The term "Chief Apostle" was first used officially to describe Jesus Christ in the New Covenant Scriptures, Book of Hebrews, Chapter 3, verse 1, where he is also called the High Priest. As far as the controversies regarding which of the remaining 11, then 12 and then more apostles after that which includes then Saul, later called Paul, Scripture itself does not say. It may very well have been that they continued to follow the Messiah as their head. Indeed that is what the Bible itself promotes.
The following are other views on chief apostles and the religions that therefore must flow out of those beliefs. One system in common use today is used by Messsianic apostles who believe James "the Just" was Chief Apostle, in Jerusalem, following Jesus (they use the Hebrew form of his name, Y'shua, in various spellings) return to his Father in Heaven. A similar system is used by Catholic churches worldwide, varying from Roman Catholics, to Anglican Catholics, to Coptic, Russian etc. Each with a differing view on who is, or was, a Chief Apostle originally, and sometimes, even now.
A similar view introduced by minister Friedrich Krebs and can be compared to the one Apostle Peter had 2,000 years ago amongst the original Apostles (He is seen as the first Chief Apostle in the early church). Before Krebs introduced it, the title was already used in the Catholic Apostolic Church, however with a completely different meaning (as the German word "Stamm" means "tribe" and was used to describe the working areas (=tribes) of the apostles).
Former Chief Apostles:
|Name||Birth-Death||Birthplace||Place of Death||Working Period|
|Friedrich Krebs||1832–1905||Elend (Harz) (Germany)||Braunschweig (Germany)||1895–1905|
|Hermann Niehaus||1848–1932||Steinhagen (Germany)||Quelle (Germany)||1905–1930|
|Johann Gottfried Bischoff||1871–1960||Unter-Mossau (Germany)||Karlsruhe (Germany)||1930–1960|
|Walter Schmidt||1891–1981||Neuemühle (Germany)||Dortmund (Germany)||1960–1975|
|Ernst Streckeisen||1905–1978||St. Gallen (Switzerland)||Cape Town (South Africa)||1975–1978|
|Hans Urwyler||1925–1994||Spiegel (Switzerland)||Bern (Switzerland)||1978–1988|
|Richard Fehr||1938–2013||Flaach (Switzerland)||--||1988–2005|
|Wilhelm Leber||1947–||Herford (Germany)||--||2005–2013|
|Jean-Luc Schneider||1959–||Strasbourg (France)||--||2013–|
The function of the Chief Apostle is to lead the New Apostolic Church. On questions about the faith of New Apostolic Church members, he has the highest authority. Together with the district apostles he determines the policy of the church.
The Chief Apostle can ordain new apostles or retire them.
One of the most interesting Chief Apostles was J.G. Bischoff: at Christmas in 1950 he declared his "Botschaft" ("message"). This teaching announced that he would not die before Jesus Christ's return, during which the chosen people will be taken into His kingdom (the First Resurrection). In 1954 this teaching became official dogma. Those ministers, especially the apostles, who did not preach this message lost their positions and were excommunicated from the New Apostolic Church. The most important "victim" of this policy was Peter Kuhlen, the ordained successor to J.G. Bischoff. When Chief Apostle Bischoff died in 1960, his dogma about Christ's return had not been fulfilled. In 2013, Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber made a statement in which the position of the Church is reviewed and provides that the "message" represented a personal position of Apostle Bischoff.
The various communities and congregations which evolved out of these conflicts in different countries (Australia, Europe, South-Africa) gathered in 1956 to form the United Apostolic Church.