To understand our church, it is helpful to know our history. A brief review of our history provides a sense of where we stand in relation to the scores of Christian churches across North America. As with most Christian churches in the U.S. and Canada, this requires going back to 16th century Europe, where a series of developments radically changed the face of Christianity.
The Canadian and American Reformed Churches are rooted in this third branch of the Protestant Reformation as it developed in the Netherlands from the 1550s and onward. The cause of the Reformation made great inroads and led to the establishment of a vigorous Reformed church life. The key confessional documents of these Reformed Churches were the Belgic Confession, first published in 1561, and the Heidelberg Catechism, first published in 1563.
It did not take long before these churches faced threats from within that touched the very heart of the Reformation emphasis on being saved out of grace. At the center of the controversy was Jacob Arminius, who in his teaching subtly undermined the sovereignty of God in saving sinners. He ascribed to fallen man the power to accept or reject God’s grace.
At a synod held in the town of Dort, beginning in the fall 1618 and attended also by delegates from England, Scotland, Germany and Switzerland, the teachings of Arminius were refuted and the sovereignty of God’s grace was maintained. The decision of this Synod became the third confessional document of the Reformed churches in the Netherlands. These decisions are called the Canons of Dort. These Canons of Dort, together with the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism, became known as the Three Forms of Unity in that these documents expressed the common faith of the Reformed believers in the Netherlands.
While the Reformed churches enjoyed peace and had the benefit of being supported by the State during the 17th and 18th centuries, religious vitality gave way to nominal Christianity. The 19th century witnessed two groups who separated themselves from the State-supported church, the first in 1834 and the second in 1886. While both these separations involved matters of church government as local churches reclaimed their autonomy, at the heart of both reformations was a return to the gospel as rediscovered in the Reformation and expressed in the Three Forms of Unity.
In 1892, the majority of the churches of these two reformations merged and became the Reformed churches in the Netherlands.
Regrettably, new troubles arose within these united churches. The key issue concerned teachings regarding covenant and baptism. A Synod held in 1942 imposed one particular explanation on all its members. When a number of ministers were deposed and excommunicated, a separation occurred involving about 10% of the membership. Since those who separated themselves indicated they liberated themselves from teachings beyond the Scriptures as agreed upon in the Three Forms of Unity, they became known as the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated). The separation that occurred in 1944 is called “The Liberation.”
After World War II there was a massive immigration from the Netherlands to North America, especially to Canada. When members of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands arrived in Canada, 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 a document called “The Declaration of Principles,” which essentially equated election and covenant. They refused to do this as they did not wish to be bound by theological formulations beyond the Three Forms of Unity.
The other Reformed church under consideration was the Christian Reformed Church. Joining 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 of all this was that immigrants organized their own congregations. The first congregation was instituted on April 16, 1950, in Lethbridge, Alberta. That same year also saw churches instituted in Edmonton and Neerlandia, AB, Orangeville, ON, and New Westminster, BC. Over the years, this has grown to a federation of 60 churches spread across the U.S. and Canada.
The Canadian and American Reformed Churches are therefore rooted in the Protestant Reformation especially as it developed in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and came to Canada via post-World War II Dutch immigrants.
the pacific northwest
Our church’s Pacific Northwest roots began with the institution of the Lynden American Reformed Church on March 10, 1985. Eighty-five U.S. members had been worshipping in Abbotsford, BC, for many years and felt it was time to institute in their own country. The Lord blessed this church with fruitfulness and growth. By 2017, they had more than 400 members, young and old.
On Sept. 19, 2017, seven brothers from the church who lived in Everson, Nooksack and Sumas met to discuss beginning a new church in Nooksack Valley. There was unanimous agreement to request approval from Lynden American Reformed Church’s leadership to call a meeting with members living in Nooksack Valley. Permission was granted. A meeting was held on Nov. 7, 2017, at which there was overwhelming enthusiasm among Nooksack Valley’s 143 members for forming a new church. This request was approved by our church federation’s Classis Pacific East on Feb. 22, 2018. Several more meetings took place with the membership and a steering committee to organize the formation of a new church of Jesus Christ.
On July 8, 2018, Nooksack Valley American Reformed Church was instituted as the 60th sister church in our federation. This was a historic event — the first time in the history of the Canadian and American Reformed Churches that a U.S. church produced a daughter church.
We recognize we are only weak instruments in the hand of Jesus Christ, the Head of the church, to cause his name to be spread all over the world. He decides where his congregations of believers will be placed. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
As a church family, we begin each week by meeting together on Sundays to praise God and join in fellowship. Will you join us?