The Christian Reformed Church in North America is one of the many Christian churches that exist around the world. While we share all the essentials with these other believers, we come from one tradition or style of Christianity that began with the Protestant Reformation.
The Protestant Reformation produced a number of other subgroups of Christianity that still exist today: Lutherans, Anabaptists (Mennonites), and Anglicans (Episcopalians). Our branch is known as the Reformed branch, which includes churches with "Reformed" in their name as well as Presbyterians, who have the same beliefs just with a different name. The Christian Reformed Church comes from Dutch Christians of the Reformed vein.
A Bit of History
At some point the Dutch church in the Netherlands became an arm of the government. Church became something the government used to give order to society, neglecting Biblical teaching and Confessional distinctives. Anything that did not fit reason or science was rejected, such as miracles, resurrection from the dead, and the triune nature of God. Pastors and church members had no accountability in their beliefs or actions and the church became spiritually dead and indifferent. Any and all religion was acceptable and sometimes an anti-Christian atmosphere ruled.
In 1834, one church dared to leave the state-run church and after one year there were 16 churches worshipping apart from government control. The government did not react favorably. While religious freedom was supposedly in place, gatherings for worship outside the state church were made illegal. Fines were imposed on ministers who led these worship services and some ministers ended up with fines beyond their ability to pay. Some were sentenced to jail. Fines were also imposed on anyone allowing worship meetings to take place on their property. The new church grew quickly despite the persecution.
Around 1846, a man named Albertus Van Raalte led a group of believers to the United States, seeking to escape the persecution in the Netherlands. They settled in Holland, Michigan and spread into the countryside. In 1850 they joined the Dutch Reformed Church in the United States, with reservations on the part of some. After seven years the Dutch Reformed Church proved itself to be significantly more liberal than what some of the new settlers found acceptable. In 1857, four churches and two ministers decided to go their separate way from the Dutch Reformed Church, and started their own church. The Dutch Reformed Church is today known as the Reformed Church in America, and those who left in 1857 became the Christian Reformed Church.
The CRC today...
The Christian Reformed Church is a group of local congregations in the USA and Canada who hold to the same beliefs about God and the way to organize Christ's church. Some might think that each individual congregation should be autonomous with no other authority placed over it. We believe that each individual congregation needs to gather with other congregations, share resources, and be held accountable for how it represents Christ in the world.
The CRC began with four churches on the west side of Michigan by Dutch immigrants new to North America and had reservations about anything American. Today the CRC has over 1000 congregations spread throughout the USA & Canada and includes many different ethnic backgrounds and worship styles. 121 CRC congregations are primarily Asian: Cambodian, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong, Indonesian, Laotian, Korean, Vietnamese, and Pacific Islanders. The map below shows the counties where CRC congregations are located in the USA.
We share resources to do larger ministries of many kinds. The Christian Reformed Church supports missionaries at home and abroad... publishes materials for teaching and Bible study... helps people in great need around the world... provides Christian education from elementary school through college and seminary... launches radio broadcasts to spread the gospel in areas to reach people who cannot read or are not able to receive missionaries... and we hold one another accountable since we are all human.
One Christian Reformed ministry is called Back to God Ministries International, which witnesses through radio, TV, and literature. The map below shows all the countries that Back to God Ministries reaches through radio and television.
The Christian Reformed Church is small compared to some Christian denominations, but we work hard and do our part to spread Christ around the world.
Is there still a difference between the RCA and CRC?
Click Here for Pastor Aaron's seminary paper on the topic
Christian Reformed Church website