Christianity · Church News - General

Attempt to church unity in the Netherlands

In June of this year, after severing the ties with the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, Synod Bunbury of the Free Reformed Churches of Australia (FRCA) decided to maintain contact with two small church federations in the Netherlands. These churches are usually referred to with the acronyms DGK and GKN. DGK stands for De Gereformeerde Kerken (The Reformed Churches) and GKN stands for Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (Reformed Churches in the Netherlands). Both federations consist mainly of members who left the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (liberated) (GKV), which were until June the sister churches of the FRCA.

Synod Bunbury expressed concern about the fact that these two church federations were unable to come to unity. In 2003, a group of concerned members of the GKV issued a call to Reformation, in which they called the consistories to reject certain decisions of General Synods, and if consistories didn’t make that decision, then individual members should leave the churches. This led to a ‘liberation’ by around 1300 members who joined in a new federation, which is now the DGK. Over the following years, several disagreements in this federation led to splits. At the same time, some other churches and individual members, including ministers, left the GKV as well. Some joined the DGK, others came together with those who had left the DGK and together established another federation, the GKN.

I admit, for those who are not familiar with the situation in the Netherlands, it is very confusing. However, not only people outside the Netherlands but also for concerned members in the GKV who are considering leaving these churches, the situation is not very encouraging: should they join the DGK or the GKN? Several of those who have left recently, have even joined other churches than those belonging to one of these two federations. I could mention about half a dozen other churches where they went, but I will not do it here because it would only increase the confusion. Some names of these church federations may look like names of church federations in Australia or Canada but are not the same. It is also difficult in English to translate the two Dutch words for Reformed: ‘Hervormd’ and ‘Gereformeerd’. It would take an entire article to explain the different ‘orthodox’ reformed churches in the Netherlands and explain their differences.

One may wonder why there is so much division in the Netherlands between those who consider themselves orthodox. Those who do want to submit to the authority of God’s Word.

Unfortunately, much of it has to do with human sinfulness and stubbornness. However, let us be careful to judge. It is always easy to stand on the sidelines and criticise, it is much harder when you are in such a situation to make the right choices and do the right thing. We should encourage and help them to come to federative unity there where there is unity in the true faith.

We can be thankful that there is a beginning of an attempt to come to unity, in this case between the DGK and the GKN.  The Reformatorisch Dagblad reports that recently there has been some letter writing back and forth between the synods of these two federations. The GKN made the decision to recognise the DGK as ‘churches of Christ, standing on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.’

Already in June, the synod of the DGK had sent a letter to the GKN, in which they mentioned the recognition of each other as true churches of Christ. That was the result of many and lengthy talks back and forth. Meetings have taken place before and often ended with no result, because of a different view on the church and the history of these two federations, or differences in liturgical practices, or things being written in certain publications.

These two federations together have somewhere between 1000 and 2000 members, the Reformatorisch Dagblad reports. Some ministers of the DGK are the Rev. P. van Gurp, Rev. S de Marie, and Rev. H.G. Gunnink. Some ministers in the GKN are the Rev. E. Hoogendoorn, Rev. J.R. Visser, Rev. R. van der Wolf, and Dr. J. Douma.

Let it be our constant prayer that the LORD will work ecclesiastical unity among those who are all one in the true faith and repentance in the churches which have turned away from the true confession.