About the Canadian Reformed Churches.
Our churches are relatively new to the North American continent in that the first Canadian Reformed church was instituted in 1950 and the first American Reformed Church in 1955. In spite of our relatively brief presence here, we have a long history that goes back to Europe, to Asia, to Israel and to the very beginnings of time. Naturally, we do not have the space here to deal with that entire history, but a few highlights are of importance.
Like almost every church in North America, our roots go back to Europe. As a Protestant church we trace our roots to the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century. During that time, men such as Martin Luther in Germany, Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland, John Calvin in France and Switzerland and John Knox in Scotland were used by God to bring the church back to the obedience of the Word of God.
The Reformation impacted on many different parts of Europe, including the Netherlands from which our immediate roots come. There, in what are sometimes called the Low Countries, the cause of the Reformation made great inroads and led to the establishment of a vigorous Reformed church life. Over time, these Reformed churches came under attack repeatedly from various quarters and this led to some significant events and developments.
The Synod of Dordrecht 1618-19
This Synod, which included delegate from many different countries in Europe, had to deal with the teachings of Jacob Arminius. His attempt to inject a more man-centered emphasis in to the matter of salvation was refuted and the sovereignty of God's grace was maintained.
The First Secession of 1834
In 1834, a number of ministers and members were either expelled or departed from the Dutch Reformed (State) Church. This Church had drifted away from its biblical and confessional basis. It had also adopted a hierarchical form of church government which left no room for the autonomy of the local church. As a result, the Reformed churches of the Netherlands were established and laid claim to being the continuation of the true Reformed church.
The Second Secession of 1886
In 1886 there was a second expulsion/exodus out of the Dutch Reformed Church. The causes can be traced one again to deviation from biblical standards and heirarchy in church government. This movement was led by the well-known theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper.In 1892, the Churches of the First and Second Secession merged and became the Reformed churches in the Netherlands.
The Third Secession of 1944
In 1944, another secession (or Liberation) took place under the leadership of Klaas Schilder and S. Greijdanus. The causes related once again to doctrine and church government. The Synod of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands made particular views regarding covenant and baptism binding on all ministers and members. When certain ministers, elders and deacons refused to conform, they were deposed and excommunicated.
Those who were expelled and those who departed of their own accord formed the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated).
After the second World War there was a massive immigration from the Netherlands to North America, especially to Canada. When members of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands arrived in Canada, they first took up contact with already existing churches of Reformed persuasion in the hope that they could join with them. That hope soon disappeared when it became clear that one of those churches, the Protestant Reformed Church, expected the newly arrived immigrants to accept an unbiblical doctrinal statement relating to election and the covenant. This they refused to do.
The other Reformed church under consideration was the Christian Reformed Church; however, joining with it also proved impossible when it became clear that this Church sided with those in the Netherlands who had earlier expelled the newly arrived immigrants.
The consequence was that on April 16, 1950, the first Canadian Reformed church was institued in Lethbridge, Alberta. It was soon followed by churches in Edmonton, Neerlandia, Orangeville, New Westminster and elsewhere.
As the Canadian Reformed Churches move into the 21th century, they are continuing to experience further growth and development. The number of local churches now numbers just over 50, with an additional 3 house congregations. They are to be found in the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, as well as in the American states of Washington, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Colorado.