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Netherlands Reformed Churches

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Netherlands Reformed Churches
Classification Protestant
Orientation Orthodox Reformed (Neo-Calvinist)
Origin 1967
Separated from Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated) (Dutch Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (Vrijgemaakt))
Congregations 92
Members 31,590
statistics as of 2004

The Netherlands Reformed Churches are a conservative Reformed Protestant Christian denomination in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The denomination came into existence in 1967 out of a schism within the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated).


The history of the Netherlands Reformed Churches (Dutch Nederlands Gereformeerde Kerken) coincides to a great extent with that of the Reformed Churches (Liberated), of which it was a part until the early 1960s. That denomination arose out of a conflict within the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands over the covenant and the power of the general synod. After that schism, referred to as the Liberation (Dutch Vrijmaking), the Liberated churches became a very conservative, orthodox denomination. Wary of the liberal tendencies within various Reformed denominations, they started to develop a number of cultural and political structures and institutes, membership in which was restricted to church members. Some within the church held the view that the Liberated church was the only true church in the Netherlands, implying that all other Christians were in violation of God's command to be joined to God's covenant people. A sizeable group disagreed with this view. In 1964 the disagreement came to a head, when Rev. Van der Ziel was accused of errors in his teaching and found guilty by the synod of the Reformed Churches (Liberated), which defrocked him. Many members protested against this measure and in 1966 they drew up an open letter with a petition to voice their protest. However, local church councils responded by excommunicating members who signed the petition. Those members, and many who followed them voluntarily, formed a new group. This federation of Reformed Churches was referred to as buitenverbanders (literally, "those outside the denomination") until 1979, when the current name Netherlands Reformed Churches was adopted.

Doctrine and Practice

In teaching, the Netherlands Reformed Churches are in many ways an orthodox Reformed Church. They hold to the traditional confessions of the ancient church (the Nicene Creed, the Apostles' Creed, and the Athanasian Creed), as well as the Three Forms of Unity. As a Calvinist church, they practice infant baptism.

However, the denomination is very loosely organised. As a result of the bad experiences with synodical authority, the local congregations have much more power, and the general synod much less, than in most other Reformed churches. Thus there are many variations and differences between local congregations. Some are very traditional; others are more heavily influenced by contemporary evangelical practices, having replaced traditional Dutch organ music with praise bands. Also, the Netherlands Reformed Churches have allowed women to serve as deacons and elders. These variations have made contacts with other churches somewhat more complicated. Though there have been close contacts with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated), the widespread desire to be reunited to each other has been hampered by deep-running disagreements over both doctrine and practice. The Netherlands Reformed Churches are also close to the Christian Reformed Churches. After the formation of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, two protesting congregations from the former Reformed Churches in the Netherlands joined the Netherlands Reformed Church.

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