A body of Christians in the United States composed originally of
settlers from Holland, but now largely intermixed with elements from many
other sources. Until 1867 it was known as the Reformed Protestant Dutch
Church in North America. The history of the Church begins with that of the
Reformation in the Netherlands, where the movement met with a hearty
      The earliest Dutch Church organization in America was made in New York
in 1628 by Rev. Jonas Michaelius. This is now the strong and wealthy
Collegiate Church, with its half-score of buildings and fourteen
ministers.During the government of the West India Company down to 1664
thirteen Dutch churches were established in America and sixteen ministers in
all had officiated. Then came the English conquest. Dutch immigration
ceased.  It was a question whether the Dutch Church could survive under the
English Government. During the next half century there was an almost
constant struggle with the English Governors, who naturally sought to
establish the Church of England. During this same period there was also a
considerable accession of Huguenots to the country, who largely fell into
the fold of the Dutch Church. At first, however, during the reigns of
Charles II. (1660-85) and James II. (1685-88), full liberty was ostensibly
granted to all denominations. But with the accession of William III. (1688)
the normal policy of the English Government was restored, and more
persistent attempts were made to impose the Church of England on a population
which was overwhelmingly Dutch. A Ministry Act was secured in 1693, but it
had been so emasculated in its passage that it was found to be entirely
unsectarian; yet it was often arbitrarily perverted by certain of the
Governors in favor of the Church of England. Because of such perversion the
Dutch Church of New York City managed in 1696 to extort a charter from
Governor Fletcher, and this course was successfully followed by other Dutch
churches, so that the Dutch Church really remained ecclesiastically
independent.  During this period of the churches increased to forty, and
about twenty four new ministers were sent from Holland.
      During the eighteenth century many Palatines arrived on the Hudson,
making sooner or later about twenty German churches, which were also under
the Classis of Amsterdam. An effort was made to establish a Dutch divinity
professorship in Kings College, New York City, which was accomplished in
1755, but this split the Church more completely and led to the securing of a
charter for Queen's College (New Brunswick, New Jersey) in 1766 and an
amended charter in 1770. The two parties came together in 1771 upon articles
of union, securing semi-independence from the Church of Holland, about the
Revolution delayed the speedy development of the new plans. In 1784 a
professor of theology was elected, Rev. Dr. John H Livingston and this was
the beginning of a theological seminary, the first in the country.
      In 1792 an Americanized constitution of Church government was adopted,
which has gone through two revisions since-namely, in 1832 and 1874. The
Church continued to grow slowly. In 1800 there were about 100 churches and
forty ministers in service. The number of ministers did not equal the number
of churches until 1845, when there were 375 of each. In 1846 began a new
Dutch immigration which settled in the middle West, but is now penetrating
even to the Pacific Coast. Many of these newcomers fell into the old Dutch
Church, and there are now more than 200 churches from this source and as
many ministers.
      In doctrine the Reformed Church in America has ever adhered to the
standards already referred to, adopted in Holland. She also indorsed the
Westminster Catechism in 1837. Her form of government is of the so-called
Presbyterian type, first proposed by Calvin, and was adopted in 1568. This
enumerated four classes of officers in the Church, viz, ministers,
teachers(or professors), elders, and deacons. Four grades of ecclesiastical
bodies were also defined, viz. Consistories, Classes, Provincial Synods, and
a General Synod. The Reform Church has a liturgy, but this is obligatory
only in the administration of the sacraments and ordinations. It has
received some additions from time to time as necessity required. In all
other respects her mode of worship is free. The General Synod is
incorporated and holds all funds and endowments of the theological
seminaries, and in part of the colleges and other agencies. The General
operates through a board of direction. The colleges are also incorporated,
as well as the various boards, such as the board of education, the board of
foreign missions, the board of domestic missions. churches exist in New
York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin,
Indiana, Illinois, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, South
Carolina, Oklahoma, and Washington.
      In 1903 the Reformed Church in America reported 633 churches, 703
ministers, 61,000 families, and 113,000 communicants. There are also about
119,000 children in the Sabbath schools. Nearly $400,000 was raised during
the year for benevolent objects and $1,250 for congregational purposes. This
Church has several flourishing institutions: Rutgers College (1766) and a
theological seminary (1784) at New Brunswick, N.J.; Hope College (1866) and
the Western Theological Seminary (1866) at Holland, Mich.: and incipient
institutions in other States.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:  Consult: Hansen, The Reformed Church of the Netherlands (New
York, 1884); Brodhead, History of the State of New York; Gunn, Memoir of
Rev. John H. Livingston).

Source: The New International Encyclopaedia
Publisher:   Dodd, Mead and Company-New York
Copyright: 1902-1905          21 volumes.

          Transcribed by Miriam Medina
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