Dutch Reformed Church
Overview
 
The Dutch Reformed Church (in Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

: Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk or NHK) was a Reformed Christian denomination
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

 in the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

. It existed from the 1570s to 2004, the year it merged with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands
Reformed Churches in the Netherlands
The Reformed Churches in the Netherlands was the second largest Protestant church in the Netherlands until it merged into the Protestant Church in the Netherlands in 2004.-History:...

 and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands was a denomination in the Netherlands which under that name existed from 1818 to 2004...

 to form the Protestant Church in the Netherlands
Protestant Church in the Netherlands
The Protestant Church in the Netherlands is the largest Protestant Christian denomination in the Netherlands. With 2,000 congregations and a membership of some 1.8 million , it is the second largest church in the Netherlands after the Roman Catholic Church.It was founded 1 May 2004 as a merger of...

. At the time of the merger, the Church had 2 million members organised in 1,350 congregations. A minority of members of the Church chose not to participate in the merger. These former members re-organized as the Restored Reformed Church
Restored Reformed Church
The Restored Reformed Church is a Reformed Christian denomination in the Netherlands. It was founded on May 1, 2004, by a minority of the Reformed Bond inside the Dutch Reformed Church who opposed that church's merger with two other Protestant churches into the Protestant Church in the Netherlands...

.

It was one of the many new churches established across Europe during the Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 in the 16th century.
Encyclopedia
The Dutch Reformed Church (in Dutch
Dutch language
Dutch is a West Germanic language and the native language of the majority of the population of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Suriname, the three member states of the Dutch Language Union. Most speakers live in the European Union, where it is a first language for about 23 million and a second...

: Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk or NHK) was a Reformed Christian denomination
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

 in the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

. It existed from the 1570s to 2004, the year it merged with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands
Reformed Churches in the Netherlands
The Reformed Churches in the Netherlands was the second largest Protestant church in the Netherlands until it merged into the Protestant Church in the Netherlands in 2004.-History:...

 and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands was a denomination in the Netherlands which under that name existed from 1818 to 2004...

 to form the Protestant Church in the Netherlands
Protestant Church in the Netherlands
The Protestant Church in the Netherlands is the largest Protestant Christian denomination in the Netherlands. With 2,000 congregations and a membership of some 1.8 million , it is the second largest church in the Netherlands after the Roman Catholic Church.It was founded 1 May 2004 as a merger of...

. At the time of the merger, the Church had 2 million members organised in 1,350 congregations. A minority of members of the Church chose not to participate in the merger. These former members re-organized as the Restored Reformed Church
Restored Reformed Church
The Restored Reformed Church is a Reformed Christian denomination in the Netherlands. It was founded on May 1, 2004, by a minority of the Reformed Bond inside the Dutch Reformed Church who opposed that church's merger with two other Protestant churches into the Protestant Church in the Netherlands...

.

It was one of the many new churches established across Europe during the Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 in the 16th century. While the Dutch Reformed Church was based in the Netherlands, other churches holding similar theological views were founded in France, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, England, and Scotland. The theology and practice of the Dutch Reformed Church, and its sister churches in the countries named, were based on the teachings of John Calvin
John Calvin
John Calvin was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church around 1530...

 and the many other Reformers of his time.

History

The Reformation was a time of religious violence and persecution, and many leaders of the newly established Reformed congregations fled abroad. The first Synod
Synod
A synod historically is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not...

 of 23 Dutch Reformed leaders was held in October 1571 in the German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 city of Emden
Emden
Emden is a city and seaport in the northwest of Germany, on the river Ems. It is the main city of the region of East Frisia; in 2006, the city had a total population of 51,692.-History:...

. The Synod of Emden
Synod of Emden
The Synod of Emden was a gathering of 29 exiled Calvinist Church leaders who were to become the founders of the Dutch Reformed Church. Held in Emden, Germany on 4 October 1571, where it established the rules and doctrices of the Dutch Reformed Church....

 is generally considered to be the founding of the Dutch Reformed Church, the oldest of the Reformed churches in the Netherlands.

The first Synod in the Dutch Republic itself was held in Dordrecht
Dordrecht
Dordrecht , colloquially Dordt, historically in English named Dort, is a city and municipality in the western Netherlands, located in the province of South Holland. It is the fourth largest city of the province, having a population of 118,601 in 2009...

 in 1578. This synodical meeting is not to be confused with the better known Second Synod of Dort
Synod of Dort
The Synod of Dort was a National Synod held in Dordrecht in 1618-1619, by the Dutch Reformed Church, to settle a divisive controversy initiated by the rise of Arminianism. The first meeting was on November 13, 1618, and the final meeting, the 154th, was on May 9, 1619...

 of 1618, during which Arminians were expelled from the Church and the Canons of Dort
Canons of Dort
The Canons of Dort, or Canons of Dordrecht, formally titled The Decision of the Synod of Dort on the Five Main Points of Doctrine in Dispute in the Netherlands, is the judgment of the National Synod held in the Dutch city of Dordrecht in 1618–19...

 were added to the Confessions. The Canons of Dordt, together with the previously adopted Belgic Confession
Belgic Confession
The Confession of Faith, popularly known as the Belgic Confession, is a doctrinal standard document to which many of the Reformed churches subscribe. The Confession forms part of the Reformed Three Forms of Unity...

 and the Heidelberg Catechism
Heidelberg Catechism
The Heidelberg Catechism is a Protestant confessional document taking the form of a series of questions and answers, for use in teaching Reformed Christian doctrine...

, were called the Drie formulieren van Enigheid (Three Forms of Unity). In fact, most conflicts and splits in the Church were brought about by disagreement over the substance and interpretation of these doctrinal documents. The government of the Dutch Republic
Dutch Republic
The Dutch Republic — officially known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands , the Republic of the United Netherlands, or the Republic of the Seven United Provinces — was a republic in Europe existing from 1581 to 1795, preceding the Batavian Republic and ultimately...

, which had instigated the Arminians' expulsion, subsequently prohibited the Reformed Church from assembling synodically. No Synod was held in the Netherlands until after the end of the Republic in 1795.

Before the demise of the Dutch Republic in 1795, it enjoyed the status of "public" or "privileged" church. Though it was never formally adopted as the state religion
State religion
A state religion is a religious body or creed officially endorsed by the state...

, the law demanded that every public official should be a communicant member. Consequently, the Church had close relations with the Dutch government.

Further Reformation

The 17th and early 18th centuries were the age of the Dutch Nadere Reformatie
Nadere Reformatie
Nadere Reformatie is a Dutch term that refers to a period of church history in the Netherlands, following the Reformation, from roughly 1600 until 1750...

 (best translated in English as the Further Reformation). This was a movement of piety
Piety
In spiritual terminology, piety is a virtue that can mean religious devotion, spirituality, or a combination of both. A common element in most conceptions of piety is humility.- Etymology :...

 and a desire to apply the teachings of the Reformation to Dutch homes, churches, and society of that day. The main protagonists of the Nadere Reformatie were Wilhelmus à Brakel
Wilhelmus à Brakel
Wilhelmus à Brakel , a contemporary of Voetius and Witsius, was a major representative of the Dutch Further Reformation . This movement was contemporaneous with and greatly influenced by English Puritanism...

 and Gisbertus Voetius
Gisbertus Voetius
Gisbertus Voetius was a Dutch Calvinist theologian.-Life:...

. Lesser-known figures include Bernardus Smytegelt and Jodocus van Lodensteyn. Publications by these authors are still read, whether in Dutch or in translation, among various Reformed Christians throughout the world.

Regulation church

When the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Kingdom of the Netherlands
The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a sovereign state and constitutional monarchy with territory in Western Europe and in the Caribbean. The four parts of the Kingdom—Aruba, Curaçao, the Netherlands, and Sint Maarten—are referred to as "countries", and participate on a basis of equality...

 was established in 1815, the organisation of the Dutch Reformed Church became more centralized than ever. The existing church organisation was swept aside by the "Regulations" imposed by the new government, and the Church was put under royal control, with its Synod members being personally nominated by the King until 1852. During this period, the Church experienced two schisms: the Afscheiding (the Separation) in 1834 and the Doleantie (the Sorrow) led by Abraham Kuyper
Abraham Kuyper
Abraham Kuijper generally known as Abraham Kuyper, was a Dutch politician, journalist, statesman and theologian...

 in 1886.

20th century

The Dutch Reformed Church remained the largest church body in the Netherlands until the middle of the 20th century, when it was overtaken by the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

. The rapid secularization
Secularization
Secularization is the transformation of a society from close identification with religious values and institutions toward non-religious values and secular institutions...

 of the Netherlands in the 1960s dramatically reduced participation in the mainstream Protestant church. From the '60s onward, a number of attempts were made to effect a reunion with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands
Reformed Churches in the Netherlands
The Reformed Churches in the Netherlands was the second largest Protestant church in the Netherlands until it merged into the Protestant Church in the Netherlands in 2004.-History:...

 (Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland). This led to the two churches uniting with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands was a denomination in the Netherlands which under that name existed from 1818 to 2004...

 (Evangelisch-Lutherse Kerk in het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden) to establish the Protestant Church in the Netherlands in 2004.

The 2004 merger led to a schism in which a number of congregations and members of the Dutch Reformed Church separated to form the Restored Reformed Church
Restored Reformed Church
The Restored Reformed Church is a Reformed Christian denomination in the Netherlands. It was founded on May 1, 2004, by a minority of the Reformed Bond inside the Dutch Reformed Church who opposed that church's merger with two other Protestant churches into the Protestant Church in the Netherlands...

 (Hersteld Hervormde Kerk). Estimations of their membership vary from 35,000 up to 70,000 in about 120 local congregations served by 88 ministers. The Restored Reformed Church disapproves of the pluralistic nature of the merged church, which they allege contains partly contradicting Reformed and Lutheran confessions. This group also opposes the blessing of same-sex unions in Christian churches
Blessing of same-sex unions in Christian churches
The blessing of same-sex unions is currently an issue about which some Christian churches are at present in disagreement with other Christian churches...

 and the ordination of women
Ordination of women
Ordination in general religious usage is the process by which a person is consecrated . The ordination of women is a regular practice among some major religious groups, as it was of several religions of antiquity...

.

International distribution

Africa

The Dutch Reformed Church gave rise to several Reformed denominations in South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

, including the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa (Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk), the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk, the Gereformeerde Kerke in Suid-Afrika, the Afrikaans Protestant Church (Afrikaanse Protestantse Kerk), and the Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa
Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa
The Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa was formed by the union of the black and coloured Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk mission churches.-Main markers in the URCSA'S history:...

.

Asia

Through the Dutch East India Company
Dutch East India Company
The Dutch East India Company was a chartered company established in 1602, when the States-General of the Netherlands granted it a 21-year monopoly to carry out colonial activities in Asia...

, the Dutch Reformed Church was established in Ceylon in 1642. The Dutch Reformed Church of Ceylon officially changed its name in 2007 to the Christian Reformed Church of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka is a country off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent. Known until 1972 as Ceylon , Sri Lanka is an island surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait, and lies in the vicinity of India and the...

 to focus its identity more clearly on being Christian rather than on its Dutch heritage. As of 2007, its membership stands around 5,000, comprising both communicant and baptized members in 29 congregations, preaching stations, and mission outposts.

Americas

The Dutch Reformed Church expanded to the Americas
Americas
The Americas, or America , are lands in the Western hemisphere, also known as the New World. In English, the plural form the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions, while the singular form America is primarily...

 beginning in 1628 in New Amsterdam
New Amsterdam
New Amsterdam was a 17th-century Dutch colonial settlement that served as the capital of New Netherland. It later became New York City....

.

St. Thomas Reformed Church was formed in 1660 in St. Thomas, Danish West Indies
Danish West Indies
The Danish West Indies or "Danish Antilles", were a colony of Denmark-Norway and later Denmark in the Caribbean. They were sold to the United States in 1916 in the Treaty of the Danish West Indies and became the United States Virgin Islands in 1917...

, and was the first Dutch Reformed Church in the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

.

During the Dutch presence in Brazil the Reformed Church was organized in Pernambuco.

In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, the Christian Reformed Church in North America
Christian Reformed Church in North America
The Christian Reformed Church in North America is a Protestant Christian denomination in the United States and Canada. Having roots in the Dutch Reformed churches of the Netherlands, the Christian Reformed Church was founded by Gijsbert Haan and Dutch immigrants who left the Reformed Church in...

 (CRCNA) is the largest among the several churches with Dutch Reformed heritage. The next largest is the Reformed Church in America
Reformed Church in America
The Reformed Church in America is a mainline Reformed Protestant denomination in Canada and the United States. It has about 170,000 members, with the total declining in recent decades. From its beginning in 1628 until 1819, it was the North American branch of the Dutch Reformed Church. In 1819, it...

 (RCA). Smaller related denominations are the Canadian and American Reformed Churches
Canadian and American Reformed Churches
The Canadian and American Reformed Churches are a federation of over fifty Protestant Christian churches in Canada and the USA, with historical roots in the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands, and doctrinal roots in the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation...

, the Free Reformed Churches of North America
Free Reformed Churches of North America
The Free Reformed Churches of North America is a theologically conservative federation of churches in the Dutch Calvinist tradition with congregations in the United States and Canada. It officially adopted its current name in 1974...

 (FRC), the Heritage Reformed Congregations (HRC), the Netherlands Reformed Congregations
Netherlands Reformed Congregations
The Netherlands Reformed Congregations, is a highly conservative denomination with congregations mostly in Canada, the United States, and the Netherlands.-Baptism:...

 (NRC), the Protestant Reformed Churches in America
Protestant Reformed Churches in America
The Protestant Reformed Churches in America ' or ' is a Protestant denomination of 29 churches and over 7,000 members.-History:...

 (PRC), and the United Reformed Churches in North America
United Reformed Churches in North America
The United Reformed Churches in North America is a theologically conservative federation of churches. The United Reformed Churches trace their roots back to the earlier Protestant movements in Europe, and to the Reformed churches in Belgium and the Netherlands...

 (URC). Former US Presidents
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren was the eighth President of the United States . Before his presidency, he was the eighth Vice President and the tenth Secretary of State, under Andrew Jackson ....

 and Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

, both of Dutch descent, were affiliated with the Dutch Reformed Church.
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