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 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.

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]

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.[4]

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.[5]

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.[6]

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[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 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").[9]

In 1926, a 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]

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 of December 1926.

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 died 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.[13][14]

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. The Leading Apostle's responsibility was to give effect to the decisions of the Apostolate and had no superior authority over the Apostolate, and is not equivalent to the office of Chief Apostle, as Jesus Christ is viewed as the Head of the Church.

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


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. The Chairman and Secretary were equal to the other Apostles and had no overriding authority.

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).[15]

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,[16] 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.[22]

Officers are strictly forbidden to endorse any political party and may be removed from office if they do endorse any party.[23]

Members must obey all laws of the countries in which they reside, even if the member is to suffer anguish.[24]

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.[22] 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.[22] The Afrikaanse Ou Vertaling (Hersiene Uitgawe) is used in Afrikaans speaking congregations. In Germany the 1912 Luther Bible is used.[25]

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[26]

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.[27]


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 the case of children who is too small to partake of the sacrament, the mother stands in as a 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 for newborns and new members which is normally performed by the priest office. Blessed water is used in this sacrament.

Holy Sealing[edit]

The Holy Sealing the third Holy Sacrament in the Old Apostolic Church. The Old Apostolic Church 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,".

Church Activities[edit]

The Apostolic Way of Life means that the member's daily life is conducted in accordance with Church teaching, and there are formal activities for every day of the week. Participation in these activities and adherence to the Household Rules is considered to be the practical manifestation of the Holy Communion partaken of.

Members are expected to begin the day with a family prayer led by the head of the household, or House Priest as he is referred to.

Prayer in the Old Apostolic Church follows a three-part sequence, beginning with "In the name of God, the Father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Ghost, Amen",at which those present will echo the "Amen" The body of the prayer, although not formally required by the church, will normally follow the sequence of giving thanks for received blessings, requesting future guidance, blessings, protection, and asking forgiveness of sins, although all of the aforementioned will be in the prayer leader's own words. The body of the prayer will be concluded with words amounting to "in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.", at which the "Amen" will again be echoed by those present. The prayer will be concluded by the benediction, "Let now the Love of God, the Father, the Grace and Mercy of God the Son, and the Fellowship and Protection of the Holy Gost be with us all henceforth and forever, Amen" or variations of this, with the "Amen" again being echoed by those present. This will be repeated by the family or individual before in the evening before retiring, and Old Apostolics are expected to give thanks before meals, although there is no formalized way of giving thanks. During church services or meetings the benediction will only be spoken at the end of the meeting, followed by the communal singing of the Gloria Patri instead of saying Amen.

Special Services are held for Easter and Christmas. Christmas is not recognized in the Church, but is known as The Day of the Covenant. Annually each Apostle conducts a number of Sealing Services during which newly Baptized members are Sealed, and new officers anointed. During the 1st Sunday of December every year a special service is held for the Blessing of the Harvest, referring to the harvest of souls added to the church during the year.

Members are encouraged to practice Tithing, but unlike many other churches no collections are done during services. Each church hall has an "offer box" which is locked with slots in the lid into which members may deposit their tithes. After each service elected members such as the Community Chairman, Treasurer and two Auditors will unlock the box, record the amounts offered and the treasurer will deposit the funds into the church's bank account. This formality is done in front of the hall where it is visible to the congregation. Monthly financial meetings are held during which the financial statements are offered for inspection and acceptance by members.

Of all the office-bearers in the Church, none receive financial reward except for the Apostles, whose schedules and responsibilities preclude them from pursuing paid work. The administrative staff of the church is employed by the church and receive salaries for their work, although many of them are also office bearers who in addition to their jobs also function as anointed officers or fulfill duties in their own congregations for which they receive no financial reward. The church also employs its own architects and builders which design and construct the buildings used by the church. Some Apostles has refused remuneration from the Church.

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.[28]


  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 Church History of the Old Apostolic Church for Sunday School
  5. ^ Articles of Association of the New Apostolic Church (Africa) 1910, but this relationship was formerly ended in 1915.
  6. ^ Rules for Apostolics Published in The Old Apostolic Church Copyright- 16 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. ^ Old Apostolic Church: History of the Western Cape District
  14. ^ Church History of the Old Apostolic Church for the Sunday School
  15. ^ [2] Leitender Apostel verlässt das AJC K.d.ö.R
  16. ^ [3] Old Apostolic Church
  17. ^ [4] History of the Apostle-Unity
  18. ^ [5] History of the Twelve Apostles Church in Christ.
  19. ^ Martin, Harry. I Tell You The Truth
  20. ^ Old Apostolic Church of South Africa v Non-White Old Apostolic Church of Africa 1975 (2) SA 684 (C) at 687 D-E. 4.
  21. ^ http://inkonzoyesiseko.co.za/about/
  22. ^ a b c Old Apostolic Church: Household Rules
  23. ^ Household Rules: 9.7
  24. ^ Old Apostolic Church: Confession of Faith
  25. ^ Old Apostolic Church, Constitution.
  26. ^ The Old Apostolic Church Confession of Faith
  27. ^ Household Rules of the Old Apostolic Church: 9.9
  28. ^ Roepman. Jan van Tonder. Human & Rousseau. ISBN 9780798155342


External links[edit]