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New Apostolic Church


Created in 1863 as the result of a schism within the catholic apostolic church. About four-fifths of its members lived in Germany, but there were also members in England, Canada, Switzerland, Holland, France, Australia, South Africa, the U. S., and South America.

Some members of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North Germany began to be concerned about the survival of the church when six of its 12 apostles had died by 1860. They rallied around Heinrich Geyer, who believed that the deceased apostles should be replaced by new ones; when he began to choose such successors, he was excommunicated by the parent body. The dissenters organized the Universal Christian Apostolic Mission whose name was changed to the New Apostolic Church in 1906. The leading role in the new sect was soon filled by F. W. Schwartz, who supplanted Geyer as head of the organization in 1878. Influenced by the calvinism of the Dutch Reformed Church, Schwartz reversed the Catholic tendencies of the original Catholic Apostolic Church. His successor, Fritz Krebs, appointed himself chief apostle (Stamm-apostel ) and reduced the authority of the other apostles. He chose his own successor, Hermann Niehaus, who served as chief apostle for 25 years after Kreb's death in 1905. The sect sent missionaries throughout the world and reported 300,000 members by 1932. The number of apostles was increased beyond 12 so that there would be one apostle for each administrative area. J. G. Bischoff became chief apostle after the death of Niehaus, and despite some schisms, the New Apostolic Church almost doubled its membership during his administration. He died in 1960 and immediately after his death 27 apostles elected Walter Schmidt chief apostle.

The New Apostolic local congregations are tightly organized through a hierarchy headed by the chief apostle. In addition there are apostles, bishops, district elders, and local pastors and evangelists. As in Mormonism, the New Apostolic Church allows the reception of baptism, communion, and sealing by proxy for the dead. Only an apostle can confer the sacrament of "sealing," which is known also as the baptism of fire. Those who are sealed can share in the first resurrection and participate in the rule by Christ during the millennium. Worship services in the New Apostolic Church are austere and resemble the Calvinist order of worship. Almost all traces of the Catholic liturgical emphasis of the parent body have disappeared. The church is adventist, authoritarian, and aggressively mission-minded. A schism by 11 apostles in 1956 claimed 50,000 adherents. These dissenters reject baptism for the dead and have tried to restore a more Catholic liturgy. There are several smaller dissenting groups, such as the Apostolate of Jesus Christ and the Dutch Apostolisch Genootschap.

Bibliography: k. algermissen, Christian Sects, tr. j. r. foster (New York 1962) 2534.

[w. j. whalen/eds.]

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