New Apostolic Church

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New Apostolic Church
Logo of the NAK: white church emblem on a light blue background
Church logo
Basic data
founding January 27, 1863 in Hamburg
(official; no later than 1878)
origin Catholic Apostolic Congregations
↳ General Christian Apostolic Mission
↳ New Apostolic Church
Members 9.2 million (as of January 1, 2019)
Germany : 329,646 (0.4%)
Austria : 5,202, Switzerland : 31,643 (as of December 31, 2018)
Communities worldwide: 58,528
Germany: 1,610
head Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider (since 2013)
address New Apostolic Church International (NACI)
Überlandstrasse 243
8051 Zurich (Switzerland)

The New Apostolic Church (abbreviated NAK , in English New Apostolic Church (NAC) and in French Église néo-apostolique (ENA) ) is a Christian religious community that developed from Hamburg at the end of the 19th century and in Germany as a public body Right (Kdö.R.) is recognized. She belongs to the denomination group of the Apostolic Communities .

The nucleus was the Hamburg General Christian Apostolic Mission , which had split off from the Catholic-Apostolic congregations in 1863 . From this community further Apostolic Congregations emerged, which later largely formed the New Apostolic Church. The NAK sees the Apostle ministry still existing in the early Christian church being restored in its church. Their important beliefs include the expectation of the second coming of Christ in the near future.

International headquarters of the NAK in Zurich
NAK in Cape Town (Tafelsig, Mitchells Plain district ), largest New Apostolic sacred building in the world
Central church in Karlsruhe with an old emblem
New Apostolic Church in Karlstrasse in Nuremberg

The emblem of the New Apostolic Church is a cross floating over stylized waves, the sun rises on the horizon. The individual elements of this symbolism are not intended to have any further meanings, they are intended to be a general reference to the Christian Church.



The New Apostolic Church had 8.29 million members worldwide in 1995, in 1970 there were only 1.71 million. The church itself gives its current membership at just under 9.2 million. Their worldwide distribution as of January 2019 is divided as follows across the various continents:

continent Members Communities Public officials (officials)
Africa 7,761,817 49,959 210.257
North and South America 232.465 1,496 7,499
Asia 585,334 3,662 6,848
Europe 470.174 2,584 18,882
Australia & Oceania 132.087 827 6.213

The clear center of distribution today is in Central Africa , especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (<3 million), in Zambia (> 1.2 million) and Angola (approx. 270,000); also in West Africa (approx. 423,000 in Ghana and 289,000 in Nigeria ), the East African countries Kenya (approx. 425,000) and Tanzania (approx. 220,000) as well as in South Africa (especially in the Cape region ). Other priorities are in Asia, including Bangladesh , Pakistan and India , where the NAK had 1 million members in 1990 according to its own information. The number of congregations has grown steadily in recent years due to missionary activity , especially in Africa , while it is declining in Central Europe , America and especially Asia . At the beginning of 2019 there were 355 active apostles worldwide .

In Germany , around 330,000 New Apostolic Christians (0.4% of the total population), together with members of other apostolic communities , form the fourth largest Christian denomination after the Roman Catholic Church , the Evangelical Church (EKD) and the Orthodox Churches . Their distribution is particularly concentrated in the regions of Württemberg , the Rhineland and the Ruhr area. In the rest of the German-speaking region, around 31,000 are in Switzerland and over 5,000 in Austria .

Known members

Well-known members of the New Apostolic Church are:

The sailors Max Reichpietsch and Albin Köbis , organizers of the naval unrest in the summer of 1917 , were also New Apostolic, which senior NAK officials in the GDR later used to justify the integrity of the church to the SED state . The lawyer and CDU politician Waldemar Schreckenberger was allegedly expelled from the NAK in 1960. Previously, he had asked District Apostle Friedrich Bischoff and Chief Apostle Schmidt to admit guilt for non-fulfillment of the “ message ”. According to historian Olaf Wieland, the GDR border soldier Peter Göring , who was killed in 1962, was also a New Apostolic. According to Bernd Hartmann, former head of the Evangelical Alliance in Berlin, the same applies to Heinz Mielke, brother of the Minister for State Security of the GDR Erich Mielke .

The murdered ANC activist and anti-apartheid fighter Ashley Kriel , who was named by Nelson Mandela in his release speech on February 11, 1990, was also a member of the NAK. He was related to the future District Apostle John Kriel .

Psychographic characteristics

The German religious psychologists Sussan Rößler-Namini and Sebastian Murken carried out several comparative sociological studies with New Apostolic test subjects between 2004 and 2013. They also came to the following results:

  • Compared to Pentecostals and Jehovah's Witnesses, there is little cognitive dissonance in the case of contradictions between individual (i.e. personal beliefs and opinions) and collective views (e.g. dogmatics and moral code of the religious community), in which the authors believe that the newer principle of " Personal responsibility ”identified within the NAK.
  • A tolerance of esoteric practices that was comparable to that of Protestant and Roman Catholic test subjects, but was higher than that of Jehovah's Witnesses and Pentecostals.
  • A significantly high number of converts who were half orphaned on their father's side by the age of 15 (43% of the sample), which was explained by the patriarchal position of the Chief Apostle .


As an apostolic community , the New Apostolic Church is spiritually and organizationally guided by apostles who are equated with the biblical apostles . Legitimate apostles are exclusively those who were called by the chief apostle and who are “in unity with him”. The goal of the New Apostolic Christians is to be raptured and led or redeemed into eternal communion with God at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ , which is at the center of the New Apostolic faith . This means that the NAK belongs to the religious spectrum of premillenarianism and, alongside other Christian communities such as Jehovah's Witnesses , Mormons or Seven-Day Adventists, is characterized by a pronounced end-time expectation .

The apostles of the New Apostolic Church are set for the entire Church of Jesus Christ and see themselves as successors of the first apostles of Jesus of Nazareth . Your job is to build up the Church of Jesus Christ and, as missionaries, to preach the gospel to people . They are intended to make salvation accessible to believers - in particular through the administration of the three sacraments - Holy Baptism with Water , Holy Sealing, and Holy Communion - and are essential (i.e., "necessary for salvation") to prepare them for the rapture at the second coming of Jesus Christ. Consequently, the NAK believes that the revival movements in Europe at the beginning of the 19th century were based on the work of God to restore the early Christian apostleship; a restorationist theology similar to that of Pentecostalism or Mormonism . According to New Apostolic teaching, all Christian communities and practices of faith belong to the "visible" part of the Church of Jesus Christ , while the believers baptized with water in the trinitarian manner , who truly recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God and their Lord, make up the "invisible" part. Within the Church of Jesus Christ , the NAK occupies the exclusive position as the Lord's work of redemption .

The teaching is based on the Bible , whereby the overall understanding of the gospel is interpreted by the apostles and used as the basis for modern revelations. The interpretations of the New Apostolic Church correspond in many ways to the interpretations of other Christian churches (including belief in the Trinity , atonement of Jesus on the cross , practice of infant baptism ), but not, for example, in the doctrine of the sealing and the ideas about the dormant being . Another specific feature of the New Apostolic teaching is the conception of the “ contemporary word of God ”, according to which the sermon in divine service is directly inspired by the Holy Spirit.

New Apostolic Christians believe that thanks to the teaching of the gospel, sacraments, and forgiveness of sins from their apostles, they will have the prospect of a rapture at the return of Christ; the “ rebirth out of water and the Spirit ” through the first two sacraments is seen as a vocation to the “firstfruits”, that is to say to participate in the rapture. This is possible for the 144,000 elect named in the Bible ( Rev 14,1  LUT ), whereby this number is to be seen symbolically. Other believers can also find grace before God. It is emphasized that the Apostle ministry is only to be effective until that point in time. The apostle ministry plays no role in the question of who will be saved in the final judgment . This statement is important because large parts of Christendom are waiting for this final judgment. According to its own assessment, the NAK does not contradict their beliefs.

In December 2012 the new catechism was published as a comprehensive presentation of the New Apostolic faith. The catechism should not only be a textbook for the faithful, but also serve as a basis for dialogue with other Christian churches. The Church's claim to exclusivity and its interpretation of the Bible are the subject of regular controversy on the part of other Christians and former members .

Worship and practice


Altar view in the New Apostolic Church in Coswig (Anhalt) , 2007
Chancel of the NAK in Groebenzell

The liturgy of the New Apostolic Church initially (until around 1885) corresponded to the liturgy of the Catholic Apostolic congregations, which contained strong elements of the rite of the Catholic and Anglican churches.

Under the influence of Dutch Calvinism , the focus of worship shifted to word worship around 1885 (high proportion of sermons). There are still rudiments of the Catholic apostolic tradition in the New Apostolic liturgy. Up until 1998 the Lord's Supper was only celebrated on Sundays and church holidays; since 1998, the Lord's Supper has also been celebrated in weekly church services.

Since the 1st Advent 2010, the services have been taking place in the following liturgy, which is slightly expanded to the previous one.

Schematic sequence of a church service

Before the actual service begins

  • Music contributions (organ music, choral singing or instrumental music)
  • Possibly a period of rest for personal attunement to the service

Start of service

  • the congregation rises to a congregation song, meanwhile the ministers move into the nave, the worship leader takes his place behind the altar
  • Trinitarian entrance:
"In the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."
  • Opening prayer of the ministerial officer
  • Reading out a word from the Bible for the service, the congregation then sits down again
  • Contribution to music (mostly choir singing, but also church song, solo or instrumental piece)
  • Bible reading (on church holidays or at special "Bible Study Services", carried out by parishioners), followed by an additional musical contribution

Sermon part

  • Main sermon given by the respective service leader
  • Music contribution (mostly choir singing or church song)
  • Sermon gifts from other ministers

Sacramental part

  • absolution
    • Singing a penance song together
    • The church rises to the prayer of Our Father
    • Acquittal (proclamation)
    “On behalf of my sender, the apostle, I preach the good news to you:
    In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, your sins are forgiven.
    The peace of the risen one be with you! "
    • Sacrificial prayer
  • then possibly
  • Celebration of Holy Communion
    • Visible covering of the chalices and proclamation that the Lord's table is prepared
    • Separation ( consecration ) of the hosts (bread and wine):
    “In the name of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, I separate from bread and wine for Holy Communion and place on it the once brought, eternally valid sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
    For the Lord took bread and wine, gave thanks, and said,
    This is my body, which is given for you. This is my new covenant blood that will be shed for the forgiveness of sins for many. Eat and drink! Do this to my memory.
    For as often as you eat this bread and drink this wine, you proclaim the Lord's death until he returns. ”
    (After 1 Cor 11
    : 23-26  NIV )
    • Presentation of the hosts (rather uncommon: communion ) first of all to the official, the wafers are placed in the hands of the respective recipient ( "The body and blood of Jesus given for you." )
    • after an invitation from the congregation to the Lord's Supper, the hosts are also donated to them, while congregation / choir singing or organ music
    • Only held by District Apostles or Chief Apostles during divine services: the Lord's Supper is given to those who have fallen asleep
    • Cover the chalices of the communion
  • then possibly acts of blessing, for example:
    • Weddings, wedding anniversaries
    • Ordinations or retirement of public officials, etc.

End of service

  • Thanksgiving
  • Promise of the blessing ("final blessing"):
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all!" ( 2 Cor 13:13  ESV )
  • “Triple Amen” as the liturgical chant of the community
  • The service ends with a music contribution

Note: The quotes formatted in italics represent the official wording of the liturgical formulas in the German-speaking area. There are other such formulations, for example for acts of blessing and sacrament.

The sermons usually take up most of the time in the service. They end with an “ Amen ”, which is answered by the entire congregation.


All ministers preach without a manuscript. To prepare for the divine service, the monthly publication Leitgedanken zur Divine Service, published by the church administration, serves . This information sheet offers the service provider a brief structural introduction to the subject, including the interpretation and context of the Bible passage, historical classification and cross-references. In addition, several services are combined into one overall theme. The sermons of the individual services each deal with individual sub-aspects of this topic.

The appointed ministers preach without the requirement of any special training or theological training. In order to counteract criticism of the sermon content, more and more church seminars on sermon preparation were offered and theological training was held.

The dress code for preaching ministers calls for a black suit over a white shirt. The sermons are given exclusively from the altar, which also serves as a lectern for Bible readings. So the preacher stands behind the altar. In some churches there is an additional lectern for Bible readings.

Church year

Following Christian tradition, the New Apostolic church year begins with the four Sundays in Advent and its course is strongly oriented towards the evangelical annual cycle. However, smaller festivals and days of remembrance in the calendar of saints , such as All Saints' Day or the remembrance day of the Apostle Andrew, are not celebrated. In the course of church history, some services on public holidays have been omitted for organizational reasons, for example the second day of Christmas , the apparition of the Lord (Epiphany) and Maundy Thursday . Instead of just on Eternal Sunday , New Apostolic Christians especially commemorate the deceased three times a year in the so-called Dormant Service (see Dormant ). The Reformation Festival and the Day of Repentance and Prayer are only celebrated in predominantly Protestant regions, provided they take place during a regular service or are a public holiday.

With the introduction of the Chief Apostle office at Pentecost in 1897, a long tradition of the Pentecost celebration as the highlight of the New Apostolic church year has established itself. The commemoration of the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit has always been understood as creating identity and, at the beginning, as a distinction to the “secular” churches. Even today, the NAK calls the holiday the "birthday of the Church of Christ". Since Richard Fehr in particular, international live broadcasts of Chief Apostle divine services have usually taken place at Pentecost .

Liturgical colors and symbols have no special use in the New Apostolic Church.

Fellowship and attendance at church services

Of the members registered in the church registers, 20 to 100 percent regularly attend church services, depending on the congregation, although church attendance is on the decline in European countries. Believers who regularly attend church services usually also actively participate in community life and are characterized by a strong feeling of togetherness. There is extensive child, youth and senior care. In addition, a well-groomed appearance and formal clothing are common.

Church music

The hymn book of the New Apostolic Church

In the 1950s, music in the New Apostolic Church was simple and of poor quality. The reasons for this were, on the one hand, the small number of professionally trained staff within the church. In addition, there was a widespread view that music must be characterized by emotion and simplicity. Demanding and artistic music was assigned to the “world” and therefore found no place in the church.

Around 1960 the music commissioner at the time, who later became Chief Apostle (and then District Apostle) Walter Schmidt , wanted to establish new choral music, but this was unsuccessful.

It was not until the 1970s that a new collection of choir songs for community choirs was published by the church's own publishing house, and two volumes of “Organ Preludes” appeared in the 1980s.

With the increasing quality of the musical education of younger church members, the range of music on offer expanded. Orchestras, chamber choirs or project choirs were formed, which made music for special church services and, more and more often, also organized concerts. The hymn book of the New Apostolic Church has been used in New Apostolic divine services since 2005 . The previously used hymn book was from 1925. It contains works from various musical epochs. Most of the songs and texts can also be found in the songs of other denominations, as well as "New Apostolic" works. Important New Apostolic church musicians were or are Hermann Ober, Friedhelm Deis , Holger Hantke and Gustav Mankel .

In 2013 a new choir folder was published, which replaced the choir song collection from the 1970s. The new choir folder contains 462 pieces.


Office hierarchy and assignment

Since Pentecost 2019, the NAK has been distinguishing between the official levels of deaconry , priesthood and apostolic office within the official body . In addition to theological derivations, they differ in their pastoral powers. The tasks of all ministers include looking after the believers entrusted to them for pastoral care and preaching the gospel of Christ. While all of them are granted the “right proclamation of the word”, that is, the sermon with the address of the Triune God in worship and alternatively in pastoral care visits, deacons can not perform sacraments or acts of blessing (e.g. marriage ). The priests are allowed to administer Holy Communion and baptism . In addition, on behalf of the apostle, they can make acquittal (proclamation of the forgiveness of sins ). Apostles can proclaim acquittal with direct reference to Jesus Christ and also give the holy sealing .

In addition to the spiritual powers, the various offices differ from the responsibilities within the various structural units .

Structural unit Office level management
local community Deacon office,
Community leader
district Priesthood District Head
Apostles area Apostle ministry apostle
District Apostle Area Apostle ministry District Apostle
Worldwide Church Apostle ministry Chief Apostle

The NAK distinguishes ordination in the office from being commissioned to manage a sub- structure and from being appointed to an auxiliary position.

Office level Ordained offices commissioning appointment
Apostle ministry Apostle,
Chief Apostle
District Apostle Chief Apostle Helper,
Apostle Helper , Lead Apostle
Priesthood priest District chief,
community chief
Deputy District Leader,
Deputy Parish Leader
Deacon office deacon

Until 2017 the District Apostle was an ordained ministry at the apostolic level; today it is an assignment at the apostolic level with additional spiritual powers (e.g. dispensing Holy Communion to the deceased ). The former episcopate has not been re-ordained since 2019, but is now an appointment as an apostle's helper at the level of the priesthood. The priestly offices of District Elder , District Evangelist , Shepherd , and Evangelist have not been newly appointed since 2019 . Until 2002, the existed at the level deacon Office ordination to the sub-deacon . In addition, the office of the community elder has never been abolished but de facto has expired .

With the exception of individual cases, all ministers have no theological training . As a rule, they work on a voluntary basis, while apostles and so far often also bishops are employees of the church. Office holders can take a temporary leave of absence from their voluntary assignment or resign from it.

Ordination and women

The ordination of ministers is carried out exclusively by apostles to men. A women's ordination is not available in the New Apostolic Church currently. Thus women in the NAK cannot donate sacraments or exercise the “lawful preaching of the word” in the sermon. However, women often take on teaching activities in children's or confirmation classes as well as leading tasks in the music industry, since various assignments do not require ordination.

In the early years of the Church (officially until 1952), there was the office of deaconess or deaconess , which in their area of the deacon met. The office was explicitly listed in 1938 in the then version of the semi-official Questions and Answers about the New Apostolic Faith . According to the textbook Das Entlafenenwesen (1986), those under Chief Apostle Niehaus also functioned as “office cribs”, i.e. as substitute recipients for the dispensing of sacraments to the deceased . According to a written report from Chief Apostle Helper Bischoff in 1929, deaconesses took over the administration of Holy Communion in Germany during the First World War . The office already existed in the predecessor communities, i.e. (temporarily) in the Catholic Apostolic Church and in the general Christian apostolic mission . In addition, according to Helmut Obst , women were also active as prophets in the NAK until the beginning of the 20th century.

Especially in the western world , the issue of the ordination of women is often raised. So far, the church has held against the fact that women in leading spiritual positions in many areas of the world often do not find sufficient recognition, or argued with the example of the biblical apostles. At a press conference shortly after his retirement, Chief Apostle Fehr commented positively on opening the official body to the position of deaconess. Chief Apostle Leber went one step further in 2010 and announced to the Westfalen-Blatt :

"In the next few years I would like to discuss whether and how we regionally in Europe will give women access to offices in the future and not only let them participate in youth work and music."

On the occasion of the new understanding of ministry in 2019, Chief Apostle Schneider declared that the Circle of Apostles would make a final decision on the question of women's ordination in the near future:

“In the next District Apostle Meetings we will deal with the question of the ordination of women into spiritual office. This topic is particularly important to us, both for our teaching [...] and for church life. As for the understanding of ministry, we will take the necessary time to explore the topic in depth. "

As early as 2018, church spokesman Peter Johanning responded to a public request that the introduction of women's ordination in the foreseeable future was “strong”.

Church leadership

Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider has been at the head of the New Apostolic Church since May 19, 2013 . The Chief Apostle heads the Church from its headquarters in Zurich and makes decisions on all matters that affect the Church as a whole, primarily questions of doctrine and pastoral care. He uses the District Apostle Meeting or other bodies appointed by him to make decisions .

Chief Apostle of the New Apostolic Church were or is:

  1. Friedrich Krebs (1897–1905)
  2. Hermann Niehaus (1905–1930)
  3. Johann Gottfried Bischoff (1930–1960)
  4. Walter Schmidt (1960–1975)
  5. Ernst Fahrtisen (1975–1978)
  6. Hans Urwyler (1978–1988)
  7. Richard Fehr (1988-2005)
  8. Wilhelm Leber (2005-2013)
  9. Jean-Luc Schneider (since 2013)

Subordinate to the Chief Apostle are the District Apostles who lead the respective District Churches. Other apostles are assigned to them, who in some cases are commissioned as so-called “District Apostle Helpers”. The Chief Apostle and the District Apostles meet regularly at District Apostle Assemblies to discuss organizational, theological and pastoral issues. In addition, an international assembly of all apostles takes place every three years.

In fulfilling regional tasks, the apostles are assisted by priests with various assignments or appointments (e.g. bishops). The individual parishes are the center of church life. The apostles entrust church leaders with their leadership, who in turn are supported by other priests and deacons. Around ten to thirty parishes form a district. An apostle and a bishop usually look after three to six districts.

Legal structure

The headquarters of the New Apostolic Church International (NACI), and thus the headquarters of the Chief Apostle, is in Zurich .

The New Apostolic Church is divided into legally independent District Churches , which are headed by the District Apostles. With regard to the doctrine of the faith, the District Apostles report to the Chief Apostle. It is possible for several District Churches to be led by one District Apostle; they are then referred to as the District Apostle Area. There are four district churches in Germany. The District Church of Austria and the District Church of Switzerland belong to a District Apostle area. Legally, the District Churches in Germany are corporations under public law , in Switzerland it is an association and in Austria a religious society .

The District Churches are subdivided into legally dependent districts, which in turn are divided into legally dependent parishes.


A church tax is not levied by the New Apostolic District Churches in Germany and Austria, although this is legally possible due to the corporate status. The New Apostolic Church is financed by donations , so-called sacrifices . The annual donation volume in 2009 totaled over 171 million euros worldwide. For the donation amount of the individual member an orientation on the biblical tithe is recommended. The financial sacrifice can be entered in the sacrificial boxes available to the churches either anonymously or in an envelope with details of the sender. The latter has the advantage that the NAK issues a donation receipt by name , which is tax deductible. Cashless donations by bank transfer are also possible.

The international church is financed by allocations of the district churches, it also organizes the support of financially weaker district churches by financially stronger ones. By far the largest part of the income goes into the construction and maintenance of the church buildings, which in principle are not maintained by the individual parishes, but by the district churches. A considerable part of the church budget is also spent on missionary work. The control of the business reports , in which the church's income, expenditure and assets are shown, is usually carried out by independent auditors. The Church publishes summarized statements of the financial statements , with the respective key figures for the previous year.

In the 1990s, heated controversies about financial policy flared up , especially with regard to the remuneration policy of clergy like Chief Apostle Richard Fehr .

Church institutions and groups

Publishing house and printing company

The publishing house Friedrich Bischoff , founded in 1932 by Johann Gottfried Bischoff , the father of the namesake, is based in Frankfurt am Main . It has been owned by the New Apostolic Church since 1987 and publishes, among other things, the church's own magazine “Our Family”.

As the property of the church, Bischoff Verlag used to publish mainly magazines and sound carriers with a direct link to the NAK. For economic reasons, however, more media with general Christian content should be published in the future.

The Friedrich Bischoff Druckerei GmbH also belonged until 2010 NAK, but was sold to a private investor due to declining orders in February this year.

The Edition Punctum Saliens is a publisher on content related to the New Apostolic Church, but not in the hands of the church itself.

Church magazines

Our family (UF) is a magazine for members of the New Apostolic Church, mainly in German-speaking countries. It has a total circulation of around 50,000 copies and is published twice a month with around 52 pages. By 2015, UF had also been distributed internationally in around 20 translations.

The content of the magazine ranges from divine service and travel reports by the Chief Apostle to statements by the Church on current topics and articles with biblical history and background knowledge. The UF also includes an advertising section for family and business advertisements and offers its readers space to report on their own experiences.

Since 2013, the magazine has been accompanied by an eight-page supplement Wir Kinder once a month . This section for children between the ages of six and ten was published as a separate magazine. The content deals with topics related to "Christians & the Bible". The magazine offers the classic elements of children's magazines with reading texts, coloring pictures, handicraft instructions, puzzles and hands-on activities.

From March 2015, the English, French and Spanish-language editions of Our Family will be replaced by a new magazine, community .

Spirit is a magazine especially for young New Apostolic Christians. Every two months current topics are taken up and partly examined from a critical and New Apostolic point of view.

Youth in the Church

Logo of the EYD 2009 in Düsseldorf

Various youth activities take place within the districts. These include youth worship services, regional and local youth lessons, choir lessons, sporting events and youth camps. In addition, the individual District Churches in Germany hold regular youth days. These usually take place over weekends (on a smaller scale, even on just one day) in exhibition halls or city halls, where the participants may also spend the night. The supporting program includes music performances, workshops and discussions, as well as sporting offers. Depending on the duration of the Youth Day, it will either begin or end with a youth service.

From May 21 to 24, 2009, the New Apostolic Church's European Youth Day took place for the first time in the Düsseldorf Exhibition Center and in the adjacent Düsseldorf LTU Arena with around 35,000 participants from all over Europe.

Wafer bakery

The central host bakery in Bielefeld produces around one million hosts per day, which are used for the Lord's Supper all over the world .

Other host bakeries are located in Cape Town and India.

Charitable institutions

NAK-karitativ e. V. is the aid organization of the New Apostolic Churches in Germany. The main fields of activity are disaster relief and support for development projects and social institutions. In order to be able to cover all areas of activity worldwide, NAK-karitativ works closely with non-church partners (such as Terre des hommes , the German World Hunger Aid or the German Children's Hospice Association ). Outside Germany (e.g. in countries such as Portugal, India and South Africa) there are numerous other church institutions such as schools, kindergartens and orphanages, some of which are supported by NAK-karitativ and some of which are financed by the local district churches.

The NAK North Rhine-Westphalia youth organization supports youth projects abroad, for example vacation stays or language courses for financially disadvantaged young people are offered. The New Apostolic Social and Educational Organization NRW eV supports New Apostolic Christians who are affected by unemployment with offers for adult education and professional qualifications. The NAK North Rhine-Westphalia also operates two residential and care centers - in Fröndenberg and Oberhausen .

Other humanitarian aid organizations of the New Apostolic Church are the NAK-Humanitas Foundation (Switzerland) and the Missionary Organization of the New Apostolic Church in Southern Germany


nacworld is the social network of the New Apostolic Church International and offers the opportunity to make contact with other Christians worldwide and to cultivate friendships. nacworld is aimed at members of the New Apostolic Church. Members of other churches or religious communities are also welcome - the portal is open to anyone interested. nacworld is available as a multilingual project in German, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Dutch. The use of nacworld is non-commercial and completely free of charge for members. There is no funding through advertising or sponsorship, no premium membership or other chargeable extensions.

Private initiatives (selection)

Rainbow NAK

In 1999, Regenbogen-NAK was created, a private initiative of homosexual , bisexual and transgender New Apostolic believers. One of the main concerns of this association is recognition by the church and the faithful, especially through education about alternative forms of life. Rainbow-NAK is represented in numerous countries, including France, the Netherlands, Argentina, South Africa and the USA.

NAK entrepreneur forum

In May 2007, at the instigation of the President of the District Church of North Rhine-Westphalia, District Apostle Armin Brinkmann, the NAK-Unternehmerforum e. V. founded. This association, whose board members must be entrepreneurs and active members of the NAK North Rhine-Westphalia according to the statutes, has set itself the goal of promoting mutual support of its members, social and charitable engagement as well as contacts to entrepreneurs and organizations of other Christian denominations .

INBEKI - Special Children Initiative

The Special Children initiative was founded in 2010 by active members of the New Apostolic Church. Parents of children with ADHD , autism , genetic and metabolic diseases, dyslexia / dyscalculia or other special features come together here. The goals are the exchange among those affected, the education about these "special features" - especially with the teachers - and the creation of a positive environment for the children within the church.

Network of Apostolic History

The Network Apostolic History is a non-profit association and was founded in 2008 by members of the New Apostolic Church and the Apostolic Community . The interest group deals with research into the history of the Apostolic Faith Communities, which also includes the New Apostolic Church and its forerunners. She also runs the Brockhagen Archive as a meeting place, archive and library in a former New Apostolic Church in Brockhagen. But also many publications (e.g. own, but also in the church's own magazine Spirit), the internet lexicon APWiki, appearances at youth and church days as well as seminars and themed afternoons in the New Apostolic Church are part of the association's field of activity.


The beginnings of the New Apostolic Church go back to the revival movements around Edward Irving , John Bate Cardale and the later Catholic Apostolic congregations in Great Britain in the 19th century . They assumed that prayers for a second outpouring of the Holy Spirit after the biblically traditional Pentecost led to wonderful tongues , prophecies and the appointment of new apostles to restore primitive Christian conditions. After the movement achieved mission successes in Germany as well, the excommunication and separation of the general Christian apostolic mission took place in Hamburg in 1863, especially under the influence of the doctrinal differences with the prophet Heinrich Geyer . The reasons for this were differences in the end times expectation and the gradual death of the twelve Catholic apostolic apostles, whose line the supporters around Geyer and the later newly called apostle Carl Wilhelm Louis Preuss tried to maintain. In 1878 Geyer separated again after the apostles Friedrich Wilhelm Schwarz and Friedrich Wilhelm Menkhoff came to very different views on theology , liturgy and succession for the deceased Apostle Prussia. Under the leadership of Friedrich Krebs (Chief Apostle from 1897 to 1905) the structure and teaching of the later NAK were finally formed in the “Apostolic Congregation” in Germany and the “Apostolic Zending” in the Netherlands. These included, among other things, the introduction of the Chief Apostle's office as the absolute spiritual authority of the new apostles, the abandonment of the ecumenical principle of the Unified and Awakening Church, in addition to a steadily increasing emphasis on the Sacrament of Sealing, and the disappearance of prophecy and other charismatic elements.

Under Chief Apostle Hermann Niehaus (Stammapostel 1905-1930) came to consolidating and profiling of the apostolic mission churches, which after a decision by an Apostle Meeting 1907 " New called apostolic church" and from 1930 continuously "Apostolic Church". The first official church writings on New Apostolic doctrine - also the first creed in 1908 - as well as rules of conduct for the religious life of the members also fall during this period . Under allegations of subversive activities in the German Empire , Niehaus also manifested a course of active neutrality in political matters and oriented the community patriotically - monarchistically , which had a wide range of effects on religious practice. Because of the failed prophecies about the outcome of the First World War , serious leadership conflicts arose again after the end of the war, above all over the authority of the Chief Apostle Office and further splits from the NAK . The New Apostolic Church grew steadily, especially in Germany, and in 1925 already had 138,000 members.

During the term of office of Chief Apostle Bischoff (from 1930 to 1960), the NAK's claim to religious absoluteness and the leadership position of the Chief Apostle came to a temporary climax in the post-war period against the background of a heated dispute over the direction . In addition to personal conflicts and theological differences of opinion, the attitude of the church leadership towards the Nazi regime also contributed to this, which is described as opportunistic to ingratiating and outwardly favorable because of the replication of anti-Semitic agitation and state war propaganda . The conflicts from the Bischoff era ultimately culminated in the biggest crisis of the religious community to date, after the "message" proclaimed by the Chief Apostle and raised as a dogma , according to which the return of Christ would take place during his lifetime, was not due to his death in July 1960 could fulfill more. During his tenure, tens of thousands of members worldwide separated from the Church as a result of numerous divisions , resignations and exclusions .

The new wave of criticism from excluded members, supporters of split-off communities and representatives of the regional churches led to a strong self-isolation of the NAK during the tenure of Chief Apostle Walter Schmidt (in office from 1960 to 1975) and Ernst Fahrtisen (from 1975 to 1978), and consequently the New Apostolic Churches Christians were also cut off from the modernization tendencies of Western society for a long time and cultivated a practice of faith based on unconditional obedience and rigid leadership structures. Coupled with the church's claim to exclusivity , the position of women, the handling of the Nazi and SED regimes and other points of contention, this in turn led to severe criticism in the late decades of the 20th century and established a reputation for the NAK as a “ sect ” or “ Special community ” in public. It was not until Chief Apostle Hans Urwyler (in office from 1978 to 1988) that reformatory impulses were introduced by first approaching the excommunicated and introducing the principle of “personal responsibility”. The increasingly massive critics in the media and on the internet finally moved Chief Apostle Richard Fehr (from 1988 to 2005) to continue and intensify Urwyler's course from 1996, which led to a repositioning of the NAK. Due to globalization and increased missionary work, the number of members under the hands of Urwyler and Fehr rose exponentially from 1.5 to over 10 million members. Chief Apostle liver (in office 2005-2013) took the approach to other churches with numerous steps in the institutionalized ecumenism , including through some drastic changes to the teaching sacrament - and understanding of ministry .



At the international level, the New Apostolic Church does not belong to the World Council of Churches (WCC), but to the national branches in India (2014), the Netherlands (2016), Luxembourg (2017) and Argentina (2018). Furthermore, since 2005 the NAC has been participating in the International Day of Prayer for Peace proclaimed by the WCC . She does not take part in interdenominational dispensing of sacraments or acts of blessing (e.g. marriage , funeral ), contributions from clergy from other churches are only possible outside of the acts. Other participation in ecumenical services has been permitted for several years; Cooperation in a social and charitable context is encouraged.

In Germany, the New Apostolic Church was accepted as a guest member in the Working Group of Christian Churches in Germany (ACK) in 2019 . This was decided by the member churches of the ACK with the required two-thirds majority. This was preceded by clarifications in regular conversations between the New Apostolic Church and the ACK, which were initially initiated in 2001 at the regional level. In September 2015, the New Apostolic Church and the ACK published a joint guide on “Possibilities for ecumenical encounters and cooperation” under the title “Steps towards one another”. The New Apostolic Church has been a guest member in over 30 local ACK associations since 2017, of which the first congregation was Memmingen in 2006 . In 2017, guest membership was also valid at the federal state level in Baden-Württemberg, Berlin-Brandenburg, Hamburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Some ACK local associations have accepted the New Apostolic Church as full members to date.

In Switzerland , the NAK has been a guest member of the Working Group of Christian Churches in Switzerland since 2014 . An important criterion for acceptance was the signing of the Charter Oecumenica , which sets out the guidelines for cooperation between the Christian churches in Europe. In Austria , the NAK has been represented as an observer in the Ecumenical Youth Council since 2012, where it has already participated in ecumenical worship services several times. In 2014 the World Council of Churches in Austria (ÖRKÖ) and the NAK there published a joint guide.

The participation in the Lord's Supper in the church services of the NAK is officially only intended for members and as a guest also for properly baptized Christians of other denominations. However, this is not controlled and in practice no one is denied participation. Since Pentecost 2008 the New Apostolic Church has prayed the Lord's Prayer in the version of the Luther Bible ( revision from 1984 ). The ecumenical version used by most other Christian churches differs only slightly from this (there it says in the first line "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name." , Whereas the Luther version reads this with "Our Father in heaven! Become your name." sanctified. ” translated).

The NAK was represented for the first time on the 34th Kirchentag of the Evangelical Church in Germany , which took place in Hamburg in 2013. The application by the NAK to participate in the 2nd Ecumenical Church Congress in Munich 2010 was rejected in the previous year.

In 2000 the NAK and other apostolic communities held a first apostolic council in Zurich . The inner-apostolic dialogue reached its preliminary climax in the declaration of reconciliation between the NAC and the Apostolic Community in 2014.


Since the approach of the NAC to ecumenical organizations and their changes to essential doctrinal statements, external observers have published numerous evaluations of the “ecumenical opening process”. The majority of representatives from other churches in Germany comment positively on ecumenical developments, particularly with regard to the renewal of the understanding of baptism and the church in the NAK and the final definition of these teachings in a comprehensive catechism. Even the most well-known NAK dropout in Germany, Siegfried Dannwolf, described this development as basically "positive".

The religious scholar Katja Rakow sees a paradoxical dilemma in the ecumenical opening process : by upgrading other Christian creeds in teaching and removing deviations from mainstream Christianity, the NAK is potentially endangering its classic, recognizable teaching profile . Consequently, she evaluates the changes in teaching and institutional approaches to ecumenism as a “balancing act” or a dual strategy in order to soothe controversies about her profile without giving up. The theologian Andreas Finck comes to a similar assessment of the NAK's claim to exclusivity , despite a very positive attitude. There is a strong gap within the NAK when it comes to pushing for reforms:

“In no way does the church react only to demographic distortions. It is astonishing that some things are not going fast enough, others are probably going too fast, so that the NAK is facing an acid test. "

Out of consideration for conservative members, reforms have been postponed for a long time or only pushed forward slowly, which has repeatedly led to unrest among progressive members. Fincke gives this movement the title “NAC from below” and compares it to a certain extent with the Roman Catholic initiative Church from below .

The main criticism relates above all to an exclusive understanding of salvation in relation to the second coming of Christ and the interpretation of “sonship to God”, which the NAK merely supplemented with undisputed concessions; even if, on the other hand, it is admitted that similar exclusive traits also existed in other ecumenical churches. The readiness of the New Apostolic Church to reflect on controversial positions on the basis of the Bible is also doubted. When the new NAK catechism was published, Kai Funkschmidt, the responsible advisor at the Evangelical Central Office for Weltanschauung questions, questioned whether the doctrinal changes and their significance for ecumenism were adequately communicated to the church public. In a comparison of statements made by Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber and Jean-Luc Schneider, he also found that the latter emphasized the NAK's exclusivist self-image again and that the ecumenical opening process in theological orientation had come to a temporary end with the publication of the new Catechism in 2012 .

Various assumptions are made about the motivation for the ecumenical opening process of the NAK. Kai Funkschmidt cites the long, unfulfilled expectation of the return of Christ, which leads to a general change of course. The Swiss religious scholar Georg Schmid suspects the influence of secularization on the number and religious activity of the members. The so-called ACK clause is also repeatedly mentioned, which often makes it impossible for members of churches outside the ACK to find employment in church institutions. Various voices assume that the NAK in its ecumenical opening process is less aimed at a theological approach to Christianity as a whole than at a departure from a “sect image”.


Teaching views

The New Apostolic Church is criticized from outside for its exclusivist (i.e. excluding) understanding of the church as the Lord's work of redemption . This criticism relates primarily to the New Apostolic idea that their apostolic office is the only one who is capable of God to bestow the gift of the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the forgiveness of sins and thereby enable people to participate in the rapture. Despite references to the sovereignty of God and pro-ecumenical changes in teaching , the NAK has basically retained this claim to exclusivity.

Various points of their teaching, above all the apostles' understanding of ministry or the dormant being , are often viewed by other Christians as biblically unfounded. In this respect, the NAK is also accused of Eisegesis .

Obedience structure

In the last decades of the 20th century there was severe public criticism by external observers and resigned members of the dogma of obedience to the official body at the time . Critics such as the psychologist and ex-priest Olaf Stoffel as well as other dropouts described this, combined with threats of remaining behind in the rapture, withdrawal of divine blessings or the culpability of sin against the Holy Spirit in the event of criticism or violations, as indoctrination and a means of brainwashing the members . In addition, many pastors had numerous rules of conduct for their way of life as well as the high time required for the community activities, which are regarded as binding, which is why the NAK was also accused of social control and pressure to conform .

By introducing the principle of personal responsibility and changing the teaching profile, the NAK carried out reforms that were also reflected in the psychographic structure of the New Apostolic Christians . Even Chief Apostle Schneider, who has been in office since 2013, has repeatedly criticized the earlier practice of the NAK. Nevertheless, there are still voices who accuse the same structure of obedience with only different rhetoric or who criticize the failure to come to terms with spiritual abuse in pastoral care.

At the end of 2018, the NAK West Germany announced a pioneering project with which it would like to create a point of contact for those seeking advice after stressful experiences in pastoral care , which should be aimed at members as well as alumni.

Dealing with Chief Apostle Bischoff's "Message"

To this day, the New Apostolic Church has been criticized for not having clearly distanced itself from the “message” as an error by Chief Apostle Bischoff or as an internal political issue (see, for example, treatises by Dominik Schmolz or Michael Koch). While Chief Apostle Leber was in office, the NAK apologized for the suffering committed by his church in the course of reconciliation efforts with other apostolic Christians and declared earlier attempts at justification to be unbiblical. Nevertheless, it leaves it to the individual, without any conclusion of his own, to regard the “message” as divine or not.

After the "information evening" broadcast across Europe on December 4, 2007, the NAK was heavily criticized, including a. because the NAK did not see Bischoff's “message” as the main cause of the divisions in 1954 and 1955, but merely as an immediate cause.

In 2015, the Evangelical Central Office for Weltanschauungsfragen (EZW) was astonished that the NAK refused to publish the results of a survey of contemporary witnesses commissioned by the historian Almut Leh and the University of Hagen . The New Apostolic Church justified this by stating that the reconciliation with the VAG had already taken place and that such a publication could therefore give rise to new conflicts. The (then still) New Apostolic historian Olaf Wieland publicly criticized this approach to District Apostle Wolfgang Nadolny from Berlin. Some members of the NAK launched the petition “NAK research report now!”.

Dealing with Sexual Abuse

Since the NAK has received more media coverage, there have also been increasing reports of sexual violence since the 1990s . In an activity report published in 2019 by the independent commission to deal with child sexual abuse , the New Apostolic Church was explicitly mentioned in the victim reports alongside the major churches and the religious community of Jehovah's Witnesses . In May and June 2019, a case of abuse in the NAK West Germany made headlines nationwide.

In 2007, the pedagogue Irene Döring and the former police psychologist Rainer Ballnus founded the association Licht nach dem Dunkel eV (LINDD), which has repeatedly appeared in the past year as an advocate of New Apostolic victims to the church leadership and, according to their own statements, is responsible for internal church prevention and education promote addiction. LINDD also collects various reports from abuse victims on its website. According to its own account, the association held talks with the church leadership, during which LINDD critically expressed that the church is more concerned with protecting offenders than victims. On the one hand, LINDD confirms in a recent statement that the NAK has been fundamentally addressing the issue since 2004 and has taken concrete steps. On the other hand, these are often inadequately coordinated and too often leave independent professional advice out. The relationship between the parties was tense for a long time, which also suggests a name dispute in 2009, although regionally there were nevertheless some cooperations on the topic in question.

Döring was already involved in the first NAK guideline on the subject of sexual abuse “Dealing with sexual assault in pastoral care”, which appeared in 2004, according to Döring. In various district churches such as southern Germany and North Rhine-Westphalia , letters to parents were published that were intended to provide direct clarification and to pass on recommendations for action. In both letters, those affected are recommended to escalate suspicions to responsible authorities such as the criminal police or youth welfare office . According to LINDD eV, there were similar letters in other district churches. In addition, there have been information events for a number of years, and in some District Churches there are also responsible bodies. Since 2016, the NAK Süddeutschland has required officials and other agents to sign a code of conduct and submit an extended management report on the legal basis of Section 72a of the Eighth Book of the Social Code .

Due to the prevalence of sexual violence in South Africa , one of the highest in the world, the New Apostolic Church Africa-South adopted detailed guidelines in March 2020 which, according to its own information, were drawn up by pastors and external advisors over two years. While the guidelines provide for the expertise of members of advisory bodies and cooperation with relevant aid organizations, the powers for internal investigations remain among senior clergymen. The NAK Afrika-Süd obliges members and employees to report child abuse in suspected cases.


Publications of the New Apostolic Church

  • The New Apostolic Church brochure, Zurich 2014 ( online , PDF).
  • One belief - one goal. 150 Years of the New Apostolic Church Ed .: New Apostolic Church International, Zurich 2013 ( online , PDF).
  • Catechism of the New Apostolic Church. Bischoff Verlag, 2012, ISBN 978-3-943980-00-4 .

Publications about the New Apostolic Church

  • Kai M. Funkschmidt ( Evangelical Central Office for Weltanschauungsfragen (EZW)): Compact information : The New Apostolic Church. Berlin 2013 ( online, PDF ).
  • Kai M. Funkschmidt (Ed.): Preservation and Renewal. Ecumenical analyzes of the new catechism of the New Apostolic Church (= EZW texts 228). Berlin 2013 ( table of contents ).
  • Katja Rakow: Recent developments in the New Apostolic Church. Documentation of the opening process. Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-89998-036-0 .
  • Reinhard Hempelmann (Ed.): The New Apostolic Church and the Ecumenical Movement (= EZW-Texte 214). Berlin 2011 ( table of contents ).
  • Olaf Wieland: From a 'sect' to a 'free church'? (= Free Church Research. 16). Münster 2007, ISBN 978-3-934109-08-7 .
  • Tobias Mai: The teaching of the New Apostolic Church in the light of Holy Scripture . Hünfeld 2010, ISBN 978-3-939833-29-1 ( online, pdf ).
  • Erhard Ludwig: On the effectiveness of religious ideologies among citizens of the GDR, demonstrated using the example of the New Apostolic Church in the Erfurt district . Dissertation, Humboldt University Berlin 1969, DNB 482431873 .

On the history of the church


  • Winnifried Lange: I was a “child of God”. IKS Garamond, Jena 2004, ISBN 3-934601-85-5 .

Web links

Commons : New Apostolic Church  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Commons : New Apostolic Church Buildings in Germany  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
  • nak-info , critical consideration of the New Apostolic Church of a private initiative

Official web links

Individual evidence

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  3. ^ New Apostolic Church Switzerland: Annual Report 2018 New Apostolic Church Switzerland. P. 54 , accessed July 7, 2019 .
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