This very interesting letter provides information about the forgeries and distortions within New Apostolic literature and, along with it, in the doctrine of the NAC. It is not the letter writer’s intention to proclaim a scandal, but his letter is his testimony about his leaving the New Apostolic Church, he is no longer New Apostolic.
Letter to the District Apostle
Dear Brother Ehlebracht,
I’d like to inform you that my daughter and I..,
Andreas M., born 31.02.1960
Claudia M., née 31.11.1985
hereby resign from the New Apostolic Church (NAC), which we have already done by court order.
I would like to briefly explain the most important reasons, already with regard to the office bearers assigned to me in my (former) congregation, who will receive a copy of this letter for their information and to whom this step may at first seem incomprehensible. In addition, this relatively long letter should take into account the fact that I am able to express myself better in writing than I would be able to do in a “clarification talk”.
It’s not about scandals
I am not concerned with scandals, for scandals can be found everywhere and in every denomination, if one only looks closely enough, for much has been sinned in all denominations, and the church visible on earth is certainly not living up to its heavenly calling in many respects. Some nowadays resign more out of sheer indignation at the misconduct of individual ‘blessing bearers’ or because of some grievances in general.
I want my resignation to be understood as a step in faith that God and my convictions lead me to take.
I am concerned with unbiblical viewpoints and with such a glaring discrepancy between the beliefs of the Catholic Apostolic congregations (‘English Apostles’) and the doctrine of the New Apostolic Church that it is fair to say that apart from a historical connection (the secession of 1863) there is no longer any fundamental common ground, even though various reports in the magazine ‘Our Family’ attempt to construct a spiritual kinship in retrospect.
Church concept and water baptism
I would like to illustrate this on the basis of two points, namely the concept of the church and the nature of water baptism, which in my opinion exposes the basic evils in the New Apostolic Church and at the same time clarifies its sectarian character in contrast to the ecumenical movement of the Catholic Apostolic congregations:
In the original edition of the ‘Testimonium’, the ‘Testimony of the Apostles to the Spiritual and Secular Heads of Christendom’ of 1836, it says right at the beginning in the second sentence:
“The Church of Christ is the community of all, without distinction of time or country, who have been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and set apart from all other men by their baptism.”
Forgeries of the testimony
In the forgery of the above-mentioned testimony published in 1932 by the Apostles’ Quorum of the New Apostolic congregations, which I have in the original edition of 1932 (I deliberately say ‘forgery’ here, since not only were essential parts omitted, but completely different passages were also inserted without marking this accordingly – a scandal that also went through the specialist theological press; cf. Materialdienst des EZW – Evangelische Zentralstelle für Weltanschauungsfragen 09/1990, p. 261 ff.) it says at the same place:
“The church of Christ is the fellowship of all, without distinction of time or country, who are baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and are set apart from all other men by their baptism of water and of the Spirit.”
So here the New Apostolic doctrine of the baptism of the Spirit (‘sealing’) by ‘living apostles’ is made an additional condition for belonging to the Church of Christ.
This understanding of ‘church’ was then consistently codified in question 167 of the currently valid NAC catechism:
„167. Who is the New Apostolic Church?
The New Apostolic Church is the Church of Jesus Christ …”
(Questions and Answers about the New Apostolic Faith, p. 77)
Presumption of the New Apostolic Church
It follows that New Apostolic Christians alone belong to the Church of Christ. What presumption – Paul was a Jew who followed Christ, there is nothing in the Scriptures about New Apostolic. It further follows that all Christians who were baptized between the passing away of the first apostles and the ‘apostolate of the Last Days’ (= approx. 1800 years), as well as the billions of Christians who live on earth today, do not belong to the Church of Christ from the New Apostolic point of view – and are thus basically not much different from Gentiles.
Such a thing would have been unthinkable in the Catholic Apostolic congregations. This is what the 1914 Catechism of Catholic Apostolic congregations says in Question No. 32:
„32. Question: You said you believe in the ‘holy catholic church’ What is the church now?
Answer: The church is the assembly of all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and are baptized according to his commandment. It is the household of God, the body of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit.”
To speak in the imagery of the Apostle Paul, who compares the Church to the human body, where Christ (and no other human being) is the head and ‘we the members’, it could be said that the New Apostolic Church regards itself as a hand that has cut itself off from the body and declares itself to be very much alive, while it considers the rest of the body to be dead and decaying (although by nature the opposite statement would be more accurate).
Baptism is clearly water baptism
In the above extract from the Catholic Apostolic Catechism, ‘baptism’ clearly refers to water baptism, which according to the Catholic Apostolic view already represents a ‘dying in Christ’ as well as a ‘being born anew’ – thus the childship to God that is much quoted in New Apostolic circles. Thus the English Apostle Cardale distinguishes the gift of the Holy Spirit – imparted by the Apostolic laying on of hands (‘sealing’) – which in the Catholic Apostolic congregations was performed on the baptized from the age of 20 – from water baptism, which represents the ONE new birth and which thus makes all Christians brothers and sisters in Christ:
John Bate Cardale For Christening
“So there is a gift of the Holy Spirit that must be distinguished from baptism with water. Nevertheless, the gift of the Holy Spirit in the new birth must not be separated from baptism with water – the life-creating, re-birthing power whereby Christ, the life-giving Spirit, gives life through the Holy Spirit to all whom the Father gives Him.
This second birth, which is necessary for all to enter the kingdom of God, is a birth of water and the Spirit. There cannot, as has been said, be two new births, and the one birth of water and the Spirit cannot be received in any other way than through baptism with water, which the apostles are commanded by the Lord to administer to all disciples. … Now if the repentant and the believer has received the second birth in baptism by the action of the Holy Spirit, he is thenceforth a legitimate candidate and expectant heir of the kingdom of God. Now he may justly expect the further promise, namely, that gift of the Holy Ghost which is the pledge of the inheritance and the firstfruits of the kingdom.”John Bate Cardale: Lectures on the Liturgy and the Other Services of the Church. Holy Baptism according to Scripture and Tradition, Basel, 1879, p. 69.
On page 70 of this excellent 143-page work on baptism, Cardale again states clearly with reference to Acts 8:
“From this we clearly perceive, that although in baptism believers are born again of water and the Spirit, yet according to the order, after baptism, and by the laying on of the hands of the apostles, that gift of the Holy Ghost is given, of which it is emphatically said: The Holy Ghost fell upon the believers, and they received the Holy Ghost.”
Baptism only part of the rebirth?
In contrast to this, the New Apostolic Catechism, in Question No. 195, describes water baptism as only one component of regeneration, and thus declares all Christians who have not received the New Apostolic sealing to be spiritually stillborn – there can hardly be a more sectarian view.
This became so very clear to me when both my church superintendent and the ‘apostle’ in charge of this district wanted to refuse to allow my Roman Catholic wife, who had agreed to baptize our daughter in the NAC, to carry our daughter forward in her arms for baptism, “since she was not New Apostolic.” The New Apostolic husband (who, however, did not carry the child under his heart for 9 months) was to provide this.
Here I can only quote Ludwig Albrecht, a servant of the Catholic Apostolic congregations, who writes concerning the credentials of apostles:
“In like manner the apostles are not to divide, but to unite; not to rend, but to build. They do not detach from the church those whom they receive as messengers of God, and desire the blessings of their ministry; they rather restore the unity of the church, they urge Christians to put away all names of division and disunity, and to remember the one brotherly covenant into which we are received by baptism; they teach by word and deed to acknowledge with thanksgiving to God all good that still exists where it is found in the Church, to lay aside all pharisaical and sectarian sentiments, and to hold fast unity in the Spirit by the bond of peace with all the baptized.“Ludwig Albrecht: Treatises on the Church, especially its Offices and Divine Services, Bremen, 1896, p. 69
Only evasive and polemical answers
The usual accusations against the NAC, some of which are justified, though some of them are somewhat exaggerated, as they are currently mentioned in the mass media, and the Chief Apostle Fehr could only give evasive, or more precisely polemical answers (psychological pressure, generation of unconscious fears and compulsions, social isolation, surveillance and spying as well as massive influence on the private lives of the members, NSDAP membership of leading District Apostles as early as 1933, massive support of the Nazi regime, targeted manipulation of children, no disclosure of finances, hardly any social commitment), I do not wish to go into detail here, as in my opinion they are rather a consequence of the above-mentioned basic evils.
Rather, the claim of wanting to be an apostle of Jesus Christ forces me to stop being simply a critical and suffering member. My above remarks on ‘church’ and ‘baptism’ are not petty paragraphery with soulless catechisms, but I must therefore conclude that the ‘apostles’ of the NAC, and also the ‘apostles’ who work in the numerous splits from the NAC (here the same above-mentioned basic evils continue under somewhat different framework conditions), are fatally ignorant of the initial foundations of Christian doctrine. And on what is faith to rest (faith in the Lord and the Head of the Church: Jesus Christ – and not faith in men), if cracks are already showing in the foundation?
Dropouts go extreme ways
It is therefore also not surprising if many dropouts from the NAC do not find their way to the (more and more ecumenically minded) mainstream churches and lose themselves in atheism and materialism or rejoin another extreme sect, since they have only come to know a faith in people, who are supposed to act as ‘channels of blessing’ between God and the believers – combined with a homely family feeling conveyed by a numerically relatively small group who call themselves the ‘elect’, and who set themselves apart from other small flocks as THE small flock. In addition there are fears of contact with other Christians, whom before one had rather smiled at with pity.
Declaration of allegiance to the Chief Apostle
It is precisely the New Apostolic Apostles themselves who bear witness to a faith in man, in which they have to sign a declaration of allegiance to the ‘Chief Apostle’ (‘the visible head of the Church of Jesus Christ’ according to question no. 177 of the NAC Catechism) before they are ordained as ‘Apostles’, something that an Apostle with a personal and direct mission from Jesus Christ would never do, nor could he:
Article 4.2 “Before being ordained in a divine service, newly ordained Apostles are to make a solemn commitment to the Chief Apostle or his representative by making the following vow: ‘Before God, the Almighty and Omniscient, I vow to follow the Chief Apostle in obedience of faith …'”Statutes of the New Apostolic Church International in the version of 1 June 1990, p. 7
Here again I can only quote Ludwig Albrecht (see above):
“It is absolutely necessary that an apostle has received a direct mission through Jesus Christ and God the Father. … As direct messengers of the Lord they are not accountable to any man, but only to Christ, the head of the church (1. Cor. 4, 3-4)”.Ludwig Albrecht: Abhandlungen …, op. cit., pp. 61, 62
No personal accusation
I hope that I have thus conveyed to you and your fellow ministers the broad outlines of my position, so that you can understand my resignation. I would like to emphasize once again that this is not meant to be a personal accusation and that I cannot make any serious accusations against the ministers of my (former) congregation in particular, apart from the above-mentioned incident with the baptism, but this is – as I said – systemic. Many work with full and honest commitment in the NAC and only a few act against their better knowledge or even with bad intentions. I have met many people in the NAC and also in splits from it who live ‘their faith’ with remarkable consistency, whatever kind of faith that may be. Cordiality and humanity of the individual as well as a certain natural piety are, thank God, not privileges of especially ‘enlightened’ or especially striving people, but a gift of God that can still be found everywhere.
I apologize for the relatively sharp style of this letter on the grounds that a precise factual discussion and an unambiguous statement also require clear words.
Regarding the differences between ‘Catholic Apostolic’ and ‘New Apostolic’ that I have often mentioned, you will find enclosed an excerpt from the dissertation by Albrecht Weber: ‘Die katholisch-apostolischen Gemeinden. A contribution to the study of their charismatic experience and theology’, 1977.
With kind regards
Your brother in Christ
*The names and places have been changed!
We recommend the translation of the Bible by Franz Eugen Schlachter in the 2000 version