christian reformed

Christian Reformed Church in North America

The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA or CRC) is a Protestant Christian denomination which follows Reformed Calvinist theology. The church promotes the belief that Christians do not earn their salvation, but that it is a gift from God despite one's failings and that good works are the Christian response to that gift.

The denomination currently counts nearly 300,000 members in over 1,000 congregations across the United States and Canada, and has its roots in the Dutch Reformed churches in the Netherlands. The church was founded by Gijsbert Haan and Dutch immigrants in the 1857 Secession. CRC churches are predominantly located in areas of Dutch immigrant settlement in North America, including Brookfield, Wisconsin, Western Michigan, Chicago, the city of Lynden in Washington State, British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Alberta, Iowa, suburban southern California, and northern New Jersey. The church has grown more ethnically diverse with some congregations predominantly Native American, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, African-American and Hispanic. All together, Christian Reformed Churches speak around 20 languages and over 170 congregations speak a language other than English or Dutch. Many churches, particularly in more urban areas, are becoming much more integrated. Emerging from its role as primarily an immigrant church, the church has become more outward focused in recent years.


The denomination is considered evangelical and Calvinistic in its theology. It places high value on theological study and the application of theology to current issues, emphasizes the importance of careful Biblical hermeneutics, and has traditionally respected the personal conscience of individual members who feel they are led by the Holy Spirit. Church-authorized committees generally study contemporary societal and religious issues in-depth, and the CRC is cautious about changes. Reformed theology as practiced in the CRC is founded in Calvinism. A more recent theologian of great influence on this denomination was Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920). Kuyper, who served as the Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1901-1905, promoted a belief of social responsibility and called on Christians to actively engage in improving all aspects of life and society. Current scholars with growing reputations, such as philosopher Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and the late Lewis B. Smedes have associations with this denomination and with Calvin College. Philip Yancey has stated, "I also admire the tradition of the Christian Reformed Church, which advocates 'bringing every thought captive' under the mind of Christ; that tiny 'transforming' denomination has had an enormous influence on science, philosophy, and the arts.

The CRC belongs to the Reformed Ecumenical Council, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the National Association of Evangelicals.

Doctrinal standards

The CRC subscribes to the Ecumenical Creeds, including the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. The church also uses the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort. In 1986, the CRC formulated a statement of faith entitled "Our World Belongs to God: A Comtemporary Testimony" which addresses issues such as secularism, individualism, and relativism. These issues were seen as "unique challenges of faith presented by the times in which we live" .


The Dutch Reformed churches have a long history of mergers and schisms, and the Christian Reformed Church has not escaped these. The Christian Reformed Church split from the Reformed Church in America in an 1857 Secession, which was in part the result of a theological dispute that originated in the Netherlands. Some other denominations later merged with the CRC, most notably the True Protestant Dutch Reformed Church in 1890. Other churches later split from the CRC, including the Protestant Reformed Church (1924-1926), the Orthodox Christian Reformed Church in 1988, and the United Reformed Churches in North America in 1996.

In the closing decades of the twentieth century, the Synod of the CRC enacted changes that were troubling to the more conservative members of its constituency, especially its 1995 decision to ordain women to ministerial positions. One result of this decision was that the Presbyterian Church in America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church broke fraternal relations with the CRC in 1997. The membership of the CRC in the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council, the single largest gathering of conservative Reformed denominations in the United States, was suspended in 1999 and terminated in 2001. This gradual doctrinal shift has spurred more conservative congregations to leave, and a significant number of these have ended up in either the PCA, OPC, or the Orthodox CRC and United Reformed Church mentioned above.

In 2007, the CRC commemorated its sesquicentennial, themed "Grace Through Every Generation: Remembering, Rejoicing, and Rededicating".


The ecclesiastical structure of the church involves three levels of assembly: the church council (local assembly, composed of a congregation's deacons, elders, and ministerial staff), the classis (regional assembly, of which there are 47: 36 in the United States, 12 in Canada, and 1 straddling the international border), and the synod (bi-national assembly.) The church's Synod meets annually in June, with 188 delegates: two ministers and two elders from each classis. Central offices of the church are located in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Burlington, Ontario.


Reformed teaching puts an emphasis on education. As such, many CRC churches operate or support Christian day schools as well as post-secondary education. This includes Elim Christian Services in Palos Heights, IL, which offers a school devoted to the education of those with special needs.

The denomination supports Calvin College as well as Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the denomination's North American headquarters are located. Most ministers ordained in the denomination's churches trained at Calvin Seminary. Other colleges associated with the denomination are Trinity Christian College, Dordt College, Kuyper College, Redeemer University College, The King's University College, and the post-graduate Institute for Christian Studies.

Notable members

Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church and founder of Willow Creek Association, was raised in the Christian Reformed Church, but left, and was a critic of the CRC's apparent lack of evangelistic focus. In later years, Hybels has softened his stance, noting that the CRC has made progress in evangelism and that many CRC members attend the evangelism conferences hosted by the church he founded. Others, such as novelist Peter De Vries and filmmakers Paul Schrader (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver), Leonard Schrader (Kiss of the Spider Woman) and Patricia Rozema (I've Heard the Mermaids Sing, Mansfield Park) were raised in the church by CRC-member parents and attended denominational schools, but later left that tradition. However, the influence of CRC origin can be detected in their later work, especially the films of Paul Schrader, who has publicly stated that "a religious upbringing... never goes away.

See also



  • Bratt, James H. Dutch Calvinism in Modern America: A History of a Conservative Subculture. Eerdmans, 1984.
  • Doezema, Linda Pegman. Dutch Americans: A Guide to Information Sources. Gale Research, 1979.
  • Kroes, Rob, and Henk-Otto Neuschafer, eds. The Dutch in North America: Their Immigration and Cultural Continuity. Amsterdam: Free University Press, 1991.
  • Kromminga, John. The Christian Reformed Church: A Study in Orthodoxy. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1949.
  • Schaap, James. Our Family Album: The Unfinished Story of the Christian Reformed Church. Grand Rapids, Mich.: CRC Publications, 1998.
  • Smidt, Corwin, Donald Luidens, James Penning, and Roger Nemeth. Divided by a Common Heritage: The Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America at the Beginning of the New Millennium. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006.

External links

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