Old Apostolic Church

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Old Apostolic Church Swellendam

The Old Apostolic Church is a Christian faith community with roots in 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 considered a form of Christian Mysticism

The Old Apostolic Church teaches and practices the allegorical or spiritual teachings of Biblical scripture as it pertains to the heart, mind, and soul of humanity. The church holds belief and understanding that the Kingdom of God is accessible today, being symbolic of joy, peace and righteousness within the Holy Spirit.

The Old Apostolic Church encourages what they consider to be the biblical gift of prophecy, referring to visions, dreams and verbal prophecy which they see referred to throughout the scriptures.

The Old Apostolic Church says its highest charge is 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.

Establishment in Africa[edit]

The founder of the Apostolic Church in South Africa, Carl George Klibbe was born on the 24th December 1852 in Pomerania at the Baltic Sea, and was a Preacher in the Lutheran Church when he had contact with the Apostolic Doctrine in a town named Schladen, in Germany where he met Heinrich Niemeyer for the first time It was years later in 1886, after he moved to Hattonvale in Queensland, Australia that he and his family were convinced of this doctrine and sealed by the same person Apostle HF Niemeyer.

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.[3]

The church was officially registered on 7 December 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 over 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.[4]

The head office of the church was moved in 1910 from the farm iMvani in the Eastern Cape to Regents Park, 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. The Dutch church then 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 Krebs had appointed. Niehaus began to rid the German church of all opposing apostles and to sideline foreign apostles.

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.[5]

The Old Apostolic Church gave the following reasons for separation from the New Apostolic Church:[citation needed]

  • 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 in the lead up to the First World War.

Klibbe's teaching brought him in conflict with the concept of the office and views of the Chief Apostle in the church. Niehaus tried to remove Klibbe from office. Wilhelm Schlaphoff was appointed as counter-apostle by Niehaus. In 1913 Niehaus informed Klibbe that he was excommunicated from the New Apostolic Church, although the South African branch was independent[6] and reaffirmed that independence with a change in the Acts of Association of the church in 1915.[7] For some time, there were two conflicting organizations 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").[8]

In 1926, a settlement were reached between the two churches. The church that was established in 1892 and formally registered in 1910[9] would change its name to "The Old Apostolic Church" so that Schlaphoff could register the "New Apostolic Church (Africa)".[10][11]

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.[12][13]

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 a visit to his 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 Zealand 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).[14]

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,[15] 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:



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.[21]

Officers are strictly forbidden to endorse any political party and may be removed from office if they do endorse any party.[22]

Members must obey all laws of the countries in which they reside, even if the member is to suffer anguish.[23]

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. This submission was not an admission of guilt, and the Church was not accused or found guilty of contravening any laws or international laws. The church policy stipulates that all assistance will be given to government as required by law.[21] The Church has given assistance to the Independent Electoral Commission to provide voting points. This assistance was given only due to the IEC being a State Agency or Department, and not a political entity.

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,
  • 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.


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 does not have a vote, except in the case of a tie.


Forum of apostles[edit]

The OAC is divided into 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 who 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 (shepherd and teacher), evangelist and prophet are collectively known as the fourfold office and are equal in status and rank. An overseership is led by a troika of an overseer, evangelist, and prophet. An overseership is divided into several elderships.


An Eldership, under the leadership of an elder, consists of one or several congregations, made of several priests and underdeacons. The elder is tasked to administer the "annointed handling", which entails the act of salving the sick with oil and to pray for the sick. The congregational elder serves as the shepherd and teacher to the priests.

Some elders may be given specific responsibilities such as youth, senior citizens, prophetic, evangelistic or hospital chaplaincy.



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 for organizing 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 recognises and uses the Authorised King James Version. All Bibles used must be comparable to the Authorised King James Version.[21] The Afrikaanse Ou Vertaling (Hersiene Uitgawe) is used in Afrikaans speaking congregations. In Germany the 1912 Luther Bible is used.[24]

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 Confession of Faith extracts; We believe in the Holy Scriptures, the Old and the New Testament, and in the fulfillment of the promises contained therein[25]

Bibles in use[edit]

The following Bible translations are officially sanctioned 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.[26]

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.[27]


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ Flegg, CG, Gathered under Apostles. 1992. Clarendon Press.
  3. ^ a b Church History of the Old Apostolic Church for Sunday School
  4. ^ Articles of Association of the New Apostolic Church (Africa) 1910, but this relationship was formerly ended in 1915.
  5. ^ Rules for Apostolics Published in The Old Apostolic Church Copyright- 16 October 1913
  6. ^ Articles of Association of the New Apostolic Church (Africa). 1910
  7. ^ Amendment of the Articles of Association of the New Apostolic Church (Africa). 1915.
  8. ^ [2][dead link]
  9. ^ Articles of Association of the New Apostolic Church
  10. ^ Kreunen v Klibbe and the New Apostolic Church, 432 of 1926 (SA)
  11. ^ Duncan. B.R. Die Nuwe Apostoliese Kerk: Waarheid of dwaling. Christelike Opleiding en Kerkgroei. Kuilsrivier.
  12. ^ Old Apostolic Church: History of the Western Cape District
  13. ^ Church History of the Old Apostolic Church for the Sunday School
  14. ^ "+ NAKtuelle News & Termine (Update: 03.12.2013) + (3)". F3.webmart.de. Retrieved 27 October 2017. 
  15. ^ "Home Page". Oldapostolic.com. Retrieved 27 October 2017. 
  16. ^ [3][dead link]
  17. ^ [4][dead link]
  18. ^ Martin, Harry. I Tell You The Truth
  19. ^ Old Apostolic Church of South Africa v Non-White Old Apostolic Church of Africa 1975 (2) SA 684 (C) at 687 D-E. 4.
  20. ^ "» Our History". Inkonzoyesiseko.co.za. Retrieved 27 October 2017. 
  21. ^ a b c Old Apostolic Church: Household Rules
  22. ^ Household Rules: 9.7
  23. ^ Old Apostolic Church: Confession of Faith
  24. ^ Old Apostolic Church, Constitution.
  25. ^ The Old Apostolic Church Confession of Faith
  26. ^ Household Rules of the Old Apostolic Church: 9.9
  27. ^ Roepman. Jan van Tonder. Human & Rousseau. ISBN 9780798155342


External links[edit]