The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Christian Reformed Church in North America, The

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Christian Reformed Church in North America, The
Edition of 1920. See also Christian Reformed Church in North America on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCH IN NORTH AMERICA, The. This Church is largely the result of three secession movements out of the Reformed (Dutch) Church (q.v.). The first of these movements took place in 1822 in the States of New Jersey and New York. Its leader was Rev. Solomon Froeligh, D.D., assistant professor of theology in the Dutch Church. The reasons advanced for seceding from the old denomination were its laxness in disciplining offending members, indiscriminate administration of sealing ordinances and toleration of Hopkinsian teachings. In 1827 the seceders, calling themselves the “True Reformed Dutch Church,” numbered 25 congregations and 12 ministers. Their number dwindled slowly but surely until 1890, when they formed a union with the main part of the present Christian Reformed Church.

This main part was composed largely of Hollanders who, in 1847 and the decade following, had settled in Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and other northwestern States. In 1849 these people — all stanch Calvinists — had united themselves with the (Dutch) Reformed Church. From the very beginning, however, some were dissatisfied with the union on account of difference in language, neglect of catechetical preaching and teaching, too much fraternizing with un-Calvinistic denominations, the singing of hymns and laxity of doctrine. Objections were also made against allowing freemasons to be church members. In 1857 this dissatisfaction led to an open disruption. Under the leadership of the Rev. K. Vanden Bosch, about half a dozen churches in Michigan withdrew and styled themselves the “True Dutch Reformed Church.” In 1876 they opened a theological school in Grand Rapids, Mich., the denominational stronghold.

This True Dutch Reformed Church was much strengthened, numerically and morally, by a third movement of secession which took place in the early '80's. This movement was the result of anti-Masonic agitation, the General Synod of the Reformed Church refusing to take such decided action as the complainants desired. In 1882 the seceding congregations, about half a dozen, led by Rev. L. T. Hulst, united formally with the Church which had withdrawn in 1857.

After this union the numerical increase of the denomination, which was slow at first, became quite rapid. The statistics for 1918 give 250 congregations, 175 ministers, 40,000 communicants, a total of 90,000 souls; about 25,000 catechism scholars and some 20,000 pupils in the sabbath schools. These congregations are scattered through the Northern States of the Union, several along the Atlantic Coast, from Massachusetts to New Jersey. In recent years a few have been organized in Washington and California. About half a dozen congregations are found in the Saskatchewan and Manitoba provinces of Canada, while four affiliated churches, supported by the denomination, are found in the Argentine Republic. The different local churches are joined in 13 “classes” or presbyteries. Six delegates of each of the latter, three ministers and three elders, constitute the Synod, the highest Church court of the denomination, meeting biennially (in even years), the third Wednesday in June. The Theological School and Calvin College, located in Grand Rapids, Mich., have about 350 students enrolled. The faculty is composed of 17 professors. The Christian Reformed Church is very zealous in home mission efforts. This is one of the main causes of its rapid growth; continual immigration from the Netherlands and the formation of new settlements supplying the material for the increase.

The denomination also carries on mission work among the Navaho and Zũni Indians in New Mexico. Near Gallup, N. M., “Rehoboth Missions,” a flourishing boarding-school for Navaho children gives a Christian education to some 100 Indians boys and girls, while in Zũni a day school has 24 children enrolled. Five other stations, with Rehoboth as centre, are manned by ordained missionaries who labor in connection with governmental boarding-schools for Navahoes in New Mexico. Both in Paterson and in Chicago Rescue Missions are maintained; in the first named city a Jewish Mission Home of the denomination was opened in 1915, while in Hoboken, N. J. a Seaman's Home has been established. In Ogden, Utah, work is done among the Mormons. The free Christian primary schools found in all the principal Dutch settlements are supported largely by the Christian Reformed people, something which applies also to the Bethesda Sanatorium for tuberculosis sufferers in Denver, Colo., and the Psychopathic Hospital near Grand Rapids, Mich. The denomination has three official church periodicals, one in Dutch (weekly), one in German (monthly) and The Banner, an English weekly, dating from 1866 and published in Grand Rapids, Mich. This indicates that the Christian Reformed Church is a tri-lingual body. About half a dozen of its churches are German, the great majority use the Dutch tongue and about two dozen of churches employ the English language in their worship. This latter element is growing rapidly as a result of the natural process of Americanization constantly going on. Fraternal relations are established with the stricter Calvinistic Churches of the United States and South Africa, and especially with the Reformed Churches of Holland. In creed and government the Christian Reformed Church is like all reformed denominations of Holland origin throughout the world, its creed consisting of the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession and the Five Articles against the Remonstrants, usually called the “Canons of Dordrecht.” The Church is marked for its conservative spirit and contends earnestly for Calvinistic tenets. It lays much stress on catechetical training of its young people. The Psalms are used almost exclusively in public worship. The name “Holland Christian Reformed” was adopted in 1880 and 10 years later the official name became “Christian Reformed Church.”

Rev. Henry Beets.