Differences between Reformed Denominations

Discussion in 'Ecclesiology' started by cbryant, Nov 28, 2008.

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  1. cbryant

    cbryant Puritan Board Freshman

    If this is a re-post my apologies. I was wanting to know the differences in between the United Reformed Church, Reformed Church US, Heritage Reformed, and Free Reformed Church of North America. My purpose is just curiosity base on the fact that all of these hold to the 3 forms of unity, not to ruffle any feathers.
  2. R. Scott Clark

    R. Scott Clark Puritan Board Senior

    The RCUS has a German (and German-Russian) heritage. The RCUS arrived in North America from Germany c. 1714. It has a mixed heritage. It's not clear how Reformed it was when it arrived. It's quite possible that that German church was weak by that point. During the 19th century, the RC broadened considerably becoming home to Zwinglians, the Mercersburg movement, and eventually liberalism. It was an RCUS pastor who made the first English translation of Barth (G. W. Richards, if memory serves) in the 20th century. There was a split in the RCUS with a small, conservative German-Russian classis (Eureka Classis) staying out of the the mergers of the 30s that eventually led to the formation of the UCC. The present-day RCUS is the continuation of the old Eureka Classis. It is very conservative though it only recently re-adopted the Belgic and Canons of Dort. In my experience they do not adhere terribly closely to the historic understanding of the RPW (i.e. they sing mostly hymns from the old, blue, Trinity Hymnal and use musical instruments; they've been intolerant of a candidate holding to exclusive, a capella psalmody) and have in the past described themselves as the denomination of "wine, women, and song," i.e. they use wine in communion, the sing uninspired hymns, and they don't allow females to vote in congregational meetings. They've had battles (in the 80s) over theonomy, women in the military (80s-90s), and KJV-only (80s) and majority text (80s). They've rejected Norm Shepherd and the FV. 6/24 creation is one of their non-negotiable boundary markers.

    The URCs are derived from the Dutch Reformed churches. Their roots are in Dort, and the Afscheiding (separating) of 1834. Some of those folks migrated from the Nederlands to the New World in the mid-19th century to become the Christian Reformed Church(es?) in North America. They were conservative, confessional, adhering closely to the RPW, but very ethnic. As they engaged "the Americans" as they called us and "the methodists" (the evangelicals), the CRC gradually lost its identity through the 20th century. By the mid-90s the move to ordain females provoked a schism producing the URCNAs. This group is conservative of much of the older theology, piety, and practice of the CRC from the earlier part of the 20th century, but they have largely accepted some of the decline that began in the early 20th century on worship (uninspired hymns and instruments). The URCs are still finding their footing but they have rejected the FV/Shepherd theology. They have reached a settlement on creation that is superior to the position of the RCUS. There are still pockets of ethno-centrism but there is some church planting, especially out west. The URCs hold the Three Forms of Unity. The question for the future of the URCs is whether they will continue to learn to work together and cooperate in missions or whether they will continue to work independently of each other without coordination.

    I'll let someone else comment on the Free Churches.
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2008
  3. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

    Just to build on what Scott wrote above:

    Each of these churches has different historical roots.

    Free Reformed -- Great Reformation, Secession of 1834

    Heritage Reformed -- Great Reformation, Secession of 1834, assorted subsequent secessions in the Netherlands and US.

    United Reformed -- Great Reformation, Secession of 1834, and to a lesser degree the Doleantie of 1886, and Union of 1892, and at least two secessions in the US (producing the CRC and later the URC).

    As an aside, there's also a difference between URC folks in Canada and the US. As indicated by Scott, a lot of the Dutch-background URC folks in the US are descended from waves of Dutch immigration in the 19th century. Like in the CanRC, most of the Canadian URC people are descended from a wave of Dutch immigration after the Second World War -- which is perhaps why the CanRC and Canadian URC churches tend to be finding common ground more quickly.
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