08 January 2004

Church union in the Netherlands

As of 1 May the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland) will cease to exist as a distinct denomination. This church will formally unite with the Dutch Reformed Church (Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands to form the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. This report is from the REC website:

Three Netherlands churches cast their final vote on union December 12. Each of the three synods met separately on December 12 and approved the merger. The churches will become the Protestant Church in The Netherlands. The formal union will take place May 1, 2004.

In the Reformed Churches in The Netherlands (GKN), the vote was 66 to 6 in favor of the union. In the Netherlands Reformed Churches (NHK), the vote was narrower, 51 to 24, just making the two-thirds majority required. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in The Kingdom of The Netherlands (ELK) voted 30 to 6 in favor.

That same evening, the three churches celebrated together at the great Dom Church in Utrecht.

The GKN was one of the founding members of the Reformed Ecumenical Council in 1946. The new Protestant Church in The Netherlands will continue its membership and be the first REC member to include a Lutheran element in it. In addition, the new PCN will be the host for the next REC Assembly in Utrecht in July 2005.

The two Reformed denominations and one Lutheran denomination have been in union discussions for decades, with the Reformed churches beginning the talks in the late 1960s.

For those unfamiliar with Dutch ecclesiastical history, the GKN is the church body that Abraham Kuyper was instrumental in establishing in 1892 by bringing together the heirs of two earlier secessions (1834 and 1886) from the NHK, the national church. Some of my colleagues at Redeemer University College were baptized and raised within this body. It is the denomination with the closest historic ties to the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

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