Christian Reformed Church in North America

Christian Reformed Church in North America
Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA)
Official Logo of the Christian Reformed Church
Classification Protestant
Orientation Evangelical/Calvinist
Polity Presbyterian
Origin 1857
Holland, Michigan
Separated from Founded by Dutch immigrants;
split from the Reformed Church in America
Separations 1924–26 Protestant Reformed Churches;
1988 Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches;
1996 United Reformed Churches in North America
Congregations 1,049 (2008)
Members 268,052 (2008)

The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA or CRC) is a Protestant Christian denomination in the United States and Canada. Having roots in the Dutch Reformed churches of the Netherlands, the Christian Reformed Church was founded by Gijsbert Haan and Dutch immigrants who left the Reformed Church in America in 1857 and is theologically Calvinist.[1] The Church currently counts nearly 300,000 members in over 1,000 congregations.[1]



The Christian Reformed Church split from the Reformed Church in America in an 1857 Secession, which was in part the result of a theological dispute that originated in the Netherlands. Some other denominations later merged with the CRC, most notably the True Protestant Dutch Reformed Church (also known as the True Reformed Dutch Church) in 1890. Other churches later split from the CRC, including the Protestant Reformed Churches (1924–1926), the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches (OCRC) in 1988, and the United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA) in 1996.

In the closing decades of the 20th century, the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church enacted changes that were troubling to the more conservative members of its constituency, especially its 1995 decision to ordain women to ministerial positions. One result of this decision was that the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) broke fraternal relations with the CRC in 1997. The membership of the CRC in the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council, the single largest gathering of conservative Reformed denominations in the United States, was suspended in 1999 and terminated in 2001. This gradual doctrinal shift has spurred more conservative congregations to leave, and a significant number of these have ended up in either the PCA, OPC, or the OCRC and URCNA mentioned above.

In 2007, the CRC commemorated its sesquicentennial, themed "Grace Through Every Generation: Remembering, Rejoicing, and Rededicating".


The denomination is considered evangelical and Calvinist[1] in its theology. It places high value on theological study and the application of theology to current issues, emphasizes the importance of careful Biblical hermeneutics, and has traditionally respected the personal conscience of individual members who feel they are led by the Holy Spirit. Church-authorized committees generally study contemporary societal and religious issues in depth, and the CRC is generally cautious about changes. The Church promotes the belief that Christians do not earn their salvation, but that it is a wholly unmerited gift from God, and that good works are the Christian response to that gift.

Reformed theology as practiced in the CRC is founded in Calvinism. A more recent theologian of great influence on this denomination was Abraham Kuyper (1837–1920). Kuyper, who served as the Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1901–1905, promoted a belief in social responsibility and called on Christians to engage actively in improving all aspects of life and society. Current scholars with growing reputations, such as philosopher Alvin Plantinga, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and the late Lewis B. Smedes have associations with this denomination and with Calvin College. Philip Yancey has stated, "I also admire the tradition of the Christian Reformed Church, which advocates 'bringing every thought captive' under the mind of Christ; that tiny 'transforming' denomination has had an enormous influence on science, philosophy, and the arts."[2]

The CRC belongs to the Reformed Ecumenical Council, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the National Association of Evangelicals.

Doctrinal standards

The CRC subscribes to the Ecumenical Creeds[3]--the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed--as well as three Reformed Confessions, commonly referred as the Three Forms of Unity: the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort.[4] By way of the Form of Subscription, all officebearers in the CRC promise "to teach [the doctrines contained in these confessions] diligently, to defend them faithfully, and not to contradict them, publicly or privately, directly or indirectly, in [their] preaching, teaching, or writing." They "pledge moreover not only to reject all errors that conflict with these doctrines, but also to refute them, and to do everything [they] can to keep the church free from them."[5]

In 1986, the CRC formulated a statement of faith entitled "Our World Belongs to God: A Contemporary Testimony" which addresses issues such as secularism, individualism, and relativism. These issues were seen as "unique challenges of faith presented by the times in which we live".[6]


The Christian Reformed Church emblem appoved for U.S. military gravestones.

The ecclesiastical structure of the church involves three levels of assembly: the church council (local assembly, composed of a congregation's deacons, elders, and ministerial staff), the classis (regional assembly, of which there are 47: 36 in the United States, 12 in Canada, and 1 straddling the international border), and the synod (bi-national assembly.) [7] The church's Synod meets annually in June, with 188 delegates: two ministers and two elders from each classis. Central offices of the church are located in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Burlington, Ontario.


Reformed teaching puts an emphasis on education. As such, many CRC churches support Christian day schools as well as post-secondary education.[8] This includes Elim Christian Services in Palos Heights, IL, which offers a school devoted to the education of those with special needs.

The denomination owns and supports Calvin College as well as Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the denomination's North American headquarters are located. Historically most ministers ordained in the denomination's churches were trained at Calvin Seminary, in Grand Rapids. Other colleges associated with the denomination are Kuyper College (also located in Grand Rapids), Trinity Christian College, Dordt College, , Redeemer University College, The King's University College, and the post-graduate Institute for Christian Studies.[9]


The logo of The Back to God Hour, before its name was changed to "Back to God Ministries International
The logo of Back to God Ministries International
  • Faith Alive Christian Resources—this arm publishes books, magazines and learning materials (formerly CRC Publications)
  • Home Missions – ministry in U.S. and Canada
  • World Mission – ministry in the rest of the world
  • Back to God Ministries International – radio and television ministry (formerly known as The Back to God Hour)
  • Youth ministries – Calvinist Cadet Corps, GEMS Girl's Clubs, Youth Unlimited
  • Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) – disaster relief and economic development


CRC churches are predominantly located in areas of Dutch immigrant settlement in North America, including Brookfield, Wisconsin, Western Michigan, Chicago, the city of Lynden in Washington State, British Columbia, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Alberta, Iowa, suburban southern California, Ripon, California, and northern New Jersey.[10] The church has grown more ethnically diverse with some congregations predominantly Native American, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, African-American and Hispanic. All together, Christian Reformed Churches speak around 20 languages and over 170 congregations speak a language other than English or Dutch.[10] Many churches, particularly in more urban areas, are becoming much more integrated. Emerging from its role as primarily an immigrant church, the church has become more outward focused in recent years.[11]

Membership trends

In 2006, there were 196,900 members in 776 churches in the United States and 72,900 members in 249 churches in Canada.[12] After a period of rapid growth during the first half of the twentieth century, membership totals in the United States have remained fairly steady.[12] Michigan remains the center of the denomination, with over 100,000 members in over 200 churches.[13] Other than Michigan, the states with the highest membership rates are Iowa, South Dakota, Montana, and Minnesota.[13]

Notable members

Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church and founder of Willow Creek Association, was raised in the Christian Reformed Church, but left, and was a critic of the CRC's apparent lack of evangelistic focus. In later years, Hybels has softened his stance, noting that the CRC has made progress in evangelism and that many CRC members attend the evangelism conferences hosted by the church he founded. Others, such as novelist Peter De Vries and filmmakers Paul Schrader (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver), Leonard Schrader (Kiss of the Spider Woman) and Patricia Rozema (I've Heard the Mermaids Sing, Mansfield Park) were raised in the church by CRC-member parents and attended denominational schools, but later left the church. However, the influence of CRC origin can be detected in their later work, especially the films of Paul Schrader, who has publicly stated that "a religious upbringing... never goes away."[15]

Harold Camping, president of Family Radio, was a member of the Christian Reformed Church until 1988, when he left the church, claiming that the spirit of God had left all churches.[16]

See also


  1. ^ a b c An Introduction – Christian Reformed Church
  2. ^ Philip Yancey, "A State of Ungrace Part 2" Christianity Today Vol. 41, No. 2. February 3, 1997
  3. ^ De Moor, Robert (2001). Reformed: What It Means, Why It Matters. Faith Alive Christian Resources. pp. 67. doi:bx9422.3 D4 2002. ISBN 1-56212-433-1. 
  4. ^ Psalter Hymnal: Doctrinal Standards and Liturgy of the Christian Reformed Church.. Publication Committee of the Christian Reformed Church, Inc.. 1959. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ De Moor, Robert (2001). Reformed: What It Means, Why It Matters. Faith Alive Christian Resources. pp. 68. doi:bx9422.3 D4 2002. ISBN 1-56212-433-1. 
  7. ^ Christian Reformed Church Governance – Christian Reformed Church
  8. ^ De Moor, Robert (2001). Reformed: What It Means, Why It Matters. Faith Alive Christian Resources. pp. 58–59. doi:bx9422.3 D4 2002. ISBN 1-56212-433-1. 
  9. ^ Happy 150th, CRC!, Rev. Scott Hoezee, The Banner, 2007
  10. ^ a b CRC Yearbook,
  11. ^ The CRC and You,
  12. ^ a b "2008 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches". The National Council of Churches. Retrieved 2009-12-16. 
  13. ^ a b "2000 Religious Congregations and Membership Study". Glenmary Research Center. Retrieved 2009-12-16. 
  14. ^ [1]
  15. ^ Calvin College – Spark On-Line
  16. ^


  • Bratt, James H. Dutch Calvinism in Modern America: A History of a Conservative Subculture. Eerdmans, 1984.
  • Doezema, Linda Pegman. Dutch Americans: A Guide to Information Sources. Gale Research, 1979.
  • Kroes, Rob, and Henk-Otto Neuschafer, eds. The Dutch in North America: Their Immigration and Cultural Continuity. Amsterdam: Free University Press, 1991.
  • Kromminga, John. The Christian Reformed Church: A Study in Orthodoxy. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1949.
  • Schaap, James. Our Family Album: The Unfinished Story of the Christian Reformed Church. Grand Rapids, Mich.: CRC Publications, 1998.
  • Smidt, Corwin, Donald Luidens, James Penning, and Roger Nemeth. Divided by a Common Heritage: The Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America at the Beginning of the New Millennium. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006.
  • Swierenga, Robert. Faith and Family: Dutch Immigration and Settlement in the United States, 1820–1920 (2000)
  • Zwaanstra, Henry. Reformed Thought and Experience in a New World: A Study of the Christian Reformed Church and Its American Environment 1890–1918. The Netherlands: Kampen, 1973. 331 pp.

External links

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