11. From the history of Christianity
The first Christian congregation came into being on Pentecost (cf. Acts 2: 37 et seq.). This congregation consisted only of Jews. Owing to the persecutions that followed, many of the believers fled from Jerusalem (cf. Acts 8: 1; 11: 19). In their new surroundings they continued to preach the gospel, which also met with faith there. So it was that Christian congregations began to form in other places.
The Apostles at first worked under the assumption that the gospel was only to be preached to the Jews. In a vision, however, God made it clear to Apostle Peter that the gospel is also intended for the Gentiles (cf. Acts 10 and 11).
At the Apostles’ council in Jerusalem, questions concerning the mission to the Gentiles and the significance of the Mosaic Law for baptised Gentiles were clarified (cf. Acts 15: 1-29). These decisions were contributing factors in helping the Christian congregations to eventually shed many traditions of the Jewish faith.
In special cases, God uses a “vision” to reveal His will to human beings whom He chooses for this purpose.
Apostle Paul primarily proclaimed the gospel to the Gentiles. To this end he travelled, at times together with Apostle Barnabas, to present-day Turkey, as well as Greece, Cyprus, and finally even to Italy.
The followers of Jesus were first referred to as Christians in Antioch (cf. Acts 11: 26).
The Apostles were likely active until the end of the first century AD. John is thought to be the last Apostle of the early church. After this began the period in which the Apostle ministry was no longer personally occupied, even though it did not cease to exist. It was not until the nineteenth century that the Apostle ministry came to be personally occupied again.
The Holy Spirit ensured that the binding collection of writings from the Old and New Testaments (canon) could come into being.
Through the activity of the Holy Spirit, important fundamentals of Christian doctrine were formulated in large church assemblies (ecumenical councils). These include, for example, the doctrine that God is triune, that Jesus Christ is both true Man and true God, and the recognition of the decisive significance that the sacrifice of Jesus and His resurrection hold for the salvation and redemption of mankind. It can also be attributed to the activity of the Holy Spirit over the centuries that the Christian faith was able to spread around the world.
Salvation was primarily imparted in that the gospel was proclaimed and Holy Baptism with water was dispensed.
What had begun with the stoning of Deacon Stephen grew into waves of persecutions: many Christians were killed for their faith and thereby became martyrs.
Despite these persecutions and many obstacles, the Christian faith spread throughout the entire Roman Empire.
The original teaching of the Apostles was handed down and further developed by the “Apostolic Fathers”. These were church teachers of great influence. Their ranks included the likes of Clement of Rome (died around AD 100), Ignatius of Antioch (died around AD 115), Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (born around AD 69, died around AD 155), and Papias of Hierapolis (born around AD 70, died around AD 130/140). It was their endeavour to defend the Christian faith against both Gentiles and Jews, and to protect the fundamentals of the Christian doctrine.
One of the defining personages for the church was Athanasius the Great (around AD 295 to AD 373), under whose influence the Nicene Creed was formulated in the year AD 325.
“Church Fathers” were scholars who formulated the fundamental truths of Christianity after the time of the “Apostolic Fathers”. Their ranks include such men as Ambrose of Milan (339 to 397), Hieronymus (347 to 420), and Augustine of Hippo (354 to 430).
After some difficult times of persecution, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great proclaimed religious freedom for the Christians in the year 313.
In the year 381, Emperor Theodosius elevated Christianity in the Roman Empire to the status of state religion. He forbade the worship of pagan gods.
“Religious freedom” refers to a condition in which people are free to profess and practise the religion and worldview of their choice.
During the great Migration Period (in the fourth and fifth centuries) Christianity gained in strength in both Europe and Asia.
Monasticism, which first came into being in Egypt in the third century, played a special role in the spread of Christianity. One of the principle duties of the monks was to live a life of poverty in accordance with the example of Christ, and to spread the Christian faith. In the Middle Ages, monks and nuns accomplished outstanding achievements in science, and were also involved in agriculture and social issues. Increasingly, Christianity came to define the lives of the people, as well as the culture, politics, and society of Europe.
In the year 1054, tensions led to a split between the Western Church (Roman Catholic) and the Eastern Church (Orthodox).
Monasticism is a lifestyle in which people endeavour to dedicate their entire lives to their religion in isolation from all things secular. Both men and women (nuns) engaged in this “monastic” lifestyle.
Starting in the seventh century, Christians in parts of Asia, Africa, and even Europe had to contend with a new religion, namely Islam. Many areas were lost to the Christian faith, for example the Middle East and Northern Africa.
This led to battles, for example, the Crusades. These took place between 1095 and 1270 in the Middle East with the stated objective of conquering Jerusalem and the Holy Land for Christendom.
Islam is the youngest of the major world religions. It was established by Mohammed in the seventh century AD. Islam teaches belief in one God, but not in a triune God. In Islamic teaching, Jesus is considered a prophet. The holy book of Islam is the Koran.
Crusades: Palestine, and with it Jerusalem, were under Islamic rule. Between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, successive popes called upon the rulers of Europe to bring this region back under Christian control. These military campaigns were called “Crusades” and its soldiers were known as “Crusaders” because they went to battle in the name of Christ and for His glory.
Over the course of the Middle Ages, the church became more and more secular— faith and doctrine lost more and more of their value. This can be attributed to a lack of orientation from the gospel.
It was for this reason that an increasing number of efforts were made to reform the church. On the one hand, there were endeavours to reform the church within monasticism, and on the other hand, others like the Frenchman Peter Waldo (1140, died before 1218), the English theologian John Wycliffe (1320- 1384), and the rector of the University of Prague, John Hus (1369-1384), began to make efforts of their own. All of them were consistent critics of the secularised church. The movements initiated and supported by them affected large parts of Europe, and eventually led to the Reformation.
The Reformation (from the Latin reformatio, meaning “restoration” or “renewal”) was a religious renewal movement in Europe, which was based on the desire to return to the gospel.
It is closely associated with the German monk Martin Luther (1483-1546). According to his conviction, the sole basis of the doctrine was to be the biblical testimony of Jesus Christ. Luther translated the Bible from the Hebrew and Greek languages into German, and thus made it accessible to the people.
The Anglican state church came into being independently in the year 1534.
In addition to Martin Luther from Wittenberg, this group included the Reformer Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531), who was active in Zurich, and John Calvin (1509-1564), who ushered in an independent Reformation movement in Geneva.
As a response to the Reformation, the Council of Trent (which began in 1545) ushered in a renewal of the Church and prepared the ground for the Counter-Reformation, which in turn reinforced the power of the papacy.
The term ‘Counter-Reformation’ denotes the response of the Roman Catholic Church to the Reformation.
In the course of the conflicts between Protestants and Catholics the Thirty Years’ War broke out (1618-1648), which ultimately served to strengthen the influence of the state on the church. Thereafter, the sovereign determined the religious affiliation of his subjects.
The followers of the Reformation were known as “Protestants”.
In the eighteenth century, the Christian faith often came to be associated with a school of thought that regarded human reason as the sole measure of all things (“The Enlightenment”). As a reaction to this, Pietism, a movement within the Reformed Church, began to grow in power and influence. Identifying features of the Pietists included intensive Bible study, social commitment, and missionary activity.
In the nineteenth century, increasing efforts were made in order to win back those who had, through poverty and ignorance, grown alienated from the faith, for the gospel (“Inner or Home Mission”). Beyond that, “missionary societies” were established in order to see to the spread of Christianity in countries outside of Europe, particularly in Africa.
The so-called “revivalist movements”— which became especially popular among Protestants in England and the USA—were also of great significance: believing Christians appealed for people to turn away from “cultural Christianity” and return to a living Christian faith. This call for reflection on the gospel was often associated with the hope in the return of Christ.
This is the historical context in which God prepared for the renewed activity of Apostles.
Between 1826 and 1829, believing men gathered for conferences in Albury (Southern England), in order to study the Revelation of Jesus Christ together. These conferences took place at the invitation of the banker Henry Drummond (1786-1860) in close collaboration with Edward Irving (1792-1834),
who was a clergyman of the Scottish National Church. The participants of these conferences wanted to gain clarity on the biblical statements concerning the activity of the Holy Spirit and the return of Christ.
Believers of various denominations in Scotland were also waiting for an increased activity of the Holy Spirit. In 1830, manifestations of healing, glossolalia (speaking in unknown tongues), and prophecy occurred in their circle, and were widely noticed.
In the autumn of 1832, John Bate Cardale (1802-1877) was called by the Holy Spirit to be an Apostle and was designated as an Apostle by Henry Drummond.
Starting in September 1833, another eleven Apostles were called by prophecy— especially through the Prophet Oliver Taplin (1800-1862).
In 1835, the Apostles withdrew to Albury for a year of intensive deliberations together. They developed the “Great Testimony” (1837), a confessional text that was made available to all spiritual and secular leaders of Christendom.
In this document the Apostles called upon Christians to gather under their leadership and thereby prepare themselves for the return of Christ. They were thus not interested in establishing a new church, but rather in bringing the various existing churches together under the leadership of Apostles.
The majority of Christians did not accept the call of the Apostles, however. The few Christians that did believe the Apostles banded together in a new church, namely the Catholic Apostolic Church.
The first sealings—at the time, this act was known as the “apostolic laying on of hands”—took place in 1847 in England, Canada, and Germany.
In the year 1855, three of the Apostles died. Through the prophets Edward Oliver Taplin and Heinrich Geyer (1818- 1896), successors in the Apostle ministry were called. These callings were not accepted by the remaining Apostles, however. No further Apostles were ordained.
Ultimately, the result of this point of view was that there were no more Apostles in the Catholic Apostolic Church after the death of the last living Apostle Francis V. Woodhouse in the year 1901. No further ministers were ordained either.
On 10 October 1862, Priest Rudolf Rososchacky (1815-1894), the rector of the Catholic Apostolic congregation in Königsberg, was called to be an Apostle by Prophet Geyer. The Apostles of the Catholic Apostolic Church did not acknowledge this calling.
Prophet Geyer and the leader of the Catholic Apostolic congregation in Hamburg, Friedrich Wilhelm Schwartz (1815-1895) were, however, convinced that this calling had been the work of the Holy Spirit.
The congregation in Hamburg thus acknowledged the calling of this Apostle on 4 January 1863, and was excommunicated from the Catholic Apostolic Church as a result.
Thus the beginning of the New Apostolic Church dates back to January 1863. Even after Apostle Rososchacky resigned from his ministry a short time later, Geyer, Schwarz, and the Hamburg congregation remained firmly convinced that his calling had been a divine one.
Priest Carl Wilhelm Louis Preuß (1827- 1878), and a little later on, Friedrich Wilhelm Schwartz were called as Apostles. Apostle Preuß worked in Northern Germany while Apostle Schwartz took on the Netherlands as his working area. Other Apostles were called soon after. The newly established community called itself the Allgemeine Christliche apostolische Mission (“General Christian Apostolic Mission”).
In the year 1872, Friedrich Wilhelm Menkhoff (1826-1895) was called as an Apostle for Westphalia and the Rhineland. Carl Wilhelm Louis Preuß Friedrich Wilhelm Schwartz Friedrich Wilhelm Menkhoff In 1884, Apostle Menkhoff established the Church magazine Der Herold (“The Herald”) in Germany. Under his influence, Apostle Schwartz—beginning in his working area—did away with the liturgical vestments and many other elements of liturgy that had been assumed from the Catholic Apostolic Church. In the year 1885, these changes were then implemented in all other congregations as well.
The term ‘liturgy’ is used to describe the way in which the sequence of the divine service is defined.
In order to distinguish itself from the Catholic Apostolic congregations, the congregations that came into being after 1863 soon began calling themselves “New Apostolic congregations” in written correspondence. In 1907, the group officially adopted the name “New Apostolic Congregation”, and as of approximately 1930, began calling itself the “New Apostolic Church”.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the Apostle ministry, with its extensive authority, began to emerge as the central ministry in the Church. At the same time, the significance of the prophet ministry began to decline. As of the end of the 1920s there were no more prophets active in the congregations.
In 1881, Friedrich Krebs (1832-1905) from Braunschweig, Germany was called as an Apostle. After the death of Apostles Schwartz and Menkhoff, he assumed the leading function in the Church. The unity among the Apostles was a great concern to him. As of 1897, the Chief Apostle ministry began to emerge. Friedrich Krebs was the first Chief Apostle in the present-day sense.
- Hermann Niehaus (1848-1932, Chief Apostle from 1905-1930),
- Johann Gottfried Bischoff (1871-1960, Chief Apostle from 1930-1960),
- Walter Schmidt (1891-1981, Chief Apostle from 1960-1975),
- Ernst Streckeisen (1905-1978, Chief Apostle from 1975-1978),
- Hans Urwyler (1925-1994, Chief Apostle from 1978-1988),
- Richard Fehr (1939-2013, Chief Apostle from 1988-2005),
- Wilhelm Leber (born 1947, Chief Apostle from 2005-2013),
- Jean-Luc Schneider (born 1959, Chief Apostle as of 2013).