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Criticism New Apostolic Church - The succession of the chief apostle ministry. How did the succession of the respective chief apostles take place?

New Apostolic Church Criticism
Chief Apostle Ministry – Succession


With regard to the succession, the uninterrupted succession of the New Apostolic Chief Apostle, many questions arise. According to the New Apostolic view, God reveals the next Chief Apostle through special testimonies: “From among the apostles, that apostle is called to the chief apostle ministry who, through special testimonies, has been revealed by God to the incumbent chief apostle or to the circle of apostles.” (29)

What are these testimonies or revelations like? Are they stories, dreams, visions, appearances, or inspirations of the predecessor or the apostles? By and large, New Apostolic literature is silent about how the individual Chief Apostles were ‘revealed’ by God. The fact is that the chief apostle is either appointed by his predecessor in office or, if this is not possible, he is elected by an apostle meeting: “The Chief Apostle is called by his respective predecessor (Art. 4.7.9.). If there is no such appointment or if the Chief Apostle has been voted out of office, the Chief Apostle is appointed by the District Apostle Meeting (Art. 5.) or the Apostles’ Assembly (Art. 6.) Elected from the circle of District Apostles, District Apostle Helpers, and Apostles. “ (30)

In connection with the calling of the individual Chief Apostles there are some curiosities that are worth looking at:

The Time Without the Chief Apostle

One must ask why there was a period of about 1900 years in church history when God did not give any chief apostles. Just as there were no real apostles of Jesus Christ at that time, there was also no chief apostle. Didn’t the first ‘Chief Apostle Peter’ know that he should actually have called a successor? Or was there such a succession after all? However, then one must assume that one of the Orthodox Churches or the Catholic Church is in the true succession of Peter.

The New Apostolic Church is a new foundation!

Thus, the New Apostolic Church would be a new foundation alongside the supposedly real church and could not refer to that “To be the restored work of redemption of the Lord” (31) because the very Church of Christ never ceased to exist. The New Apostolic Church assumes, however, that there was a period in which the true Church of the Lord did not exist. The explanation why this was so is very interesting:

The believers were to blame!

The reason why the apostles’ activity was interrupted was the behavior of the believers at the time (The believers of the early Church, author’s note) Jesus had admonished and warned in his letter according to Revelation 2:4- 5 with the words, ‘I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.’ The lampstand is to be understood as the community with the apostleship” (32)

The believer in the early Christian community is to blame for the fact that there were no more apostle or chief apostle callings! Why the lampstand should be understood to mean “the church with the apostleship” is not explained and probably results in more from the NAC’s need to explain the so-called apostless time than from a thorough interpretation of the Bible. The incumbent Chief Apostle Dr. Wilhelm Leber on record: “The gospel first had to be spread for a few centuries so that Christianity gained worldwide importance. The apostleship was not necessary for this. “ (33)

No Recognition from the English Apostles

The New Apostolic ministry and especially the Chief Apostle ministry did not find recognition among the predecessor communities of the New Apostolic Church. In general, the Catholic Apostolic Movement is recognized by the New Apostolic Church as an institution worked by God, just like the Apostles of the Catholic Apostolic Church. If the apostles of the CAC were real apostles of Jesus Christ, why did they not recognize the newly called apostles and the establishment of the chief apostle office under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, why did they not submit to this “new Peter”? The apostles of the new order wrote a letter to the last apostle of the Catholic Apostolic Church Woodhouse with the following content, among other things: “Because we consider you to be an apostle sent by Jesus, just as we also consider ourselves to be those who, united according to the will of God, are to carry on the work of the Lord with you to completion.” (34)

This letter remained unanswered by the Catholic Apostolic Apostle Woodhouse. Leading offices and prophets of the Hersteld Apostolische Zendingkerk – the Dutch branch of the General Christian Apostolic Mission – refused to obey Fritz Krebs: “The prophets of the Hersteld Apostolische Zendingkerk proclaimed that Satan had gone into ‘Ephraim’ (meaning the north German working area of the apostle Krebs, author’s note) and that the Holy Spirit had been taken from Krebs. For them, the New Apostolic Church was henceforth considered an ‘anti-Christian sect’, in which the prophecy of 2 Peter 2:1-3 was fulfilled.” (35)

The Last Chief Apostle

I’m the last. Nobody comes after me. “ (36)

The Lord comes in my lifetime to take his own. ‘ So he proclaimed in that Christmas service in 1951 in Gießen. He proclaimed it not as an idea of his own, but as one Revelation that he received from the Lord. The Son of God himself met him, he said and what the Lord has promised must be fulfilled. How could he lie? I have been promised by the Lord that I will not die,’ he assured countless times. To the doubters, he replied: ‘I wish only one thing, that all these doubters live until the day of the Lord comes. Then they will see what harvest doubt has brought them.’ (37)

”On September 12, 1954, the Chief Apostle said in Stuttgart: ‘I am aware, after all, that if I were to die – which will not be the case– then God’s work would be destroyed.’“ (38)

These are the words of Chief Apostle Bischoff. Johann Gottfried Bischoff died on July 6, 1960 in Karlsruhe! According to the words of this Chief Apostle, who supposedly had a prophetic gift, he was the last Chief Apostle, but obviously, he was wrong!

Peter Kuhlen Was Ordained as Chief Apostle!

Little attention is paid in connection with this so-called message of Chief Apostle Bischoff to the very interesting fact that there was already another Chief Apostle of the New Apostolic Church during Chief Apostle Bischoff’s lifetime. On May 21, 1948, Peter Kuhlen was unanimously elected to succeed JG Bischoff in a secret ballot.

On August 1, 1948, Apostle Kuhlen was ordained as his successor in the Chief Apostle office with the words: “In the name and on behalf of the Apostles’ Quorum, accept the office of Chief Apostle, together with the spirit of ministry in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit! This Spirit brings the office to life in you; “

Apostle Peter Kuhlen was ordained into the office of Chief Apostle and not into the Office of Chief Apostle Helper! (39)

The memory gaps of J.G. Bischoff

In 1950, just two years later, Chief Apostle Bischoff asserted through his editor Erich Meier-Gewecke that: “To him, the Lord has not yet shown anyone who should lead the people of God on earth after him” (40)

Chief Apostle Peter Kuhlen was excommunicated from the New Apostolic Church in 1954. He himself did not doubt the so-called message. He was excommunicated because he did not want to raise this so-called message to dogma and did not preach it with enough emphasis.

God is to blame, he changed his plan!

The New Apostolic Church still does not want to admit that Chief Apostle Bishop was wrong. It used to be said: “We, therefore, stand before the unfathomable counsel of our God and wonder why he has changed his will.“ (41)

Newer formulations by Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber are as follows: “The fact that Chief Apostle Bischoff’s prediction was not fulfilled remains an unanswered question for me. … I do not wish to pass final judgment on the true circumstances. Perhaps Chief Apostle Bischoff misinterpreted something, or conditions were mentioned that we do not know.” (42)

One would think that after the death of Chief Apostle Bishop, who prophetically announced the Second Coming of Christ during his lifetime and then died, the New Apostolic Church pauses for at least a while to judge what happened. But on 07/07/1960, only one day after the death of JG Bischoff, a successor was hastily elected by acclamation against the existing statutes: Walter Schmidt. The excommunicated Chief Apostle Peter Kuhlen was not remembered!

Disputes About Successors in Office

As a member of the New Apostolic Church, one is of the opinion that the selection of the ministers and especially the Apostles and the Chief Apostle takes place with divine testimonies and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit with great dignity, responsibility, and unanimity. Trench warfare, claims to power and the like are actually inconceivable. So it is said: “From the crowd of apostles, that apostle is called into the chief apostle’s office who was revealed to the incumbent chief apostle or the circle of apostles through special testimonies from God.” (43)

Theory and practice

The election of Chief Apostle Urwyler in 1978 proves that reality is different. The New Apostolic Church claims: “Hans Urwyler called by the Lord and in the oneness of all apostles to be his successor.” (44)

In fact, however, something else is said to have happened: “According to § 9 of the Statutes of the International Apostles’ Federation, the Chief Apostle is elected by a 3/4 majority (in accordance with the valid Statutes of the International Apostles’ Federation in 1978, author’s note). … Chief Apostle Urwyler did not receive the required majority in the first ballots during his election as Chief Apostle (on 18.11.1978, author’s note). The votes were distributed among three men (Urwyler 66/88, Rockenfelder 18, Kühnle 10). By a trick agreement was reached in the end. Bez. Ap. Kraus temporarily threatened to secede if a German became Chief Apostle.” (45)

Power struggle for the Chief Apostle Ministry

There are also said to have been irregularities at the ordination of Chief Apostle Richard Fehr: “The fact is that Hermann Engelauf was not present at the rather ‘peculiar’ installation of R. Fehr in Bern. Instead, Fehr’s arch-enemy Kraus wanted to take over the fate of the worldwide NAK from Canada. But until the last minute, Kraus did not manage to get a corresponding majority among the senior District Apostles Fernandes, Higelin, Steinweg, and Kühnle. When District Apostle Engelauf canceled his visit to Bern, Kraus had to admit his defeat. According to the NAKI statutes at that time, R. Fehr should not have been singled out as Chief Apostle in Bern, as published in official NAK statements, but should have faced a properly convened District Apostle meeting.

The fact is that Richard Fehr was introduced to the worldwide New Apostolic public on May 22, 1988 as the new leader and Chief Apostle of the NAK in a solemn divine service at Pentecost. As announced in public statements from NAK and NAKI circles, he had the terminally ill Hans Urwyler’s hand laid on him while District Apostle Steinweg spoke the words of separation: Take the office of Chief Apostle. Only after the Pentecost service did a hastily called District Apostle Meeting confirm Fehr’s official mandate.

What should the District Apostles do differently? If they had voted against Fehr, the embarrassment of the NAK KL (KL = church leadership, author’s note) would have been huge been. District Apostle Engelauf, who is repeatedly called stubbornly to have been present at the inauguration of Fehr in Bern, was definitely not present in Bern. According to research available to me, H. Urwyler, who was already paralyzed on one side on May 3, 1988, who could no longer speak and who never recovered from his stroke, was not even able to move his fingers, let alone his raise arm. As contemporary witnesses told me, Hans Urwyler was in a vegetative state on May 3, 1988. “ (46)

Excommunications, Power Struggles and Elections Contrary to the Statutes!

The New Apostolic Church has to face the question of how and by what means God works testimonies with regard to the successor of the respective Chief Apostle, and Friedrich Krebs elevated himself to the position of Chief Apostle, Chief Apostle Kuhlen was excommunicated and later disregarded when Chief Apostle Bischoff, who had the message that he would not die until Jesus came, did die after all.

Chief Apostle Schmidt was elected, contrary to the statutes, by acclamation just one day after Chief Apostle Bischoff’s death. 

Chief Apostle Urwyler was not unanimously elected against the massive resistance of some apostles.

Chief Apostle Fehr was ordained in a curious way, contrary to the statutes, by Chief Apostle Urwyler who was in a coma. It takes a lot of faith to recognize the guidance of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in these facts and events. For this reason, among other things, the faithful are usually left in the dark about the actual facts.


Until recently, the Chief Apostle was considered infallible. His statements, his actions had a divine character and were binding standards for the judgment and action of the individual: “Not trusting him (the Chief Apostle, author’s note) completely and only wanting to resist his words in thought means to sin against the Son of God.” (47)

The former editor of the ‘New Apostolic Review’ KW Mütschele writes critically: “Every aberration has a starting point. This point lies in the assumption that the latter men named apostles are in all circumstances in authority and sovereign over the Bible and its teachings. So the papal heresy: What the apostles (and the Chief Apostle, author’s note) teach is infallible. Your interpretation of the Bible and its testimonies alone is authoritative. There is no right of examination “ (48)

When Things Get Tight, God Has Changed His Plan

Chief Apostle Schmidt made the following comments after the death of JG Bischoff: “We are therefore faced with the inscrutable counsel of our God and wonder why he has changed his will. The Chief Apostle, who brought the Lord’s work of redemption to the highest level and thereby bound the children of God in an unshakable faith in his word, can’t have been wrong“. (49)

Chief Apostle Bischoff cannot have been mistaken (infallibility). It can not be what may not be! Therefore God must have changed his will. Chief Apostle Fehr also has his problems with criticism. In a divine service, he reads out a statement on allegations against the teaching and religious practice of the New Apostolic Church and also comments on this at the end with the words: “We’re not going to be put in the dock!“ (50)

A little later he added his statements in this regard: “And some people think that they know this and that better than the apostles and the chief apostle – that also happens. These are all signs of the last time.“ (51)

Rethinking has only started in the last few years. Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber expressed himself as follows in an interview: “Mr. Leber, are you infallible?” “No, I have no claims of this kind.” (52)

External and Internal Reality

Obviously, this now no longer existing claim to absoluteness of the Chief Apostle and the church leadership is not so perceived by the parishioners and ministers. Especially whenever there are differences of opinion and conflicts, the Chief Apostle’s “felt” or perceived claim to absoluteness is still there: “The Chief Apostle said in an interview that he (and the Apostles) would not be infallible either. But as soon as a subordinate minister or even a simple parishioner sees and addresses such possible errors, especially in theological terms, the club immediately comes: We, the KL (church leadership, author’s note) are right in everything, are from God, and do not need to be taught by anyone. > So a kind of ‘infallibility’ after all.” (53)

The Claim to Absoluteness of the Chief Apostle Ministry

In spite of all official statements to the contrary, the existing teaching authority, combined with the Chief Apostle’s ‘necessary official capacity’, ultimately results in the fact that there is still an absolute claim and thus the Chief Apostle’s infallibility. Unfortunately, the reality of the practice of faith and the official pronouncements of the New Apostolic Church go different ways.

This is not the only reason why many are of the opinion that the supposed reforms of recent years only serve to improve self-portrayal. Practically nothing has changed internally. We also believe that the partial reformulation of individual doctrines serves to make the New Apostolic Church appear more harmless and less exclusive in the non-New Apostolic public. One would like to be perceived as one of the many Christian free churches.

A look at the Scriptures would help

How far the New Apostolic Chief Apostle and the apostles are from the biblical example becomes clear when one looks at some of the New Testament statements: As already mentioned above, Peter is anything but infallible, he is publicly reprimanded by Paul: “When Cephas came to Antioch, I (Paul, editor’s note) resisted him in the face, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.” (Gal 2:11) Paul did not consider himself perfect either. So he writes: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” – Romans 6:3-4 (ESV)

Not only does the apostle Paul exhort to examine: “Now these Jews (Christians in Beroea, author’s note) were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” – Acts 17, 11

but also the apostle John admonishes: – “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” – John 4, 1

This word of a genuine apostle of Jesus will now occupy us more concretely.

Would you like to read more about the New Apostolic Chief Apostle ministry?
Read about false prophets in the Chief Apostle ministry >>

© Lutz Jusko

No recognition by the english Apostles
Peter Kuhlen – unwanted Chief Apostle of the New Apostolic ChurchNeuapostolischen Kirche
Chief Apostle Wilhelm Leber
Chief Apostle Hans Samuel Urwyler
Power Striggle or the Chief Apostle Ministry Richard Fehr
Stammapostel Walter Schmidt



29) Neuapostolische Kirche International, a. a. O., Frage 177, S. 82

30) Statuten der Neuapostolischen Kirche International, Artikel 4.1, Johannesburg, 2002

31) Neuapostolische Kirche International, a. a. O., Frage 167, S. 77

32) Neuapostolische Kirche International, a. a. O., Frage 146, S. 67

33) Stap. Wilhelm Leber, ideaSpektrum Nr. 25/2006, Interview mit dem Stammapostel – „Von anderen Kirchen können wir viel lernen“, Wetzlar, 21. Juni 2006, S. 15 

34) Helmut Obst, Apostel und Propheten der Neuzeit, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen, 2000, S. 86

35) Hutten, a. a. O., S. 498

36) J.G. Bischoff, Gottesdienst, Gießen, 24.12.1951, zitiert nach: K. E. Siegel, Die Botschaft von Stammapostel Bischoff, Selbstverlag, Stuttgart, 1991-1993, S. 5

37) Kurt Hutten, Ein Brief an die Neuapostolischen – Die “Stunde X” ist gekommen…, Quell-Verlag der Evangelischen Gesellschaft, Stuttgart, 1960, S. 1

38) a. a. O. S. 2

39) Dr. med. Erwin Meier-Widmer, Chronologie der Aera Johann Gottfried Bischoff mit Bezug zu den Ereignissen und Fehlentscheidungen in der Neuapostolischen Kirche, Schaffhausen, 1998

40) Kalender „Unsere Familie 1951, Seite 35, Druck 1950, zitiert nach: Vereinigung der Apostolischen Gemeinden in Europa, Nachdenkliches über die Botschaft des Stammapostels J. G. Bischoff: „Ich sterbe nicht, der Herr Jesus kommt noch zu meiner Lebzeit wieder?

41) Brief der Apostel an die Gemeinden, verlesen am 10 Juli 1960, o.O., zitiert nach: Obst a. a. O., S. 112

42) Stap. Wilhelm Leber, a. a. O. , S. 15

43) Neuapostolische Kirche International, a. a. O., Frage 177, S. 82

44) Neuapostolische Familie 1989 Nr. 1, S. 17, zitiert nach: Horst Hartmann, In der Welt aber nicht von der Welt – Die Gotteskinder der Neuapostolischen Kirche, Libri Books on Demand, o. O., 2000, S. 28

45) S. Dannwolf, J. Gerbert, B. Stöhr, Raus aus dem Bann Verlag Lachesis, Stuttgart, 1995, Seite 35

46) AlexanderZH, Aussteiger Forum Quo-Vadis-NAK, Thema: Was geschah wirklich am 3. Mai 1988 in Bern?,17.03.2009,,3149,-was-geschah-wirklich-am-3-mai-1988-in-bern.html

47) J.G. Bischoff (Hrsg), Wächterstimmen, Friedrich Bischoff Verlag, Frankfurt/Main, 01.10.1949, zitiert nach: Apostolischen Gemeinschaft e.V. und die Vereinigung Apostolischer Christen, Geschichtlicher Rückblick auf die Entwicklung des Stammapostelamtes, Luzern, 1975, S. 6

48) Aufklärungsschrift Nr. 1 über die reformatorische Bewegung in den Neuapostolischen Gemeinden, o.O., o.J., S. 8; zitiert nach: Obst a. a. O., S. 100

49) Stap. Walter Schmidt, Brief als Reaktion auf den Tod von J.G. Bischoff, 07.07.1960, zitiert nach: Detlef Streich, Konstruktive Merkmale der Neuapostolischen Kirche, Aktualisierte Fassung, Göppingen, Mai 2006, S. 2350) Stap. Richard Fehr, Gottesdienst, Nuertingen, 10.12.1995, zitiert nach: Erwin-Meier-Widmer, Brief an den Stammapostel, Schaffhausen, 4.9.1996

51) Stap. Richard Fehr, Gottesdienst, Krefeld, 06. 04. 1997, Unsere Familie, 20.07.1997, zitiert nach: Detlef Streich, Konstruktive Merkmale der Neuapostolischen Kirche, Aktualisierte Fassung, Göppingen, Mai 2006, S. 27

52) Stap. Wilhelm Leber, ideaSpektrum Nr. 25/2006, a.a.O.
53) Gerlinde Bodtke, Leser Kommentar zum Thema ,Hamburg-Blankenese: Der Brief an Stammapostel Leber, 2004.2007, siehe auf,

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