The Catholic Apostolic Church (CAC), also known as the Irvingian Church, is a Christian denomination and Protestant sect which originated in Scotland around 1831 and later spread to Germany and the United States. The tradition to which the Catholic Apostolic Church belongs is sometimes referred to as Irvingism or the Irvingian movement after Edward Irving (1792–1834), a clergyman of the Church of Scotland credited with organising the movement.
The church was organised in 1835 with the fourfold ministry of "apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors".
As a result of schism within the Catholic Apostolic Church, other Irvingian Christian denominations emerged, including the Old Apostolic Church, New Apostolic Church, Reformed Old Apostolic Church and United Apostolic Church; of these, the New Apostolic Church is the largest Irvingian Christian denomination today, with 16 million members.
Irvingism teaches three sacraments: Baptism, Holy Communion and Holy Sealing.
Edward Irving, also a minister in the Church of Scotland, preached in his church at Regent Square in London on the speedy return of Jesus Christ and the real substance of his human nature.
Irving's relationship to this community was, according to its members, somewhat similar to that of John the Baptist to the early Christian Church. He was the forerunner and prophet of the coming dispensation, not the founder of a new sect; and indeed the only connection which Irving seems to have had with the Catholic Apostolic Church was in fostering spiritual persons who had been driven out of other congregations for the exercise of their spiritual gifts.
Around him, as well as around other congregations of different origins, coalesced persons who had been driven out of other churches, wanting to "exercise their spiritual gifts". Shortly after Irving's trial and deposition (1831), he restarted meetings in a hired hall in London, and much of his original congregation followed him. Having been expelled from the Church of Scotland, Irving took to preaching in the open air in Islington, until a new church was built for him and his followers in Duncan Street, Islington, funded by Duncan Mackenzie of Barnsbury, a former elder of Irving's London church.
Shortly after Irving's trial and deposition (1831), certain persons were, at some meetings held for prayer, designated as “called to be apostles of the Lord” by certain others claiming prophetic gifts.
In the year 1835, six months after Irving's death, six other people were similarly designated as “called” to complete the number of the “twelve,” who were then formally “separated,” by the pastors of the local congregations to which they belonged, to their higher office in the universal church on 14 July 1835. This separation is understood by the community not as “in any sense being a schism or separation from the one Catholic Church, but a separation to a special work of blessing and intercession on behalf of it.” The twelve were afterwards guided to ordain others—twelve prophets, twelve evangelists, and twelve pastors, “sharing equally with them the one Catholic Episcopate,” and also seven deacons for administering the temporal affairs of the church catholic.
The names of those twelve apostles were: John Bate Cardale, Henry Drummond, Henry King-Church, Spencer Perceval, Nicholas Armstrong, Francis Woodhouse (Francis Valentine Woodhouse), Henry Dalton, John Tudor (John O. Tudor), Thomas Carlyle, Francis Sitwell, William Dow and Duncan Mackenzie.
Each congregation was presided over by its “angel” or bishop (who ranks as angel-pastor in the Universal Church); under him are four-and-twenty priests, divided into the four ministries of “elders, prophets, evangelists and pastors,” and with these are the deacons, seven of whom regulate the temporal affairs of the church—besides whom there are also “sub-deacons, acolytes, singers, and door-keepers.” The understanding is that each elder, with his co-presbyters and deacons, shall have charge of 500 adult communicants in his district; but this has been but partially carried into practice. This is the full constitution of each particular church or congregation as founded by the “restored apostles,” each local church thus “reflecting in its government the government of the church catholic by the angel or high priest Jesus Christ, and His forty-eight presbyters in their fourfold ministry (in which apostles and elders always rank first), and under these the deacons of the church catholic.”
The priesthood is supported by tithes; it being deemed a duty on the part of all members of the church who receive yearly incomes to offer a tithe of their increase every week, besides the free-will offering for the support of the place of worship, and for the relief of distress. Each local church sends “a tithe of its tithes” to the “Temple,” by which the ministers of the Universal Church are supported and its administrative expenses defrayed; by these offerings, too, the needs of poorer churches are supplied.
For the service of the church a comprehensive book of liturgies and offices was provided by the "apostles." It dates from 1842 and is based on the Anglican, Roman and Greek liturgies. Lights, incense, vestments, holy water, chrism, and other adjuncts of worship are in constant use. In 1911, the ceremonial in its completeness could be seen in the church in Gordon Square, London and elsewhere.
The daily worship consists of "matins" with "proposition" (or exposition) of the sacrament at 6 a.m., prayers at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., and "vespers" with "proposition" at 5 p.m. On all Sundays and holy days there is a “solemn celebration of the eucharist” at the high altar; on Sundays this is at 10 a.m. On other days "low celebrations" are held in the side-chapels, which with the chancel in all churches correctly built after apostolic directions are separated or marked off from the nave by open screens with gates. The community has always laid great stress on symbolism, and in the eucharist, while rejecting both transubstantiation and consubstantiation, holds strongly to a real (mystical) presence. It emphasizes also the "phenomena" of Christian experience and deems miracle and mystery to be of the essence of a spirit-filled church.
The services were published as The Liturgy and other Divine Offices of the Church. Apostle Cardale put together two large volumes of writings about the liturgy, with references to its history and the reasons for operating in the ways defined, which was published under the title Readings on the Liturgy.
The Eucharist, being the memorial sacrifice of Christ, is the central service. The Irvingian Churches teach the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, though they rejected what they saw as the philosophical explanations of the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation as well as Lollardist doctrine of consubstantiation.
Some of the music in the Catholic Apostolic Church is composed by Edmund Hart Turpin, former secretary of the Royal College of Organists.
Irvingism teaches three sacraments: Baptism, Holy Communion and Holy Sealing.
In 1911, the CAC claimed to have among its clergy many of the Roman, Anglican and other churches, the orders of those ordained by Greek, Roman and Anglican bishops being recognized by it with the simple confirmation of an "apostolic act." The community had not changed in 1911 in general constitution or doctrine. At the time, it did not publish statistics, and its growth during late years before 1911 is said to have been more marked in the United States and in certain European countries, such as Germany, than in Great Britain. There are nine congregations enumerated in The Religious Life of London (1904).
In the 21st century, of the principal CAC buildings in London, the Catholic Apostolic cathedral, in Gordon Square, survives and has been let for other religious purposes.
Aside from Irving, notable members include Thomas Carlyle, Baron Carlyle of Torthorwald (1803–1855), who was given responsibility for northern Germany. (This is not Thomas Carlyle the essayist (1795–1881), although Irving knew both men.). Besides Thomas Carlyle, Edward Wilton Eddis contributed to the Catholic Apostolic Hymnal; Edmund Hart Turpin contributed much to CAC music.
Main article: New Apostolic Church
After the death of three apostles in 1855 the apostolate declared that there was no reason to call new apostles. Two callings of substitutes were explained by the apostolate in 1860 as coadjutors to the remaining apostles. After this event another apostle was called in Germany in 1862 by the prophet Heinrich Geyer. The Apostles did not agree with this calling, and therefore the larger part of the Hamburg congregation who followed F .W. Schwartz, excommunicated. Out of this, sprang the Allgemeine Christliche Apostolische Mission (ACAM) in 1863 and the Dutch branch of the Restored Apostolic Mission Church (at first known as Apostolische Zending, since 1893 officially registered as Hersteld Apostolische Zendingkerk (HAZK)). This later became the New Apostolic Church.
All ministers in the church were ordained by an apostle, or under delegated authority of an apostle. Thus, following the death of the last of the apostles, Francis Valentine Woodhouse, in 1901, the consensus of trustees, who administer the remaining assets, has been that no further ordinations are possible.
A collection of papers related to the Catholic Apostolic Church, compiled by the Cousland family of Glasgow, is held at the Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham.
In the 1990s the New Apostolic Church had almost 300 apostles with 60,000 congregations comprising 16 million members globally.