The Protestant Church in the Netherlands (Dutch: Protestantse Kerk in Nederland, abbreviated PKN) came into being on 1 May 2004 as a merger of the Dutch Reformed Church (Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk, NHK), the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland, GKN) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Evangelisch-Lutherse Kerk in het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden). Since 1961 the churches have been going through an organizational process to this end.
At the time of its formation, the PKN had roughly 2,000 congregations and a membership of some 2,300,000, about 15% of the Dutch population. After the Roman Catholic Church, it is the second largest church body in the Netherlands. The PKN has four different types of congregations:
Lutheran congregations are special in that they are federated in a separate Lutheran Synod, which is an autonomous synod in the PKN, the Lutheran Synod also sends representatives to the PKN Synod.
Some congregation and members in the Dutch Reformed Church did not agree with the merger and have separated. They have organized themselves in the "Restored Reformed Church", "Hersteld Hervormde Kerk" (HHK). Estimations of their membership vary from 35,000 up to 70,000 people in about 120 local congregations. They disagree with the plural constitution of the merged church which contains, as they see it, contradicting Reformed and Lutheran confessions. This group also condemns same-sex marriages and female clergy.
Only those congregations belonging to the former Reformed Churches in the Netherlands have the legal right to secede from the PKN without losing its property and church during a transition period of 10 years. Five congregations have so far decided to form the "Voortgezette Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland" (Continued Reformed Churches in the Netherlands) with about 3,400 members. Two congregations joined one of the other smaller reformed churches in the Netherlands. Some minorities within congregations that joined the PKN decided to leave the church and associated themselves individually with one of the other reformed churches.
The PKN, being, at least partly, a former state church is a denomination which has both liberal and conservative streams. Local congregations have far reaching powers concerning "controversial" matters (such as whether or not women are admitted as members of the congregation's consistory or admittance to holy communion).