A Brief Summary of our Faith
The Canadian Reformed Churches are a small confederation of just over forty churches. You may have not have heard of us, but we would like to introduce ourselves to you in the hope that you may come to know who we are and what we stand for.
Basis of our Faith:
The Holy Scriptures:
Our churches believe that the Holy Scripture of the Holy Bible is the Word of God. This Word has no equal because it is:
- Inspired by God the Holy Spirit who caused many different men to write it over a considerable period of time.
- Infallible in that it is a completely reliable and trustworthy book which should not and need not be doubted.
- Inerrant, meaning that whatever is revealed in it is without error, contradiction or misrepresentation.
- Sufficient because it fully contains the will of God and reveals all that we need to believe in order to be saved.
This Word represents the final rule of faith and life in our churches. We receive it for the regulation, foundation, and confirmation of our faith. It serves as the basis for all authority in our churches.
The Creeds and Confessions:
The main teachings of the Bible have been summarized in documents called creeds and confessions. Of the many creeds and confessions that have appeared throughout the history of the Christian church, we have chosen to adopt three of each as our own.
The three creeds have come to us from the time of the early church, namely the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. The three confessions have come to us from the time of the Reformation of the 16th century, namely the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort.
We consider these creeds or confessions to be faithful summaries of the Word of God. As human documents, however, they possess human authority. Only the Word possesses divine authority. The contents of our creeds or confessions are always subject to, and to be tested by, the standard of the Word.
The Government of the Church:
We Believe that not only the faith of the church, but also the government of the church must be regulated by Holy Scripture. As such we believe that the Bible teaches the following principles:
- The autonomy of the local church.
- The cooperation and commitment of local churches when it comes to certain commmon causes and needs.
- The recognition of the biblical offices of minister, elder and deacon.
- The government of the local church has been given to the pastor and the elders.
- The need for church discipline.
In order to implement these principles in a practical way, we have adopted what is called a Church Order (Constitution). It contains 76 Articles which are divided into four sections dealing with:
- The offices of the church.
- The assemblies of the church (consistory, classis, regional synod, general synod).
- The liturgy of the church (worship services, sacraments, ceremonies).
- The discipline of the church.
On every Sunday two worship services are held in our church. They usually take place in the morning and afternoon.
The liturgy in these services is based on biblical practice and principle. The result is that the opening blessing and greeting are taken from the Word. The songs that are sung are taken either from the Psalms or from other parts of Scripture that have been put to music. The prayers contain praise to God, confession of sin, pleas for pardon and blessing, as well as requests for help, healing and guidance. The heart of the service centres around the reading and proclamation of God’s Word. An offering is held either for the work done by the deacons among the needy, or for some other worthy cause in God’s church. The service concludes with a closing benediction which is taken from the Word.
In one of the worship services, usually the afternoon one, the Heidelberg Catechism is used as a guideline for the preaching. This means that the minister reads the appropriate point of Scriptural teaching which is summarized there by the Catechism.
The sacraments of baptism and Lord’s Supper are administered in the worship services. As soon as it is feasible, parents request to have their newborn child baptized in the assembly of God’s people. As for the Lord’s Supper, it is celebrated every two or three months. The frequency and the manner of this celebration is determined by each local church council.
History of our Church
The Canadian Reformed 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.
The Reformation: Like almost every church in North America, our roots go back to Europe. As a Protestant church we trace them especially to the Reformation of the 16th 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 Netherlands: The Reformation impacted on many different parts of Europe and that included the Netherlands, from which our immediate roots come. There, in what are sometimes called the Low Countries, the cause of 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 delegates from many different countries in Europe, had to deal with the teachings of Jacob Arminium. His attempt to inject a more man-centered emphasis into 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 once again to biblical deviance and hierarchy. This movement was led by the well known theologian and statesman Dr. Abraham Kuyper.
In 1892 the Churches of the First and Second Secession merged and because the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.
The Third Secession of 1944: In 1944 another Secession (or Liberation) took place under the leadership of Dr. Klaas Schilder and Dr. S. Greijdanus. The causes related once again to doctrine and church government. The Synod of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands made certain unbliblical views regarding the 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).
North America: 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 (Liberated) arrived, 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 instituted in Coaldale, 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 exceeds forty. They are found in the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia, as well as the American states of Washington, Michigan, Maryland and Colorado.