He went out of his way to love people

Chief Apostle Richard Fehr, his successors say, was an innovative thinker—someone who was very forward-looking. Under his direction many regional churches came into being across the world. Today he would have been 80 years old.

His birthday could have looked something like this: hundreds of phone calls, and even more emails and birthday cards. In the afternoon he might have gone to the office for a quick espresso and then, in the evening, he might have gone to his favourite Italian restaurant and enjoyed a good glass of red wine. He loved Italian food and was well-versed in the many different kinds of pasta there are.

During his active years, he may not even have been at home in Zurich on his birthday, but on the go somewhere in the world: in the United States, in Asia, or Africa. He was always there where a Chief Apostle just had to be. He enjoyed being in Australia and Russia. He could have made his home anywhere in the world. For 17 years, this was the kind of life he led, waking up in a different city on a different continent almost every weekend. But he loved Switzerland. He was a typical Swiss: self-confident, democratic, with a wide range of interests. There was hardly a topic that was foreign to him. He loved Zurich, he loved the mountains, he loved the Swiss dialect.

Courageous and humorous

Among his distinctive characteristics were courage and humour, his true friends. His humour was never inappropriate or rude or coarse, quite the contrary: with the help of fine allusions, he knew how to highlight his interlocutor or highlight the merits of those who were at his side. He had a cheerful and kind nature.

He demonstrated courage in the decisions he had to take as Church leader. During his time in ministry, the New Apostolic Church found its way to a new openness and tolerance. He gave special attention to the theological development of the Church. In October 1999 he founded the Project Group Ecumenism, allowing for a formal and regular exchange with other denominations.

Wise and far-sighted

Chief Apostle Fehr was a wise and far-sighted man, somebody who thought beyond the geographically narrow borders of Switzerland. His sense for internationality and for the cultural and socio-ethnological needs of a worldwide church was legendary. Wherever he was, He encouraged this way of thinking, although he was never a linguistic genius: learning foreign languages was not his strong suit. During the seventeen years in which he exercised the Chief Apostle ministry, the New Apostolic Church grew rapidly, especially in Africa and Asia. Being a philanthropist, he placed his faith in Christian love and left the cultures there where they belonged: in the respective country. Getting rid of outdated customs and practices—one of his most valued legacies—meant: leaving the people with their own history and biography because it was theirs and belonged to them.

Masterly precision

Chief Apostle Fehr was a man of great messages which—and this is the reason they are so long-lasting—were always catchy and meaningful. His preaching was interspersed with catchy and precise quotations, for example from Emanuel Geibel: “Whoever aspires after lofty goals ...” or John F. Kennedy: “Don’t ask what the country can do for you ...” In a moving memorial service on 17 July 2013, one of his disciples, the current Chief Apostle of the New Apostolic Church, Jean-Luc Schneider, paid tribute to his great master. “He was a master in proclaiming the word. He had the gift of capturing the gist of something in a few words.” His short and inspiring quotes such as “No superficiality” and “For many, much has become too much” are only two examples of his exceptional oratorical skills. “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct” (Hebrew 13: 7)—a fitting Bible text for a memorial service.

Chief Apostle for seventeen years

Richard Fehr was born in Flaach in Switzerland on 15 July 1939. At the age of 22, he received his first ministry. In 1988 he became Chief Apostle of the New Apostolic Church. When he retired on Pentecost 2005, a solemn occasion, the New Apostolic Church counted 10 million members across the globe. On 30 June 2013, shortly before his 74th birthday, he peacefully closed his eyes, strengthened by the certainty that had become the motto of his time in office: “O Lord, come!”

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Peter Johanning
Chief Apostle, People/Personalities