The Apostolic Church of Queensland
Established Queensland 1886 - Registered under the "Religious, Education and Charitable Institution Act of 1861"
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Extract from "Religious Bodies in Australia" : Trinitarian Christian: Apostolic (neo-Irvingite)

The Apostolic family embrace several groups, the two significant ones having origin in the Germany wing of the movement associated with Edward Irving in the 19th century. The total attendance is about 8,000 in 106 centres, 61 of these in Queensland These groups are of considerable interest as anticipating aspects of the 20th century Pentecostal movement.

The story of the Catholic Apostolic Church formed in the 1830s is very interesting. Although the original body has no regular public services now, if we exclude the restoration dating from 1971, separate groups resulting from the German and Dutch branches of the original church still exist and are represented in Australia as the Apostolic Church of Queensland and the New Apostolic Church. A 20th century Pentecostal body called the Apostolic Church (Australia) is not to be confused with these.


The political upheavals brought on by the French Revolution and the subsequent rise of powerful personalities like Napoleon brought about a strong interest in the subject of unfulfilled prophecy. The future of the church, the place of the Jews, the nature of the millennium and when Christ would return were the focus of attention. Many people of high social position were greatly interested in such themes including Henry Drummond, a wealthy English banker who held prophetic conferences for interested Christian friends at his family seat of Albury in Surrey from 1826.

Edward Irving (1792-1834) was a minister of the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland in London from 1822. Influenced by the poet/philosopher S.T.Coleridge and Hatley Frere, a student of bible prophecy, Irving became convinced that the future of the organised church was bleak. He was a remarkable orator and his preaching drew a large congregation of mainly upper-class people. From about 1824 Irving was teaching that the absence of the offices of apostle, prophet and evangelist showed the Holy Spirit had deserted the church, and he regarded the organised church as Babylon. In 1827 he translated a book published under a pseudonym in 1816, by Lacunza, a Spanish ex-Jesuit, in which the pre-millennial scheme of Christ's return was set out. The book length introduction by Irving was a major feature of the volume which was called The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty.

Irving adopted other views at variance with orthodoxy. He was sympathetic to the position of MacLeod Campbell who taught that the atonement of Christ was universal and not for the elect only; moreover, that the essential message of the gospel was to convince hearers that they had already been forgiven and that they should realise and enjoy the Divine Fatherhood. In effect, Christ's atoning work was an adequate repentance and there is no penal or judicial aspect to it. In 1828 Irving obtained A.J.Scott, a probationer minister, as his assistant, knowing (and accepting) Scott's belief, in the restoration, of the miraculous gifts and the soon coming of Christ. In May 1831 the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland deposed Campbell for heresy and deprived Scott of his licence to preach. Irving had advocated from 1827 that Christ had taken a sinful human nature although kept from personal sin through the indwelling Spirit. The Assembly warned Irving that if he preached again in Scotland he would be tried for heresy.

Irving's strong millenarian emphasis led him to regard outbreaks of ecstatic utterance in Scotland (March 1830) and England (April 1831) as evidence that the miraculous gifts were being restored. The tongues appeared in the prayer meeting in connection with Irving's church in July 1831, and in October in the public worship. There was considerable opposition, and in accordance with the provisions of the trust deed Irving was excluded from the pastorate in April 1832. A congregation of some 800 followed him out. In March 1833 he was deposed from the ministry for his teaching about the 'sinful substance' of Christ's humanity.

Subsequently, what became known as the Catholic Apostolic Church was organised. However, while its origins can hardly be understood without knowledge of Edward Irving, it should be stressed that he was not its founder, was never other than a minor official of it, and he died in 1834 before it was fully established. Irving's great fame as an orator largely accounts for the persistence of belief that he founded the church. There is nothing in the character of motives of Irving to suggest that he was other than entirely sincere. This is acknowledged even by those who regarded him as sincerely wrong.

l. Catholic Apostolic Church

The Catholic Apostolic Church was formed by some of those associated with the prophetic conferences at Albury and with Edward Irving, who believed that the tongues and prophecy which occurred from 1830 was a genuine manifestation of the Holy Spirit in restoring the miraculous gifts of the New Testament period preparatory to the soon-to-come return of Christ to usher in the millennial kingdom. In.1832 one of the prophets designated J.B Cardale as an apostle, and later Henry Drummond was called in the same way. By July 1835 a college of twelve men had been set apart. Each man was allotted a portion of Europe in which to seek the acceptance of the revived Apostolic order by the existing churches, but such approaches were rebuffed.

The main principles of the church were: (1) the Bible (according to the Protestant canon) as the supreme and infallible standard of doctrine; (2) the Apostles' Nicene and Athanasian creeds of the early centuries as true statements of Scripture teaching; (3) all those baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are the one body of Jesus Christ, the Catholic, and Apostolic Church; (4) the restoration by prophecy of the fourfold order of ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors-teachers) who are called not by the congregation but by the Holy Spirit speaking through prophets (angels (bishops), priests, deacons and deaconesses are other ministries); (5) the division of Christendom into twelve tribes each having an apostle to care for it; (6) the futurist scheme of prophetic interpretation and the pre-millennial coming of Christ.

As a result of the visits in Europe a review of liturgical and ceremonial practices took place, most changes being in effect by 1852. The revised ritual drew much from Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Anglican practice, and the relative simplicity of the early days of the body disappeared. Rich vestments were worn, and in 1847 the important sacrament of 'sealing' was introduced. It was believed those sealed would not have to pass through the coming tribulation.

By 1850 there were perhaps 5,000 members in Britain and a figure of 7,400 appears in 1854. The only other area of marked progress was in Germany where there were some 1,000 members by 1850. However, the apostles were passing away, and requests to those remaining that the Lord be asked for new apostles were declined after long consideration, as it was believed Christ would come soon. A schism in the Hamburg congregation in 1863 led to a separate movement in Germany (see hereafter). Because of the pivotal role of the apostles, the death of the last one in 1901 aged 96 prevented new ordinations or sealings. Membership statistics as at this date are hard to come by. It appears there were about 80 church buildings in Great Britain, and one could estimate: a community of perhaps 15,000. Some of the places of worship were magnificent Gothic structures - for instance, the Gordon Square Church in London (now used by the Church of England).

Some figures prepared from internal sources in 1974 by Karl Born, an underdeacon in a German congregation indicate 938 congregations or, groups throughout the world in 1901. There were 315 in England, 305 in Northern Germany, 43 in Southern Germany, 59 in Denmark, 41 in Switzerland, 29 in United States, 28 in Scotland, 18 in Russia including the Baltic states, in Canada, 10 in Norway, 8 in Austria-Hungary, 7 in France, 6 in Ireland, 5 in New Zealand, 3 in Belgium and 2 in Italy. Total membership was about 200,000 including 60,000 in Northern Germany. These figures seem very high but the number of groups includes small bodies not having a priest, and the number of members may include known sympathisers not regularly attached but in other denominations.

The period after the last apostle's death in 1901 was regarded as the period of silence referred to in Revelation 8: 1. The church continued to function with existing clergy. The last priest died in 1971, and the last deacon in 1972. However, small groups of unsealed adherents are still gathering here and there. The last of the several Australian churches was in North Melbourne.