The New Apostolic Church – The Chief Apostle ministry – Vine or Tree Trunk? A critical consideration taking into account biblical facts and current statements of the church leadership!
The New Apostolic Church is the only church in the world to have installed what is known as the Chief Apostle Ministry. The Chief Apostle’s ministry is the highest ministry and the highest authority, the New Apostolic Church is led and directed by this ministry, similar to the Catholic Church by the Papacy. What is this ministry about, how did it come about, and what powers of attorney does this ministry of chief apostle have?
The chief apostle ministry in the New Apostolic Church (NAC) plays a prominent role, like the ministry of the papacy, in the Roman Catholic Church. Without this ministry, the New Apostolic Church would not be the church it is. Many special teachings are inconceivable without this ministry. What is this ministry all about, what are the characteristics and special properties of this ministry compared to other church ministries? Does this ministry find its model in the New Testament? Can it be legitimized biblically? This article aims to provide information on these and other questions.
Where does the term Chief Apostle actually come from? Many New Apostolics cannot give a concrete answer to this question either. Mostly the current meaning is pointed out.
As with a tree in which the individual branches emerge from the trunk and form leaves, so the different ministry levels of the NAC, which emerge from the chief apostle’s office (trunk), form the finer branches. The community members end up hanging like leaves on the ministers (branches). Whoever wants to come to Jesus (root) has to connect with the Chief Apostle (trunk) via the individual levels of ministries (branches).
In contrast to the New Apostolic concept of the relationship with God, or more precisely Jesus, is the biblical illustration that Jesus himself gave us (2): “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (3) – John 15, 5
In the biblical illustration, believers are directly connected to Jesus, rooted in him. Paul confirms that this does not only apply to the disciples (apostles): “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” – Col 2, 6f
In a clear misinterpretation of the Holy Scripture, the Chief Apostle refers to the illustration of the vine, saying that he is now the vine: “So one of the Apostles who has received ministry and the Spirit in order to be able to serve as a vine (meaning the Chief Apostle, author’s note), from which the branches (meaning the Apostles, author’s note) come forth as a new birth. Thus, all apostles who are active in the work of God today are born of the chief apostle ministry and Spirit and stand fruitful as branches on the vine”. (4) (5)
The meaning of the term “Chief Apostle” was subsequently defined through the illustration of the tree trunk. In this way, the actual origin of the term is obscured. At the beginning of the “apostolic movement”, in the Catholic Apostolic Church (KaK) and also in the General Christian Apostolic Mission (AcaM), the areas of activity of the individual apostles were called tribes. Based on the twelve tribes of Israel, there were twelve tribes (areas of work), for each of which an apostle was responsible.
The Catholic Apostolic Apostles were collegially connected to one another. Everyone was a chief (tribe) apostle, namely the apostle for his tribe (field of work). However, the term Chief (tribe) Apostle was not in use and did not have the meaning it has today in the NAC. The apostles of the following splits also referred to their field of work as the tribe and were thus chief apostles of their field of work. Here are some examples:
– Cardale, apostle for the tribe of Judah (England)
– Drummond, Apostle for the tribe of Benjamin (Scotland and Switzerland)
– Carlyle, apostle for the tribe of Simeon (Northern Germany)
– Schwarz, apostle for the tribe of Judah (Netherlands)
– Preuss, apostle for the tribe of Ephraim (Northern Germany)
– Menkhoff, Apostle for the tribe of Isaschar (Westphalia)
– Krebs, Apostle for the tribe of Ephraim (Northern Germany)
In the predecessor communities of the NAC there were tribal (chief) bishops and tribal (chief) prophets in addition to the apostles for the tribes (‘chief apostles’). Even in the Apostolic Congregations – after 1907 – there were chief (tribal) bishops and chief (tribal) prophets! It was only the Apostle Fritz (Friedrich) Krebs who began to usurp power and gave the term Chief Apostle a new meaning. This happened after the split from the General Christian Apostolic Mission (AcaM 1978) and after the death of the Apostle Schwarz (1895). It happened through the takeover of a large part of the Dutch parishes of the Hersteld Apostolische Zendingkerk (HAZ) from Apostle Schwarz and through the exclusion of dissenting apostles and office bearers (Hoppe, van Bemmel, Fischer).
He abolished the principle of collegiality and made himself ‘sole ruler’ over the newly created apostolic congregations of the so-called new order (New Apostolic Church only from 1907 and New Apostolic Church from 1921).
It is questionable whether Krebs himself had the title Chief Apostle since it is only used once in the documents and in the literature of this time: “The first written treatise on the foundation and origin of the Chief Apostle ministry is the one published by Hermann Niehaus, ‘Haushaltung Gottes’. The author, however, remains anonymous and even the year of publication is questionable. …
The author is obviously the initiator of the Chief Apostle ministry in the form that is still valid today, because he describes the development as follows: ,to the writer of these lines, all these things (classification of the individual offices in the hierarchy /A.d.V.) had not only become the object of daily prayer, but he also had to think about them incessantly, so that God would give him light and provide a remedy for the grievances. … Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
There can and must be only one person who bears full responsibility to the head of the household and to whom all other ministers are responsible in their set order and must show obedience if God’s blessing is to be manifested. And this person is solely and exclusively the Chief Apostle.’ Since the New Apostolic Church refers to Krebs in all official writings as the first to hold the ministerial title of ‘Chief Apostle’, it would stand to reason to assume that he is also the founder and author of the above scripture. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version) …
However, this claim is contradicted by the fact that the first and only mention of Apostle Krebs as Chief Apostle in the periodical writings of the New Apostolic congregation was in the ‘Travel Report on the Journeys of the Apostles in July 1898’. It is also noteworthy that until the death of the ‘Unity Father’ Krebs, this designation was never used again, and even in his obituary he only referred to ‘dear Father Krebs’. Only his successor Hermann Niehaus was increasingly mentioned as ‘Unity and Chief Apostle’ from April 1906 onwards, and from December onwards he receives the official title: ‘Chief Leader and Chief Apostle’ of the ‘New=apostolic congregations.'” (6)
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© Lutz Jusko
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2) Mit freundlicher Genehmigung von Frau Corinna Adam.
3) Wenn nicht anders gekennzeichnet, sind alle Bibelzitate der Bibelübersetzung von Franz Eugen Schlachter in der dritten Revision (Schlachter 2000) entnommen.
4) J.G. Bischoff, Christi Jugend Nr. 22, 15.11.1948, S.170, zitiert nach: Erwin Meier-Widmer, Brief an einen Ex-Amtsträger, Schaffhausen, 9.6.1997
5) Alle Zitate wurden unkorrigiert übernommen
6) Karl-Eugen Siegel, Der Repräsentant des Herrn, Verlag Lachesis, Stuttgart 1995, S. 16f
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