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
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.