Old Apostolic Church

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Old Apostolic Church Swellendam

The Old Apostolic Church is a Christian faith community with roots in historical events shared with the Catholic Apostolic Church and the New Apostolic Church.[1] The Old Apostolic Church is part of a branch of Christianity called Irvingism, and is separate from Protestantism. The church could be viewed as a form of Christian mysticism.

The Old Apostolic Church distinguishes itself by teaching and practicing the allegorical or spiritual teachings of Biblical scripture as it pertains to the heart, mind and soul of humanity. The church is also distinguished in its Christian doctrine by the firm belief and understanding that the Kingdom of God is accessible today, being symbolic of joy, peace and righteousness within the Holy Spirit as described in Romans 14:17.

The Old Apostolic Church also encourages the biblical gift of prophecy, referring to visions, dreams and verbal prophecy referred to throughout the scriptures.

The Old Apostolic Church holds its highest charge the responsibility of sharing God's compassion, love, and grace with all mankind.


The Old Apostolic Church's roots are found in the Catholic Apostolic Church, that was established in 1832 as an outflow of the Albury Movement.[2]

Scheme of several Apostolic churches inside and outside the Netherlands from 1830 until 2005. Click on the image to enlarge.

Founding of the Apostolic Church[edit]

After the death of three Catholic Apostolic apostles in 1855 the apostolate declared that there was no reason to call new apostles. Two callings of substitutes ("Jesus calleth thee Apostolic Messenger. He would use thee Coadjutor for him whom He hath gathered to Himself.") were explained by the apostolate in 1860 as Coadjutors to the remaining apostles. After this event another apostle was called in Germany in 1862 by the prophet Heinrich Geyer. The Apostles did not agree with this calling, and therefore the larger part of the Hamburg congregation who followed their Bishop F.W. Schwartz in this schism were excommunicated.[3] Out of this sprang the Allgemeine Christliche Apostolische Mission (ACAM) in 1863 and the Dutch branch of the Restored Apostolic Mission Church (at first known as Apostolische Zending, since 1893 officially registered as Hersteld Apostolische Zendingkerk (HAZK).

Establishment in Africa[edit]

In 1889 Evangelist Carl George Klibbe arrived in South Africa to begin mission work for the Apostolic Church. He was ordained Apostle in 1893 by Apostle H.F. Niemeyer of Australia with the mission from the Apostolate to establish an African branch of the church. At that time the office of Chief Apostle was not yet established and each Apostle functioned independently from one other.[4]

The church was officially registered in 1910 in terms of the Companies Act of the Transvaal (1909) as The New Apostolic Church (Africa), with Carl George Klibbe as Apostle and Leader, with ultimate authority of the church. The Chief Apostle of the New Apostolic Church was not recognized as having any authority over the African branch. Only close association with the German church was recognized without interference.[5]

The head office of the church was moved in 1910 from the farm iMvani in the Eastern Cape to Johannesburg.


In 1895, both of the longest serving apostles, F. W. Schwartz and F. W. Menkhoff, died. A day after Schwartz' death, Fritz Krebs declared himself as the chief apostle and Unity Father. Following his attempted takeover of the Dutch Church, Restored Apostolic Mission Church, the Dutch church declared independence from the German branch in 1897. This was followed by a breakaway by some German congregations under Elder Julius Fischer who formed the Apostelampt Juda.

In 1905, Krebs died and was succeeded by Herman Niehaus, whom he appointed. Niehaus immediately started to rid the German church of all opposing apostles and started to sideline the foreign apostles.

Due to the personality cult of Chief Apostle Hermann Niehaus, Apostle Niemeyer separated himself from the German branch of the church and founded The Apostolic Church of Queensland in 1912.

The South African branch also severed all contact with the German branch and was founded on the same principles as its counterpart the Apostolic Church of Queensland by Apostle Klibbe [6] The Old Apostolic Church gave the following reasons for seperation from the New Apostolic Church:

  • Niehaus' ban on prophetic gifts (visions, dreams and prophecies),
  • Niehaus' refusal to appoint Prophets,
  • establishment of the office of Chief Apostle,
  • personality cult that formed around the Chief Apostle, and
  • The rise of German nationalism within the German Church.

Niehaus tried to remove Klibbe from office and a counter-Apostle, Wilhelm Schlaphoff was appointed. In 1913 Niehaus informed Klibbe that he was excommunicated from the New Apostolic Church, although the South African branch was independent[7] and reaffirmed that independence with a change in the Acts of Association of the church in 1915.[8] For some time, there were two conflicting organisations in South Africa using the name New Apostolic Church; the registered church under the leadership of Klibbe (The New Apostolic Church) and a breakaway group under the counter-Apostle Schlaphoff (New Apostolic Church).[9]

Finally, in 1926, an agreement and settlement were reached between the two churches. The church that was established in 1892 and formally registered in 1910 [10] would change its name to The Old Apostolic Church, so that Schlaphoff could register the New Apostolic Church(Africa).[11][12] The name "Old Apostolic Church" was chosen due to Klibbe's dedication to the original doctrine[13]

Under Apostle Klibbe[edit]

In July 1926, Apostle Klibbe appointed a five-member committee to take charge of the affairs of the Church. These members were:

  • Priest CP Michael (Chairman) (later Organiser, and Evangelist)
  • Priest H Hippert (Vice Chairman)
  • Overseer W Campbell (later Apostle)
  • Priest NJ Mitchell (later Overseer)
  • Priest CFW Ninow (later Apostle)

The committee was assisted by Sister M Storbeck as Secretary. Priest and Sister Storbeck also took care of Apostle Klibbe during the last years of his life.

The name of the Church was officially changed to "The Old Apostolic Church of Africa" on 1 June 1927 as was stipulated by the Supreme Court Settlement.

On January 1928, Apostle Klibbe appointed the Chairman of the Council of the OAC, CP Michael as Organiser, making Michael the second highest authority in the Church. Michael also was the only person in the Church to have held that office. On 29 February 1928, Apostle Klibbe and Organiser Michael signed the new Constitution and By-Laws of the Old Apostolic Church of Africa as being true and correct.

On 22 May 1928, CFW Ninow and W Campbell was ordained as Apostles to assist Apostle Klibbe.

In January 1931, EFW Ninow was ordained as Apostle and he took over the management of the Church from Apostle Klibbe, who passed away on 22 May 1931.

OAC after Apostle Klibbe[edit]

At the time of Klibbe's death on 22 May 1931, the Old Apostolic Church had more than 1 million adherents. Apostles Ernest Fredrick Willhelm Ninow, Carl Fredrick Willhelm Ninow and William Campbell were appointed by Klibbe as his successors before he died, with EFW Ninow as the Chairman and Leader of the church.[14][15]

Chairmen (Leading Apostle) of the Old Apostolic Church of Africa[edit]

The Leading Apostle and Chairman of the OAC were the Administrative Head of the Church until the position was abolished in 1984.

  • 1892-1931 Apostle CG Klibbe
  • 1931-1966 Apostle EFW Ninow
  • 1966-1970 Apostle AH Heunis
  • 1970-1984 Apostle HH Ninow

First foreign apostle[edit]

In 1980, M. M. Massinga was ordained as the first non-South African apostle of the Old Apostolic Church. Massinga also was the first black apostle of the church and served as the apostle for Mozambique.[4]


After the retirement of Apostle H. H. Ninow in 1984, the position of Leader of the Old Apostolic Church (Primus inter pares)was abolished and replaced with the Apostolate. Out of the Apostolate a Chairman was elected as well as a Secretary who was responsible for the day-to-day management of the affairs of the Apostolate.

Conference of Apostles[edit]

As part of a move to establish the Old Apostolic Church as an international church, the "from Africa" part was dropped from the name and each country added the name of the country in brackets. For instance, the church in South Africa became known as The Old Apostolic Church (South Africa).

The Conference of Apostles (CoA) was formed as an international ruling body of the church, and each country could have its own Apostolate, who in turn would be responsible for regional affairs.

The office of Helper-Apostle was abolished and all serving Helper-Apostles was during the latter part of 1995, and early part of 1996 ordained as Apostles.

The CoA elected from out of their midst an Apostle as Chairman with a term of two years, and he could not serve more than two consecutive terms. A Secretary was also appointed to be responsible for the day-to-day management of the affairs of the CoA.

Establishment of the OAC in Europe, Australasia, North America and the Middle East[edit]

On 17 August 1997, the first church service was conducted in London. Elder Redman from Cape Town was on visit to family when members requested that he conduct a service. This was followed on 2 November 1997 when Apostle GF Campbell held a service where Priest Booyens was ordained as the first priest for the British Isles.

On 25 December 1997, Apostle GJJ Boshoff ordained CWP Human as the first priest for Australia. On 1 January 1998, Human and his family arrived in Brisbane to re-establish the church in Australia.

On 1 August 1999 the first service was held in New Zeeland by Priest Sammons.

On 4 June 2000, Brothers Sampson and Ponelis was ordained in Chicago, Illinois as the Priests for Chicago and Minneapolis respectively.

In July to August 2000, the British Isles was visited by Apostles DB Nieuwenhuizen and MM Massinga where Priest Booysen was ordained as Elder and Brothers Burger and Tocknell as Priests.

On 12 November 2000, Priest Ronald Looij was ordained in Potchefstroom as Elder for the Netherlands and Belgium.

In mid 2006 four Apostles (Ingolf Schultz, Jorg Stohwasser, Uwe Jacob and Hans-Georg Richter) and their followers from the German church Apostelamt Jesu Christi joined the Old Apostolic Church. In the beginning of 2007 this German branch of the OAC was registered as Altapostolische Kirch e.v. (Deutschland).[16]

For some years, a relationship was maintained with the German Apostelamt Jesu Christi (AJC), a church with similar views. This relationship was broken when four AJC Apostles and several congregations formed the German branch of the Old Apostolic Church in 2006.

At present the Old Apostolic Church is estimated to have around 2 million members in Africa. Congregations can be found in South Africa, Swaziland, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, USA, Canada, British Isles, Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates. The Old Apostolic Church is independent from the New Apostolic Church and the United Apostolic Church,[17] and is not part of the South African Council of Churches or the World Council of Churches, and refuse to become members of these organisations.

Schisms from the OAC[edit]

The following groups broke away from the Old Apostolic Church:


Conference of Apostles[edit]

The leadership of the Old Apostolic Church is a body known as the Conference of Apostles. This body is responsible for all temporal and spiritual matters relating to the church. The conference of Apostles consists of all active and retired Apostles of the church. No single Apostle has a leadership role over other Apostles and the office of Chief Apostle or any other equivalent as is found in the New Apostolic Church or the Twelve Apostles' Church in Christ, is not recognized by the church. A Chairman is elected for a period of two years and do not have a vote, except in case of a tie.


Forum of Apostles[edit]

The OAC is divided in districts for administrative purposes. There are currently nine districts, (Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Free State/Northern Cape, Gauteng, Northern Districts, Botswana/Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the European Union. Each district is under the control of the Forum of Apostles, which consists of the Apostles working out of that District Office.

The District Office is under the administrative leadership of the Head of Administration, who is an Apostle appointed to this position by the Forum of Apostles for the District. The Head of Administration is not the regional leader, and must report on all matters concerning this position to the Forum of Apostles. The Head of Administration is assisted by the District Secretary, who is usually a Fourfold Officer (Overseer, Prophet, or Evangelist). The District Office also has welfare officers whom are registered with the Department of Social Development and staff to administer the church's funeral fund.


Each Apostle is responsible for a specific area known as an Apostleship. An Apostleship consists of several Overseerships. An Apostle is chosen via Prophetic Gifts by the relevant Forum of Apostles and serve at the pleasure of the Forum of Apostles. The Forum may retire or remove an Apostle from Office without interference from the Conference of Apostles.

The Apostle has the authority to appoint Fourfold Officers (with the agreement of the Forum of Apostles), Elders, Priests, and Underdeacons and will salve them with oil into the office. The Apostle also has the right. without explanation to remove or retire any person in his responsible area from office.

The Apostle is the only office who may conduct a sealing.

Fourfold officers[edit]

The offices of Overseer(Shepard and Teacher), Evangelist and Prophet are collectively known as the Fourfold Office and is equal in status and rank. An Overseership is led by a troika of an Overseer, Evangelist and Prophet. An Overseership is divided in several Elderships.





An Eldeship, under the leadership of an Elder might be one or several congregations, and consists of several Priests and Underdeacons. The Elder is tasked to salve the sick with oil, and to pray for the sick. The Elder also serve as Shepard and Teacher to Priests.

Some Elders may be given specific responsibilities such as Youth, Senior Citizens, Prophetic, Evangelistic or Hospital Chaplaincy.


Under Deacons[edit]

Before 2015, the Underdeacon was known as unannointed office as Underdeacons were not anointed into office but received the office only through the laying on of hands from an Apostle. In the early part of 2015 all Underdeacons were anointed into office and sit with the Priests during services.

The Underdeacon is an assistant to the Priest and will be responsible to organize the weekly activities of active members, freeing the Priests to take care of members that need assistance. The Underdeacon is also responsible for taking care of new and prospective members of the church.

Other offices[edit]

Brothers and Sisters may be appointed by their respective Overseers to special tasks. These tasks include Doorkeeper, Choir Master, Treasurer, Auditor and Sunday School Teacher.



The Old Apostolic Church promotes the Holy Scriptural doctrine that there is only one way to God, stated in the gospel of John, Chapter 14. The Way namely being:

  • Jesus Christ, the Way
  • Jesus Christ, the Truth
  • Jesus Christ, the Life

The church is set according to the doctrine as stipulated through the Scripture, that there is no salvation outside of Jesus Christ, God's Spirit and Way of Life which has taken on flesh, namely the church, members in particular as per Corinthians 12 verse 1.

Members are taken up in the church when they are convinced of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through testimony, understanding and experience and are sealed by the laying of the hands of the Apostle ( in itself, a symbol) which serves as confirmation of receiving the Holy Spirit.

Emmanuel Principle[edit]

The Old Apostolic Church is based on the doctrine that "Christ is come in flesh". Christ referring to the likeness of God revealed through man, expounded through numerous symbolic or spiritual concepts which include, but not being limited to:

  • Christ, the power and wisdom of God as referred to in 1 Corinthians Chapter 1 verse 24
  • Christ, the spiritual gift received by the willing soul as referred to in Colossians Chapter 1 verse 27
  • Christ, the spirit of God revealed through the Church or community as referred to in 1 Corinthians Chapter 12
  • Christ, the Word of God taking on flesh in the form of a deed to serve and Glorify God as per John 1.

This doctrine is known within the church as the Emmanuel Principle.


The Old Apostolic Church is a free church. It is intrinsically separated from government (as opposed to a theocracy, or an "established" or state church). The Old Apostolic Church does not define government policy, nor have governments define church policy or theology, nor seek or receive government endorsement or funding for its general mission.

Members of the Old Apostolic Church are not allowed to become registered members of any political parties, stand for election, or openly declare their political views. The OAC do not support any political parties. Members are however allowed to vote according to their conscience.[23]

Officers are strictly forbidden to endorse any political party and may be removed from office if they do endorse any party.[24]

Members must obey all laws of the countries in which they reside, even if the member consider the laws as unjust.[25]

The leadership of the Old Apostolic Church did make some submissions to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (South Africa), and was the only Apostolic (Irvingist) Church to do so. The church policy stipulates that all assistance will be given to government as required by law.[23]

The Old Apostolic Church's view on non-participation in politics has led to three schisms. In 1972 several coloured members formed the Reformed Old Apostolic Church, and in 1968 several black members formed the Twelve Apostles Church of Africa. In 1990, VN Vika formed the Foundation of Apostles and Prophets Church after he was expelled for openly endorsing the African National Congress, and inviting them to hold meetings within church property.

The Old Apostolic Church has assisted the Independent Electoral Commission on the IEC's request to have elections held on church property, only because the IEC is a State Agency and not a political entity.


The Old Apostolic Church recognises and uses the Authorised King James Version. All Bibles used must be comparable to the Authorised King James Version.[23] The Afrikaanse Ou Vertaling (Hersiene Uitgawe) is used in Afrikaans speaking congregations. In Germany the 1912 Luther Bible is used.[26]

Before the introduction of the first Bible in Afrikaans in 1933, the Dutch Bible was used mostly among Afrikaans speaking members.

The Old Apostolic Church professes that the Bible is a spiritual book intended for the soul of man. The Church teaches that a spiritual or symbolic meaning of the scripture is to be recognised in order to understand, live and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. An example of understanding the spiritual aspect of the bible is Luke Chapter 8 where Christ expounds the true meaning of the parable of the sower and the seeds. The same allegorical or spiritual insight is used throughout the old and new testament. The Church views the literal or natural aspects of the Bible as a precursor to the deeper spiritual meaning of the scripture, citing John Chapter 4 verse 24 that "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” The stories in the Bible are not viewed as scientific explanations or historical events, but are lessons that have to be interpreted and applied in the same way as the parables in the Gospels.

The Bible cannot give salvation but can lead the way to salvation. Salvation is through Jesus Christ (the Church), and the Bible can only point the way to salvation.[27] According to OAC beliefs no more texts can be added to the Bible. No new revelation that contradicts the Bible can be received.

Bibles in Use[edit]

The following Bible translations are officially sactioned by the Conference of Apostles for use in the church.

  • Afrikaans: Bybel in Afrikaans (1933-1957)
  • English: King James Version (1611)
  • English: New King James Version (Thomas Nelson - 1983)
  • Dutch: Staten Generaal (1618 and 1619)
  • German: The Bible in German - Bible text translation by Martin Luther - (1912 and 1984 Revision)
  • Portuguese: The Bible in Portuguese (A Biblia Sagrada; Contendo O Vehlo EO Novo Testamento) 1100 Lisbon, Portugal
  • Sepedi: The Bible in Northern Sotho (1951 and 1986)
  • Sesotho: The Bible in Southern Sotho (Biblele E Halalelang, 1961 and 1983)
  • Setswana: The Bible in Tswana (Baebele E E Boitshepo, 1908 - 1992)
  • Tonga: The Bible in Tonga (Bibele Yi NEA; Testamente Ya Khale Ni Le'yint_ha 1929-1987)
  • Xhosa: The Bible in Xhosa (Incwadi Yezibhalo Ezingcwele, 1971)
  • Zulu: The Bible in Zulu (First SA Edition, 1977)

All other Bible translations in other languages may be used, with the permission of the local Forum of Apostles if it compares with the Authorised King James Version.[28]


The OAC believes that there are three sacraments;

The OAC also believes that these sacraments can be given to the departed. This is performed by an Apostle by giving the sacraments to two substitutes (normally a Fourfold Officer and his wife). According to OAC belief, the dead do not enter the body of the substitute as there could only be one soul (the mind of the person) and one spirit (Holy Spirit) be present within a body.

Holy Communion[edit]

The Holy Communion is the second of the three sacraments in the doctrine of the Old Apostolic Church. Although Holy Communion is a ritual practiced as in most Christian Church, the Old Apostolic Church encourages the understanding that the Holy Communion served in Church serves a symbol and reminder of the True Communion and Spiritual bread which is to actively serve God by serving souls through the Body Of Christ. [Matthew 25, John 4:34, John 6:39]

The sacrament of Holy Communion is given on each first Sunday of a month, or during Sealing Services. Holy Communion is also given to newly wed couples during the marriage ceremony as well as to persons receiving prayer for health.

In case of children who is to small to partake of the sacrament, the mother stand in as substitute. When it is not possible to give Communion to a person who is sick or hospitalized a substitute will also be used.

The wafer is dipped in grape juice with an implement and given to the congregant who hold their left hand over the right, as a symbol of the weak upheld by the right hand of God, Jesus Christ, and acknowledged with an amen after the Priest says "Take, eat and drink in remembrance of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ." Holy Communion is also given to the substitute during the baptism and sealing for the dead. Priests, Elders, Fourfold Officers and Apostles may serve this sacrament. All members are welcome to take part in it. Since 1993, wine was replaced with grape juice for practical reasons. The use of wine had the unintentional effect of excluding recovering alcoholics from the sacrament.

Holy Baptism[edit]

The holy baptism is when the priest welcomes in new members by anointing them with holy water and spiritual oil. This process sees the new member become part of the congregation and is now allowed to part-take in the holy communion. However this new member is still left with the holy sealing from the Apostle in order to be a member in the body of Christ.

Holy Sealing[edit]

The Holy Sealing the third Holy Sacrament in the Old Apostolic Church. The Old Apostolic Church is maintains the third sacrament as an integral process through which the Holy Spirit is received. It should be noted that as with all aspects of the Old Apostolic Church, the symbolic laying on of the hands of the Apostle is representative of the true laying on of the hands which has already occurred in the heart and mind of the member through the active compassion, love and sacrifice of the body of Christ, referring to members in particular. The Holy Sealing is referred to in Corinthians 1:22 "Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.", Ephesians 4:30 "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.", Ephesians 1:13 " In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,".

View on Evolution[edit]

The Old Apostolic Church is one of the few Christian faiths that do not recognise a conflict between the Bible and evolution. The Church views the scriptures as the instruction and creation process that occurs within the heart and mind of mankind, a spiritual maturity per se, and refutes that the scripture attempts to explain the physical creation of life on earth, although the ultimate source of all existence is attributed to God, creator of all things seen and unseen as per the Old and New Testament scriptures. While science is appreciated as the investigation of the physical world and its phenomena, the Bible is viewed to be the source of God's creation process of Godly qualities to be sought and nurtured in the heart of man, expressed through pure and righteous thoughts, words and ultimately deeds on an individual as well as communal basis.

Church Activities[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the novel Roepman by Jan van Tonder and the Afrikaans movie with the same name, Salmon, Erika's boyfriend is an "Old Apostle", and this is a cause of friction between Erika and her father who is a staunch member of the Dutch Reformed Church.[29]


  1. ^ [1] History of the New Apostolic Church
  2. ^ Flegg, CG, Gathered under Apostles. 1992. Clarendon Press.
  3. ^ Newman-Norton, S. The Time of Silence
  4. ^ a b c Church History of the Old Apostolic Church for Sunday School
  5. ^ Articles of Association of the New Apostolic Church (Africa) 1910
  6. ^ Rules for Apostolics Published in The Old Apostolic Church Copyright- 16th October,1913
  7. ^ Articles of Association of the New Apostolic Church (Africa). 1910
  8. ^ Amendment of the Articles of Association of the New Apostolic Church (Africa). 1915.
  9. ^ http://www.nac-sea.org.za/storage/History%20Part%201.pdf
  10. ^ Articles of Association of the New Apostolic Church
  11. ^ Kreunen v Klibbe and the New Apostolic Church, 432 of 1926 (SA)
  12. ^ Duncan. B.R. Die Nuwe Apostoliese Kerk: Waarheid of dwaling. Christelike Opleiding en Kerkgroei. Kuilsrivier.
  13. ^ http://www.nac-sea.org.za/history.html
  14. ^ Old Apostolic Church: History of the Western Cape District
  15. ^ Church History of the Old Apostolic Church for the Sunday School
  16. ^ [2] Leitender Apostel verlässt das AJC K.d.ö.R
  17. ^ [3] Old Apostolic Church
  18. ^ [4] History of the Apostle-Unity
  19. ^ [5] History of the Twelve Apostles Church in Christ.
  20. ^ Martin, Harry. I Tell You The Truth
  21. ^ Old Apostolic Church of South Africa v Non-White Old Apostolic Church of Africa 1975 (2) SA 684 (C) at 687 D-E. 4.
  22. ^ http://inkonzoyesiseko.co.za/about/
  23. ^ a b c Old Apostolic Church: Household Rules
  24. ^ Household Rules: 9.7
  25. ^ Old Apostolic Church: Confession of Faith
  26. ^ Old Apostolic Church, Constitution.
  27. ^ New Cathechism of the Old Apostolic Church of Africa: Introduction
  28. ^ Household Rules of the Old Apostolic Church: 9.9
  29. ^ Roepman. Jan van Tonder. Human & Rousseau. ISBN 9780798155342


External links[edit]