The New Apostolic Church – The Chief Apostle ministry – Vine or Tree Trunk? A critical consideration taking into account biblical facts and current statements of the church leadership!
The New Apostolic Church is the only church in the world to have installed what is known as the Chief Apostle Ministry. The Chief Apostle’s ministry is the highest ministry and the highest authority, the New Apostolic Church is led and directed by this ministry, similar to the Catholic Church by the Papacy. What is this ministry about, how did it come about, and what powers of attorney does this ministry of chief apostle have?
The chief apostle ministry in the New Apostolic Church (NAC) plays a prominent role, like the ministry of the papacy, in the Roman Catholic Church. Without this ministry, the New Apostolic Church would not be the church it is. Many special teachings are inconceivable without this ministry. What is this ministry all about, what are the characteristics and special properties of this ministry compared to other church ministries? Does this ministry find its model in the New Testament? Can it be legitimized biblically? This article aims to provide information on these and other questions.
Origin and meaning of the term
The New Apostolic Concept
Where does the term Chief Apostle actually come from? Many New Apostolics cannot give a concrete answer to this question either. Mostly the current meaning is pointed out.
As with a tree in which the individual branches emerge from the trunk and form leaves, so the different ministry levels of the NAC, which emerge from the chief apostle’s office (trunk), form the finer branches. The community members end up hanging like leaves on the ministers (branches). Whoever wants to come to Jesus (root) has to connect with the Chief Apostle (trunk) via the individual levels of ministries (branches).
Das biblical principle
In contrast to the New Apostolic concept of the relationship with God, or more precisely Jesus, is the biblical illustration that Jesus himself gave us (2):
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (3)John 15, 5
In the biblical illustration, believers are directly connected to Jesus, rooted in him.
Paul confirms that this does not only apply to the disciples (apostles):
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”Col 2, 6f
The Chief Apostle wants to replace Jesus as the Vine
In a clear misinterpretation of the Holy Scripture, the Chief Apostle refers to the illustration of the vine, saying that he is now the vine:
“So one of the Apostles who has received ministry and the Spirit in order to be able to serve as a vine (meaning the Chief Apostle, author’s note), from which the branches (meaning the Apostles, author’s note) come forth as a new birth. Thus, all apostles who are active in the work of God today are born of the chief apostle ministry and Spirit and stand fruitful as branches on the vine”. (4) (5)
The meaning of the term “Chief Apostle” was subsequently defined through the illustration of the tree trunk. In this way, the actual origin of the term is obscured. At the beginning of the “apostolic movement”, in the Catholic Apostolic Church (KaK) and also in the General Christian Apostolic Mission (AcaM), the areas of activity of the individual apostles were called tribes. Based on the twelve tribes of Israel, there were twelve tribes (areas of work), for each of which an apostle was responsible.
The Catholic Apostolic Apostles were collegially connected to one another. Everyone was a chief (tribe) apostle, namely the apostle for his tribe (field of work). However, the term Chief (tribe) Apostle was not in use and did not have the meaning it has today in the NAC. The apostles of the following splits also referred to their field of work as the tribe and were thus chief apostles of their field of work. Here are some examples:
Catholic Apostolic Congregations:
- Cardale, apostle for the tribe of Judah (England)
- Drummond, Apostle for the tribe of Benjamin (Scotland and Switzerland)
- Carlyle, apostle for the tribe of Simeon (Northern Germany)
General Christian Apostolic Mission / Hersteld Apostolische Zendingkerk:
- Schwarz, apostle for the tribe of Judah (Netherlands)
- Preuss, apostle for the tribe of Ephraim (Northern Germany)
- Menkhoff, Apostle for the tribe of Isaschar (Westphalia)
- Krebs, Apostle for the tribe of Ephraim (Northern Germany)
In the predecessor communities of the NAC there were tribal (chief) bishops and tribal (chief) prophets in addition to the apostles for the tribes (‘chief apostles’). Even in the Apostolic Congregations – after 1907 – there were chief (tribal) bishops and chief (tribal) prophets! It was only the Apostle Fritz (Friedrich) Krebs who began to usurp power and gave the term Chief Apostle a new meaning. This happened after the split from the General Christian Apostolic Mission (AcaM 1978) and after the death of the Apostle Schwarz (1895). It happened through the takeover of a large part of the Dutch parishes of the Hersteld Apostolische Zendingkerk (HAZ) from Apostle Schwarz and through the exclusion of dissenting apostles and office bearers (Hoppe, van Bemmel, Fischer).
Fritz Krebs abolished the principle of collegiality
He abolished the principle of collegiality and made himself ‘sole ruler’ over the newly created apostolic congregations of the so-called new order (New Apostolic Church only from 1907 and New Apostolic Church from 1921).
It is questionable whether Krebs himself had the title Chief Apostle since it is only used once in the documents and in the literature of this time:
“The first written treatise on the foundation and origin of the Chief Apostle ministry is the one published by Hermann Niehaus, ‘Haushaltung Gottes’. The author, however, remains anonymous and even the year of publication is questionable. …
The author is obviously the initiator of the Chief Apostle ministry in the form that is still valid today, because he describes the development as follows: ,to the writer of these lines, all these things (classification of the individual offices in the hierarchy /A.d.V.) had not only become the object of daily prayer, but he also had to think about them incessantly, so that God would give him light and provide a remedy for the grievances. … Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
There can and must be only one person who bears full responsibility to the head of the household and to whom all other ministers are responsible in their set order and must show obedience if God’s blessing is to be manifested. And this person is solely and exclusively the Chief Apostle.’ Since the New Apostolic Church refers to Krebs in all official writings as the first to hold the ministerial title of ‘Chief Apostle’, it would stand to reason to assume that he is also the founder and author of the above scripture. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) …
Fritz Krebs did not yet call himself Chief Apostle
However, this claim is contradicted by the fact that the first and only mention of Apostle Krebs as Chief Apostle in the periodical writings of the New Apostolic congregation was in the ‘Travel Report on the Journeys of the Apostles in July 1898’. It is also noteworthy that until the death of the ‘Unity Father’ Krebs, this designation was never used again, and even in his obituary he only referred to ‘dear Father Krebs’. Only his successor Hermann Niehaus was increasingly mentioned as ‘Unity and Chief Apostle’ from April 1906 onwards, and from December onwards he receives the official title: ‘Chief Leader and Chief Apostle’ of the ‘New=apostolic congregations.'” (6)
The veneration of the Chief Apostle has produced many extremes in the past of the New Apostolic Church.
Thus the first Chief Apostle Fritz Krebs not only placed himself above all other Apostles of the new Apostolic congregations, the so-called new order (7), but he enjoyed godlike veneration:
“It is not so easy to get near the apostle sent by God; because he is not my colleague not even my playmate, not even my brother – but my Lord and Master! I always felt ashamed when I read in his letters to me where he calls himself ‘my brother’ and degrades himself to me wretched man. … Weeping and pleading, Father Cancer stood before his God on behalf of us humans, and a hot stream of Christ’s blood poured from his mouth. … This was no longer a man speaking, this could only be Christ, as Father Krebs also brought this forward at the Lord’s Supper, ” This is my flesh, for I have overcome the world, though I am still alive.” (8)
Jesus in the flesh
Friedrich Krebs developed the doctrine of Christ in the flesh of the apostles:
“But that Jesus Christ came into the flesh and today also lives and works in his apostles, and also in his apostles only wants to be revealed as one, one does not want to believe”. (I AM NOT SURE ABOUT THIS) (9)
Apostle Hallmann wrote in ‘Herold’ in 1903:
“We have Jesus Christ in one head, in the dear Unity Father and Apostle Fritz Krebs” (10)
Ernst Ferdinand Klein describes the following encounter with a leader of the New Apostolic congregation in Berlin, presumably Friedrich Krebs:
“The author of ‘Zeitbilder’ (Ernst Ferdinand Klein, author’s note) once greeted a crowd of people singing a song in a public garden in his community. He did it in the belief that he was dealing with excursionists who belonged to some Protestant church community in Berlin. The following conversation took place between him and the leader of the group: “I don’t mean that we are brothers in faith. Do you believe Christ appeared in the flesh?’ The author: ‘Yes, I do.’ The leader: ‘You don’t understand me, do you believe that Christ appeared in this flesh?’ The author: ‘Of course!’ The leader: ‘In this flesh of mine? Do you believe that in me is Christ, that in my flesh Christ has come to life anew? I am Christ‘. The writer ‘No, I don’t believe that, you poor, distressed man!'” (11)
Krebs not only believed that he was Christ in the flesh, but he also let his followers call him father and believed that he could forgive sins:
Fritz Krebs believed he could forgive sins
“We recognized and confessed our sins under the effectiveness of the dear Father (meaning Krebs, author’s note), and that was a need for me, and how happy we were when we heard the words from the father’s mouth: ‘Your guilt is crossed out with the blood of the Lamb, I forgive you on behalf of Christ ‘”(12)
That this is in contradiction to the Holy Scriptures is obvious:
“But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”Matt. 23, 8f
And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”Luke 5, 21
Ausschließlich Gott ist unser Vater
We shouldn’t call a person father, God is our father! Only God, more precisely, Jesus forgives sins, compare the following passages in the Holy Scripture: 1 John 1:9; Dan 9:9; Ps 130:4; Eph 4:32 and Mk 2:7. How far away from biblical truth were the ‘founders’ of the New Apostolic Church. In great self-exaltation, they have created a ministry that should obviously possess all the powers and attributes that belong to God, or more precisely, to Jesus alone.: “Furthermore, he (this is F. Krebs, author’s note) said these words in the early service:
‘Break down this temple – I will raise it up again in three days..‘ (13)
‘He (Cancer, author’s note) gave his life for a guilt offering and was taken from fear and judgment, being afflicted for the iniquity of men.’ ‘ (14)
‘You have sung: Against you alone have I sinned, and so I summon the three elders and the bishop. Learn from this that if I were to withdraw my hand, it would be your death on the spot.‘“ (15)
Chief Apostle Niehaus apparently also had a great desire to identify with Christ. So it is reported:
“There are contradicting reports about the end of Hermann Niehaus. According to the one, which comes from reliable sources, a stage play was performed in 1930 at the celebration of his 25th anniversary as Chief Apostle. There was a staircase on the stage, which should represent the connection between heaven and earth. Niehaus participated by playing the role of Christ and showing off his second coming. The accident occurred, probably as a result of a misstep. Niehaus suffered serious injuries and was therefore unable to continue his office and died in 1932. “(16)
Johann Gottfried Bischoff
Chief Apostle Bischoff, who should not or did not want to die before Christ came again, enjoyed the utmost veneration:
“The Chief Apostle alone is the revealed love of God. Whoever separates from him have signed their own death warrant “ (17)
One will object and say that these are all things of the past. However, we have to ask ourselves whether this spirit of glorification, which was formative in the early stages of the New Apostolic Church, has still left its mark on this Church today.
Although the last serving Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber certainly did not claim to be godlike, he certainly did not allow himself to be worshiped in public. But if you look closely, he too enjoyed the greatest admiration.
This is made clear by the ‘European Youth Day 2009’, where he was received like a pop star. The hysteria that hits him in the USA is also terrifying. This can be checked on YouTube. There, like his predecessor in office, Richard Fehr is celebrated like a star.
Der Star des Europäischen Jugendtages 2009: Wilhelm Leber
The Chief Apostle is obviously happy to put up with all of this. Wilhelm Leber can also be celebrated like a star in Germany:
“Thunderous applause and standing ovations for the Chief Apostle and his companions: at 2:30 p.m. the apostles returned to the great hall of the Philharmonic and joined the young people.” (20)
Giving out autographs does not seem to be a problem for the incumbent Chief Apostle. Photos of his feet are also sometimes auctioned off to the highest bidders on online auction platforms (for a good cause):
“Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber is often asked for autographs. Most of the time he signs hymnals.” (21)
“ ‘The lunch hour with you was nice – albeit a bit exhausting’, the Chief Apostle greeted the young people afterward, referring to the numerous autographs he had given during the break. “ (22)
If Jesus serves us, how can a person claim more worship than Jesus? Isn’t it presumptuous and highly reprehensible when people claim worship for themselves and thereby rob Jesus of honor? If someone wants to serve, how can they be celebrated like a pop star? Jesus says:
“I (Jesus, author’s note) do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”John 5, 41f
The rock office
In connection with the special position of the Chief Apostle as the head of the apostles, reference is made to the so-called rock ministry of Simon Peter: “The chief apostle ministry is the rock ministry that Jesus entrusted to the apostle Peter for the early church. Linked to this was the power of the keys and the mandate to serve the flock of Christ as the first shepherd.”(23) This justification is still used today. Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber expressed himself as follows:
“We’re standing on a rock. I remember that Jesus once said to Peter: ‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church …’ (Matthew 16: 8). We, as the church, stand on the rock. As long as we are connected to this rock, we have power. This power enables us to overcome the devil, indeed to subdue all spirits. But if you are no longer standing on the rock, if other powers manage to break this connection, then you immediately lose your strength. Then one is no longer blessed. Then one loses faith and can no longer perceive the love of Christ. That is why it is so important to be founded on this rock, to stay connected to the Chief Apostle, … I would therefore like to put the message in your hearts: Stay on the rock, firmly attached to the ministry given by the Lord! Do not let yourselves be separated from it.” (24)
Stone or Rock?
The biblical passage for this claim is:
“And I (Jesus) tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”Matt. 16, 18
We have to translate this text literally to get the real meaning, and we also have to look at the context:
“And I also say to you: – You are Peter (petros), and on this rock (petra) I will build my – church”Matt. 16, 18 – interlinear translation
In Greek, the word ‘petros’ means stone or a loose piece of rock and corresponds to the Aramaic word ‘Kephas’. ‘Petra’ means rock and is not a small stone. So Jesus wants to make it clear: Peter is a stone, and on the rock, he wants to build his church. Who or what is the rock? Is this really Peter? This cannot be for several reasons:
First: Paul does not think New Apostolic!
Peter himself does not understand Jesus’ statement in the New Apostolic sense. He himself relates not only the rock (petra), but also the stone (petros) to Jesus: “As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious…” (1. Peter 2:4) Paul also relates the illustration of the stone and the rock to Jesus: “… as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” (Rom. 9:33) See also 1 Cor. 10, 4.
Second: the disciples do not think New Apostolic either!
The other disciples also do not understand Jesus’ statement in the New Apostolic sense. They did not see Jesus’ words to Peter as an assignment of any special office above them. Otherwise, there would have been no question of the greatest among the disciples shortly before Jesus’ death on the cross. See: Matthew 20:20ff and Luke 22:24ff
Third: Jesus Himself is the Foundation
The only foundation on which the church of Christ is built is Jesus himself:
“Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, while Jesus Christ Himself is the cornerstone in which the whole structure, joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord”Eph 2:20-21
“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”1 Cor. 3, 11
(see also Matthew 21:42). Jesus is the cornerstone, the foundation, the rock on which the church is built.
Fourth: Peter submits!
Peter himself submits (Acts 8:14ff) and has to answer to the other apostles (Acts 11:1ff) and describes himself “only” as a fellow elder (1 Petr 5:1). He describes Jesus himself as the chief shepherd (1. Petr. 5:4). None of this fits into the picture of the first Chief Apostle Peter!
If Peter was to form the foundation of the church, or more precisely, of the congregation, one must ask whether he would have been well suited to do so as a flawed and weak man. Think e.g. E.g. the threefold denial of knowing Jesus (Mk. 14:66ff) or the dishonest behavior in relation to eating together with non-Jews (Gal. 2:11ff). The doctrinal basis of the apostles is before us today in writing as Holy Scripture. The “initial spark” for the emergence of the first Christian communities was given by the apostles at Pentecost. In this respect, Peter plays a role – just think of his Pentecostal sermon and his letters. He inserted his stone (petros) into the building of the Christian community like all the other apostles of the Lord.
Stone is not equal to rock!
That Jesus equates the stone (petros / Kephas) with the rock (petra) cannot be true. Also not because the word petra is reproduced as rock in the New Testament, which means real rock, more precisely in the figurative sense, Jesus (see: Matt. 27, 52 and 60; Luke 8, 6 and 13; Rev. 6, 15 and 16; Matt. 7, 24 and 25). So what does Jesus mean in Matthew 16:18? To do this, it is helpful to read the preceding verses:
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”Matt. 16, 13-18
All disciples have a ‘Peter mission’
All the disciples are asked who they believe he is, Peter answers for the them and makes a unique confession for the disciples! The word about the rock (petra) addressed by Jesus to Peter refers not only to Peter, but to the confession of Peter and the other disciples that he is the Christ (Messiah). The rock is Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah of the world! In a broader sense, one could also say that this confession of the disciples and later apostles forms the basis for the building of the church (Eph 2:20).
Jesus is not only speaking to Peter, all the disciples are listening. Not only Peter is addressed. This is evident in the fact that he says; “And I (Jesus) tell you also … “. A special ‘Peter’s mandate’ is also negated by the fact that Jesus not only transfers the so-called key power to Peter but also to the other disciples in another place:
“Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”Matt. 18, 18
The theology of the New Apostolic Church in relation to the Chief Apostle ministry as a rock ministry is built on sand. Peter was a stone in the emerging building of the church of Jesus. Like James and John, he was considered a pillar (Gal 2:9) in the early Christian community and had given a significant sermon on evangelism at Pentecost. But Peter neither saw himself as Chief Apostle in the New Apostolic sense nor did the other Apostles. Peter was an apostle like any other apostle of the Lord. He had no superior position among the apostles. Jesus himself is the rock and the foundation on which his church is built. Not a man, but Jesus is the head of his church, his body
The head of the apostles
There have been some changes and corrections to the status of the Chief Apostle’s office in recent years. Are these corrections extensive enough to move on the biblical basis for this office?
If in the Statutes of the New Apostolic Church International (NACI) in 1990 it was said that the Chief Apostle was the visible head of the Church of Christ and Jesus the invisible head:
“Jesus Christ is the invisible head of God’s reestablished work of redemption; the Chief Apostle is the visible head of the Church on earth. He is supreme in all matters and occupies the first place in the circle of apostles.” (25)
We know today that the Church of Christ can only have one head:
“Jesus Christ is the head of the church. The chief apostle is the head of all apostles; he leads the Church together with the apostles. “(26)
Lack of biblical evidence!
It is interesting that we do not find anything like that in Scripture specifically in the New Testament. There is no graduation of the individual Apostle offices into Chief Apostle, Chief Apostle Helper, District Apostle, District Apostle Helper, and Apostle. Such a hierarchy is alien to the Bible; these are inventions of the New Apostolic Church. Rather, it becomes clear that a ‘humility principle’ is urged by Jesus in a collegial circle of disciples:
“A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”Lk. 22, 24-27
If Jesus calls himself the one who serves, how much less can a Chief Apostle who wants to lead and serve rise above others and call himself the head of the apostles. Jesus Christ is the head of the congregation and thus also of all officials and duties:
“And he (Jesus, author’s note) is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.Col 1,18
Oberste Instanz in Lehr- und Glaubensfragen
The Chief Apostle, although he has no theological training, is the highest authority in all questions of doctrine and faith! I.e. He has the authority to interpret and interpret the Holy Scriptures:
“ The chief apostle is the head of the apostles. As the supreme spiritual authority, he leads the New Apostolic Church in all religious matters.” (27)
Biblical teaching gives us a different picture. Thus, the question arose in the young Jewish-Christian community whether Gentiles who had converted to Jesus would also have to comply with all Jewish legal requirements, e.g. circumcision. It was not Peter (supposedly the first to receive the rock office) who summarily and decisively raised his voice, but James:
“After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. … Therefore I judge that no burdens should be laid on those from among the Gentiles who turn to God.”Acts 15, 13-19
The biblical trio
Rather, it was probably a “team of three” which at the time of the New Testament enjoyed special respect among the apostles among the Jewish Christians, namely James, Peter, and John:
“and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.”Gal. 2, 9
Paul even dared to publicly reprimand Peter when he obviously did not yet have the knowledge and strength to make no distinction between Jewish and Gentile Christians:
“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”Gal. 2, 11-14
When looking at the biblical accounts, Peter cannot speak of a sole supreme spiritual authority. If the Chief Apostle of the New Apostolic Church wishes to appeal to Peter in his office, he should step down from the circle of the other apostles. Then he would come a little closer to his biblical example!
Scripture interpretation / teaching authority
One question arises when looking at the New Testament accounts. Does the believer need an excellent teacher in doctrinal questions, does he need someone to explain the Bible to him? According to the New Apostolic view, the power to interpret Holy Scripture lies with the Chief Apostle and the Apostles. Only these are able to understand the Holy Scriptures correctly:
The ‘Official Property’
“Who is able and called to interpret the Bible? … the chief apostle and the apostles have received for their task the ministerial ability that comes from the Holy Spirit. With these gifts, they are enabled to understand God’s intentions, to communicate them to the believers.” (28)
The New Apostolic Church owes us the answer to the question, why only the Chief Apostle and the Apostles do what is necessary ‘Official property’ should have received, and where this process is modeled in the Holy Scriptures. The apostle John writes something else to the believers:
But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.John 2, 24
The Holy Spirit is God’s Representative
The anointing means the giving of the Holy Spirit! Not the Chief Apostle, but the Holy Spirit is the representative of Christ on earth:
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”John 14, 26 (NLB)
In the basic text, there is the term παρακλητος = Parakletos, which in the Vulgate is rendered as advocatus. This term was also used in the legal field and meant lawyer or representative. As in many other Bible translations, it can also be translated as a helper, advocate, counselor, or assistance. It is undisputed in Christian denominations that the parakletos does not mean a human being, but the Holy Spirit.
We see Jesus did not intend to send or appoint a human representative. He sent us the Holy Spirit to guide us into the truth. In the New Apostolic Church every believer is supposed to receive the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands by an apostle. Therefore, the question arises, why is a Chief Apostle or an Apostle necessary as supreme Shepherd and interpreter of the Holy Scriptures?
With regard to the succession, the uninterrupted succession of the New Apostolic Chief Apostle, many questions arise. According to the New Apostolic view, God reveals the next Chief Apostle through special testimonies:
“From among the apostles, that apostle is called to the chief apostle ministry who, through special testimonies, has been revealed by God to the incumbent chief apostle or to the circle of apostles.” (29)
What are these testimonies or revelations like? Are they stories, dreams, visions, appearances, or inspirations of the predecessor or the apostles? By and large, New Apostolic literature is silent about how the individual Chief Apostles were ‘revealed’ by God. The fact is that the chief apostle is either appointed by his predecessor in office or, if this is not possible, he is elected by an apostle meeting:
“The Chief Apostle is called by his respective predecessor (Art. 4.7.9.). If there is no such appointment or if the Chief Apostle has been voted out of office, the Chief Apostle is appointed by the District Apostle Meeting (Art. 5.) or the Apostles’ Assembly (Art. 6.) Elected from the circle of District Apostles, District Apostle Helpers, and Apostles. “ (30)
In connection with the calling of the individual Chief Apostles there are some curiosities that are worth looking at:
The time without the Chief Apostle
One must ask why there was a period of about 1900 years in church history when God did not give any chief apostles. Just as there were no real apostles of Jesus Christ at that time, there was also no chief apostle. Didn’t the first ‘Chief Apostle Peter’ know that he should actually have called a successor? Or was there such a succession after all? However, then one must assume that one of the Orthodox Churches or the Catholic Church is in the true succession of Peter.
The New Apostolic Church is a new foundation!
Thus, the New Apostolic Church would be a new foundation alongside the supposedly real church and could not refer to that “To be the restored work of redemption of the Lord” (31) because the very Church of Christ never ceased to exist. The New Apostolic Church assumes, however, that there was a period in which the true Church of the Lord did not exist. The explanation why this was so is very interesting:
The believers were to blame!
“ The reason why the apostles’ activity was interrupted was the behavior of the believers at the time (The believers of the early Church, author’s note) Jesus had admonished and warned in his letter according to Revelation 2:4- 5 with the words, ‘I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.’ The lampstand is to be understood as the community with the apostleship” (32)
The believer in the early Christian community is to blame for the fact that there were no more apostle or chief apostle callings! Why the lampstand should be understood to mean “the church with the apostleship” is not explained and probably results in more from the NAC’s need to explain the so-called apostless time than from a thorough interpretation of the Bible. The incumbent Chief Apostle Dr. Wilhelm Leber on record:
“The gospel first had to be spread for a few centuries so that Christianity gained worldwide importance. The apostleship was not necessary for this. “ (33)
No recognition from the English apostles
The New Apostolic ministry and especially the Chief Apostle ministry did not find recognition among the predecessor communities of the New Apostolic Church. In general, the Catholic Apostolic Movement is recognized by the New Apostolic Church as an institution worked by God, just like the Apostles of the Catholic Apostolic Church. If the apostles of the CAC were real apostles of Jesus Christ, why did they not recognize the newly called apostles and the establishment of the chief apostle office under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, why did they not submit to this “new Peter”? The apostles of the new order wrote a letter to the last apostle of the Catholic Apostolic Church Woodhouse with the following content, among other things:
“Because we consider you to be an apostle sent by Jesus, just as we also consider ourselves to be those who, united according to the will of God, are to carry on the work of the Lord with you to completion.” (34)
This letter remained unanswered by the Catholic Apostolic Apostle Woodhouse. Leading offices and prophets of the Hersteld Apostolische Zendingkerk – the Dutch branch of the General Christian Apostolic Mission – refused to obey Fritz Krebs:
“The prophets of the Hersteld Apostolische Zendingkerk proclaimed that Satan had gone into ‘Ephraim’ (meaning the north German working area of the apostle Krebs, author’s note) and that the Holy Spirit had been taken from Krebs. For them, the New Apostolic Church was henceforth considered an ‘anti-Christian sect’, in which the prophecy of 2 Peter 2:1-3 was fulfilled.” (35)
The last Chief Apostle
“I’m the last. Nobody comes after me. “ (36)
“ The Lord comes in my lifetime to take his own. ‘ So he proclaimed in that Christmas service in 1951 in Gießen. He proclaimed it not as an idea of his own, but as one Revelation that he received from the Lord. The Son of God himself met him, he saidand what the Lord has promised must be fulfilled. How could he lie? I have been promised by the Lord that I will not die,’ he assured countless times. To the doubters, he replied: ‘I wish only one thing, that all these doubters live until the day of the Lord comes. Then they will see what harvest doubt has brought them.’ (37)
” On September 12, 1954, the Chief Apostle said in Stuttgart:‘I am aware, after all, that if I were to die – which will not be the case– then God’s work would be destroyed.’“ (38)
These are the words of Chief Apostle Bischoff. Johann Gottfried Bischoff died on July 6, 1960 in Karlsruhe! According to the words of this Chief Apostle, who supposedly had a prophetic gift, he was the last Chief Apostle, but obviously, he was wrong!
Peter Kuhlen was ordained as Chief Apostle!
Little attention is paid in connection with this so-called message of Chief Apostle Bischoff to the very interesting fact that there was already another Chief Apostle of the New Apostolic Church during Chief Apostle Bischoff’s lifetime. On May 21, 1948, Peter Kuhlen was unanimously elected to succeed JG Bischoff in a secret ballot.
On August 1, 1948, Apostle Kuhlen was ordained as his successor in the Chief Apostle office with the words:
“In the name and on behalf of the Apostles’ Quorum, accept the office of Chief Apostle, together with the spirit of ministry in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit! This Spirit brings the office to life in you; “
Apostle Peter Kuhlen was ordained into the office of Chief Apostle and not into the Office of Chief Apostle Helper! (39)
The memory gaps of J.G. Bischoff
In 1950, just two years later, Chief Apostle Bischoff asserted through his editor Erich Meier-Gewecke that:
“To him, the Lord has not yet shown anyone who should lead the people of God on earth after him” (40)
Chief Apostle Peter Kuhlen was excommunicated from the New Apostolic Church in 1954. He himself did not doubt the so-called message. He was excommunicated because he did not want to raise this so-called message to dogma and did not preach it with enough emphasis.
God is to blame, he changed his plan!
The New Apostolic Church still does not want to admit that Chief Apostle Bishop was wrong. It used to be said:
“We, therefore, stand before the unfathomable counsel of our God and wonder why he has changed his will.“(41)
Newer formulations by Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber are as follows:
“The fact that Chief Apostle Bischoff’s prediction was not fulfilled remains an unanswered question for me. … I do not wish to pass final judgment on the true circumstances. Perhaps Chief Apostle Bischoff misinterpreted something, or conditions were mentioned that we do not know.” (42)
One would think that after the death of Chief Apostle Bishop, who prophetically announced the Second Coming of Christ during his lifetime and then died, the New Apostolic Church pauses for at least a while to judge what happened. But on 07/07/1960, only one day after the death of JG Bischoff, a successor was hastily elected by acclamation against the existing statutes: Walter Schmidt. The excommunicated Chief Apostle Peter Kuhlen was not remembered!
Disputes about successors in office
As a member of the New Apostolic Church, one is of the opinion that the selection of the ministers and especially the Apostles and the Chief Apostle takes place with divine testimonies and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit with great dignity, responsibility, and unanimity. Trench warfare, claims to power and the like are actually inconceivable. So it is said:
“From the crowd of apostles, that apostle is called into the chief apostle’s office who was revealed to the incumbent chief apostle or the circle of apostles through special testimonies from God.” (43)
Theory and Practice
The election of Chief Apostle Urwyler in 1978 proves that reality is different. The New Apostolic Church claims:
“Hans Urwyler called by the Lord and in the oneness of all apostles to be his successor.” (44)
In fact, however, something else is said to have happened:
“According to § 9 of the Statutes of the International Apostles’ Federation, the Chief Apostle is elected by a 3/4 majority (in accordance with the valid Statutes of the International Apostles’ Federation in 1978, author’s note). … Chief Apostle Urwyler did not receive the required majority in the first ballots during his election as Chief Apostle (on 18.11.1978, author’s note). The votes were distributed among three men (Urwyler 66/88, Rockenfelder 18, Kühnle 10). By a trick agreement was reached in the end. Bez. Ap. Kraus temporarily threatened to secede if a German became Chief Apostle.” (45)
Power struggle for the chief apostle office
There are also said to have been irregularities at the ordination of Chief Apostle Richard Fehr:
“The fact is that Hermann Engelauf was not present at the rather ‘peculiar’ installation of R. Fehr in Bern. Instead, Fehr’s arch-enemy Kraus wanted to take over the fate of the worldwide NAK from Canada. But until the last minute, Kraus did not manage to get a corresponding majority among the senior District Apostles Fernandes, Higelin, Steinweg, and Kühnle. When District Apostle Engelauf canceled his visit to Bern, Kraus had to admit his defeat. According to the NAKI statutes at that time, R. Fehr should not have been singled out as Chief Apostle in Bern, as published in official NAK statements, but should have faced a properly convened District Apostle meeting.
The fact is that Richard Fehr was introduced to the worldwide New Apostolic public on May 22, 1988 as the new leader and Chief Apostle of the NAK in a solemn divine service at Pentecost. As announced in public statements from NAK and NAKI circles, he had the terminally ill Hans Urwyler’s hand laid on him while District Apostle Steinweg spoke the words of separation: Take the office of Chief Apostle. Only after the Pentecost service did a hastily called District Apostle Meeting confirm Fehr’s official mandate.
What should the District Apostles do differently? If they had voted against Fehr, the embarrassment of the NAK KL (KL = church leadership, author’s note) would have been huge been. District Apostle Engelauf, who is repeatedly called stubbornly to have been present at the inauguration of Fehr in Bern, was definitely not present in Bern. According to research available to me, H. Urwyler, who was already paralyzed on one side on May 3, 1988, who could no longer speak and who never recovered from his stroke, was not even able to move his fingers, let alone his raise arm. As contemporary witnesses told me, Hans Urwyler was in a vegetative state on May 3, 1988. “ (46)
Excommunications, power struggles and elections contrary to the statutes!
The New Apostolic Church has to face the question of how and by what means God works testimonies with regard to the successor of the respective Chief Apostle, and Friedrich Krebs elevated himself to the position of Chief Apostle, Chief Apostle Kuhlen was excommunicated and later disregarded when Chief Apostle Bischoff, who had the message that he would not die until Jesus came, did die after all.
Chief Apostle Schmidt was elected, contrary to the statutes, by acclamation just one day after Chief Apostle Bischoff’s death.
Chief Apostle Urwyler was not unanimously elected against the massive resistance of some apostles.
Chief Apostle Fehr was ordained in a curious way, contrary to the statutes, by Chief Apostle Urwyler who was in a coma. It takes a lot of faith to recognize the guidance of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in these facts and events. For this reason, among other things, the faithful are usually left in the dark about the actual facts.
Until recently, the Chief Apostle was considered infallible. His statements, his actions had a divine character and were binding standards for the judgment and action of the individual:
“Not trusting him (the Chief Apostle, author’s note) completely and only wanting to resist his words in thought means to sin against the Son of God.” (47)
The former editor of the ‘New Apostolic Review’ KW Mütschele writes critically:
“Every aberration has a starting point. This point lies in the assumption that the latter men named apostles are in all circumstances in authority and sovereign over the Bible and its teachings. So the papal heresy: What the apostles (and the Chief Apostle, author’s note) teach is infallible. Your interpretation of the Bible and its testimonies alone is authoritative. There is no right of examination “ (48)
When things get tight, God has changed his plan
Chief Apostle Schmidt made the following comments after the death of JG Bischoff:
“We are therefore faced with the inscrutable counsel of our God and wonder why he has changed his will. The Chief Apostle, who brought the Lord’s work of redemption to the highest level and thereby bound the children of God in an unshakable faith in his word, can’t have been wrong “ (49)
Chief Apostle Bischoff cannot have been mistaken (infallibility). It can not be what may not be! Therefore God must have changed his will. Chief Apostle Fehr also has his problems with criticism. In a divine service, he reads out a statement on allegations against the teaching and religious practice of the New Apostolic Church and also comments on this at the end with the words:
“ We’re not going to be put in the dock! “ (50)
A little later he added his statements in this regard:
“And some people think that they know this and that better than the apostles and the chief apostle – that also happens. These are all signs of the last time. “ (51)
Rethinking has only started in the last few years. Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber expressed himself as follows in an interview:
“Mr. Leber, are you infallible?” “No, I have no claims of this kind.” (52)
External and internal reality
Obviously, this now no longer existing claim to absoluteness of the Chief Apostle and the church leadership is not so perceived by the parishioners and ministers. Especially whenever there are differences of opinion and conflicts, the Chief Apostle’s “felt” or perceived claim to absoluteness is still there:
“The Chief Apostle said in an interview that he (and the Apostles) would not be infallible either. But as soon as a subordinate minister or even a simple parishioner sees and addresses such possible errors, especially in theological terms, the club immediately comes: We, the KL (church leadership, author’s note) are right in everything, are from God, and do not need to be taught by anyone. > So a kind of ‘infallibility’ after all.” (53)
The claim to absoluteness of the Chief Apostle ministry
In spite of all official statements to the contrary, the existing teaching authority, combined with the Chief Apostle’s ‘necessary official capacity’, ultimately results in the fact that there is still an absolute claim and thus the Chief Apostle’s infallibility. Unfortunately, the reality of the practice of faith and the official pronouncements of the New Apostolic Church go different ways.
This is not the only reason why many are of the opinion that the supposed reforms of recent years only serve to improve self-portrayal. Practically nothing has changed internally. We also believe that the partial reformulation of individual doctrines serves to make the New Apostolic Church appear more harmless and less exclusive in the non-New Apostolic public. One would like to be perceived as one of the many Christian free churches.
A look at the Scriptures would help
How far the New Apostolic Chief Apostle and the apostles are from the biblical example becomes clear when one looks at some of the New Testament statements: As already mentioned above, Peter is anything but infallible, he is publicly reprimanded by Paul: “When Cephas came to Antioch, I (Paul, editor’s note) resisted him in the face, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.” (Gal 2:11) Paul did not consider himself perfect either. So he writes:
“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”Romans 6:3-4 (ESV) 7, 19
Not only does the apostle Paul exhort to examine:
“Now these Jews (Christians in Beroea, author’s note) were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”Acts 17, 11
but also the apostle John admonishes:
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”John 4, 1
This word of a genuine apostle of Jesus will now occupy us more concretely.
As at the beginning of the apostolic movement, in the Catholic Apostolic Church, in the General Christian Apostolic Mission (AcaM), in the Hersteld Apostolic Zendingskerk, and in the early days of the New Apostolic congregations, there was the gift of prophecy.
The Office of the Prophet
In addition to the apostle, the prophet was significantly involved in the development of the church structure, the offices, and the calling of individuals to their offices. He prophesied and designated certain people as apostles, angels (bishops), evangelists, etc. The apostle then ordained these people into their office. There were quick differences of opinion, tensions, and power struggles between prophets and apostles. This becomes very clear when further apostles were called by the German prophet Heinrich Geyer in 1860 and 1863, who were not recognized by the English apostles of the Catholic apostolic movement.
Tension between apostles and prophets
These tensions and power struggles also existed in the AcaM; one thinks of the rift of 1878 (54) – from which the New Apostolic congregation ultimately emerged – and of the power struggles in the congregations of the so-called new order under Apostle (Chief Apostle) Krebs. These power struggles were decided in the emerging New Apostolic Church in favor of the apostles. An example of this development is an incident between the apostle Krebs and a prophet:
“,Oh! My apostle Krebs, you are blessed, I tell you, ‘then Krebs shouted:’ and I tell you, everything has already been said, everything has been agreed, and now it’s over. ‘ Thereupon the prophet was silent. “ (55)
Niehaus has ‘beaten to death’ the prophets
Another testimony to these power struggles is a letter from the evangelist Mütschele to the Apostle Brückner in 1919:
“After all, the Chief Apostle (Niehaus, author’s note) prides himself in a letter from this year that at that time, as a regular bishop, he killed the prophets of the community with a brochure.” (56)
The office of the prophet was abolished
The prophets were abolished and it was claimed that the prophetic gift had been absorbed in the apostle office, more precisely in the chief apostle office:
“ The warning voices of the prophets have fallen silent … Of course, where the office of the prophet actually no longer existed or exists, a replacement had to be found. He soon found himself too. And this indirect substitute is the ‘unity ministry’ brought forth by Father Krebs, which developed into the decisive chief apostle ministry.“ (57)
In 1938 the office of prophet was still on the list of offices of the New Apostolic Church. (58) In later editions of the booklet “Questions and Answers about the New Apostolic Faith” the office of the prophet is missing from the list of New Apostolic offices. As an explanation for the lack, the Catechism of the New Apostolic Church says as follows:
“The office of the prophet (Ephesians 4:11) was effective in the New Apostolic Church for as long as it was necessary for the divine plan of salvation. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, which is revealed in the work of the apostles and guiding all truth, the entire people of God are informed today. “ (59)
The Chief Apostle is now the Chief Prophet
If there are concrete statements regarding the future of the New Apostolic Apostles and especially of the Chief Apostle of the NAK, they must be assessed against the background described above. They have a prophetic character because the Chief Apostle’s office has taken on the role of prophet. Especially with regard to the claim of infallibility of the office, such ‘prophetic’ statements take on a very special weight. Even more so when they are elevated to doctrinal status, as was the case with the so-called message of J.G. Bischoff.
What follows are some ‘prophetic’ statements from New Apostles and Chief Apostles and from dignitaries of the early apostolic communities.
Angel (Bishop) Edward Irving and the Prophets of the Catholic Apostolic Movement
Edward Irving was not a Chief Apostle of the New Apostolic Church. However, he had a significant influence on the nascent Catholic Apostolic movement in the early 19th century. He was never an apostle in this movement, but his influence as a charismatic preacher and later as an angel (bishop) and his internal and external impact was so great that the Catholic Apostolic Church as the sect of the Irvingians and the New Apostolic congregations as the sect of the New -Irvingians were designated. For this reason, it is legitimate to include one’s prophecies in the judgment.
Calculation of a date for the return of Christ
Edward Irving calculated the second coming of Christ to be in 1864:
“But the coming of the Lord, so often announced by prophecy and calculated by Irving himself to 1864, failed to materialize, as did the raising of the deceased ‘apostles’ before the Second Coming of the Lord. When this also did not take place in 1864, one hoped for July 14, 1877, on which day 3 ½ times or 42 years should have passed since the ‘separation of the apostles’. But the only thing that happened in 1877 was this, that on July 18 also the ‘first-called apostle’ Cardale died.” Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) (60)
The ‘second twelve’ will not die
The prophets of the Catholic Apostolic Churches proclaimed that the newly called 12 apostles will not die until the Second Coming:
“Especially damaging to their reputation and hindering their expansion was the gradual death of the twelve ‘apostles,’ of whom, after all, prophecy had proclaimed with all certainty that they would not die before the Lord came, but would be taken up alive to meet him in the air.” (61)
Edvard Irving will not die
The prophet Taplin, who was considered the pillar of the prophets, prophesied that Edward Irving would not die even though he was seriously ill. It turned out differently:
“Irving himself was not to become ‘apostle.’ No prophetic voice arose for Irving, who had aged before his time through continual mental agitation and, though only a little over 40, had the appearance of an old man. The doctor advised him to go south for his rest. But the voice of the prophet Taplin commanded him to go north, to the land of his birth, where he would at the same time convert great multitudes. Willingly Irving followed the prophet’s voice, but only got as far as Glasgow. He grew weaker daily, and despite the prophecy that he would not die, he died on December 8, 1834, leaving a widow and three children. He was buried in the vault of the old cathedral church in Glasgow.” Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) (62)
Apostle Schwarz, who did not yet know the chief apostle ministry, but who was considered an authority among the apostles of his time and is therefore named in the list of ‘leaders’ of the New Apostolic Church (63), was not supposed to die before Christ returned:
Jesus comes during the lifetime of Apostle Schwarz
“It is known from the New Apostolic Congregation that there were prophecies that Jesus would come while the Apostle Schwarz was still alive, after which the same hope was associated with the life of the Apostle Krebs.” (64)
“Apostle Schwarz at that time also had the – supposedly divine – promise that he would yet live to see the day of the Lord. In the ‘Book for Our Time’, written in 1872, it says with reference to Apostle Schwarz that he was sent to Amsterdam in 1863 by prophetic command of the Lord. Shortly before and at the time of his sending from the congregation in Hamburg, strange prophecies and visions took place through and among many persons, including that he would not have completed his career until the future of the Lord had taken place’. Furthermore, it is written in this book: ‘And if the promise given to the apostle F. W. Schwarz, that he should experience the day of the appearing of Christ, is true from God, then, in view of his age, the appearing of the Lord can be expected within 10 to 25 years at the most and thus still in this century.” (65)
Chief Apostle Niehaus:
Germany will be victorious in the First World War
Chief Apostle Niehaus prophesied Germany’s victory over England in World War I:
“World War I became the starting point of novel developments for the New Apostolic community in various ways. At the outbreak of the war, Niehaus fully joined in the national enthusiasm for war. Loyalty to God and loyalty to the Kaiser” was the old and the new slogan. Stories and dreams left no doubt about Germany’s victory. Niehaus prophesied the downfall of England and was convinced that war-deciding impulses emanated from the apostles’ meetings.” (66)
“Oh woe to the enemies of Germany, now the ark of the Lord (Apostle Bischoff, author’s note) had come to the German army camp, but now the fate of the enemy was sealed . “ (67)
Germany lost after all
From November 11, 1918, the guns fell silent and the First World War was lost for Germany! As a result of the false prophecy of Chief Apostle Niehaus, many believers left the New Apostolic congregations disappointed. In addition, there were tensions among the ministers regarding the power of the apostles and the chief apostle. The evangelist and editor of the ‘New Apostolic Review’ KW Mütschele wrote to the Apostle Brückner:
“If we had had divine, prophetic, pure testimonies, that is, the New Testament prophetic office, we would not have embarrassed ourselves so shamefully with all our war drivel . “ (68)
Chief Apostle Bischoff
Even this Chief Apostle, as a supporter of National Socialism (69), could not resist prophesying Germany’s victory in World War II. In 1941 he announced in the magazine ‘Our Family’:
“As surely and certainly as we have hitherto trusted in the Fuehrer’s genius and skill as a general, we look forward with equal faith to the coming events, to the great final victory. We are aware that there are still many sacrifices to be made but we also know that all of this will not be in vain and that the great final victory will bring compensation “ (70)
“The Lord is coming in my lifetime”
As mentioned above, Chief Apostle Bischoff allegedly received the revelation from the Lord that he no longer had to die. The Lord would come in his lifetime:
“The Lord comes in my lifetime to take his own.” (71)
“The ‘Guardian Voice’ wrote on April 15, 1955, that the Chief Apostle had not received this revelation through a dream, but during an encounter with the Son of God Himself. The Son stood face to face with the Chief Apostle, just as he stood face to face with Saul at that time.'” (72)
The Lord did not come in his lifetime
Chief Apostle JG Bischoff died on July 6, 1960, without the prophecy, which he had directly from the Lord, being fulfilled.
These events from the 1950s, known as the ‘message‘, led to great tensions and discord within the New Apostolic Church, which continue to have their effects to the present day. So many community members left the New Apostolic Church with their excommunicated apostles. To this day, the leadership of the New Apostolic Church has not been able to bring itself to consider an error by Bishop, even though there are some curiosities surrounding the message and the error is obvious.
The curiosities include B. the increasing ‘certainty of the message’. Because at first for JG Bischoff, as for many others, there was only an imminent expectation of Christ’s return; only later did this imminent expectation become more and more a certainty that he would no longer have to die until finally a direct revelation of Christ and the message should have taken place thus became the dogma of faith for all New Apostolics. (73) Another curiosity is the fact that the Lord is said to have shown no successor to Chief Apostle JG Bischoff, although he ordained District Apostle Kuhlen to the Chief Apostle’s office in 1948 (see above).
Chief Apostle Fehr
After the so-called message from JG Bischoff, the New Apostolic Church became more cautious. There was no longer any mention of a date or a finite period of time. Nevertheless, Chief Apostle Richard Fehr fueled speculation about the return of Christ during his term of office by taking office in May 1988 under the motto:
“Maranatha, our Lord is coming!”
In closed hands, the hope was expressed that Richard Fehr, as the 7th Chief Apostle, would lead the people of God to perfection. After all, seven is the number of perfection, and some siblings are said to have had corresponding visions and dreams. But now Richard Fehr’s term of office is already a thing of the past. He retired on May 15, 2005.
New Apostolic Chief Apostles are False Prophets
The teaching and the practice of faith of the New Apostolic Church as it is presented today is essentially based on the Chief Apostles and Apostles, Schwarz, Krebs, Niehaus, and Bischoff. These men left a lasting mark on the New Apostolic Church. It is a drama that these men turned out to be false prophets by making predictions for the future that are proven not to have come true. God tells us how to expose false prophets:
“ If the prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, and that word does not happen and does not come to pass, it is a word that the Lord did not speak; the prophet spoke out of presumption, you shouldn’t be afraid of him! “5th Mos. 18, 22
Other characteristics of false prophets
There are other tests that show us whether the supposed prophet’s message is of divine origin or not. Does the prophet point to himself or to God (see Rev. 19:10)? One must also be careful when the ‘prophet’ puts visions and/or dreams in the foreground:
“I have heard what the prophets say, who prophesy lies in my name and say:“ I.I’ve had a dream, I’ve had a dream ! «How long is that supposed to go on? Should false prophecy remain in the hearts of the prophets? And the prophets, who prophesy self-invented deceit, don’t they have in mind to make my people forget my name through the dreams they tell one another, just as their fathers forgot my name about Baal? The prophet who has a dream, tell the dream; but whoever has my word, proclaim my word in truth! What does straw have in common with wheat? Says the Lord.”Jer. 23, 25-28
Do the Scriptures confirm the statements?
Another important test for prophecy and the prophet is whether the prophecy is confirmed in the scriptures and whether it is not in conflict with it:
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again:If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”Gal. 1, 8-10
The fruits of the prophets
Not least by their fruits, we will be able to distinguish real from false prophets:
“But beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves! By their fruits you will know them.”Matt. 7, 15-16
If we apply these biblical standards to the ‘prophets’, apostles and offices of the Catholic Apostolic Movement, to the apostles and chief apostles of the New Apostolic congregations and the chief apostles of the New Apostolic Church, we must establish that they are false prophets!
Don’t rely on people
There are still a few points to consider with regard to the New Apostolic Chief Apostle ministry. For example, the high salaries that the Chief Apostle and the Apostles approve of themselves. There is the question of whether a Chief Apostle ‘called by God’ can retire at the age of 65 or 70. It is also questionable why every Chief Apostle was previously white and German-speaking, although the majority of the New Apostolics are now at home in Africa and Asia. We would now like to turn our attention to something else.
There is only one mediator
Those who rely on people for salvation are not well-advised. It is convenient to have someone telling you how and what to believe. But we run the risk of disregarding the essentials. No one can justify himself to God one day and say: “I didn’t know that, I wasn’t told.” Each of us has a responsibility, no one can transfer this responsibility to others. No Chief Apostle, no organization, no sacramental act can give you salvation and thus assurance of faith. There is only one mediator, and that mediator is called Jesus Christ:
“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”Tim. 2, 5
It is this one mediator who created the connection for us with the Father through his vicarious death on the cross. Every other supposed mediator is in reality not a mediator, but a damper of this biblical truth and blocks the signposts away from Jesus and towards other paths that do not lead to the goal.
Jesus knocks on the door of your heart, have you opened the door to him yet?
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”Rev 3, 20
Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, nobody comes to the Father but through HIM. Jesus said to him, (Joh. 14, 6)
“But to all who welcomed him he gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in his name;”John 1, 12
The true vine
Come to the true source of eternal life, the real vine. Then you are directly connected to your rescuer: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (Joh. 15, 5)
I wish you that with all my heart!
We recommend the translation of the Bible by Franz Eugen Schlachter in the 2000 version
1) The website www.nak-info.de is supported by Project B. Project B is a non-denominational private initiative of Bible-believing Christians, for the enlightenment of sects and false teachings as well as for the proclamation of the good news of JESUS CHRIST.
2) Courtesy of Ms. Corinna Adam.
3) Unless otherwise indicated, all Bible quotations are taken from the Bible translation by Franz Eugen Schlachter in the third revision (Schlachter 2000).
4) J.G. Bischoff, Christi Jugend Nr. 22, November 15, 1948, p.170, quoted from: Erwin Meier-Widmer, letter to an ex-official, Schaffhausen, June 9, 1997
5) All quotations were taken over uncorrected
6) Karl-Eugen Siegel, The Representative of the Lord, Verlag Lachesis, Stuttgart 1995, p. 16f
7) The New Apostolic Church refers to the Catholic Apostolic congregations as the “old order” and the congregations with newly called Apostles that came into being after the split of 1863 as the so-called “new order”.
8) Hermann Niehaus, His Last Word, p. 8 and 10, 1905
9) Niehaus, op. cit. p. 3
10) – 19)
10) Apostle Hallmann, Der Herold No. 100, 1903, p. 3, quoted from: Helmut Obst, Apostles and Prophets of the Modern Era, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2000, p. 125.
11) Ernst Ferdinand Klein, Zeitbilder aus der Kirchengeschichte für die christliche Gemeinde IV. Teil: Das neunzehnte Jahrhundert, Deutsche Evangelische Buch- und Traktat-Gesellschaft, Berlin, 1927, p.152/760
12) Niehaus, op. cit. p. 4
13) Niehaus, op. cit. p. 8
14) Niehaus, op. cit. p. 14
15) Report for the “Ämter”, 15.4.1904, p. 13 u. 9, quoted after: Kurt Hutten, Seer Grübler Enthusiasten, Quell Verlag, Stuttgart, 1997, p. 476
16) Kurt Hutten, Seer Grübler Enthusiasten, Quell Verlag, Stuttgart, 1997, p. 476f
17) Official Gazette, 15 June 1952, quoted from: Detlef Streich, Constructive Characteristics of the New Apostolic Church, Updated Version, Göppingen, May 2006, p. 19.
18) DINZMOOR, Arrival of the Chief Apostle, YouTube.com, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrLwH12Fuj8, 06/24/2010.
19) hhydid62, NAC Youth day 2007 Where in the world is Chrief Apostle Leber, YouTube.com,
20) – 30)
20) Website of the New Apostolic Church Berlin Brandenburg – Youth Day 2007
21) Website of the New Apostolic Church Berlin Brandenburg – Youth Day 2007
22) Website of the New Apostolic Church Berlin Brandenburg – Youth Day 2007
23) Leitfaden für den Religionsunterricht der neuapostolischen Kirche, 4th year, Verlag Friedrich Bischoff, Frankfurt am Main, 1970, o. J., p. 79, quoted from:http://www.relinfo.ch/nak/stammapostel.html
24) New Apostolic Church, Our Family, issue 13/2009, report from the divine service, Kampala/Uganda, 29.3.2009, p. 9,
25) New Apostolic Church International, Articles of Association of the New Apostolic Church International, Preamble, Zurich Switzerland, 1990
26) New Apostolic Church International, Mission Statement Serving and Leading in the New Apostolic Church, Verlag Friedrich Bischoff GmbH, Zurich, 2001, p. 8.
27) New Apostolic Church International (ed.), Questions and Answers about the New Apostolic Faith – Amendment Notice 2005; Zurich / Frankfurt a. M. 2005
28) New Apostolic Church International, Questions and Answers about the New Apostolic Faith – Question 5, Zurich, 1990, p. 11
29) New Apostolic Church International, op. cit., Question 177, p. 82
30) – 39)
30) Statutes of the New Apostolic Church International, Article 4.1, Johannesburg, 2002
31) New Apostolic Church International, op. cit., Question 167, p. 77
32) New Apostolic Church International, op. cit., Question 146, p. 67
33) Stap. Wilhelm Leber, ideaSpektrum No. 25/2006, Interview with the Chief Apostle – “We can learn a lot from other churches”, Wetzlar, 21 June 2006, p. 15
34) Helmut Obst, Apostel und Propheten der Neuzeit, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2000, p. 86
35) Hutten, op. cit., p. 498
36) J.G. Bischoff, divine service, Giessen, 24.12.1951, quoted from: K. E. Siegel, The Message of Chief Apostle Bischoff, self-published, Stuttgart, 1991-1993, p. 5.
37) Kurt Hutten, A Letter to the New Apostolic Church – The “Hour X” has come…, Quell-Verlag der Evangelischen Gesellschaft, Stuttgart, 1960, p. 1
38) op. cit. p. 2
39) Dr. med. Erwin Meier-Widmer, Chronology of the era of Johann Gottfried Bischoff with reference to the events and wrong decisions in the New Apostolic Church, Schaffhausen, 1998
40) – 49)
40) Calendar “Our Family 1951, page 35, printed in 1950, quoted from: Association of Apostolic Churches in Europe, Reflections on the Message of Chief Apostle J. G. Bischoff: “I am not dying, the Lord Jesus is coming again in my lifetime?”.
41) Letter of the Apostles to the Churches, read on July 10, 1960, n.d., quoted from: Obst op. cit. p. 112
42) Stap. Wilhelm Leber, op. cit. , S. 15
43) New Apostolic Church International, op. cit., Question 177, p. 82
44) New Apostolic Family 1989 No. 1, p. 17, quoted from: Horst Hartmann, In the world but not of the world – The children of God of the New Apostolic Church, Libri Books on Demand, o. O., 2000, p. 28.
45) S. Dannwolf, J. Gerbert, B. Stöhr, Raus aus dem Bann Verlag Lachesis, Stuttgart, 1995, page 35
46) AlexanderZH, Aussteiger Forum Quo-Vadis-NAK, Topic: What really happened on 3 May 1988 in Bern?,17.03.2009, http://quo-vadis-nak.foren-city.de/topic,3149,-was-geschah-wirklich-am-3-mai-1988-in-bern.html
47) J.G. Bischoff (ed.), Wächterstimmen, Friedrich Bischoff Verlag, Frankfurt/Main, 01.10.1949, quoted from: Apostolische Gemeinschaft e.V. und die Vereinigung Apostolischer Christen, Historical Review of the Development of the Chief Apostle ministry, Lucerne, 1975, p. 6.
48) Enlightenment pamphlet No. 1 on the Reformation movement in the New Apostolic congregations, o.O., o.J., p. 8; quoted from: Obst loc. cit. p. 100
50) – 59)
49) Stap. Walter Schmidt, letter in response to the death of J.G. Bischoff, 07.07.1960, quoted from: Detlef Streich, Constructive Characteristics of the New Apostolic Church, Updated Version, Goeppingen, May 2006, p. 2350) Stap. Richard Fehr, divine service, Nuertingen, 10.12.1995, quoted from: Erwin-Meier-Widmer, Letter to the Chief Apostle, Schaffhausen, 4.9.1996
51) Stap. Richard Fehr, church service, Krefeld, 06. 04. 1997, Our Family, 20.07.1997, quoted from: Detlef Streich, Constructive Characteristics of the New Apostolic Church, Updated Version, Göppingen, May 2006, p. 27.
52) Stap. Wilhelm Leber, ideaSpektrum No. 25/2006, Interview with the Chief Apostle – “We can learn a lot from other churches”, Wetzlar, 21 June 2006, p. 15
53) Gerlinde Bodtke, Reader Commentary on ,Hamburg-Blankenese: The Letter to Chief Apostle Leber, 2004.2007, see at www.mediasinres.net,
54) Johannes Albrecht Schröter, The Catholic Apostolic congregations and the “Geyer case”, Tectum Verlag, Marburg, 1998, p. 236ff.
55) Luise Kraft, Unter Aposteln und Propheten, Marburg, 1930, Epilogue, p. 96.
56) K.W. Mütschele, Letter to Apostle Carl Brückner, November 3, 1919, quoted from: Obst loc. cit. p. 141
58) Apostles’ Quorum of the New Apostolic Church, Questions and Answers about the New Apostolic Faith – Question 175, Verlag Friedrich Bischoff, Frankfurt a.M., 1938
59) New Apostolic Church International Apostle Union, Questions and Answers about the New Apostolic Faith – Question 225, Frankfurt a.M., Verlag Friedrich Bischoff GmbH, 1981, p. 81
60) – 69)
60) Dr. Max Heimbucher, Methodists, Adventists and New Apostolic Church (New Irvingians), Verlagsanstalt vorm. G. J. Manz Regensburg, 1916, p. 100
61) Heimbucher, op. cit. p. 100
62) Heimbucher, op. cit. p. 96
63) New Apostolic Church International, op. cit., Question 170, p. 79
64) Obst l. c., p. 104
65) Schwarz, Das Buch für unsere Zeit, 1872; quoted from: Letter from the Apostles, Bishops, and District Elders of the Apostolic District of Düsseldorf to Chief Apostle J. G. Bischoff, Düsseldorf, 6 January 1955, p.3.
66) Obst, op. cit. p. 9967) Witlof, Durch die Nacht zum Licht. Historical Contribution to the Reformation Movement within the Apostolic Churches, Dresden, 1921, p91; quoted from: Obst, op. cit. p99.
68) K.W. Mütschele, Letter to Apostle Carl Brückner, November 3, 1919, quoted from: Obst, op. cit. p. 141
69) Michael König and Jürgen Marschall, The New Apostolic Church in the N.S. Period and its Effects up to the Present, Feldafing, 1994)
70) Zeitschrift ,Unsere Familie’, article ganzer Einsatz!, 05.05.1941, quoted from: König u. Marschall, op. cit. p. 23
71) J.G. Bischoff, Gottesdienst, Giessen 1951; quoted from: Kurt Hutten, A Letter to the New Apostolic – The “Hour X” has come…, Quell-Verlag der Evangelischen Gesellschaft, Stuttgart, 1960, p. 1.
72) Guardian Voice, 15.4. 1955; quoted after: Obst, op. cit. p. 11173) Erwin Meier-Widmer, Analytical Expertise on the ‘Message of Chief Apostle J.G. Bischoff’ under Consideration of Aetiological Aspects, especially Medical, Schaffhausen, 30.03.1998