 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 February 6, 1863 Apostle Woodhouse informed, in writing the Hamburg congregation of its expulsion for the Catholic Apostolic Church. 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, January 4, 1863 is considered the date the New Apostolic Church was established.
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. Thus began the work of the Apostles of the New Order, with German “apostles” spreading "the word" around the world.
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. The remainder of the Hamburg congregation adopted the name Allgemeine Christliche Apostolische Mission (General Christian Apostolic Mission).
Upon the death of Apostle H. F. Schwartz, the remaining active Apostles of New Order formed a central ruling ministry in form of the "Chief Apostle" in either 1895, or 1896 or 1897, 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, as opposed to prophetic calling which had been fundamental since the formation of the Catholic Apostolic Church. By 1899, the number of twelve apostles was bygone and more men were ordained as apostles. Parallel to the progress of the new apostolic denomination there occurred splittings throughout the world on several occasions. The reasons for these divisions were different but mainly related with 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, and that body was opposed to designating any one person as head of the church, as Christ is the head of the Christian Church.
The third 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, was maintained until the 1960s. In 1907 the name of the church in Germany was changed into Neue Apostolische Gemeinde (New Apostolic Congregation). In 1912 the Australian Apostle H.F. Niemeyer withdrew with a majority of members and formed the Apostolic Church of Queensland, this followed in 1913 by Apostle C. Klibbe withdrawing with some members in South Africa to form the Old Apostolic Church
Another schism occurred in Saxony in 1921. The New Apostolic Chief Apostle Hermann Niehaus was led more and more by emotions, dreams and visions after 1914. The Saxon Apostle 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.
In the late 1920s, the name Neuapostolische Kirche (New Apostolic Church) was uniformly adopted in Germany, 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
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 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. Those ministers, especially the apostles who did not preach this, lost their offices and were excluded from the New Apostolic Church. Chief Apostle Bischoff died in 1960 without his prophecy being fulfilled.
There was no restoration of the excommunicated ministries. 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".
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).
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.
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.
The choirs of the congregations meet regularly for choir rehearsal, as do the various orchestras and instrumental groups - whenever possible. Music is promoted in the New Apostolic Church to a great extent.
As in 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 comfort to the souls entrusted into their care.
Charitable and social work is also growing in significance. This includes donations of food, medicine and clothing. And in poor countries and regions, kindergartens, schools, hospitals and clinics also receive financial support.
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.
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.
Bishops, District Elders and District Evangelists assist the Apostles in fulfilling their regional duties. The congregations are the centre of religious life. They are in the care of Shepherds, Evangelists or Priests commissioned by the Apostles. These Rectors of the congregations are assisted by Priests, and Deacons.
The New Apostolic Church is established in almost all the countries on this earth. Around the globe there are more than 11 million members from all age groups and areas of society.
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.
Periodicals produced by the New Apostolic Church include Our Family (Unsere Familie), Spirit (for youth), and Divine Service Guide (described as a circular for the church's ministers).
Questions and Answers is the name of the New Apostolic Church's catechism. Available for decades, it was most recently revised in 1992 An online summary of New Apostolic positions on a wide range of doctrines can be found here
Eschatology in the New Apostolic Church has been refined recently to this end-time sequence: 1. The completion of the congregation of Jesus Christ; 2. the return of Jesus Christ to take home His bride; 3. the marriage of the Lamb and, simultaneously, the great tribulation on earth; 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.
The New Apostolic Church knows three sacraments:
Worldwide the NAC has eleven million members spread over all continents.
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:
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 1st, 2002, no more Sub-Deacons would be ordained.
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. 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 , 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. 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. The New Apostolic Church continues to maintain that it was a valid Godly message. The excommunicated ministers and members were not reinstated, up to the present day.
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.