The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA or CRC) is a Protestant Christian denomination in the United States and Canada. Having roots in the Dutch Reformed churches of the Netherlands, the Christian Reformed Church was founded by Dutch immigrants who left the Reformed Church in America in 1857 and is theologically Calvinist.
The Christian Reformed Church (CRC) split from the Reformed Church in America (then known as the Dutch Reformed Church) in an 1857 secession, which was in part the result of a theological dispute that originated in the Netherlands.
In 1857 four churches with about 130 families (about 10 percent of the Dutch immigrant church members in West Michigan at the time) seceded. In March, the Noordeloos church of the Classis of Holland left the Reformed Church in America. On March 19, some members of Second Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, organized a church that became First CRC, Grand Rapids, Michigan. On April 8, churches in Graafschap and Polkton also left the Classis of Holland. Two ministers, Koene VanDen Bosch and Hendrik Klijn, joined the separatists, although Klijn returned to the Reformed Church six months later.
The new denomination that formed from this secession was led by elders and ministers from the churches in the northern Netherlands that had organized after the 1834 secession in the Netherlands, although members of the new denomination came from all parts of the Netherlands. The reasons given for leaving the Reformed Church were the use of hymns (versus only Psalms) during worship, allowing free access to communion, lax interpretation of grace, and failure to provide catechetical instruction to young people.
For the two years the denomination had no corporate name. In 1859 Holland Reformed Church (Hollandsche Gereformeerde Kerk) was adopted, which was changed to Free Dutch Reformed Church (no record of a Dutch translation) in 1861. Two years later True Dutch Reformed Church (Ware Hollandsche Gereformeerde Kerk) was approved which was changed to Holland Christian Reformed Church (Hollandsche Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerk) in 1880. In 1894 congregations also could use Christian Reformed Church (Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerk) as well. The full adoption of Christian Reformed Church came in 1904, which became Christian Reformed Church in North America in 1974.
In 1875, the denomination opened a theological school in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Preparatory Department of the school became Calvin College, while the Theological Department became Calvin Theological Seminary. By 1880 the denomination had grown to 42 congregations. Ten years later the number had grown to 100 located in 11 states. During the 1890s congregations from the True Protestant Dutch Reformed Church (located in New York and New Jersey) joined the CRC. During the 20th century a number of congregations from the disbanding German Reformed Churches also joined the CRC.
By 1920 the denomination had grown to 350 congregations. At that time an estimated 350,000 Dutch immigrants had come to the United States, most of whom were in the Dutch Reformed tradition that since the 1880s was influenced by Abraham Kuyper, a Dutch Neo-Calvinist theologian, journalist, and statesman (he served as Prime Minister of the Netherlands, 1901-1905). He founded the Gereformeerde Kerken, a newspaper, the Free University of Amsterdam, and the Anti-Revolutionary Political Party.
After the Second World War a new wave of immigration of Dutch Calvinists occurred this time mostly to Canada. During the 15 years after the war almost one-half of the denomination’s new congregations (138 of 288) were in Canada.
During the early 1920s the CRC had adopted three doctrinal points regarding common grace. Three ministers, Herman Hoeksema, George Ophoff, and Henry Danhof; rejected these three points as being contrary to the Reformed confessions. This dispute led to the three ministers and their followers leaving the CRC and forming what is now the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. During the early 1950s a division within the Protestant Reformed Churches in America led to the majority (about 60 percent) of the members forming the Orthodox Protestant Reformed Church, which joined the CRC in 1961.