Catholic Apostolic Congregations

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Catholic Apostolic Church Berlin-Kreuzberg

The Catholic Apostolic Congregations are a Christian community that was formed in England from 1831, came to Germany in the early 1840s and unintentionally became the nucleus of various Apostolic Communities from 1863 .


The Apostolic in Germany, an overview

The starting point for the Catholic-Apostolic congregations was an end - time revival movement that developed within various Christian churches and religious communities in Great Britain . Individual churches were planted in parts of this movement. Under the influence of eschatological prophecies , 12 personalities from Great Britain were called to be apostles whose task it was to prepare the church for the second coming of Jesus . They gathered in Albury and wrote the so-called Testimonium (from Latin testimonium : testimony), which they presented to various secular and ecclesiastical personalities of the world at that time.

The majority of the first officers came from the Anglican Church and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. But also Lutheran, Reformed and Roman Catholic clergy were added.

In 1863 there was a schism from which first the General Christian Apostolic Mission and from 1878 the New Apostolic Church (NAK) developed. Many other apostolic communities also trace their roots back to the Catholic apostolic congregations. The main reason for the schism was the differing view of the continuation of the “second apostolate”. The English apostles had decided that they could see no counsel of God that legitimized continuation by successors after their death. This was contradicted by individual ministers from Germany, where after England most of the Catholic-Apostolic congregations had formed, in particular the German prophet Heinrich Geyer . He called new apostles, which was rejected by the incumbent English apostles and later led to his exclusion. The Catholic Apostolic congregations continue to distance themselves from all the communities that have emerged from them.

Since the death of the last apostle, Francis Valentine Woodhouse , on February 3, 1901, no more seals and ordinations can be made. The Catholic apostolic congregations were therefore increasingly restricted in their activities until the last ordained ministers died of old age at the beginning of the 1970s.

More recently, dealing with these congregations has led to a number of new foundations, from which the original congregations, however, distance themselves. The predominantly Dutch Katholiek Apostolische Kerk sees itself as the legitimate successor of the Catholic Apostolic Congregations, but is not recognized by the still existing, original Catholic Apostolic Congregations.

Teaching and practice

Simplified overview of the official structure of the Catholic-Apostolic congregations


The English apostles wrote in their testimony: "The Church of Christ is the fellowship of all, regardless of time and land, who are baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and who are set apart from all other people through their baptism." They were therefore ecumenical from the ground up and saw their later congregations as “model congregations” in which the diversity of Christian rites was reflected. An exclusive assurance of salvation was never claimed for the members of the congregations.

church service

A liturgy based on Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox models was published by the apostles for the service . Lights, incense, liturgical vestments, holy water and oil were used as symbols in worship. The complete liturgical forms could only be carried out in a few parishes, as this required the full number of local offices and this was only the case in a few parishes, e.g. B. in the central church in London (at Gordon Square) and in Berlin. There were four services daily: the morning service at 6 a.m., prayer services at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and the evening service (Vespers) at 5 p.m. The Holy Eucharist was celebrated on Sundays at 10 a.m. and on public holidays . Today only the morning service (with or without litany ) and the afternoon service can be celebrated, since the ordained servants are missing; the services are performed by male church members.


The Catholic-Apostolic congregations were organized strictly hierarchically. Much emphasis was placed on the so-called “ fourfold office ”: apostles (as “elders” of the universal church), prophets, evangelists and shepherds (according to Eph 4,11f  EU ). Each of these offices should be present locally both in the general church and in the individual congregation (here according to the office category of the apostles, the "ruling elders"). The local congregations were led by so-called angels (= bishops), whose name should be derived from the "angels of the seven congregations" in the Revelation of John . These were supported by priests (in four positions), deacons, sub-deacons, deaconesses, acolytes and doorkeepers.

Each of the apostles was assigned a specific work area ("tribe") for which he was responsible:

  • Asser - France and the Roman Catholic. Switzerland (Apostle Henry Dalton)
  • Benjamin - Scotland and Protestant Switzerland (Apostle Henry Drummond )
  • Dan - Russia, Finland and the Baltic States (Apostle William Dow)
  • Ephraim - Poland, India and Australia (Apostle John Owen Tudor)
  • Gad - Sweden and Norway (Apostle Duncan MacKenzie)
  • Isaschar - Denmark, Netherlands and Belgium (Apostle John Henry King-Church)
  • Judah - England and North America (Apostle John Bate Cardale )
  • Manasse - Italy (Apostle Spencer Perceval)
  • Naphtali - Spain and Portugal (Apostle Francis Sitwell)
  • Ruben - Southern Germany and Austria (Apostle Francis Valentine Woodhouse )
  • Zebulun - Ireland, Greece and the Orient (Apostle Nicholas Armstrong)
  • Simeon - Northern Germany (Apostle Thomas Carlyle )

The New Apostolic Church later derived its central office of leadership, the Chief Apostle's office , from this tribal assignment , with complete reinterpretation.

The first called apostle was John Bate Cardale, also known as the pillar of the apostles. The pillars of the prophets, the pillars of the evangelists and the pillars of the shepherds in the sense of "pillar and support of the respective office" were assigned to him. Most famous of these was the Pillar of the Prophets, Edward Oliver Taplin. The other eleven apostles were each assigned a prophet, evangelist and shepherd.

Churches and membership numbers

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Catholic apostolic congregations had an estimated 200,000 members, of which approx. 70,000 in Germany alone, in almost 1,000 congregations worldwide, which were distributed as follows: England : 315, Scotland : 28, Ireland : 6, Germany : 348, Netherlands : 17, Austria / Hungary : 8, Switzerland : 41, Norway : 10, Sweden : 15, Denmark : 59, Russia , Finland , Poland , Baltic States : 18, France : 7, Belgium : 3, Italy : 2 , USA : 29, Canada : 13, Australia : 15 and New Zealand : 5.

In 2007 there were still around 40 municipalities in Germany and other countries. In the remaining parishes, church services are led by lay helpers and occasionally by sub-deacons. As a rule, the congregations consist of descendants of former congregation members. The Holy Eucharist, the most important divine service in the first place in their liturgy, can no longer be kept. Due to the extinction of the offices, their worship services are limited to those acts of the liturgy that laypeople can also perform (in robe), especially intercessory prayers (namely the litany ). In addition, sermons from the rich homiletic literature of the Catholic-Apostolic congregations of the 19th and 20th centuries (up to the 1970s) are read out. The prerequisite for the authority to preach was ordination to one of the three levels of office (angel (bishop), priest, deacon).

Churches lack spiritual guidance for the reasons mentioned above. Organizationally, however, many German municipalities are linked via an asset company or foundation based in Frankfurt. This includes many German church properties and buildings. New buildings (for example in Düsseldorf) were also built until at least the 1960s. The number of victims in many communities is administered centrally. The Frankfurt society therefore also has a certain indirect influence on community life in the local communities.

The congregations are waiting for God to intervene (Second Coming of Jesus) in the development of the Christian church, which u. a. will bring back the lost unity. From their point of view, this can begin in every part of the one church of Christ before God.

See also


  • Mathias Eberle (ed.): The Catholic-Apostolic Congregations through the ages . Steinhagen 2015, ISBN 978-3-939291-10-7 .
  • Rainer-Friedmann Edel: On the way to the completion of the Church of Jesus Christ . Marburg 1972. (2nd edition of: "Heinrich Thiersch as an ecumenical figure")
  • Helmut Obst: Catholic Apostolic Congregations . In: Apostles and prophets of the modern age: Founders of Christian religious communities of the 19th and 20th centuries. Berlin 4th ed. 2000, pp. 21-54, ISBN 3-525-55439-7 .
  • Johannes Albrecht Schröter: "The Catholic Apostolic Congregations in Germany and the Geyer Case". Marburg 3rd edition 2011, ISBN 978-3-8288-5382-9 .
  • Albrecht Weber: The Catholic Apostolic Congregations, A Contribution to Researching Their Charismatic Experience and Theology . Inaugural dissertation, Cappeln / Oldenburg 1977.

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