Apostolic Church (denomination)

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Apostolic Church
Apostolic Church Logo.JPG
Logo of the Apostolic Church (in the UK)
PolityApostolic (Mixed Presbyterian and Episcopal polity)
Region100 countries
FounderDaniel Powell Williams
Origin1911 (church began)
1916 (separation from AFC)
Pen-y-groes and Ammanford, Wales
Members15,000,000 (2014)

The Apostolic Church is a Christian denomination and Pentecostal movement that emerged from the Welsh Revival of 1904–1905. Although the movement began in the United Kingdom, the largest national Apostolic Church is now the Apostolic Church Nigeria. The term "Apostolic" refers to the role of apostles in the denomination's church government, as well as a desire to emulate 1st century Christianity in its faith, practices, and government.[1]


The Apostolic Temple, Pen-y-groes
The former Apostolic Church International Bible School, Pen-y-groes

The origins of the Apostolic Church lay in Christians who had come into the faith during the Welsh Revival of 1904–1905, but considered existing church congregations unwelcoming and sought other church communities instead. Daniel Powell Williams, a lay preacher among the Welsh-speaking Independents (Congregationalists), joined with one of these groups in his home village of Pen-y-groes, Carmarthenshire, after he became convinced of the need for believer's baptism by immersion. Eventually Williams came to be recognised as the leader of the group and was called to the pastorate through prophecy. This led to a division between those who accepted the ordination of a pastor and those who did not.[citation needed]

The earliest historians of the Apostolic Church date its beginnings as a distinctive church to 1911, when three groups of people in three locations in the village of Pen-y-groes received the Pentecostal baptism in the Holy Spirit.[2] This led to the beginnings of both the Pen-y-groes assembly of the Apostolic Church and the later commencement of the worldwide movement.

For a period the Welsh churches were associated with William Oliver Hutchinson and the Apostolic Faith Church in Bournemouth, England.[3] However, on 8 January 1916 Daniel Powell Williams and most of the Welsh assemblies separated from Hutchinson and the Apostolic Faith Church over doctrinal matters, and established the Apostolic Church in Wales (ACW).[4][5] After 1916 the two groups had no further contact and developed along different doctrinal paths.[clarification needed] Hutchinson had begun to claim all authority as "Chief Apostle", a claim that Williams and the Welsh churches could not accept, seeing his claims to infallibility as contrary to both the Protestant principle of sola scriptura and collegial church government. The Apostolic Church was very careful to adopt a system of presbyteries to govern the church collegially.[6] While ministers were ordained as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors/elders or teachers all were involved in prayer and deliberation together in presbyteries at local, sectional and national levels. (The names of these governing bodies eventually became distinct. The presbytery of the local church retained the name "presbytery", while the regional body became known as the classis, and later the Area Pastors' Meeting and the national governing body adopted the name of General Council.) Church government was not reserved to the apostles alone, as they were regarded as first among equals (primus inter pares) among the other ministers, requiring a collegial government.[7]

In 1917 a second group, centred on Birmingham, affiliated to the ACW. The following year the Burning Bush Pentecostal Congregation in Glasgow[4] came into cooperation with the ACW, but remained independent. In the same year a group using the name "Apostolic Church" in Hereford also came into cooperation with the ACW.[4]

In 1920 Ben Fisher, who was the leader of an independent Pentecostal congregation in Belfast, Northern Ireland, invited Williams to minister in his church. The group then affiliated to the ACW, becoming its first mission field.

Herbert Victor Chanter was the leader of the Apostolic Church of God (ACG), a large group of Pentecostal congregations headquartered in Bradford. During 1921 Chanter attended the Christmas convention of the ACW in Pen-y-groes. Aprophetic word[clarification needed] given in Bradford directed the leaders to invite the Welsh leaders to join them for a meeting. They met in 1922 and another wider meeting was arranged for Easter. At the Easter convention leaders from most of the ACW congregations and those affiliated with them met in Bradford. This Easter meeting brought the Apostolic Church in Wales, the Scottish churches, the Apostolic Church in Hereford and the Bradford-based Apostolic Church of God together as a single church. A prophetic word[clarification needed] directed them to form an administrative union: Pen-y-groes was to be the administrative centre, Glasgow the financial centre and Bradford the missionary centre.

In 2016 the denomination had 15 million members in approximately 100 countries.[8]


The Apostolic Church views the Scriptures as the supreme authority and understands them to be the inerrant Word of God. The soteriology of the Apostolic Church is neither uniformly Reformed nor Arminian. Emphasis is placed on the penal substitutionary atonement and the Reformation understanding of justification by grace alone. The Church has taught both unconditional election and the possibility of grace, suggesting a position closer to that of Lutheran theology.

Ecclesiology has taken a prominent place in the theology of the movement. The Church is defined as the Body of Christ and the headship of Christ is given prominence. Christ is seen to express his headship through the ascension ministries (a reference to Ephesians 4:7-11)[clarification needed] of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.[9]

The beliefs of the Apostolic Church are summarized in its confession of faith, known as the Tenets, as follows:[10]

  1. The Unity of the Godhead and Trinity of the Persons therein.
  2. The utter depravity of human nature, the necessity for repentance and regeneration, and the eternal doom of the finally impenitent.
  3. The virgin birth, sinless life, atoning death, triumphant resurrection, ascension and abiding intercession of our Lord Jesus Christ; His second coming and Millennial Reign upon Earth.
  4. Justification and sanctification of the believer through the finished work of Christ.
  5. The baptism of the Holy Ghost for believers, with signs following.
  6. The nine gifts of the Holy Ghost for the edification, exhortation and comfort of the Church, which is the body of Christ.
  7. The sacraments of baptism by immersion and the Lord's Supper.
  8. The divine inspiration and authority of the Holy Scriptures.
  9. Church government by apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, elders and deacons.
  10. The possibility of falling from grace.
  11. The obligatory nature of tithes and offerings.

The Constitution of the Apostolic Church in the United Kingdom states that "These Tenets shall forever be the doctrinal standard of the Apostolic Church and shall not be subject to change in any way whatsoever."[10]

Annual international convention[edit]

For the first 100 years of the Apostolic Church's history an international convention took place each August. Until 2002 the convention was held every year in the village of Pen-y-groes, Carmarthenshire. It then moved to Swansea, where it was held from 2003 to 2011. During its time in Swansea the Apostolic Church International Convention was renamed AblazeUK. In 2012 the AblazeUK moved to Cheltenham. The final convention took place there in 2016, marking the centenary of the movement.


The Apostolic Church established its first theological college, the Apostolic Church International Bible School, in the village of Pen-y-groes in 1933.[11] Colleges and seminaries have also been established in eleven other countries.[12]


In the past the standard hymnal of the Apostolic Church was the Redemption Hymnal, which was produced by a joint committee from the Apostolic Church, the Elim Pentecostal Church, and the Assemblies of God in Great Britain and Ireland. Molwch Dduw was the hymnal used in Welsh-language Apostolic assemblies, and contained many hymns by D.P. Williams and other early Apostolic figures. Another hymnal, Hymns at the Holy Table, was produced by Ian MacPherson for use in the Apostolic Church and other British Pentecostal assemblies at the Breaking of Bread. Chorus books, such as Gospel Quintet Choruses, Gates of Praise and Glorious Vision Melodies, were also frequently published during the course of the 20th century.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Turnbull, Thomas Napier (1959). What God Hath Wrought: A Short History of the Apostolic Church. Bradford: The Puritan Press. p. 11.
  2. ^ Black, Jonathan (2020). The Theosis of the Body of Christ: From the Early British Apostolics to a Pentecostal Trinitarian Ecclesiology. Leiden: Brill. pp. 232–233. ISBN 978-90-04-41222-4.
  3. ^ Allan Anderson, An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity, Cambridge University Press, UK, 2013, p. 101
  4. ^ a b c Kay, William K. (2002). "Apostolic Church". In Stanley M. Burgess (ed.). The new international dictionary of Pentecostal and charismatic movements (Rev. and expanded ed.). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Pub. House. pp. 322–323. ISBN 0310224810.
  5. ^ William Kay, Anne Dyer, "European Pentecostalism", BRILL, Royaume-Uni, 2011, p. 44
  6. ^ Apostolic Church Presbytery Reports. Penygroes: The Apostolic Church. 1919.
  7. ^ Introducing the Apostolic Church: A Manual of Belief, Practice and History. Pen-y-groes: The Apostolic Church. 1988. p. 179.
  8. ^ Black, Jonathan (2020). The Theosis of the Body of Christ: From the Early British Apostolics to a Pentecostal Trinitarian Ecclesiology. Leiden: Brill. p. 6.
  9. ^ Black, Jonathan (2016). Apostolic Theology: A Trinitarian, Evangelical, Pentecostal Introduction to Christian Doctrine. Luton: The Apostolic Church UK.
  10. ^ a b Constitution of the Apostolic Church, p.8
  11. ^ Weeks, Gordon (2003). Chapter Thirty Two: Part of a History of the Apostolic Church 1900–2000. p. 140.
  12. ^ Weeks, Gordon (2003). Chapter Thirty Two: Part of a History of the Apostolic Church 1900–2000. p. 228.

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