The man who wrote Church history

He was and remains an example not only in terms of pastoral care and leadership qualities. Also as a researcher he proved his mettle and how things can be done: District Apostle Karl Weinmann would have celebrated his 120th birthday today, 14 September 2021.

“I would have been disappointed if he had not been mentioned,” it says in an email from someone who knew him. “As a child, I remember that he was good with us children, had a sense of humour, and an engaging personality,” he says. “If you look at his biography it gives you goose pimples.”

These are the impressions that District Apostle Weinmann left in people’s hearts. He is also remembered as an architect of historic foundations. He had unusual ideas and started a rebuilding campaign after World War Two. Less in the focus is a service he rendered for the entire Church, namely with a book.

From insider book to a standard reference work

“100 Jahre Neuapostolische Kirche 1863–1963” (One hundred years New Apostolic Church 1863–1963) is the title of the 408-page tome, which the district of Hamburg published on the occasion of the Church’s centenary at the time. Originally written only for the members in the district, the book has long since become a standard reference work that no one interested in New Apostolic history can ignore.

There are two reasons for this status. This emerges from unpublished manuscripts by the New Apostolic historian, Dr Manfred Henke, who is working on a scholarly book about the Church in the nineteenth century.

On a quest for sources

The book is exemplary particularly in terms of its source material, which District Apostle Weinmann together with this most important assistant, Günter Knobloch, collected. The then District Evangelist Knobloch, and later successor as Church leader in Hamburg, had been given time off from his Church duties to work on the book.

The Church administrative offices did not have a lot of material to contribute, the Hamburg Church leader complained in 1962. Either because “the higher authorities of the Church did not make an effort earlier to collected historic material and set up an archive” or because World War Two had destroyed what there was.

But the two lay researchers asked for documents from private collectors, interviewed the descendants of historic personalities, and accessed state archives. In the process, they also crossed confessional boundaries and found material among the literary estate of the Catholic Apostolic Church, as well as the Apostolic Church in Queenlands or the Hersteld Apostolischen Zendingkerk in the Netherlands.

Convincing with authenticity

How they handled the source material was also exemplary: in contrast to other inner-Church accounts, the sources and their origins were well documented in this book. Above all, they “endeavoured to include all the available material objectively and without glossing over any problems”, the author Weinmann wrote in the foreword, even at the risk that “the quoted material might damage the prestige of the Church”.

The District Apostle was convinced that one could experience a valuable stimulation of one’s life of faith, if one “learned from authentic sources how wonderfully everything had been brought about and how wise the good God had worked from the beginning”. This is what he wrote in his letter of 11 January 1962 to Chief Apostle Walter Schmidt.

In the course of time

The District Apostle had asked the international Church leader for assistance in collecting more material for further publications, but he wrote: “I don’t think that this is necessary and there are several reasons,” and listed the reasons in his letter of 13 August 1963: those waiting for the return of the Lord are not all that interested in the past; such a project would meet with incomprehension from the Apostles; and, besides, the Apostle [Weinmann] should not stress himself out again.

In 1984, Chief Apostle Hans Urwyler drew on the Church’s wealth of historical knowledge when discussions started on the origins of our concept of the departed. District Apostle Weinmann, by then retired, was able to draw on documents that he had translated from Dutch into German some 21 years earlier.

Lo and behold, in 1999 Chief Apostle Richard Fehr appointed the Working Group History of the NAC. Its mandate: to present the past “in a historically accurate and comprehensible manner, and also to include aspects that could be awkward for the Church, because if we do not take the role and do the job, others will”. This was entirely in the spirit of Apostle Weinmann.

New Apostolic Church International

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Andreas Rother
District Apostle, People/Personalities