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Encyclopedia > Reformed

The Reformed churches are a group of Protestant denominations historically related by a similar Zwinglian or Calvinist system of doctrine but organizationally independent. Each of the nations in which the Reformed movement was established had originally its own church government. Several of these local churches have expanded to worldwide denominations and most have experienced splits into multiple denominations. Commitment to teaching the original Calvinism usually continues to be reflected in their official definitions of doctrine, but in some cases is no longer necessarily typical of these churches. A 1999 survey found 746 Reformed denominations worldwide.


Form of Doctrine

Reformed doctrine is expressed in various creeds. A few creeds are shared by many denominations. Different denominations use different creeds, usually based on historical reasons. Some of the common creeds are (with year of writing):

The Three forms of unity are common among Reformed churches with origins in the European continent (especially those in the Netherlands). The Westminster Standards have a similarly common use, among Reformed churches (known commonly as the Presbyterian churches) with origins in the British Isles. More recent confessions and creeds are shared by fewer denominations.

Form of Governance

Contrary to Lutheran, Anglican or Methodist churches using episcopalian church governance, Reformed churches have mainly three forms of church governance:

A sub-family of the Reformed churches, called Reformed Baptist churches, adhere to modified Reformed confessions, and have Baptist views of the sacraments and of church government.

Continental Reformed churches

  • Swiss Reformed Churches
The Reformed branch of Protestantism was started in Zurich by Huldrych Zwingli and spread within a few years to Basle (Johannes Oekolampadius), Berne (Berchtold Haller and Niklaus Manuel), St. Gall (Joachim Vadian), to cities in Southern Germany and via Alsace (Martin Bucer) to France. After the early death of Zwingli 1531, his work was continued by Heinrich Bullinger, the author of the Second Helvetic Confession. The French-speaking cities Neuchatel, Geneva and Lausanne changed to the Reformation ten years later later under William Farel and John Calvin coming from France. The Zwingli and Calvin branches had each their theological distinctions, but in 1549 under the lead of Bullinger and Calvin they came to a common agreement in the Consensus Tigurinus (Zurich Consent), and 1566 in the Second Helvetic Confession. Organizationally, the Reformed Churches in Switzerland remained separate units until today (the Reformed Church of the Canton Zurich, the Reformed Church of the Canton Berne, etc.), the German part more in the Zwingli tradition, in the French part more in the Calvin tradition. They are governed synodically and their relation to the respective canton (in Switzerland, there are no church-state regulations on country-level) ranges from independent to close collaboration, depending on historical developments. A distinctive of the Swiss Reformed churches in Zwingli tradition is their historically almost symbiotic link to the state (cantons) which is only loosening gradually in the present.
  • Hungarian Reformed Church
The largest branch of the Reformed movement, and the only one of the national Reformed churches to survive without division since the Reformation to the present time. The Hungarian Reformed Church has adopted the Heidelberg Catechism and the Second Helvetic Confession as a definition of their teaching, together the Ecumenical creeds of the Christian Church: Athanasian Creed, Nicene Creed, Chalcedon, and the common creed ("Apostles' Creed"). Regional churches may also adopt the Canons of Dordt, and in Transylvania Luther's Small Catechism is adopted.
  • Reformed Church of France
In France, the Reformed protestants were called Huguenots. The Reformed Church of France survived under persecution from 1559 until the Edict of Nantes (1598), the effect of which was to establish regions in which Protestants could live unmolested. These areas became centers of political resistance under which the Reformed church was protected until 1628, when La Rochelle, the protestant center of resistance to Louis XIII, was overrun by a French army blockade. After the protestant resistance failed, the Reformed Church of France reorganized, and was guaranteed toleration under the Edict of Nantes until final revocation of toleration in 1685. The periods of persecution scattered French Reformed refugees to England, Germany, Switzerland, Africa and America. A free (meaning, not state controlled) synod of the Reformed Church emerged in 1848 and survives in small numbers to the present time. The French refugees established French Reformed churches in the Latin countries and in America.
The first Reformed churches in France produced the Gallic Confession and French Reformed confession of faith, which served as models for the Belgic Confession of Faith (1563).
  • German Reformed Church
Toleration for the Reformed churches in Germany was established under the Peace of Westphalia, in 1648, but political difficulties at the end of the 17th century almost eliminated them. In the 19th century, by state mandate the Reformed churches were combined with the Lutherans to form an Evangelical Union in Prussia.
  • Reformed churches in the Netherlands
The Dutch Reformed churches have suffered numerous splits and unions. Currently existing denominations are:
Originally founded by Petrus Waldes in the 12th century, the Waldensian church adopted the Reformed doctrines under the influence of William Farel.

Reformed churches in Australia and New Zealand (and Old World counterparts)

Reformed churches in Britain and Ireland

The churches with presbyterian traditions in the United Kingdom have the Westminster Confession of Faith as one of their important confessional documents.

In addition to these, there are also other churches with smaller flocks, notably in Northern Ireland.

Reformed churches in the United States of America and Canada (and Old World counterparts)

The CRC is a conservative/evangelical denomination founded by Dutch immigrants in the nineteenth century in West Michigan.
  • Free Reformed Churches in North America - (Dutch Reformed - CGKN)
  • Heritage Netherlands Reformed Church
  • Netherlands Reformed Church - (Dutch Reformed - CGKN)
  • Orthodox Christian Reformed Church (Dutch Reformed - GKN)
  • Presbyterian Church in Canada
The Presbyterian Church in Canada split from a larger group of the same name that voted to join the United Church of Canada in 1925
One of the most conservative Reformed/Calvinist denominations in the world, the PRC separated from the CRC in the 1920s in a schism over the issue of common grace.
The RCA is an evangelical denomination formed by Dutch immigrants during colonial times.

Most Presbyterian churches adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith, but the Presbyterian Church (USA), in order to embrace the historical expressions of the whole Reformed tradition as found in the United States, has adopted a Book of Confessions. The BOC contains the Nicene Creed, Apostles Creed, Scots Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Second Helvetic Confession, Westminster Confession of Faith, Westminster Shorter Catechism, Westminster Larger Catechism, Theological Declaration of Barmen, Confession of 1967, and A Brief Statement of Faith - PCUSA.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has split a number of times in its history. Many of these historic splits have been resolved. From the continuing branch churches, some have split in turn. Only some of the continuing branches from the main bodies are listed here, with the year of their separation.

Reformed churches in Korea

  • Presbyterian Church in Korea (Kosin). The PCK is a Reformed denomination in Korea which accepts the Westminster standards as its confession. The church also recognizes "Three Forms of Unity", to be same as the Westminster Standards. Kosin church wants to be a biblical and confessional denomination, pure in doctrine and life. There are about 2,000 local churches, including some churches in North America and Europe.
  • The Korean Presbyterian Church (Hapdong?) which formed the primary body of the Presbyterian General Assembly (the Reformed Church in Korea) was established by missionaries of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and Canadian and Australian Presbyterians.

Reformed churches in Nigeria (and founding counterparts)

  • Christian Reformed Church of Nigeria - (Dutch Reformed)
  • Reformed Church of Christ in Nigeria - (Dutch Reformed)
  • Presbyterian Church of Nigeria - (Scottish Presbyterian)
  • Qua Iboe Church - (Northern Irish Presbyterian)
  • Church of Christ in the Sudan among the Tiv - (Dutch Reformed)
  • Evangelical Reformed Church of Christ - (Dutch Reformed)
  • Nigeria Reformed Church - (Dutch Reformed)

The various Reformed churches of Nigeria formed the Reformed Ecumenical Council of Nigeria in 1991 to further cooperation.

International organizations of Reformed churches

  • International Conference of Reformed Churches
  • Reformed Ecumenical Council
  • World Alliance of Reformed Churches [1] (http://www.warc.ch/who/index.html)

External link

  • For another list of world Reformed churches, see [2] (http://reformed.net/church/orgs.html).

See also

  Results from FactBites:
CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: The Reformation (9692 words)
Reformation a great number of those who, without a serious vocation, had embraced the religious life from purely human and worldly motives, and who wished to be rid of obligations towards God which had grown burdensome, and to be free to gratify their sensual cravings.
Reformation was the use of violence by the princes and the municipal authorities.
Johann Faber, and Murner, and the Reformed by Œcolampadius and
Counter Reformation. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05 (960 words)
The Counter Reformation was led by conservative forces whose aim was both to reform the church and to secure the its traditions against the innovations of Protestant theology and against the more liberalizing effects of the Renaissance.
Spanish religion was deepened by the Carmelite reforms of St. Theresa of Ávila and by St. John of the Cross.
In England the Counter Reformation took effect less in the restoration of the Roman Catholic Church under Queen Mary (although Cardinal Pole was a reformer) than in the mission of the Jesuits (1580), led by St. Edmund Campion and Robert Persons.
  More results at FactBites »



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