United Apostolic Church
United Apostolic Church Europe
|Origin||June 12, 1990|
The member churches of the United Apostolic Church are independent communities in the tradition of the catholic apostolic revival movement which started at the beginning of the 19th century in England and Scotland.
The goal of their faith is the reconciliation of mankind with God and the union with Jesus Christ at his return. They want to spread and promote the Christian faith on the basis of the Holy Scripture.
In 1956 eight apostles who have been excommunicated from the New Apostolic Church on various occasions gathered in Düsseldorf, Germany and founded the "Association of Apostles of the Apostolic Churches" which later became synonym with the "United Apostolic Church". Five more apostles from the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and overseas joined the union also in 1956. In fact this association has no own juridical structure and is only an association of the church leaders and not of the churches themselves.
Currently the apostles of nine churches are members of the association:
- Apostolic Church of Queensland (Australia)
- United Apostolic Church (India)
- United Apostolic Church (Philippines)
- United Apostolic Church (Pakistan)
- Unity Apostles Church (Kenya)
- Unity Apostles Church (New Zealand)
- Apostolic Church of South Africa - Apostle Unity (South-Africa)
- Apostolische Gemeinschaft (Germany)
- Gemeente van Apostolische Christenen (Netherlands)
- Igreja Evangélica Apostólica (Brazil)
- Union des Chrétiens Apostoliques (France)
- Vereinigung Apostolischer Christen (Switzerland)
Since 1994 the Apostolische Gemeinschaft in Germany incorporates also the Reformiert-Apostolischer Gemeindebund of the former German Democratic Republic.
The United Apostolic Churches are currently led by nine apostles:
- Apostle Groß, Knauth, Lieberth, Loose - Germany
- (Bishop Bert Wolthuis) - Netherlands
- Apostle Schaeffer - France
- Apostle Baltisberger - Switzerland
- Apostle Erasmus - South Africa
- Apostle Flor and Dargusch - Australia
From 1 June 2007 on Ap. Schaeffer from France is also spiritually responsible for the German congregations in the Saarland, however they still belong to the German organisation. Small congregations in São Paulo, Brazil; Los Angeles, USA and Buenos Aires, Argentina do not exist any more. The Philippine congregations were founded and are administered by the Australian apostles. In London, Great Britain a new congregation of immigrated South Africans has been founded recently. After the sudden death of Apostle Vanathaian of India in 2005 these congregations were closed and the members were asked to join other Christian denominations. From 2010 on the Australian church took over the administrative structure and the remaining people and restarted the mission work. From Australia on also mission work is done on the Philippines, in Pakistan, Kenya, Myanmar and Canada.
The European member churches are very close in theological and organizational matters. There are more or less loose contacts as well as theological differences to the churches in Australia and South Africa.
The history of the denomination starts with a revival movement at the beginning of the 19th century. London banker and member of parliament Henry Drummond. In 1826 he invited about 30 clergymen and laymen for a prophetic conference at Albury Park, to discuss interpretations of prophecies concerning the apocalypse, with prayer and Bible study. This group also contacted Christians in Scotland, where it was reported that people had experienced prophecy, speaking in tongues and miraculous healing. The focus of these revelations was the imminent return of Jesus Christ.
When some members of this Albury circle were excommunicated from their churches, they gathered in new congregations which were later called the Catholic Apostolic Church. They believed in the imminence of the Second Coming of Christ, in preparation for which they resolved to re-establish the early-Church offices of apostles, prophets, etc. Besides enthusiasm, the new congregations looked for order, too. Through the prophecy of members, apostles were called forth and, after further callings, some men were sent to various ministries. The first "apostle" (J. B. Cardale) was called in 1832. He became the principal liturgist and "Pillar of Apostles". In 1833 Henry Drummond became the second "apostles", and was later assigned responsibility for Scotland and Switzerland. Within two years the church's prophets called forth 12 apostles, equivalent to the original 12 apostles of the New Testament. The full college of 12 held their first council in 1835. During 1837 and 1838, they undertook missionary journeys to mainland Europe, Canada, and the United States.
The new apostles set up a liturgy for their congregations. Their first aim was not the foundation of new congregations but to fight for the unity of all denominations which form the one and only church. Because of excommunications from the established churches, however, new congregations were founded in several countries. In 1836 the apostles wrote a manifest, called the Testimonium, to all church and state leaders of the Christian countries.
From 1855 onwards the first apostles died and it was decided that no further apostles should be called and ordained. This decision was controversial and the German prophet Geyer called a new apostle in 1863. This was not recognized by the leaders of the Catholic-Apostolic Church and led to the excommunication of Geyer and the congregation of Hamburg, Germany. Now, new churches developed in the Netherlands which were called the Hersteld Apostolische Zendingkerk and Allgemeine christlich-apostolische Mission in Germany, from whom the New Apostolic Church evolved since 1907. The latter formed a central ruling ministry in form of the Chief Apostle. Parallel to the progress of the new apostolic denomination there occurred splittings throughout the world on several occasions.
The reasons for these splittings were different but mainly related with the central ministry of the Chief Apostle and its claim for supremacy. The ministry of a Chief Apostle cannot be proved by the Bible as well as no other church leader can derive his absolute power from the special position of Peter among the disciples.
The new apostolic Chief Apostle Niehaus was led more and more by emotions, dreams and visions after 1914. The Saxon Apostle Brueckner became the solicitor for all those who criticized the spiritual views of the Chief Apostle and the worshipping of his person. The different opinions led to the exclusion of Apostle Brueckner and some thousand believers in 1921. The excluded founded the Reformiert-Apostolischen Gemeindebund soon.
The main reason for the great divisions of the New Apostolic Church (NAC) in Switzerland 1954 and West-Germany 1955 was the new teaching in 1951 of the then-reigning Chief Apostle J.G. Bischoff. This teaching presumed that he would not die before Jesus Christ returns and takes the predestined into His kingdom (First Resurrection). In 1954 this teaching became an official dogma. Those ministers, especially the apostles, who did not preach this message lost their offices and were excluded from the New Apostolic Church. In these times about 20.000 members left the church only in Germany; some were expressively excluded, while others left voluntarily. This was about 5-10% of the total NAC membership at this time. Not all of these people joined the UAC churches but lost faith completely or went to other churches. Chief Apostle Bischoff died in 1960, his prophecy unfulfilled. There has been no rehabilitation of the excommunicated ministers to this day, although there were first steps of reconciliation in Switzerland in 2005.
In the 1950s and early 1960s the teaching and the belief was mainly that of the New Apostolic Church. Starting in the 1970s the member churches of the United Apostolic Church made important new orientations and reforms in structural and in theological questions, respectively concerning the question of church, sacraments and ministries. They tried returning to the roots of the Catholic-Apostolic Church.
The first sort of catechism of 1956 was completely revised and in 1984 and 1991 a new catechism "Book of Faith" was edited in 2 editions. The parts concerning the sacraments have been updated in July 2005. Also the creed has been changed then again. From 1956 to 1984 a modified new-apostolic creed with 9 articles has been in use. Then it was shortened to six articles and actually the ecumenical version of the Apostles' Creed is in use, without any specific denominational amendments.
Nature of the Church
The members of the United Apostolic Church (UAC) consider themselves as a part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Membership is acquired with baptism only and does not depend on the sealing anymore. Baptism of other churches is fully recognized as well as the apostolic baptism is normally recognized as it has been procured in the name of trinity. The European members of the church are highly involved in ecumenical cooperation and try to join ecumenical organisations and institutions locally and regionally.
Understanding of the Apostle's ministry
The word "apostolic" refers to the sending from Jesus Christ, as the word "apostle" comes from the Greek apóstolos, which means "one sent with a message." As one should not understand the word "Catholic" (universal) only in a denominational sense, so it is with the word "apostolic" (sent). Jesus Christ sent his disciples into the world to preach his gospel. "Apostolic" does not mean separation from other denominations, but correlation with the teaching of the apostles (see gospel, Acts of the Apostles).
The United Apostolic Church recognizes the ministry of apostle as highest authority of responsibility and teaching. It is not considered as necessary for salvation. This unusual title in free churches does not intend any thinking of exclusivity but only describes a service ordained by Christ. It is not understood as only existing in the own church but potentially everywhere in the church of Christ even if this specific title is not used. All other ministries are supposed to be ordained by Christ directly and do not depend on the apostle's office. The general priesthood of all believers is becoming more and more popular. Besides the apostles there are bishops, elders, pastors, evangelists, priests and deacons. In 2003 the European apostles decided on female ordination and in 2004 the first three female deacons were ordained in Germany. Actually there are ten female deacons working in Germany. The one in the Netherlands has been ordained as first female priest within die UAC on July, 29th by apostle Den Haan. On March 1, 2009 the first German female priest was ordained in Bocholt by apostle Groß. On August, 30th apostle Den Haan ordained the priest Ineke Ras as herder and leader of den Enkhuizen congregation in the Netherlands and meanwhile there are also two female priests working in Germany.
Baptism is the rite of initiation and the participation in the church of Christ. It is considered as rebirth with water and spirit. It is conducted with floating water and children can be baptized on the faith of their parents.
Communion is celebrated in a commemorative sense and as salvation from sin and reconciliation with God.
Sealing is the celebration of the Holy Spirit which came into the world on Pentecost. Through this spirit man is able to recognize Christ as his saviour and to grow in faith. It is not conducted on children before their confirmation at the age of 14 anymore. And - as a novelty among apostolic churches - it is not necessarily bound to the office of the apostle.
A monthly magazine, called The Herald is published since 1954, first of the Swiss Vereinigung Apostolischer Christen, nowadays the editorial is with the Apostolische Gemeinschaft in Düsseldorf, Germany. There has been an online version available. From January 2010 on the "Herald" is not published any more and a new, coloured, bigger magazine called "Blickpunkt" is edited every two months.
- Wikipedia Germany
- Apostolic Church of Queensland, Book of faith
- Wissen, Volker: Zur Freiheit berufen - Ein Portrait der Vereinigung Apostolischer Gemeinden und ihrer Gliedkirchen, Remscheid 2008 - ISBN 978-3-86870-030-5
- www.united-apostolic.org United Apostolic Church Europe (UAC)
- www.apostolicchurchqld.org.au/ Apostolic Church of Queensland (Australia)
- www.apostolisch.ch Vereinigung Apostolischer Christen (Switzerland)
- www.apostolisch.de Apostolische Gemeinschaft (Germany)
- www.apostolisch.nl Gemeente van apostolische Christenen (Netherlands)
- www.apostleunity.co.za Apostoliese Kerk - Aposteleenheid (South Africa)
- http://unitedapostolicchurch.org/ United Apostolic Church Canada UAC (Canada/U.S.A)
- www.herold.apostolisch.de The Herald, monthly periodical (in German)
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