CATHOLIC APOSTOLIC CHURCH: The outcome of a religious movement which began in Scotland in 1830, but took its full and distinctive form in 1835. Its adherents do not use the term "The Catholic Apostolic Church" as implying that they alone constitute the Church, but as affirming that they are members of it. It embraces all the baptized.
In 1828 about fifty gentlemen, some clergymen and some laymen, but mostly of the Church of England, met at the country seat of Henry Drummond at Albury, West Surrey, for the study of the prophetic Scriptures. The subjects considered were those connected with the return of the Lord and the present office of the Spirit in the Church. In Feb., 1830, some members of a Presbyterian family living near Glasgow began to speak in what were believed to be supernatural utterances. They affirmed that their organs of speech were used by the Spirit of God to express the divine mind and will. It is said by one who had intimate personal knowledge of those speaking that the subject of spiritual gifts had not at all occupied their attention; much less had they any thought or expectation of their revival. These utterances, both from the religious character of those speaking and from their own intrinsic nature, awakened great attention in all the region round; and having come to the knowledge of certain gentlemen in London, some of whom had attended the conferences at Albury, a deputation was sent up to Scotland in July to inquire into them, and ascertain whether the utterances were of the Spirit, or not. They returned fully convinced that the utterances were divine. In May, 1831, like utterances were heard in London, the first in a congregation of the Church of England. This being reported to the bishop, he forbade them in the future as interfering with the service. Their occurrence in several dissenting congregations brought forth similar prohibitions, and this led to the utterances being made chiefly in the church of Edward Irving, he being a believer in their divine origin. But they were not confined to London. At Bristol and other places the same spiritual phenomena appeared. Of these utterances one of the earliest was, "Behold the Bridegroom cometh. Go ye out to meet him"; and another often repeated, "The body of Christ."
The meaning of this was for a long time not understood, but it was gradually made
Classed by their religious position, eight of them were members of the Church of England; three of the Church of Scotland; and one of the Independents. Classed by their occupations and social positions, three were clergymen, three were members of the bar, three belonged to the gentry, two of them being members of Parliament; and of the remaining three, one was an artist, one a merchant, and one held the post of Keeper of the Tower. Some of them were of the highest standing socially and politically, some of them of great ability as scholars and theologians; and all of them men of unblemished character, soundness in the faith, and abundant seal in all Christian labors.
To prepare them for their work two things were necessary—knowledge of the purpose of God in the Church, and of its present actual condition. Their separation was followed by a retirement to Albury that the Scriptures might be read with such light through prophecy as God might please to give. Later they visited the several countries of Christendom, which were divided among them, to seek for all that was good and true in doctrine and ritual. Another step was a work of testimony to the Church in general of the Lord's acts in the restoration of his ministries. In 1836 they delivered an address to the king of England and the privy councilors, and another later to the archbishops and bishops of the United Church of England and Ireland; and in 1837 a testimony addressed to the rulers in Church and State in Christian lands. So far as practicable, these testimonies were delivered by the apostles in person to the patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, emperors, kings, and sovereign princes to whom they were addressed.
In these documents, as well as in the whole course of their apostolic labor, the apostles witnessed to such things as these:—That the Church is the company of the baptized, the body of Christ, and constituted by God in infinite wisdom that the Head in Heaven might manifest himself through it in word and act; that its constitution was permanent, having a fourfold ministry—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors; that these ministries were adapted to the mental and spiritual constitutions of man; that all were needful that the Head might carry on his work and perfect his saints; that the Head only could appoint his ministers; that apostles chosen by him were his representatives, the bond of unity, having universal jurisdiction; that prophets speaking through the Holy Ghost were media of light from God to the apostles; that evangelists were to preach to those without the Church, bringing them to baptism, and then to transfer them to the pastor; that the pastoral ministry embraces bishops, priests, and deacons; that the retention by the Church of the pastoral ministry only points to its having departed in measure from the ways of the Lord, and that this departure ultimately leads to the apostasy and the man of sin spoken of by St. Paul. The adherents of this movement point to the apostolic congregations as the true credentials of apostles—their faith in the Scriptures, their order, their obedience, their worship, their calm and patient waiting for the Lord, their catholic spirit.
The gathering of these congregations was of necessity, not of choice, as otherwise the divine order in ministries and worship could not be manifested. Their relation to the members of the Church in general is thus defined: "We are not separatists nor schismatics. We are not gathered together and distinguished from others in any hostile or aggressive attitude. The Head is not erecting new altars, but rebuilding that which was decayed." The liturgy used was not a mere compilation from existing liturgies, but was based upon the Mosaic ritual, its spiritual antitype and fulfilment. In the worship the three great creeds of the Church, the Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian, are used. In all congregations sufficiently large, daily worship is appointed at six A.M. and five P.M., the opening and closing hours of the day. The Eucharist is the chief forenoon service on every Lord's day, and at other times as appointed. The ministers of each fully organized local church are a chief pastor, or angel, or bishop, and under him priests and deacons. All members pay tithes of income as of obligation, and, as able, voluntary offerings.
As no official statistics of the number of congregations have ever been published, it is impossible to say how many there may now be, but congregations are formed in most of the larger cities of Christendom. The death of the apostles made necessary some changes in the administration and worship, but the faith is apparently strong that the Lord will in some supernatural way speedily confirm the work already done, and will complete it.
This body repudiates the title "Irvingites," by which it is generally known (see IRVING, EDWARD). In the early days of the movement there was no little uncertainty as to the final arrangement of the offices and jealousy between the different ranks. In 1839 Cardale was recalled from his second mission abroad to compose the differences which had arisen on account of the claim of the elders, which was supported by the prophets, to a voice in the government of the church. The apostolate succeeded in suppressing this revolt, and to avoid any recurrence of it the full general council was not again convoked, and only revived in 1877 in the form of a conference of the seven angels of London under the presidency of the apostle. In
The result of the discord which followed these innovations, of the defection of the apostle Mackenzie, and of the failure of prophecy to fix the exact date of the Lord's coming, all contributed to keep down the numbers of the body, which in 1851 counted 4,018 members with thirty-two churches, a decline from the days of the first enthusiasm. But the movement had already spread to other countries. In 1835-36 it had gained a foothold in Geneva; in 1841 a propaganda had been undertaken in southern Germany by Caird (husband of Mary Campbell, one of the original claimants of the gift of tongues), and still more zealously in northern Germany by the apostle Thomas Carlyle, who established public worship in Berlin in 1848. Outside of Holland, however, little progress was made in other countries. Doubts were awakened by the death of one apostle after another, and in 1860, at a meeting of the apostolic college at Albury the prophet Geyer called for the elevation of the evangelists Böhm and Caird to the apostolic office. These two then, and in 1870 some others, were recognized as coadjutor apostles. Geyer was not satisfied, and in 1861, being in Königsberg with Woodhouse, proclaimed the call of a local evangelist Rogasatzki to the apostolate. The latter soon made his submission, but a schism ensued. In 1863 Geyer himself was called, and ten months later one Schwartz, especially for Holland; on the assumption that there must always be twelve apostles, there were six in Hamburg and three in Amsterdam by 1875. Woodhouse, the last English apostle, died in 1901. In the English body prophecy was allowed less and less importance, and Cardale's treatise Prophesying and the Ministry of the Prophet in the Christian Church (1868) practically gave it its death-blow.
The accessible figures give the present number of churches in England as about eighty, and in the United Staten as ten, with 1,491 communicants. Probably more numerous are the followers of the German and Dutch branch, which has increased in strength, though its separation from the English body has favored a tendency to fanatical extravagance and to the abandonment of the likeness to Roman Catholicism in externals. Apostles, prophets, and other functionaries appear in ordinary dress, and the altar is usually replaced by a common table. The element of adoration in public worship is less and less emphasized, while more stress is laid upon conversion by preaching and prophecy and the assembling of the faithful for the speedy coming of the Lord. The insistence on the number of twelve apostles which was the justification for the schism is now considered merely as the letter, the essential being the permanence of the office, so that in 1900 there were fourteen apostles ministering in this branch. Its principal seats are Brunswick, Hamburg, Berlin, and Königsberg. In recent years it has extended also to North and South America, and claims that with the help of a native missionary no less than 15,000 converts have been "sealed" in the island of Java. Its official organ is the Wächterstimmen aus Ephraim, published monthly by the apostle Fr. Krebs at Iserlohn, Westphalia, Prussia, containing reports of the journeys of the apostles and statistics of conversions.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: The sources are found in the writings of Edward Irving, and in the following works on his life: W. Jones, Biographical Sketch of Rev. Edward Irving, with Extracts from his . . . Principal Writings, London 1835; W. Wilks, Edward Irving, an Ecclesiastical and Literary Biography, ib. 1854; Mrs. O. W. Oliphant, Life of Edward Irving, Illustrated by his Journals and Correspondence, 2 vols., ib. 1862, new ed., 1865 (on this consult D. Ker, Observations on Mrs. Oliphant's Life of Edward Irving, Edinburgh, 1863); T. Carlyle, in his Reminiscences, ed. C. E. Norton, 2 vols., London, 1878; T. Kolde, Edward Irving, Leipsic, 1901. For the history and doctrine of the Church consult: J. N. Köhler, Het Irvingisme, The Hague, 1876; E, Miller, History and Doctrines of Irvingism, 2 vols., London, 1878; H. M. Prior, My Experience of the Catholic Apostolic Church, ib. 1880; S. J. Andrews, God's Revelations of Himself to Men, New York, 1886; E. A. Rosstauscher, Der Aufbau der Kirche Christi auf den ursprünglichen Grundlagen, Basel, 1886; A. S. Dyer, Sketches of English Nonconformity, London, 1893.
Calvin College. Last modified on 05/10/04. Contact the CCEL.