Energetic and pragmatic

He was the father figure of the still young family of faith: 110 years ago to the day, Friedrich Krebs died. Even though he is considered the first Chief Apostle of the New Apostolic Church, the official title of Chief Apostle only started to be used later.

Virtually nothing is known about his childhood and youth. But Friedrich Krebs must have grown up in very humble circumstances. “I was born in Elend (German for ‘poverty’, ‘misery’) and grew up in Sorge (German for ‘care’, ‘worry’),” he often said later. He was by no means only referring to the two villages of his Harz Mountain home, but was alluding to the misery of his childhood.

Friedrich Krebs became a railway inspector. The first recorded documentation of his name in connection with the New Apostolic Church occurs in July 1864. Church records verify that he was sealed on 17 July 1864 by Apostle Carl Wilhelm Preuss. Two years later he was ordained as a Priest. Ordinations as an Elder and a Bishop followed. In 1881, he was then ordained as an Apostle.

Acceptance among the Apostles

Apostle Krebs was a giant of a man, and his drive and energy were inexhaustible. The first New Apostolic hymnal was published under his auspices in the publishing house of his friend and companion─and later Apostle─Wilhelm Christian Sebastian. The book not only contained 390 songs, but also a brief outline on how to celebrate divine services on Sundays and on all holidays, and it contained rules regarding “rituals for various official acts”.

On account of his pragmatic way of dealing with things and his hands-on approach, Friedrich Krebs was soon acknowledged and accepted by the circle of Apostles. When the leading Apostles of the time─Friedrich Wilhelm Schwarz and Friedrich Wilhelm Menkhoff─became ill and then died, Friedrich Krebs grew more and more into their role.

The making of a Chief Apostle

By 1897 at the latest, Friedrich Krebs was in fact active with the authority as Chief Apostle. He ordained Apostles, celebrated divine services on Christian holidays, and takes over as publisher of the first New Apostolic publication Der Herold (The Herald). There is little documentation during his lifetime that refers to him as Chief Apostle. The first official mention of the Chief Apostle ministry takes place only a year after his death. In the statutes of 1906 he was referred to as the leading minister of the New Apostolic congregations in Germany.

Chief Apostle Krebs designated Apostle Hermann Niehaus as his successor, who continued with the building up of the Church: he founded the college of Apostles, had a Church constitution developed, and introduced the name “New Apostolic Congregations”. Under his leadership, the Church developed into one of the largest religious denominations in the German-speaking region.

Remember your leaders

“Father Krebs”, as he was respectfully called, died on 20 January 1905 in Brunswick in Germany after a brief illness. The funeral by Chief Apostle Niehaus was based on Hebrews 13: 7: “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.” Just over a hundred years later, the Church paid tribute to another of its Chief Apostles, namely Richard Fehr, with the same Bible text.

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Andreas Rother
Friedrich Krebs , Chief Apostle