reformed church america

Reformed Church in America

The Reformed Church in America (RCA) is a mainline Reformed Protestant denomination that was formerly a part of the Dutch Reformed Church and known as the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church of North America. The denomination has about 270,000 members and has congregations in both the U.S. and Canada. The RCA is a founding member of the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches, Christian Churches Together, World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and some parts of the denomination belong to the National Association of Evangelicals, the Canadian Council of Churches and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

The Reformed Church confesses several statements of doctrine and faith. These include the historic Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed, and Athanasian Creed; the traditional Reformed Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and Canons of Dort. As of June 2007, the Belhar Confession was provisionally adopted for two years.

Carol Bechtel was elected President of the General Synod in 2008. The general secretary is Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, installed by the General Synod in 1994. The church is ordered by the Constitution of the Reformed Church in America, consisting of The Liturgy, The Government, and The Standards of Unity. The Government, along with The Formularies and The By-Laws of General Synod are published annually in a volume known as The Book of Church Order


It is the oldest non-Anglican Protestant church with a continuous ministry and also the oldest corporation in North America. The early Dutch settlers in New Netherland held informal meetings for worship until Jonas Michaelius organized a congregation in New Amsterdam in 1628, called the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church.

The Reformed Church was the established church of New Netherland. Although the British captured the colony in 1664, all RCA ministers were still trained in the Netherlands under the auspices of the denominational classis of Amsterdam, and services in the Reformed Church remained in the Dutch language until 1764. (Dutch language use faded thereafter until the new wave of Dutch immigration in the mid-19th century, which prompted a temporary revival of it.) In 1747 the denomination gave permission to form an assembly in America, which in 1754 declared itself independent of the classis of Amsterdam. This American classis secured a charter in 1766 for Queens College (now Rutgers University) in New Jersey. The appointment in 1784 of John Henry Livingston as professor of theology marked the beginning of the New Brunswick Theological Seminary. In 1792, a formal constitution was adopted; in 1794 the Reformed Church held its first general synod; and in 1867 formally adopted the name "Reformed Church in America".

In the nineteenth century, in New York and New Jersey, the descendents of the original Dutch settlers struggled to preserve their European standards and traditions, while developing a taste for revivalism and an American identity.

The church embraced many of the historic colonial churches of New York and New Jersey, the denominational stronghold; fresh immigration from the Netherlands in the mid-19th century led to the development of the church in the Midwest. Hope College and Western Theological Seminary were founded in Holland, Michigan, Central College at Pella, Iowa, and Northwestern College at Orange City, Iowa. In the 1857 Secession, a group of Dutch settlers in Michigan led by Gijsbert Haan separated from the Reformed Church and organized the Christian Reformed Church in North America, and other churches followed. In 1882 another group of churches left for the CRCNA, mirroring developments in the church in the Netherlands. In the post-World War II years the church expanded in Canada, which was the destination of a large group of Dutch emigrants. Between 1949 and 1958 the church opened 120 churches among non-Dutch suburban communities.

Ecumenical relations

The RCA maintains a relationship of full communion with the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ through a document known as the Formula of Agreement. The relationship between the United Church of Christ and the RCA has been the subject of a certain amount of controversy within the RCA, particularly surrounding positions that members of the UCC leadership have taken regarding homosexuality. The two denominations undertook a dialogue and in 1999 produced a document discussing their differences (PDF). The RCA's 2006 General Synod voted to allow the exchange of ministers with the Christian Reformed Church in North America. This action must be submitted to the RCA's classes for their approval before it can become effective.

Noteworthy members

RCA colleges and seminaries



Certification Agencies

  • For students who do not attend or receive their Master of Divinity degree from one of the two seminaries operated by the Reformed Church in America, they are certified and credentialed for ministry in the Reformed Church in America through the Ministerial Formation Certification Agency, Paramount, California

See also


  • M. G. Hansen, The Reformed Church in the Netherlands, 1340–1840 (1884)
  • J. J. Birch, The Pioneering Church in the Mohawk Valley (1955)
  • F. H. Fabend, Zion on the Hudson: Dutch New York and New Jersey in the Age of Revivals (2000)
  • Minutes of General Synod (Various Years)

External links

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