The Apostolic Church (AC) was formed 1922 when four independent Pentecostal bodies came together in administrative union. The new network grew quickly through extensive missionary work and the inclusion of overseas groups. The AC now has representatives over 54 nations worldwide. The British group supports missionaries in Chile, Latvia, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa.
Revivals and Pentecostalism
During 1904/1905, the area of Britain known as Wales experienced a Revival. 100 000 people become Christians and churches all over Wales were full. The most famous of the Revival leaders was Evan Roberts.
On Christmas day 1904, Roberts was preaching in Loughor, Wales. The meeting had a profound affect on one of the attendees, DP Williams. His life changed after the Revival leader prayed for him.
DP became minister of, Penygroes Congregational Church and a well-known preacher in the local area. The Welsh Revival was not strictly speaking a Pentecostal Revival since speaking in tongues and other such supernatural gifts were rare. In 1905, thousands of miles away modern Pentecostalism was born.
The Welsh Revival sparked spiritual hunger in the lives of a number of Christians in Los Angeles. One of the early leaders of the new revival, a journalist by the name of Frank Bartleman, had written to Evan Roberts on three occasions asking him to pray for his city. The believers spent many nights crying out to God for a Revival. In 1906, the members of a small congregation on Bonnie Brae Street in Los Angeles started to experience strange new manifestations. The believers began to ‘ speak in tongues’ like the early Christians in the bible.
The building, which they had been using, soon became too small and they purchased new premises on Azusa Street. It was from the Azusa Street Mission that revival began to spread; soon people from all over the world were attending. Speaking in tongues had occurred in past revivals, but it had always been rare or disappeared again after a short time. Pentecostal churches started appearing across the world, as other believers began to experiencing the same things.
In 1909, DP Williams himself began to speak in tongues. By 1911, he had become leader of the Evangelist Church in Penygroes.
The Apostolic Faith Church
On 5th November 1909, William Oliver Hutchinson, started the first Pentecostal Church in Britain (The Emmanuel Mission Hall, Bournemouth). It soon became the headquarters of a large group of Pentecostal assemblies, known as Apostolic Faith Church (AFC).
Hutchinson and his Apostolic Faith Church added a new dimension to the revival; believing that it was Gods intention to restore the ministry of Apostle and Prophet to the church. The AFC grew quickly with a large number of congregations coming under its influence. DP Williams became an Apostle in the new movement.
The Apostolic Church in Wales
In 1916 due to tensions over the administration of the church, Williams and a number of the Welsh assemblies broke away forming the Apostolic Church in Wales (ACW). Since 1916, the two groups have developed along very different doctrinal paths. In 1920 the doctrinal statement of the Apostolic Church was printed in it’s publication “Riches of Grace”.
In 1916 William Guest, leader of an independent Pentecostal church in Birmingham, attended meetings in Bradford; ministers from the ACW were also invited. Following this meeting, he and his congregation decided to attend the 1917 convention in Penygroes. Guest decided to affiliate his congregation with the Welsh ones.
The following year, DP Williams and his brother Jones Williams attended the Burning Bush Pentecostal Congregation in Glasgow to conduct a number of services. A prophetic word confirmed the need for this visit. The leaders of this group decided to come into co-operation with the AC but remained independent.
The Welsh churches had been using the name ‘Apostolic Church’ but they were not the first British church to do so. In 1910 a Pentecostal group in Hereford were given a plot of land in order to erect a church hall. The leader of the group, Frank Hodges asked a friend with the gift of prophecy to enquire of God concerning a name for the building. Prophecy was given that they should call it the Apostolic Church.
In 1918, Hodges visited the convention in Penygroes and after hearing; the ministry of the Welsh Apostolic Church invited them to minister in Hereford. The Hereford group then decided to come into co-operation with ACW. In time, many other independent groups in the region joined them.
In 1920 Ben Fisher who was the leader of an independent Pentecostal congregation in Belfast, N.Ireland, invited DP Williams to minister in his church. The group affiliated to the Apostolic Church in Wales. During the same year their leader Mr Fisher emigrated to Canada and two leaders from Wales where sent to fill the gap. The welsh church considered N.Ireland as their first mission field.
The Apostolic Church is born
H.V.Chanter had become the leader of the Apostolic Church of God (ACG); a large group of Pentecostal congregations with HQ in Bradford. The Christian Centre, Middlesbrough was an offshoot of these congregations.
During 1921, Mr Chanter attended the Christmas convention in Penygroes. Prophetic word given in Bradford directed the leaders, to invite the Welsh leaders to join them for a meeting. DP Williams and Jones Williams met with them in 1922, with another wider meeting arranged for Easter. At the Easter convention, leaders from most of the ACW congregations and those affiliated with them met in Bradford with the Apostolic Church of God.
Through obedience to prophetic word, the four main groups: The apostolic Church in Wales; The burning bush congregation; The Apostolic Church in Hereford; and the Apostolic church of God, formed an administrative union. Prophetic word directed Penygroes to be the governmental centre; Glasgow to be the financial centre; and Bradford the missionary centre.
Early Missionary Work
In 1917, Prophetic word given in The Apostolic Church of God stated that if they were faithful, Bradford would become “the hub of a wheel, the spokes of which would extend in every direction throughout the world as missionaries went out to belt the globe.”
A prophecy given in 1915 in Wales (while the Welsh group was still part of AFC) stated that within 7 years there would be a coming together in unity with other assemblies throughout Britain. Then there would be a further seven years of much traveling overseas. The unity had now happened and the next part was about to begin.
The first distant mission field was Argentina in 1922. Unfortunately, it fell apart in 1930 but not without fruit. One of the many converts was the father of Evangelist Luis Palau. In the following year, a delegation left for the USA (in response in an invitation), the result being that Apostolic churches were formed there. Work in Canada started in 1927 because of the US churches.
In 1922, Miss Kirstine Moller who attended a Free Pentecostal Church in Copenhagen, Denmark attended the Penygroes convention. Returning to Denmark, she related her experience to the church leadership. The leadership responded by visiting Wales. Sigurd Bjorner the leader of Miss Moller’s church was baptised in the spirit and began to speak in tongues while speaking at the Welsh convention. A prophetic word, confirmed Sigurd as an Apostle. In his absence, a similar word confirmed his calling in the home church.
A delegation left for Denmark in 1924; resulting in the Apostolic Church in Denmark. The churches in Denmark already had a missionary work in China, which had been operating since 1911. In 1925, the AC expanded further into Europe with work beginning in France; and then Italy the following year.
Mission work in the southern hemisphere started with Miss Flett who had been a deaconess of an Apostolic Church in Scotland. Miss Flett emigrated to Perth in Australia and later to Wellington, New Zealand. The result in Australia was that one of the independent Pentecostal congregations in Perth responded by making contact with the Apostolic Church.
In 1929, William Cathcart departed to Australia as a Missionary. John Hewitt joined the Apostolic Church in Australia in 1933 and commenced a revival and healing campaign that saw thousands attend in various cities of Australia. A large number of people were healed, including Ensign Jenkins of the Salvation Army who had been in a wheelchair.
Before moving to Australia, John Hewitt had been a pioneer of the Apostolic Church in New Zealand. Both the New Zealand and The Australian Apostolic Church have sent missionaries to other nations.
By 1929 seven years after the formation of the Apostolic church, the group had representatives in Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, New Zealand, N.Ireland, the United States and the United Kingdom; along with contacts in a number of other nations. The word of God given in 1915 now fulfilled.
The Apostolic Church Today
We continue in our belief that supernatural gifts and ministry are available to the modern church. In the early days, Pentecostal gifts were something new and unusual. Apostle/Prophet Ministry was rare and seen as dangerous. Today many groups in the UK operate with Apostolic and Prophetic oversight; the Pentecostal gifts flow through all the major denominations.
The denomination is now present in over 54 nations worldwide. We have always operated with the aim of establishing indigenous churches of equal standing to the founding group. Since 1922, many nations have become autonomous with their own council and missionary board. We currently have independent groups in 18 nations worldwide (including the UK).
According to the, 1999 Apostolic Church World Conference statistics, Nigeria has the largest number of church members with over 4.5 million people in attendance. The UK currently supports missionaries in Brazil, Chile, Malawi, Mozambique and South Africa. We still aim to see the see the word of God spread across the globe and independent indigenous apostolic ministries established in each nation.
More Information and Links
If you want more information about the history of the Apostolic Church, The Apostolic Faith Church and the early missionary work of the Apostolic Church then James E.Worsfold has written an excellent history. The book entitled “The origins of the Apostolic Church in Great Britain” (ISBN 0 473 015005) is well a researched history of the church with it’s success’ and failures.