THE BIRTH OF THE C.R.C.N.A.
At the meeting of Classis Holland on April 8, 1857, letters from four congregations (comprising 750 souls) were submitted announcing formal notice of secession from the RCA. Their stated desire was to "live and worship as we believe God wants us to." Some of the letters challenged the other members of classis to repent of their error in remaining within the RCA. Others were more irenic. The Graafschaap consistory sent the most detailed letter listing the reasons for withdrawal from the RCA. This letter is probably quite representative of all those who seceded at this time. It specifically cites seven reasons for separation: 1. the RCA's use of 800 hymns (the use of which was contrary to the church order, which permitted only the singing of Psalms); 2. practicing of open communion (excluding only Roman Catholics); 3. neglect of catechetical preaching, training and of home visitation (required by the church order); 4. the RCA's alleged agreement with other non-Reformed denominations not to circulate religious books without mutual agreement; 5. criticism among the RCA churches of the 1834 secession; 6. membership among those of the RCA churches in the Freemasons Lodge; 7. and finally, Dr. Wyckoff's original assurance that should union with the RCA prove infelicitous, then the colony churches should feel free to withdraw and be as before.
Thus was born the Christian Reformed Church in 1857, a secession of churches from among the immigrant group which previously had seceded from the NHK. The name of the church adopted at that time was the Hollandsche Gereformeerde Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church). In the 1880's this was changed to the Hollandsche Christelijk Gereformeerde Kerk (the group self- concsiously adopted this name to express their spiritual solidarity with the church in the Netherlands which bore the same name); finally in the 1890's, the present name was adopted. In 1882 an additional number of congregations left the R.C.A. over discontent with the lodge issue and joined themselves to the C.R.C. In 1896, the number of congregations in the new denomination reached 100.
A great deal of discussion has taken place over the years as to whether or not this separation was really justifiable. Bitterness remains between the two denominations to the present day, especially between neighboring 1834 congregations which find themselves in different denominations in the U.S. (eg. RCA and CRC, especially in Western Michigan). Many in the RCA resent what they believe to be a "holier than thou" attitude among the CRC members. Merger discussions have been held on an on-again/off-again basis, but these have inevitably ended in frustration. Personally, I think the RCA as a whole is a true Reformed church, but with a rather (unacceptably) broad theological scope. Some of its congregations outdo the CRC in "reformed-ness" and are very conservative. Others are quite liberal and view such theological concerns as quaint and anachronistic. The two denominations differ in their dealing with divorce and with the issue of women in office, although the CRC seems to be approaching the RCA positions here in recent days.