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The Reformed Church in America (RCA) is a mainline Reformed Protestant denomination. The Church has about 270,000 members and has congregations in both the United Statesmarker and Canadamarker. From its beginning in 1628 until 1819, it was the North American branch of the Dutch Reformed Church. In 1819, it incorporated as the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church. The current name was chosen in 1867.

The RCA is a founding member of the National Council of Churches and the World Council of Churchesmarker, Christian Churches Together, World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and some parts of the denomination belong to the National Association of Evangelicals, the Canadian Council of Churches and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.


The RCA, the oldest non-Anglican Protestant church with a continuous ministry, began in 1628. The early settlers in the Dutchmarker colony of New Netherland held informal meetings for worship until Jonas Michaelius organized the first Dutch Reformed congregation in New Amsterdam, now New York Citymarker, in 1628 called the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, now the Marble Collegiate Churchmarker. During Dutch rule, the Reformed Church was the established church of the colony and was under the authority of the classis of Amsterdammarker.

Even after the British captured the colony in 1664, all Dutch Reformed ministers were still trained in the Netherlandsmarker, and services in the Reformed Church remained in the Dutch language until 1764. (Dutch language use faded thereafter until the new wave of Dutch immigration in the mid-19th century, which prompted a temporary revival of it.) In 1747, the church in the Netherlands gave permission to form an assembly in America which in 1754 declared itself independent of the classis of Amsterdam. This American classis secured a charter in 1766 for Queens College (now Rutgers Universitymarker) in New Jerseymarker. The appointment in 1784 of John Henry Livingston as professor of theology marked the beginning of the New Brunswick Theological Seminarymarker. In 1792, a formal constitution was adopted; in 1794 the Reformed Church held its first general synod; and in 1867 formally adopted the name "Reformed Church in America". In the nineteenth century, in New Yorkmarker and New Jerseymarker, the descendents of the original Dutch settlers struggled to preserve their European standards and traditions while developing a taste for revivalism and an American identity.

The Church embraced many of the historic colonial churches of New York and New Jersey, the denominational stronghold, and fresh immigration from the Netherlands in the mid-19th century led to the development of the Church in the Midwest. Hope Collegemarker and Western Theological Seminary were founded in Holland, Michiganmarker; Central College at Pella, Iowamarker; and Northwestern Collegemarker at Orange City, Iowamarker. In the 1857 Secession, a group of Dutch settlers in Michigan led by Gijsbert Haan separated from the Reformed Church and organized the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), and other churches followed. In 1882 another group of churches left for the CRCNA, mirroring developments in the church in the Netherlands. In the post-World War II years, the Church expanded in Canada which was the destination of a large group of Dutch emigrants. Between 1949 and 1958, the Church opened 120 churches among non-Dutch suburban communities.


The Reformed Church confesses several statements of doctrine and faith. These include the historic Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed, and Athanasian Creed; the traditional Reformed Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and Canons of Dort. As of June 2009, the Belhar Confession has been accepted as a fourth standard, contingent on the approval of two-thirds of the classes.


The Reformed Church has a presbyterian polity where authority is divided among representative bodies: consistories, classes, regional synods, and the General Synod. The General Synod meets annually and is the representative body of the entire Church, establishing its policies, programs, and agenda. The current President of the General Synod is the Rev. James Seawood who was elected to a one year term in 2009. Measures passed at General Synod are executed and overseen by the General Synod Council. Council members are appointed by the General Synod. A General Secretary oversees day to day operations. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson has held the office since 1994.

The Constitution of the Reformed Church in America consists of three parts: the Liturgy, the Government, and the Standards of Unity. The Government, along with the Formularies and the By-laws of the General Synod are published annually in a volume known as The Book of Church Order.

Colleges and seminaries



Certification Agencies
  • For students who do not attend or receive their Master of Divinity degree from one of the two seminaries operated by the Reformed Church in America, they are certified and credentialed for ministry in the Reformed Church in America through the Ministerial Formation Certification Agency in Paramount, California.

Ecumenical relations

The RCA maintains full communion with the Presbyterian Church , the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ through a document known as the Formula of Agreement. The relationship between the United Church of Christ and the RCA has been the subject of controversy within the RCA, particularly a resolution by the UCC General Synod in 2005 regarding homosexuality. The two denominations undertook a dialogue and in 1999 produced a document discussing their differences (PDF). The RCA's 2006 General Synod voted to allow the exchange of ministers with the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

Noteworthy members

See also


  • M. G. Hansen, The Reformed Church in the Netherlands, 1340–1840 (1884)
  • J. J. Birch, The Pioneering Church in the Mohawk Valley (1955)
  • F. H. Fabend, Zion on the Hudson: Dutch New York and New Jersey in the Age of Revivals (2000)
  • Minutes of General Synod (Various Years)


  1. Our Reformed Church: General Synod Council
  2. RCA - About Us: Educational Institutions
  3. RCA - MFCA: Ministerial Formation Certification Agency

External links

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