Catholic Apostolic Church
CATHOLIC APOSTOLIC CHURCH
Originated when a group of Christians in England in the early 19th century concluded that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (see parousia) would be preceded by a restoration of the original college of 12 Apostles. They belonged to a prayer circle that, beginning in 1826, met once a year at the country estate of Henry Drummond, a devout and wealthy London banker. The rationalism of the age and the spiritual lethargy of the established church led them to pray for a revival of the gifts of the apostolic church. These Christians came under the influence of Edward irving (1792–1834), pastor of a Presbyterian church in London, who had joined the Drummond group. Because of Irving's leading role in the movement, the members of the Catholic Apostolic Church were often called "Irvingites." Irving became convinced that Christ would return in 1864, in preparation for which there should be a revival of the offices of the early Church— apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, to which angels (bishops) and deacons were added later. He himself was removed from his pastorate by the Church of Scotland in 1832 because he encouraged speaking in tongues in his congregation. The first apostle of the Catholic Apostolic Church was appointed in 1832 and the second in 1833. Before his early death, Irving was made an angel, or bishop, but not an apostle. The organization of the new church was completed in 1835, when the other apostles were selected and held their first council in London. These 12 men spent a year in prayer and then left England for their missionary assignments around the world. In general their evangelistic labors were fruitless, but they did win some followers in Germany; a Catholic Apostolic Church was opened in Berlin in 1848. A schism in North Germany in 1863 led to the formation of the new apostolic church.
As a revival movement with a strong millennialist focus, it had much success in the late 19th century. But when the last of the apostles died in 1903, and the Second Coming was not imminent, the movement underwent a gradual decline. Over time, the movement shed its millennialism, and drew closer to Roman Catholic and Orthodox doctrinal and liturgical practices. Its liturgy developed along Catholic lines and emphasized the sacrificial character of the Eucharist. Its priests wore vestments, and soon veneration of the Mother of God, anointing of the sick, and the use of a tabernacle, sanctuary lamp, and holy water were introduced. Its doctrine was based on the nicene, Apostles, and athanasian creeds (see creed).
With the loss of their distinctive brand of millennialism, the raison d'être for the movement's existence was called into question. Many of their members joined the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, while those who remained splintered into competing sects.
Bibliography: p. e. shaw, The Catholic Apostolic Church (New York 1946). k. w. stevenson, "The Catholic Apostolic Church: Its History and Its Eucharist," Studia Liturgica 13 (1979) 21–45. s. gilley, "Edward Irving: Prophet of the Millennium," in Revival and Religion Since 1700 (London 1993) 95–110.
[w. j. whalen/eds.]
Catholic Apostolic Church