Supporting Theological Reflection and Conversation that Strengthen the Ministry of the Church
Editor's note: From The Encyclopedia of Christianity: Volume 4, ©2005 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI. Used by permission of the publisher; all rights reserved. To order this title, contact the publisher at 800-253-7521 or visit www.eerdmans.com.
Author's note: This work is to supplement a previous Brill Encyclopedia of Christianity, and the assignment was to focus especially on the Anglo-American history of Reformed Christianity and the churches and denominations today.
All Christians share more in worldview and theology than they differ among themselves in distinctive beliefs. All Protestants and Catholics in the Western tradition rely, for example, on the theology of Augustine (354-430). In general use, the term “reformed” refers to all the portions of Western Catholicism that emerged in Protestantism during the European Reformation of the 16th century, frequently termed the triumph of Augustine’s doctrine of grace over his doctrine of church. More particularly, Reformed Christianity represented and represents a middle way in evangelical Protestantism between, on the one hand, moderately reforming Lutheran and Anglican communions and, on the other, the Anabaptists and radical believers (esp. Mennonite and Amish). Reformed work and worship sought and seeks to balance deference to scriptural authority with discerning and constructive engagement with contemporary life. Since Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Wesley (1703-91), for example, were “reformers,” on occasion the communions that followed them are known as reformed. But more particularly, “Reformed” applies to the Christian leadership of John Calvin (1509-64), Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531), Martin Bucer (1491-1561), and John Knox (ca. 1513-72) and to the Protestant communions that follow their theological perspectives.
The term “Presbyterian” arose in the 17th century among English-speaking Reformed Christians who sought to follow Scripture in church government, providing for shared leadership between clergy and laity, and among local, regional, and national governing bodies. They based their position regarding polity on Acts 15, which speaks of the gathering of the elders (Gk. presbyteroi), and they also noted that Moses relied on shared leadership. The one church universal, they believed, appeared in different governing bodies according to geography and political boundaries. Presbyterians thus distinguished themselves from Congregationalists and Reformed, who gave primary authority, also biblically based (e.g., on Jesus’ word in Matt. 18:20 about two or three being gathered), to local judicatories. Congregationalists also eschewed bishops, such as those in the Anglican Church, in much of Lutheranism, and in some eastern European Reformed communions.
Reformed communions understand that change is necessary and desirable, frequently citing the motto ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda, “the church reformed, always reforming” (or “always being reformed”). At the core of Reformed faith and practice is the confidence that the Holy Spirit inspires true believers to see in Scripture a blueprint for worship and work, a coherent pattern that the early church perceived and later Roman Catholics corrupted. But especially at first they also believed that they could transform human society so it could conform to the mandates of Scripture. The law of God, received as providing punishment for sinners and a call to repentance by the church, was also seen by Calvin and subsequent Reformed Christians as a guide for faithful living. Thus the Sabbath, the tithe, and other selected elements of Old Testament law were reinterpreted to become explicit parts of the Christian lifestyle. Accordingly, the Sabbath laws were seen as applying in some measure to Sunday, and the tithe was seen as applying for the most part to monetary income.
Development of Reformed Churches
For the origins of the Reformed tradition, many point to the work of Jan Hus (ca. 1372-1415) in Bohemia, who sought moral and eucharistic reform based on Scripture, that of John Wycliffe (ca. 1330-84) in Britain, the preaching of Girolamo Savonarola (1452-98) in Italy, and the humanism of Desiderius Erasmus (1469?-1536) in Holland. But most acknowledge Luther’s successful reform movement in Germany as providing the basis for that of Zwingli in southern Germany and Switzerland. As Reformed churches sprang up in the nascent states, almost every one gathered leaders to write a confession of faith. The Helvetic (1536, 1566), Heidelberg (1563), French (1559, 1571), and Belgic (1561) confessions were among the early ones. The emphasis of Luther and Zwingli on God’s work in providing grace, the work of Jesus Christ on the cross, and the quickening of belief through the Holy Spiritall, they asserted, central in the Biblebecame pivotal doctrines among Reformed Protestants.
Calvin refined and systematized these and attendant doctrinesthat God alone was sovereign, that human beings were so flawed that righteousness could not be attained by mere effort, that God’s grace alone provided redemption, and that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone were sufficient for this redemption. Calvin offered insights from Scripture in lectures and commentaries on most books of the Bible, and his several editions of The Institutes of the Christian Religion (from 1536 to 1559) presented a Reformed worldview that influenced Christian leaders from many parts of Europe.
Calvin, deeply immersed in French humanism, followed the biblical texts closely. He saw baptism and Eucharist both exercised in the life of Jesus and required by Scripture for believers. He also considered church discipline to be virtually a sacrament. The theology of Calvin was characterized by attention to God’s grace at every point from creation onward, and consequently he focused on human gratitude as the appropriate Christian response in life and worship. The Academy at Geneva provided instruction for leaders in reform throughout Europe. In the Lord’s Supper, a major matter of contention among Christians of his time, Calvin did not view Roman Catholic theology, which spoke of the elements changing into the body and blood of Christ by transubstantiation, as accurately reflecting biblical teaching, but also he saw the Eucharist as more than an act of remembering the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, as Zwingli was commonly seen to profess. Calvin, with other influential contemporaries like Martin Bucer of Strasbourg and Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) in England, perceived a middle way, a “real presence of Christ” in the sacrament, but, in contrast to Luther, a “spiritual presence” rather than a corporeal one. And Calvin thought people could make progress in Christian living toward deeper faith and more righteousness, though only Jesus Christ offered perfect faith and life. John Calvin’s theology was so determinative of later Reformed thought that many call the Reformed “Calvinists.” Most in Reformed communions, however, do not want the insights of any one person so honored and typically called themselves “Reformed.”
Calvin concluded his Institutes with the Latin inscription Sola Deo gloria, “To God alone be the glory.” In many ways this phrase characterizes Reformed Christianity. Other Reformed have voiced a three-part motto: “by Scripture alone, by faith alone, by grace alone”.
In various forms of Reformed Orthodoxy, the deep piety and sophisticated ethic of Calvin were reduced in subsequent theology, much as the many-hued thought of Luther was reduced soon after his death. Orthodoxy focused on propositions that seemed to make sense according to the Bible and human logic. Differences concerning the sequence of God’s activity and human activity in salvation and damnationfrequently described as the order (or economy) of salvationgave countless parties platforms for argumentation and debate. Biblical authority could be employed on almost every side of each argument. Did God save people before the creation of time? Did a person have assurance of salvation? By God’s grace how much could a person approach perfection in this life or in the world to come?
Among the Dutch, a major synod at Dort (1618-19) sought to formulate essential Reformed teachings, naming total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints as those essentials. For many Reformed, even today, these five doctrines summarize the major tenets of the faith. Approximately two decades later, in 1647, British Calvinists wrote the Westminster Standards.
Increasingly a “covenant theology” came to characterize Reformed thought. A “covenant of works,” as voiced in God’s commands at Sinai, especially in the Ten Commandments, had been replaced with a “covenant of grace” in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, as had been stressed by Calvin, Heinrich Bullinger (1504-75), and Theodore Beza (1519-1605).
Reformed Christians in Britain
The history of English-speaking Reformed Christians is here given at greater length than can be afforded the equally complex histories of communions in other parts of the Reformed world. In the British Isles Thomas Cranmer was deeply influenced by Calvin and Bullinger. In his role as guardian for Edward VI (1547-53), Cranmer oversaw the composition of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer (1549, 1552), in which elements of Reformed theology and worship were prominent. After the death of Mary Tudor (1553-58), Elizabeth I (1558-1603) authorized the issuing of the Thirty-nine Articles (1563, 1571), which carried over much Reformed practice and theology into the Church of England. Already the Scots had received Protestantism through the teaching and martyrdom of Patrick Hamilton (ca. 1504-28), and the English encouraged Reformed thought in the struggle to wrest Scotland from France. John Knox, much influenced by the reforms he witnessed in Calvin’s Geneva, helped consolidate Reformed Presbyterianism. His First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women (1558) sought the overthrow of Roman Catholic hegemony. Under Elizabeth I the Scots gained a measure of independence to develop the (Reformed) Church of Scotland, and they issued the Scottish Confession in 1560. Election of ministers by their congregations, education for everyone, and care for the poor marked their social agenda. The National Covenant of 1638 ultimately pledged Scotland to Presbyterianism.
Meanwhile in England, Elizabeth I and James I (1603-25) tried to achieve a balance within the Church of England: in pursuit of a comprehensive national church they promoted a Catholic-oriented Anglicanism but also allowed for considerable Reformed theology and practice. James I authorized an English translation of the Bible, the “King James Version,” which Reformed Christians, despite an earlier preference for the Geneva Bible, a pacesetting translation from the 1560s, soon adopted. The KJV continues to enjoy a large place in many Reformed churches. When Charles I (1625-49) tried to restore Catholicism, Scots and English, Presbyterians and Congregationalists arose to lead Parliament in calling the Westminster Assembly of 1643, even as civil war was raging. From that assembly of divines, primarily Presbyterian, came Reformed documents that have guided most English-speaking Reformed ever since: the Directory of Public Worship, Westminster Confession of Faith, and Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms. The Church of Scotland adopted these standards, but under radical Congregationalist Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), the English failed to ratify them.
With the restoration in 1660 of the Stuart monarch Charles II (1660-85), Reformed Christianity receded in England as Anglican Catholicism prevailed, and even briefly under James II (1685-88), there was another move toward Rome. With James in exile, the Glorious Revolution of 1688 made William and Mary sovereigns, and Britain came to combine the established Church of England and the constitutional monarchy with Reformed politics and social practice. The monarchs and Parliament provided rights for Protestant dissenters, however, and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland was made that kingdom’s established church. Congregationalists and Presbyterians in England, or Dissenters, began to cooperate constructively.
As a strategy for governing Ireland and taming Catholic dissent there, James I had relocated many Scots to Ulster Plantation, the northern portion of the island. The Presbyterianism of the immigrants clashed with the religion of most of the settled Irish. At the start of the English Civil War, Irish Catholics attacked some of the newcomers, and to protect them the Scots sent troops with Presbyterian chaplains in 1641. From these chaplains came the first Scotch-Irish presbytery. With the restoration of Charles II, Presbyterians were forced to endure discrimination, and many began leaving for the New World, where Congregationalist dissidents and Anglicans had already established patterns of relative toleration, or at least had taken steps toward less oppression.
As the Church of England made a measure of peace with both Catholics and Reformed Christians following the revolution of 1688, Reformed identity became less discernible in the established Church of England and more obvious in the separate denominations. Especially with the Oxford Movement of the 19th century, a movement toward Catholic worship and theology, earlier strains of English Puritanism within the Church of England receded.
In contemporary Britain, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and the Presbyterian Church of Wales continue as significant denominations. The United Reformed Church in England was formed from the merger of Presbyterian and Congregationalist churches in 1972. Various smaller denominationsthe Reformed Presbyterian Churches of Scotland and of Ireland, the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and othersmaintain separate identities, sometimes fiercely. Over the last century, Puritan and Reformed elements have been ably promoted by figures like the Anglican J. I. Packer and the Congregationalist David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, as well as by publishers like the Banner of Truth Trust.
Reformed Christians in America
By 1648 the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay and Connecticut had established the Cambridge Platform, a statement based on the religious experience of the members, who “owned the covenant.” According to the platform, councils and synods have an advisory role but no legal authority in local church government.
Reformed Puritans, including Roger Williams (ca. 1603-83) and Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643), rebelled against the rigidity of the Puritan establishment. Their reading of Scripture led them to champion believer’s baptism, direct promptings of the Spirit unmediated by the divines, and other departures from the “New England Way.” Early Baptist congregations in Rhode Island and some mid-Atlantic colonies and some other dissenters’ groups were thus English Reformed but not Puritan.
Gradually the few numbers of those “owning the covenant” led New England Reformed to institute the “Half-Way Covenant” (1662), which permitted the baptized children of believers to have their own children baptized if they affirmed that the covenant had been a part of their parents’ witness.
Jonathan Edwards (1703-58), arguably the most influential and profound American theologian to date, reinvigorated the classic Reformed doctrines and reinterpreted them for his day. He also helped lead a revival in the 1740s that stretched to most colonies and connected with parallel movements in Britain. This “Great Awakening” involved Dutch Calvinists in New York, many Puritan “New Light” believers in New England, nascent Methodist dissenters from strict Anglicanism, and even some Low Church, or evangelical, Anglicans all finding ways to reconcile experiences of Christian conversion and doctrines of predestination.
Meanwhile in the middle colonies, Presbyterianism began to flourish. Increasing numbers of Puritans also came to appreciate connectional government as the Presbyterians exercised it. Francis Makemie (1658-1708), an Ulster Plantation Scot merchant and slave owner, settled on the eastern shore of Virginia, where he helped organize Presbyterian congregations in the 1680s and 1690s; he later did the same on the eastern shore of Maryland and in Barbados. By 1706 Presbyterians counted sufficient believers and churches to organize a presbytery, and in 1716 they organized a synod comprising three presbyteries, with congregations in Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York.
Through the War of Independence
Most but not all of the Reformed wanted separation from Britain, so much so that George III (1760-1820) termed the Revolution of 1776 the “Presbyterian War.” John Witherspoon (1723-94), a Scottish Presbyterian who in 1768 came to preside at the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), sided with Congregationalist John Adams and others from New England to sign the Declaration of Independence. Reformed in North and South Carolina, as well as many in the Valley of Virginia and in New Jersey, were also among the stalwarts for independence.
Victory and independence in America did not at first affect the establishment of Congregational churches in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and other New England states. But where Presbyterians were present, religious disestablishment led to the formation of “denominations,” separate church bodies that were self-governing and self-supporting. Gradually this denominationalism prevailed throughout the country, with Massachusetts in 1833 being the final state to cease governmental support of its Congregational church. The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) was organized in 1788 and pledged loyalty to the new U.S. president, George Washington. Many Scots and Scotch-Irish Americans were unwilling to join this body, and they established the Associate Reformed Church. Numerous other independent synods and presbyteries became Reformed denominations in the early national period. In 1801 Congregational and Presbyterian leaders agreed on the “Plan of Union,” according to which neither would encroach where the other had churches, pastors could move from one communion to the other, and the two groups would collaborate in missions to the unsettled West and in efforts for transforming society.
Growth and Division
When Presbyterians, because of growth largely from revival movements, found themselves unable to secure the services of ordained pastors, they began to ordain men from among their number, first as catechists and then as pastors. The PCUSA forbade what they termed “irregular appointments,” and in 1810 the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was formed in protest. It considered portions of the Westminster Standards of 1647 irrelevant, and it advocated on-the-job apprenticeship for the training of pastors rather than graduate education.
There was collaboration, however, among the Reformed groups, including other evangelical Protestants, in movements to distribute the Bible, provide missionaries for the unchurched frontier and other parts of the world, seek African colonies for the resettlement of freed slaves, open Sunday schools for the poor, establish colleges and seminaries for the training of pastors and other church leaders, and ameliorate the general condition of America’s poor. During the early decades of the 19th century, African American slaves were frequently part of Presbyterian congregations to which their masters belonged, and gradually congregations composed of free blacks began to emerge in the PCUSA, as they did elsewhere in Protestantism.
Meanwhile among the Congregationalists, there were frequent differences in doctrine and emphases, based on variant readings of the Bible and made possible by the semi-autonomy of local congregations. Universalists came to believe that God would redeem all, not just those who profess Jesus Christ. Free-will Baptists departed from two traditional elements in Calvinism, infant baptism and predestination. And Unitarians, from their understanding of the Bible and from English strains of free thought (Freethinkers), stressed the oneness of God over what they regarded as the postbiblical development of the doctrine of the Trinity. In 1825 a separate organization of Unitarians was formed in New England, drawing many Congregationalists into its congregations and seeming to dilute the Reformed nature of many who remained.
After the Civil War, Congregationalists reasserted an evangelical Christian identity, establishing in 1871 the National Council of Congregationalist Churches and between 1850 and 1890 founding several new theological seminaries across the country. Within the denomination severe differences of opinion resulted in the Social Gospel on the one side and conservative Reformed orthodoxy on the other, although most congregations seem to have walked a middle road of “progressive orthodoxy,” a term popularized by Horace Bushnell (1802-76).
Before the Civil War, portions of the PCUSA (the “Old School”) gradually came to reject partnership with Congregationalists based on the 1801 Plan of Union, especially as the abolitionist movement and agitation to send freed slaves back to Africa became stronger. This group also objected to theological compromises among the Reformed that they considered a lessening of the authority of the Westminster Standards. In 1836-38 they separated from the “New School” Assembly, which favored abolition, “new measures” in revivals, and ecumenical efforts among Protestants.
Though in the late 1830s these two schools of Presbyterians were of equal size, by the time of the Civil War the rapid growth of the southern Presbyterian wing, the strength of Princeton Seminary in the north and Union Seminary in Virginia, and the clarity of its denominational vision helped the Old School outpace the New School. Interestingly, Old School Presbyterians borrowed quickly the new measures offered by New Schoolers and their Congregationalist colleagues. Over time, Charles Finney (1792-1875) and his revival successes bridged many of these differences in theology.
One major force in establishing the strength of the Old School was Charles Hodge (1797-1878), a pious and irenic professor at Princeton Seminary from 1822 to 1878. In his many writings, especially Systematic Theology (1873), nuanced Reformed theology sometimes gave way to what John T. McNeill terms “studied avoidance of novelty.” Hodge’s son, A. A. Hodge, and B. B.Warfield, who succeeded the younger Hodge at the seminary, provided additional support for a “Princeton theology” that repudiated what it termed modernism in favor of covenant theology and Calvinism.
The Civil War split the Presbyterians North and South, with most Old School state synods joining to form the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America. After the war Old and New School denominations in the North reunited to form again the PCUSA, while Old School Southerners united with border synods not part of the PCUSA to form the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS).
Frequently PCUSA and Congregational missionaries assisted African Americans who were already Presbyterian, so that during Reconstruction black churches grew up among free blacks in the North and South. As black, self-governing congregations grew, along with schools, colleges, and then seminaries, more African Americans affiliated with Reformed Christianity. During the latter half of the 19th century, Congregational and Presbyterian “domestic” missionaries from the United States also worked among the Native American, Spanish-speaking American, and emerging Asian American populations, and their numbers increased.
Meanwhile, significant Scots, German, Dutch, and other European immigrations of Reformed heritage led to several other growing denominations: the Reformed Church in America, a mix of earlier congregations from New York and New Jersey, with newer waves of Dutch Reformed in Michigan and Iowa especially; the Christian Reformed Church, Dutch Calvinists less ready to adapt thoroughly to American pluralism; the United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA), formed originally from Scots covenanters and others in their villages; and the Evangelical and Reformed Synods of German Protestants from the Palatinate and other German-speaking areas, who settled heavily in the Midwest and did not join the PCUSA. Some Hungarian Reformed, or at least Hungarian-speaking congregations, were formed, as were some congregations where Czech, French, or Italian was spoken.
Reformed Christians of every stripe, as also Methodists, Baptists, and others were doing, established colleges to train leaders and generally to educate their members for American life. At the turn of the 20th century a majority of college graduates in America came from such church-related schools. Theological seminaries, orphanages, retirement homes, camps, conference centers, hospitals, settlement houses, chapels, and a host of other institutions were created and sustained to support Reformed belief and practice in the various denominations.
Presbyterians uncomfortable with the failure to require affirmation of the fundamentals formed other denominations, as for example the Orthodox and Bible Presbyterian churches. Southern Presbyterians, who did not fight similar battles in General Assemblies at that time, nevertheless held to biblical inerrancy for the most part and to a “spiritual” view of the church as a body focusing on explicit biblical teaching and not taking positions on matters of politics.
Around World War II a flurry of changes occurred. Professors at mainline Reformed seminaries and pastors of major congregations, who had for the most part been suspicious of higher-critical methods of interpreting Scripture, holding rather to traditional, confession-oriented theology, began to teach and preach using methods of biblical theology that took seriously the historical-critical approach to Scripture championed by German and British scholars. The theology of Karl Barth (1886-1968), Emil Brunner (1889-1966), and Suzanne de Diétrich (1891-1981), among others, offered a “neoorthodoxy” that both countered the liberal theology that some had espoused (although others had rejected) and the conservative theology that did not confront and seek to transform culture. Christian education, pastoral care, and pastoral counseling came into seminary curricula, employing insights from depth psychology, sociology, and a host of other social sciences.
At the same time, the burgeoning modern ecumenical movement drew Reformed churches into its orbit. Several significant organic unions took place: in 1931 between the Congregational and the Congregational Christian Churches, which had been part of the Christian movement emerging from the Great Revival; in 1957 between the Congregational Church formed in 1931 and the Evangelical and Reformed Church of German background, forming the United Church of Christ (UCC); and in 1958 between the PCUSA and the United Presbyterian Church of North America, which formed the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA). In 1983 the UPCUSA and the PCUS merged to form the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), or PC(USA). These merged denominations and their antecedent bodies were instrumental in the formation of the World Council of Churches in 1948 and the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. in 1950.
As the 20th century proceeded, campaigns for civil rights for American racial and ethnic minorities and for women drew Reformed Christians into new areas of witness and work. African Americans had long belonged in most Reformed denominations, but new emphases on the inclusion of their clergy and laity as leaders led some white resisters to withdraw from active membership. New denominations, such as the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), formed in 1973, resisted integration and also championed more traditional interpretations of historic Reformed theology.
The ordination of women began for both Congregationalists and Presbyterians in the 19th century, although it was not until after World War II that women in significant numbers began to study for the ministry. Women are now present at all levels of leadership in the UCC and the PC(USA). The PCA, along with other small Presbyterian bodies in the United States, continues to reject the ordination of women.
Global Mission among Reformed Christians
As membership rose from the Civil War onward, Reformed Christians from America cooperated with Reformed from other countries to establish missions throughout the world. This work took place largely where European colonies existed and access to indigenous populations was afforded. Thousands of missionaries went to Africa, Latin America, and Asia, even to places where long-standing Christian communities already existed (e.g., Coptic Christians in Egypt and Ethiopia, and Mar Thoma Christians in India). Euramerican missionaries built the same kinds of educational and social welfare institutions that had been developed in their homelands. In some places, such as Indonesia and South Africa, Dutch and English colonial structures supported Reformed Christianity. More frequently, as in the Congo, Kenya, Ghana, and India, colonial authorities allowed evangelical Protestants to open missions because they could ameliorate the impoverished conditions of the people. China, a special case, was only partially opened, but great energy and resources were devoted to work there because of the huge population and the perception that the country offered fertile ground for mission.
Korea was special because it had been subjugated by other countries with non-Christian religions, especially by Japan during the first half of 20th century. Reformed Christianity in Korea moved almost immediately to become self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating, by mutual decision of the missionaries and the early Korean leaders, many of whom died for their faith. Reformed Christians in South Korea may now be the most numerous in the world, ranking ahead of the Reformed presence in the United States, Indonesia, and South Africa.
In Ghana and other parts of West Africa, Reformed Christian churches are reevaluating, in light of Scripture, the wisdom of mission emphases, ways of worship, and personal ethics. Many have reintroduced traditional African music in worship, permitted tribal authorities to become members and officers in churches, and engaged in service activities with Muslims and adherents of indigenous religions as partners. Missiological questions are among the most important and most debated in Reformed Christianity.
Reformed Churches Today
A bewildering array of denominationsmore than a hundred in the United States aloneeither consider themselves Reformed or find Reformed Christianity in their active tradition. In a tradition that sees itself in constant reformation in the light of Scripture, it is impossible to determine how many of these denominations continue to teach and believe all the historic tenets of Reformed Christianity. Nor can accurate numbers be offered concerning the numbers of Reformed Christians worldwide. In the Netherlands, for example, about four million people are members of six major bodies of Reformed Christians, but millions more depend on these churches for spiritual guidance and for rite-of-life ceremonies. In South Korea more than six million Christians belong to four major Presbyterian denominations, and more than one million other Koreans and others in many parts of the world are affiliated with those denominations through their mission outreach. In South Africa, Dutch Reformed and Presbyterians from England and Scotland all have had significant impact on the nation, and currently more than a dozen denominations comprising several million members see themselves as Reformed Christians.
In many areas of the world, independent churches that began as missions of particular denominations have not perceived Euramerican history and theological traditions as extremely important, so Reformed, Presbyterian, and Congregational churches have merged with those of Methodist, Baptist, Anglican, and other backgrounds. Most of the leaders in these churches see themselves as Christian in theology and both connectional and congregational in polity. A good example is the Church of South India, which began with the union of two Reformed bodies, then united with Anglicans and Methodists to form the present denomination (Union; United and Uniting Churches). Others whose names reflect such wider allegiances today include the China Christian Council, Christian Church in East Timor, Church of North India, East Java Christian Church, Evangelical Church of Iran, Evangelical Church of the Republic of Niger, Protestant Church of Algeria, and Protestant Church of Senegal. Other, sometimes newer, churches reflect more of their Reformed identity in their names and missions: Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, Presbyterian Church of Brazil, Presbyterian Church of East Africa (headquarters in Kenya), Presbyterian Church of India, Presbytery of Liberia in West Africa, Reformed Church in Zambia, Reformed Church in Zimbabwe, Reformed Presbyterian Church of Ecuador, and United Evangelical Church of Ecuador. Most of these bodies are members of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, a federation that traces its own roots back to 1875.
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PUBLISHED IN THE BULLETIN OF THE INSTITUTE FOR REFORMED THEOLOGY, FALL 2005, VOL. 5, #1.
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