Starting in the eighteenth century, an increasing number of individual theologians and believing Christians began to conclude that the Christian churches of the day were lacking in the gifts and living activity of the Holy Spirit present in the time of the early Church. Around the year 1830, revivalist movements began developing in England and Scotland. Amid prophecies and healings, these groups prayed for the renewed outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
In 1863, the “Hamburg schism” occurred as a result of differences of opinion on a number of individual interpretations of the Holy Scripture and on the calling of new apostles. This in turn led to the establishment of what was then known as the “General Christian Apostolic Mission”. This schism marked the birth of the New Apostolic Church.
The ministry of chief apostle, a sole, principal leader of all congregations, was instituted on Pentecost 1897. Since then, the following individuals have carried the ministry of chief apostle in the New Apostolic Church:
In 1917, Chief Apostle Hermann Niehaus introduced a reform in Communion liturgy: previously, Holy Communion had been celebrated using the separate commodities of bread and wine, but since then, wafers sprinkled with three drops of wine have been used during the celebration of Holy Communion.
On Christmas 1951, Chief Apostle Johann Gottfried Bischoff proclaimed that Jesus Christ would return during his lifetime. Within the Church, this proclamation became known as the “message”. The chief apostle made this proclamation on the basis of a direct, personal revelation, which made it binding for faith and endowed it with special authority.
Chief Apostle Walter Schmidt propelled the global development of the Church at a more rapid pace. While the New Apostolic Church had maintained a rather quiet, withdrawn presence in a type of societal niche for a long time, the Swiss Chief Apostles Ernst Streckeisen, Hans Urwyler, and Richard Fehr opened up the Church significantly, with the aim of taking on an active role in public life as an integral component of society.
The vigorous growth of the Church around the world and the integration of numerous different cultures and traditions into a uniform doctrine of faith are significant challenges in the third millennium. The focus of the New Apostolic doctrine of faith remains the expectation of the imminent return of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.