Archive for the ‘German Reformed Church’ Tag

“God of Our Fathers”: The Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, 1914-1945   16 comments

Psalter 1914-1927 and Psalter Hymnal 1934

Above:  My Copies of The Psalter (1914/1927) and the Psalter Hymnal (1934)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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U.S. DUTCH REFORMED LITURGY, PART IV

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God of our fathers, whose almighty hand

Leads forth in beauty all the starry band

Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies,

Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.

–David C. Roberts, “God of Our Fathers,” 1876; from Psalter Hymnal (1934)

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I.  PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION

This series of blog posts, which I predict will run its immediate course in eight installments, with potential for a ninth eventually, has become quite involved–more so than I had thought previously.  That is fine; I am not complaining, for I have been learning much while preparing Parts IV and V and sketching the broad parameters of Parts VI and VII.  The intellectual pleasure of learning so much so quickly has been rapturous for me.  Yes, I am a geek–indeed, a nerd–and a proud one at that.  I like my brain.

One of my undergraduate education professors at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, in the 1990s told our class that students need hooks onto which to hang details.  I have tried to follow that advice well in a series of classrooms.  And I adhere to it now.  So, with that segue accomplished, here are your proverbial hooks, O reader:

  1. The Reformed Church in America (RCA) remained Americanized and, on the official level at least, favorable to ecumenical engagement.  This commitment was evident liturgically in The Hymnal of the Reformed Church (1920), a joint project with the (German) Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS).
  2. The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA or just CRC) became more Americanized from 1914 to 1945, partly because of the domestic and foreign experiences of World War I.  The denomination remained strongly culturally isolationist for much of the period, though.  And it retained its status as a bulwark of very conservative Calvinism.  Nevertheless, the CRCNA was insufficiently right-wing for those who seceded in 1926 to form the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA).  Despite its conservatism, the CRCNA did liberalize sufficiently to reverse its traditional Psalms-only rule for the majority of the denomination, in which pockets of hymn-singing had existed with Synodical approval since the 1880s.
  3. The RCA and the CRCNA, parent and breakaway child, have long had a non-hostile relationship on the official level.  The two have exchanged fraternal greetings annually at CRCNA Synods and RCA General Synods for a long time.  Nevertheless, the two have not traveled the same path for most of the time since the CRCNA broke away in 1857, hence the long separation.  By the end of World War II the RCA and the CRCNA, although still far apart on many issues, were closer than they were at the start of World War I.

II.  CULTURAL CONSIDERATIONS, DENOMINATIONAL AND OTHERWISE

Liturgy is an extension of theology.  For example, whether one sings Psalms and hymns or just Psalms in church is a theological decision.  Liturgy also occurs in the contexts of culture and history.  Thus I must establish the contexts of liturgical decisions and patterns first if I am to adhere to the optimum policy.

World War I and Postwar Disillusionment

President Woodrow Wilson (in office 1913-1921) was reluctant to take the United States into World War I (1914-1918).  This raised the ire and scorn of former President Theodore Roosevelt (in office 1901-1909), who accused the incumbent of cowardice.  (Roosevelt ceased to extol the manly virtues of the war after he lost a son to it, but that is another story.)  Wilson won a second term narrowly in 1916, largely on the fact he had kept the nation out of the war.  Ironically, he led the United States into that conflict formally in the second month of that second term.  Reasons included a German threat to the territorial integrity of the country as well as serious financial considerations, such as the fates of historic trading partners in Europe.  The charges of a “capitalists’ war” were not entirely unfounded, even if they were overly simplistic.

The President, who had warned prior to April 1917 that U.S. entry into war would lead to many people forgetting that there had ever been such a thing as tolerance, embraced such intolerance once the nation had gone to war.  Nonviolent critics broke the law by engaging in activities such as giving speeches and distributing leaflets or attempting to do so.  Thus they violated statutes, which Wilson had signed into law, and went to federal prison.  The U.S. Supreme Court upheld these convictions, but President Warren G. Harding (in office 1921-1923) exercised his power of the pardon generously, much to chagrin of the right wing of his Republican Party.  The founding of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was no accident, given the many violations of civil liberties in the United States during the war and shortly thereafter.

The intolerance extended to state laws, urban ordinances, and mob actions.  One man faced persecution under the Minnesota Espionage Act because he criticized a woman who was knitting socks for soldiers.

No soldier ever sees these socks,

he had said.  It was an unkind comment, but was it a criminal offense?  The City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, banned performances of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven, who had died in 1827.  Was a man who had been dead for nine decades and who had in life opposed the imperialistic policies of Napoleon Bonaparte supporting the Kaiser’s war effort?  And many Christians who worshiped in the German language had to contend with intimidation and vandalism.  During this time many Lutherans made a rapid transition to worshiping in English.  What became of freedom in the land of the free?

The CRCNA, which offered few English-language services on any given Sunday in 1915, also accelerated its use of English in worship due to pressures from jingoists, vandals, and state laws.  Some states, such as Iowa, outlawed preaching in Dutch.  And vandals attacked parochial schools, alleging that they were somehow Prussian.  The denomination’s position on World War I did not help matters when many people lost their minds, rallied around the flag, and renamed German names of dog breeds and food products.  In an age of Liberty Hounds (Dachshunds), Alsacian Shepherds (German Shepherds), and Liberty Cabbage (Sauerkraut) the CRCNA’s stance that the war was (a) evidence of total depravity and (b) God’s punishment on the U.S.A. for national sins aroused much ire outside the denomination.

Wilson oversold the war.  It was “the war to make the world safe for democracy,” allegedly.  Postwar realities, being grim, especially in Europe, inspired widespread disillusionment, as in the literary Lost Generation.  In this context the RCA, which had once considered World War I a holy war, learned a harsh lesson and backed down from its gung ho stance.  At the same time, however, the CRCNA learned a different harsh lesson and began to move away from its culturally isolationist position under pressure from returning veterans who belonged to the denomination.  When the U.S. entered World War II formally in 1941, the CRCNA was gung ho and the RCA supported the war effort without resorting to grandiose language.

Confessional Calvinism, Common Grace, and the Christian Reformed Church in North America

Two sides in the three-way disagreement over the Kuyperian Paradox locked horns within the CRCNA in the 1920s.  The Antitheticals, who favored Christian separatism, had lost the argument at the Synod of 1906, where the Confessionalists had won.  The two sides joined forces to oppose Calvin Theological Seminary professor Ralph Janssen, whom they accused of liberalism, and therefore heresy, because he had incorporated higher criticism into his Biblical studies.  These critics won at the Synod of 1922, which removed Janssen from his post.  Two years later, however, the CRC Synod made affirmation of Abraham Kuyper‘s later Common Grace theological stance mandatory for pastors.  That position held that even the unredeemed could function as God’s instruments.  In 1924-1925 the Reverend Herman Hoekstra and others refused to obey.  These Antitheticals seceded instead and formed the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA).

Ecumenism

The RCA was, at least officially, enthusiastic about ecumenism.  It had become, for example, a charter member of both the American Bible Society (1816) and the Federal Council of Churches (1908).  The RCA considered itself a mainline denomination, albeit a fairly conservative one.  Yet even this position proved too liberal for much of its Midwestern and Western constituency, which was generally suspicious of social progressivism, membership in church councils, and plans to merge with other denominations.

There was more than one unsuccessful merger proposal involving the RCA from 1914 to 1945.  The first was a plan to merge the RCA and the (German) Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) in the 1910s.  The only fruit this tree bore was The Hymnal of the Reformed Church (1920), a joint project of the two bodies.  The RCUS, by the way, went on to merge in 1934 with the Evangelical Synod of North America (ESNA), of Prussian Lutheran-Reformed heritage, to form the Evangelical and Reformed Church (ERC).  The ERC’s legacy became part of the history of the United Church of Christ (UCC) in 1957.  Thus the 1920 Hymnal of the Reformed Church preceded two streams of successors:

  1. The Hymnbook (1955), Rejoice in the Lord (1985), and Lift Up Your Hearts (2013), the RCA lineage; and
  2. The Hymnal (1941), The Hymnal of the United Church of Christ (1974), and The New Century Hymnal (1995), the Evangelical and Reformed Church-United Church of Christ lineage.

The second plan, which began in the late 1920s, was to merge five denominations:

  1. The Reformed Church in America (RCA);
  2. The Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS);
  3. The Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), the old “Southern Presbyterian Church;”
  4. The Presbyterian Church in then U.S.A. (PCUSA), the old “Northern Presbyterian Church” (a misleading label since it was a national body; and
  5. The United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA), whose Psalters the CRCNA and parts thereof had adapted.

The plan failed on several fronts as denominations removed themselves from it.  The 1931 Southern Presbyterian General Assembly, citing questions of race and alleged doctrinal unsoundness in the PCUSA, withdrew, for example.  And an attempt to expand the union into a six-way arrangement including the CRCNA failed in 1930, when the CRC Synod declined, citing doctrinal concerns regarding the other five bodies.  These issues included Modernism, alleged laxity in church discipline, and permissive policies regarding membership in secret societies, such as the Masonic Lodge.

Of the five denominations only the RCA still exists.  The United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA) merged with the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA) to create the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA) in 1958.  The UPCUSA and the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS) reunited in 1983 to form the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) [PC(USA)].  And the Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) merged into the Evangelical and Reformed Church (1934-1957).  The current body which bears the RCUS name is a rump of the original denomination.

The CRCNA also contained a large number of people wary of membership in church councils.  It had joined the Federal Council of Churches in 1918, for the FCC was the only agency which placed military chaplains at the time.  Yet concerns about Modernism led the CRCNA to withdraw from the Federal Council in 1924.  The denomination became a charter member of the anti-Modernist National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) in 1943.  Nevertheless, a vocal CRCNA constituency, objecting to such close work with Arminians and Fundamentalists and concerned about the allegedly detrimental effect it had on the CRCNA’s Reformed witness, succeeded in prompting the denomination’s withdraw from the NAE in 1951.

Worldly Amusements

Q:  Why don’t Fundamentalists have sex standing up?

A:  It might lead to dancing.

–An old joke

Hostility to “worldly amusements” has long been a characteristic of certain varieties of conservative Protestantism.  I have read such condemnations in the sermon notes of my great-grandfather, George Washington Barrett (1873-1956), and old-style Southern Methodist.  And stories of Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and other types of churches calling members to account for dancing, hosting dances, attending fairs, and/or playing card games from the 1800s to the 1900s are numerous.  Such hostility was also present in Dutch Reformed enclaves in the Midwest and present in both the RCA and the CRCNA.  The latter, however, unlike the former, made such hostility denominational policy in the twentieth century.

The theological principle of separation from the world (not being conformed to it), not to mention the insertion of long poles far into many spiritual large intestines, informed the condemnation of “worldly amusements.”  (How could some of these people sit down comfortably or at all?)  Thus, in the case of the CRCNA, the ruling that no member should play cards, attend movies, or dance became not just a recommendation but a piece of obligatory guidance.  As the Reverend Doctor Peter Y. De Jong wrote:

Because these principles are solidly grounded on Scripture, they must be heartily believed and conscientiously practiced by all of our members.  Such spiritual practice is far richer than refraining from sin because the church requires it.  In the light of these every Christian who prayerfully considers any problem can come to full light.  Only then will our spiritual life be full and rich and deep, which is pleasing to our faithful Covenant God and Father.

The Christian Reformed Church:  A Study Guide, Centennial Edition, 1956; reprint, 1964; page 81

I will return to this matter in subsequent posts.

III.  PSALTERS AND HYMNALS

The Christian Reformed Church in North America:  From Dutch to English–The Psalter (1914)

The liturgical transformation within the CRCNA proved difficult for many people.  By 1940, however, English was nearly universal in the denomination, which had lost some members to the process.  The Psalter (1914) was far from popular in some quarters of the CRCNA.  Henry Vander Werp, a CRCNA alternate to the committee which had created The New Metrical Version of the Psalms (1905 and 1909), the basis of the United Presbyterian Psalter (1912), itself the basis of the CRCNA Psalter (1914), had created a Psalter of his own.  It retained more content from the Genevan Psalter (1563) and less from The New Metrical Version than did The Psalter (1914).  The Synod of 1912 rejected an overture to adopt his Psalter, justifying the decision by citing the fact that it was the work of one man.

The Psalter (1914) broke with CRC tradition in ways other than the obvious:  the exclusive use of English.

  1. It introduced different patterns of meter to the CRCNA.  Traditional Dutch meters kept the Psalms intact and applied a variety of meters and rhyme patterns to them.  Scottish Presbyterian meters, however, divided the Psalms into segments, thereby applying more than one versification to some texts.
  2. It also replaced many traditional melodies with tunes new to the CRCNA.  Only two Genevan Psalter tunes remained in the new Psalter.  The transition proved easier for the young than for the elderly.

The Psalter (1914), reprinted with the 1920 translation of the Church Order in 1927, contained rituals and other important documents in the back:

  1. The Heidelberg Catechism;
  2. The Belgic Confession of Faith;
  3. The Canons of Dort;
  4. The Liturgy;
  5. The Church Order; and
  6. The Formula of Subscription to the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession of Faith, and the Canons of Dort.

The Liturgy contained:

  1. Baptism;
  2. Public Confession of Faith;
  3. The Lord’s Supper;
  4. The Discipline–Excommunication and Readmission of Excommunicated Persons;
  5. Ordination of Ministers of God’s Word;
  6. Ordination of Elders and Deacons;
  7. Installation of Professors of Theology;
  8. Ordination of Missionaries;
  9. Marriage; and
  10. Consolation of the Sick.

These followed the traditional Dutch forms.

The Protestant Reformed Dutch Churches in America (PRCA) continued to use this volume after the CRCNA adopted the Psalter Hymnal (1934).  The liturgical forms available at the PRCA’s website in 2014 are nearly identical to those in the back of The Psalter (1914).

The Christian Reformed Church in North America:  Uniform Orders of Worship (1920-1930)

The European Reformed churches of the Protestant Reformation were liturgical, complete with service books and forms of worship.  This well-attested fact constituted news–irrelevant at best and unpleasant at worst–to many U.S. members of Reformed churches in the 1800s and 1900s.  That statement applies also to many of the U.S. Reformed in 2014.  Sometimes the tradition to which people cling is of more recent vintage than the alleged innovations to which they object.  So which one is the innovation?  The reality of Continental Reformed liturgical history did not, however, trouble the members of the CRCNA committee which produced three uniform orders of worship in time for the CRC Synod of 1920, which made them mandatory.  The Acts of Synod (1920), pages 185-204 contains the full orders with interesting explanatory notes.

The order of worship for the first (morning) service was as follows:

  1. The Introductory Service–The service opened with the Votum (Psalm 124:8) then continued with the Salutation (Romans 1:7) before leading into a Psalm of gratitude.
  2. The Service of Reconciliation–The confession of sin and absolution, parts of Protestant Reformation-era Reformed liturgies, were present.  They proved especially controversial due to rampant anti-Roman Catholicism, however.  The order of service specified forms for the invitation, the confession, and the absolution.  The Apostles’ Creed and the Psalm of praise followed.
  3. The Service of Thanksgiving–A general prayer, concluded with the Lord’s Prayer, led into the Offering, then a Psalm of thanksgiving.
  4. The Service of the Lord–There was no responsive reading, for the committee deemed that practice to be primarily a way of maintaining interest among members of the congregation.  Thus the minister, representing God at the church service, read a portion of Scripture.  Then the sermon followed.
  5. The Closing Service–A prayer, a Psalm or the Doxology or both, and the Benediction closed the service.

The other two orders of worship were quite similar to the first.  At the second (evening) service there was no Service of Reconciliation and the Decalogue moved into the Service of Thanksgiving.  The third order of worship, just for

Christmas, Old Year, New Year, Good Friday, and Ascension Day

Acts of Synod, 1920, page 199,

also omitted the Service of Reconciliation.  The third order of worship lacked the Decalogue, however.

These orders of worship became quite controversial, so the Synod of 1930 removed the absolution and made the orders optional.

The Christian Reformed Church in North America:  Singing Hymns

The practice of singing Psalms–yet not hymns, allegedly the compositions of sinful men and women and therefore unworthy, as the traditionalist Reformed criticism describes them–used to be more commonplace in the Reformed world.  In 2014 some denominations retain the practice, but most sing hymns.  Objections to the singing of hymns in the RCA helped to form the rationales for the Secessions of 1834 (in The Netherlands) and 1857 (in the United States), thus they were among the justifications for the founding of the CRCNA.  Nevertheless, that denomination, from the middle 1880s forward, did not adhere strictly to the practice of singing only Psalms.

At first the CRCNA permitted groups with joined the denomination to continue their practice of singing hymns.  As I wrote in Part III of this series, some German-speaking congregations affiliated in the 1880s and English-speaking churches joined in 1890.  The Germans continued to sing their 355 hymns in addition to the 150 Psalms and Classis Hackensack kept singing its 190 hymns plus the 150 Psalms.  It even modified The Psalter (1914) to include its 190 hymns.  The camel’s nose was already inside the tent.

For the majority of the CRCNA, however, hymns were forbidden in worship.  Article 69 of the Church Order (1920 translation) read:

In the Churches only the 150 Psalms of David, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Twelve Articles of Faith, the Songs of Mary, Zacharias, and Simeon, the Morning and Evening Hymns, and the Hymn of Prayer before the sermon shall be sung.

Nevertheless, many young members of the CRCNA favored singing hymns by 1918.  The Synod of 1928 appointed a committee to study the issue.  That group, which favored hymn-singing, issued its report two years later.  In 1932 the CRCNA modified Article 69 of the Church Order to permit the singing of hymns throughout the denomination.

The Christian Reformed Church in North America:  Psalter Hymnal (1934)

Psalter Hymnal (1934) was a landmark worship resource for the CRCNA.  It both reached back into the denomination’s tradition and paved the way for changes.  On one hand Psalter Hymnal (1934) included more Genevan Psalter (1563) tunes than did The Psalter (1914), but on the other hand it opened the flood gates for hymn-singing to become more popular than Psalm-singing in the CRCNA.  The new hymnal emphasized the Psalms, which comprised 295 of its 458 musical offerings.  There were 140 hymns familiar to members of other denominations.  A few these songs were:

  1. O Worship the King;
  2. Now Thank We All Our God;
  3. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel;
  4. Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing;
  5. Silent Night! Holy Night!;
  6. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross;
  7. The Church’s One Foundation; and
  8. Abide With Me.

The standards for selecting hymns were:

doctrinal soundness, New Testament character, dignity and depth of devotional spirit, and clearness and beauty of expression.

Psalter Hymnal (1934), page iii

Much of the material in the back of the volume was similar to that in the rear of The Psalter (1914), the main difference being a revision in the English translation.  There were more offerings, though.

  1. The Three Ecumenical Creeds–Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian–were present.
  2. There was also a treasury of Christian prayers.

Also, the 1914 forms for the ordination of Ministers and Missionaries became forms for the ordination or installation thereof.

Psalter Hymnal (1934) stood in lineage with Psalter Hymnal (1959/1976), Psalter Hymnal (1987), and Lift Up Your Hearts (2013), books I will analyze in subsequent posts.

The Reformed Church in America:  The Hymnal of the Reformed Church (1920)

The history of hymnals in the RCA has proven to be more complicated than in the CRCNA.  Prior to The Hymnal of the Reformed Church (1920) the last official hymnal had been Hymns of the Church (1869), almost a carbon copy of the Anglican Hymns, Ancient and Modern (1861).  This Anglican-Reformed approach met with the disapproval of much of the RCA, which convinced successive General Synods to approve the use of third-party hymnals.  Thus the RCA, despite having a series of official hymn books, has long experienced a plethora of hymnals in use on the congregational level.

The Hymnal of the Reformed Church (1920) was a joint project with the (German) Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS).  It started as a revision of The Hymnal of the Reformed Church in the United States (1890) in 1911, but the committee decided to try to make the new book an ecumenical venture.  The RCA General Synod of 1912 accepted the invitation to participate in the project, and the rest was history.  The joint committee wrote in the 1920 Hymnal:

Our purpose has been to lead congregations in every way possible in a more heartfelt worship in all Church services, and a more general participation in congregational singing.

The organization of the 700+ hymns was topical, not pegged to the Heidelberg Catechism, as early RCA hymnals had been.  And the RCA Liturgy was present in the RCA edition.

The Hymnal of the Reformed Church, in the RCA, preceded three other official hymnals.

  1. The Hymnbook (1955) was a joint project with the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (ARPC), the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (PCUSA), and the United Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA).
  2. Rejoice in the Lord (1985), a solely RCA project, sold better outside the denomination than within it.  In fact, only seven percent of RCA congregations adopted it.  My copy of the hymnal bears the imprint of a congregation of the United Church of Christ.
  3. Lift Up Your Hearts (2013) is a joint project with the CRCNA.

Those, however, are topics I will explore in subsequent posts in this series.

IV.  CONCLUSION

Disagreements within denominations are frequently more important than those between or among them.  The Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) experienced 1914-1945 differently yet with some similarity.  Both had warring wings, for example.  The RCA, though, kept its wings in balance until immediately after World War II, when Part V of this series will begin.  In contrast, the more conservative, culturally isolationist wing of the CRCNA began to lose power to relatively progressive elements.  Nevertheless, the denomination forbade dancing from 1928 to 1982 and attending movies from 1928 to 1966. So we know that its culturally isolationist wing retained some power for a long time, despite the vocal and repeated protests of dissidents, who had entered the twentieth century mentally.  The CRCNA moved forward and backward from 1914 to 1945.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HARDCOPY SOURCES

Brink, Emily R., and Bert Polman, eds.  Psalter Hymnal Handbook.  Grand Rapids, MI:  CRC Publications, 1998.

Brumm, James Hart, ed.  Liturgy Among the Thorns:  Essays on Worship in the Reformed Church in America.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 57.

De Jong, Peter Y.  The Christian Reformed Church:  A Study Manual.  Centennial Edition.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Book House, 1956.  Reprint, 1964.

Haeussler, Armin.  The Story of Our Hymn:  The Handbook to the Hymnal of the Evangelical and Reformed Church.  St. Louis, MO:  Eden Publishing House, 1952.

Hall, Kermit L., et al., eds.  American Legal History:  Cases and Materials. 2d. Ed.  New York, NY:  Oxford University Press, 1996.

The Hymnal; Containing Complete Orders of Worship.  St. Louis, MO:  Eden Publishing House, 1941.

The Hymnal of the United Church of Christ.  Philadelphia, PA:  United Church Press, 1974.

The Hymnbook.  Richmond, VA:  John Knox Press, 1955.

Japinga, Lynn.  Loyalty and Loss:  The Reformed Church in America, 1945-1994.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2013.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 77.

Lift Up Your Hearts:  Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2013.

The New Century Hymnal.  Cleveland, OH:  Pilgrim Press, 1995.

The Psalter, Doctrinal Standards, Liturgy, and Church Order of the Christian Reformed Church in America.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eeerdmans Publishing Company, 1927.

Psalter Hymnal.  Grand Rapids, MI:  CRC Publications, 1987.

Psalter Hymnal:  Doctrinal Standards and Liturgy of the Christian Reformed Church.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Publication Committee of the Christian Reformed Church, 1934.

Psalter Hymnal:  Doctrinal Standards and Liturgy of the Christian Reformed Church.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Publication Committee of the Christian Reformed Church, 1976.

Psalter Hymnal:  Doctrinal Standards and Liturgy of the Christian Reformed Church.  Centennial Edition.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Publication Committee of the Christian Reformed Church, 1959.

The Psalter Hymnal:  The Psalms and Selected Hymns.  Pittsburgh, PA:  The United Presbyterian Board of Publication and Bible School Work, 1927.

Rejoice in the Lord:  A Hymn Companion to the Scriptures.  Edited by Erik Routley.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985.

Smidt, Corwin, et al.  Divided By a Common Heritage:  The Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America at the Beginning of the New Millennium.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 54.

Thompson, Ernest Trice.  Presbyterians in the South.  Volume Three.  1890-1972.  Richmond, VA:  John Knox Press, 1973.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF INI KOPURIA, FOUNDER OF THE MELANESIAN BROTHERHOOD

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Posted June 6, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Predecessors, Reformed (General), United Church of Christ Predecessors, Wesleyan (General)

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Guide to Posts About the German Reformed Church/Reformed Church in the United States (1793-1934)   2 comments

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Above:  Interior, German Reformed Church, Alexandria, Pennsylvania

Historic American Buildings Survey

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = HABS PA, 31–alex, 14–4

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“United as Members of One Body in True Brotherly Love”:  The Reformed Church in America, 1628-1857:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/united-as-members-of-one-body-in-true-brotherly-love-the-reformed-church-in-america-1628-1857/

“That It May Please Thee to Remove All Sects and Scandals”:  The Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, 1857-1913:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/22/that-it-may-please-thee-to-remove-all-sects-and-scandals-the-reformed-church-in-america-and-the-christian-reformed-church-in-north-america-1857-1913/

“God of Our Fathers”:  The Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, 1914-1945:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/god-of-our-fathers-the-reformed-church-in-america-and-the-christian-reformed-church-in-north-america-1914-1945/

“Lead Me, Guide Me”:  The Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, 1970-2000:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/lead-me-guide-me-the-reformed-church-in-america-and-the-christian-reformed-church-in-north-america-1970-2000/

“Let Us Break Bread Together”:  The Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, 2001-2014:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/07/05/let-us-break-bread-together-the-reformed-church-in-america-and-the-christian-reformed-church-in-north-america-2001-2014/

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“That It May Please Thee to Remove All Sects and Scandals”: The Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America, 1857-1913   12 comments

Dr._Hutton's_Church,_University_Place,_from_Robert_N._Dennis_collection_of_stereoscopic_views_crop

Above:  Washington Square Reformed Church, New York, New York (1840-1879), Pastorate of the Reverend Mancius Smedes Hutton, Chairman of the Committee on Revision, 1870-1873

Image in the Public Domain

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U.S. DUTCH REFORMED LITURGY, PART III

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That it may please Thee to remove all sects and scandals.

The Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America, As Approved by the General Synod of 1873, By the Committee on Revision (1873), page 14

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I.  PREFACE AND INTRODUCTION

One of the temptations to which I have refused to yield while planning and writing this post is the lure to include too many details, especially with regard to the minutae of liturgical revision.  No, I have resolved to provide summaries, supported by selected examples, instead.  Those who wish to read all the details may follow my bibliography and hyperlinks.  Such interest makes the heart of this liturgical geek rejoice, actually.  Yet I prefer not to lose that part of my readership which prefers that I not overwhelm it with, for example, every instance of Anglican influence upon revised Dutch Reformed liturgies since 1857.

This post begins with 1857 and concludes with 1913 for excellent reasons.  1857 aside from being the birth year of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA or just CRC), was also the year the first post-John H. Livingston liturgy of the Reformed Church in America (RCA) debuted.  1913 was the year prior to the start of World War I, the de facto beginning of the twentieth century.  1914 was also the year the CRCNA published its first English-language Psalter, a landmark change for a denomination strongly attached to its Dutch heritage.  The war changed the United States, the world, and both denominations.

That  is a long story, part of which I plan to tell in Part IV of this series.

And yes, just in case anyone wonders, I chose the quote for the title of this post with a strong sense of irony.

II.  THE MASONIC LODGE AND THE SECESSION OF 1882

Theological disagreements over Freemasonry, a minor issue in the Secession of 1857, were central to the Secession of 1882, which actually occurred in 1881-1884.

In Part I of this series I wrote that critics of Freemasonry involved in the Secession of 1857 did not distinguish between European Freemasonry and American Freemasonry, for those who seceded from the Reformed Church in America in the Midwest that year thought as transplanted Europeans, not as Americans.  I did not support the first part of that statement in that post, so I do so now.  European Freemasonry was an Enlightenment project.  Many ideals of that intellectual and political movement stood in opposition to Christendom (sometimes appropriately, I am convinced, as in the cases of liberty of conscience and the proposition that political power flows properly from the consent of the governed).  Many European churches from Rome to the Reformed forbade its members to belong to the Masonic Lodge.  U.S. Freemasonry, however, had a different flavor–one which many Christians considered consistent with their faith.  Thus many prominent Christians were also staunch members of the Masonic Lodge.

The question  of whether a member of the Reformed Church in America should or could belong to the Masonic Lodge was a minor issue until 1867, when the Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, which then called itself the True Dutch Reformed Church (TDRC) forbade its members to belong to the Lodge.  Thus the RCA, which had Midwestern congregations competing with CRC/TDRC counterparts, had to address the question, a non-issue in the East yet a major concern in the Midwest.  The 1868 General Synod did nothing, despite the request of the Classis of Wisconsin.  The following year, however, the General Synod, prodded by the Classes of Holland and Wisconsin, referred the question to a committee, which reported to the 1870 General Synod.  The decision in 1870 was that, although no member of the RCA should belong to any secret society, such as the Masonic Lodge, the denomination had no right to impinge upon each congregation’s prerogative to address the issue as it saw fit.  This was a compromise, one which the Reverend Albertus C. Van Raalte (1811-1876), who disliked Freemasonry, accepted.  He was able to contain the controversy in his section of the RCA for a few years, but his absence after 1876 proved critical to the Secession of 1882.

The controversy over the RCA’s handling of financial troubles at Hope College, Holland, Michigan, led to a conspiracy theory, the renewed Masonic controversy, and the Secession of 1882.  Hope College, which the RCA had founded, was in deep financial trouble.  The denomination sent the Reverend G. Henry Mandeville, from the East, to assume the leadership of the school.  The Provisional President closed the theological education program there.  Some critics concluded that this action proved the existence of a Masonic plot, for Mandeville was a Freemason.  The application of Ockham’s Razor would have helped in this instance, would it have not?

Ironically, First Reformed Church, Holland, Michigan, Van Raalte’s former pastorate, joined the Secession of 1882 and kept the building, with its distinctive front pillars.  An RCA congregation, retaining the name of First Reformed Church, continued–and still exists.  The seceded congregation, known alternately as the Ninth Street Church or the Pillar Church,

reestablished itself around a vision of reconciliation

in 2012, retaining its CRCNA affiliation while resuming its old RCA membership, according to its website.

The Secession of 1882 strengthened the Christian Reformed Church, which called itself the Dutch Christian Reformed Church (DCRC) at the time.  Although immediate losses to the RCA were minor, the long-term impact was major.  The CRC/DCRC became stronger in the Midwest, heightening tensions between approximate RCA and CRC congregations.  Furthermore, the main Seceder denomination in The Netherlands switched its allegiance from the RCA to the CRCNA, referring its emigrating members to the latter, not the former.  This influx made the CRCNA more resolute in its opposition to Americanization.

III.  WORSHIP RESOURCES IN THE REFORMED CHURCH IN AMERICA, 1857-1913

The Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America, long composed of obligatory rites and recommended rituals, has proven to be a matter of controversy and varied opinion.  Liturgical practice in the RCA has spanned a wide range of practices, including the choice of hymnals, for a long time.

The Liturgy of 1857

The High Church wing of the RCA, seeking to reclaim the denomination’s historic status as a liturgical body, resisted the Low Church Evangelicalism which was ubiquitous in the denomination.  Thus the introduction of Anglican influences into the RCA began.  The General Synod of 1853 created a committee to revise the Liturgy.  That committee unveiled its product four years later.  The Liturgy of 1857, although always unofficial and never Constitution, as the majority of Classes never approved it, did circulate widely in the RCA and influence the worship patterns of many congregations.

The Liturgy of 1857 was a milestone.  For the first time the RCA published a complete order of public worship–one which borrowed generously from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (1789).  There were also distinct Sunday morning and evening services, which followed the same basic pattern, but with slight differences distinguishing the two from each other.

Much of the Liturgy of 1857 influenced worship in one New York City congregation, which published its own Church Book (1866).  The service book named neither the congregation nor the minister who edited it at the behest of the consistory, or church council.  Nevertheless, the existence of such a volume, which also contained non-RCA rites, documented a degree of variety of liturgical practice in the denomination at the time.

Hymnals

The General Synod approved a variety of hymnals, most of them not of RCA origin, for use.  A new official hymn book Hymns of the Church, debuted in 1869.  This volume bore a striking similarity–some would even say due to plagiarism–to the Anglican Hymns, Ancient and Modern (1861).  (If imitation is the highest form of flattery, what is plagiarism?)  The strong Anglican-Reformed flavor of Hymns of the Church dissatisfied much of the RCA.  That branch of the church did have options, however.  General Synods had already approved the Sabbath School and Social Hymn Book (1843) and the Fulton Street Hymn Book (1862).  Subsequent General Synods, honoring requests, approved other non-Anglican-Reformed hymnals:

The Liturgy of 1873/1882

Liturgical reform continued.  It resumed in 1868 with a committee chaired by the Reverend Elbert S. Porter, an opponent of the High Calvinistic Mercersburg Theology prominent in the U.S. German Reformed Church.  After two years, however, Porter stepped down and the Reverend Mancius Smedes Hutton, pastor of the Washington Square Reformed Church, New York, New York, assumed the chairmanship.  Hutton supported the Mercersburg Theology, which called U.S. Reformed Christians back to their Protestant Reformation liturgical roots and opposed Pietism and Revivalism.  The chairman, in his report to the 1871 General Synod, listed three guiding principles of liturgical revision:

  1. Greater congregational participation,
  2. Acknowledgement of the RCA’s liturgical roots, and
  3. John Calvin’s Strasbourg Liturgy as a model from which to work.

The Committee on Revision, laboring from 1871 to 1873, increased Anglican influences in the Liturgy, stopping short of creating an RCA version of the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (1789).  They drew from the Prayer Book heavily, though.  And the Committee bowed to pressure, revising Datheen’s order for the Lord’s Supper conservatively, mainly by introducing some rubrics and dividing some prayers.  The Committee also adapted a Eucharistic Prayer from the Church of Scotland’s Euchologion, or a Book of Common Order (1869), and placed that prayer in the Prayers for Special Occasions section.  This was a prayer for use in addition to, not in lieu of, the one in the Datheen rite.

A note early in the proposed service book defended the volume’s existence:

This Revised Liturgy is set forth as a general expression of the way in which the public services of religion should be performed.  It is to be understood that it is not of binding authority, but is only recommended as containing suitable offices for public religious service.  The only parts of our service book which are obligatory, are those which are enjoined by the Constitution of the Church.

–Page 5

The Liturgy of 1873/1882 was a combination of the old and the new.  The familiar parts of the RCA Liturgy were present.  There one found forms of the Lord’s Supper; Baptism; Marriage; Church Discipline; the Ordination of Ministers, Elders, and Deacons; and the Creeds; as well as various prayers.  Some of the orders had changed , of course,  and some of the prayers had not appeared in previous service books of the RCA.  And the legacy of the Liturgy of 1857 was evident, as in the Order of Scripture Lessons, a lectionary setting forth an Old Testament lesson and a New Testament lesson for each Sunday morning and Sunday evening service, according to the church year.

The Classes approved the Liturgy, which the denomination republished in 1882.  Even after that years-long process the controversial nature of the book was evident in the 1882 Preface, which noted that the only obligatory rites were the Administration of the Sacraments, the Discipline, and the Order of Worship.  Then the Preface concluded:

With these exceptions, this Liturgy is not of binding authority, but it is set forth as a general expression of the manner in which the Public Worship of God should be conducted, and, in the words of the late Rev. Mancius S. Hutton, D.D., the chairman of the Committee through whose labors the Revised Liturgy was first prepared and presented to the Church, “With the hope that it will so commend itself to the piety and wisdom of the Church, that its increasing use will place us before the world in our true historic position as a spiritual Liturgical and Reformed Church.

–Page 6

The Liturgy of 1906

The process of creating the Liturgy of 1906, in full The Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America Together With the Psalter Arranged for Responsive Reading, required two starts.  The Reverend Mancius Holmes Hutton, son of the second chairman of the Committee which created the Liturgy of 1873/1882, chaired the 1902-1903 committee.  Hutton the Younger, however, was not equal to his father in liturgical scholarship, so the committee made some awkward and arbitrary decisions.  Most Classes rejected the report to the 1903 General Synod, so the 1904 General Synod created a new committee with a different chairman.  The resulting service book lasted for sixty-two years.

The Liturgy of 1906 was sufficiently similar to its 1873/1882 predecessor to be easily recognizable yet sufficiently different as to be distinct.  The Sunday morning and evening orders of worship, for example, were slightly different from their immediate predecessors.  The Eucharistic Prayer of 1873 was still present, but no longer exiled to the Prayers for Special Occasions.  The old form of the Lord’s Supper was also present, for those who preferred it.  And there were two forms of Baptism–one old and the other new.  This practice of including two forms for both the Lord’s Supper and Baptism continued in the 1968 Liturgy and Psalms but not in its immediate successor, Worship the Lord (1987).

The New Metrical Version of the Psalms (1905 and 1909)

The New Metrical Version of the Psalms (first edition, 1905; second edition, 1909) was an ecumenical Reformed project.  Nine denominations participated in its creation.  They were:

  1. The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, the old “Northern Presbyterian Church;”
  2. The Presbyterian Church in Canada, part of which is now in The United Church of Canada;
  3. The United Presbyterian Church in North America, which merged with #1 in 1958 to create The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America;
  4. The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, which still exists;
  5. The Reformed Presbyterian Church (General Synod), whose legacy lives on inside the Presbyterian Church in America;
  6. The Reformed Church in America;
  7. The Christian Reformed Church in North America;
  8. The Associate Presbyterian Synod of North America, whose legacy lives on inside the Presbyterian Church in America; and
  9. The Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, which still exists.

This Psalter, one of the most widely used books of its genre in the twentieth century, was more significant for the CRCNA than for the RCA, which had established its commitment to church unity and had worshiped God in English for a long time.  The CRCNA, however, had worshiped God mostly in Dutch and had been standoffish, guarding its Dutch identity stubbornly.

IV.  WORSHIP, LANGUAGE, AND IDENTITY IN THE CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCH IN NORTH AMERICA, 1857-1913

Prior to the CRCNA’s Psalter of 1914, based on the United Presbyterian Psalter of 1912, in turn based on The New Metrical Version of the Psalms (1905 and 1909), most worship of God in that denomination had occurred in the Dutch language.  The CRCNA had used the old Dutch liturgy and the Psalmen Davids (1773), which included all the tunes from the Genevan Psalter (1562).  There were  no “innovations” in the bulk of the church’s Liturgy, as there were in the RCA.  This conservatism typified the CRCNA, where change came slowly.  Such conservatism also led to more uniformity than in the RCA, a pattern which remains true today.

There was not unanimity, however.  Some German-speaking congregations had joined the CRCNA in the middle 1800s.  They, with CRNCA Synodical approval, continued to use their service book and hymnal, which included all 150 Psalms plus 355 hymns.  (The CRCNA, in contrast, did not publish its first denominational hymnal (as opposed to Psalter) until 1934.)  And in 1890, much of the True Protestant Dutch Reformed Church (TPDRC), also known as the True Reformed Dutch Church (TRDC), an 1822 offshoot of the RCA, joined the CRCNA as Classis Hackensack.  (At that point in time the CRCNA adopted its current name.)  The 1822 group, which had already adopted the 1887 United Presbyterian Psalter and amended it to include 190 hymns (drawn mostly from John H. Livingston’s Psalms and Hymns (1814) and pegged to the Heidelberg Catechism, continued to worship from their familiar resource.

The CRCNA, which began its liturgical transition to English in earnest with The New Metrical Version of the Psalms (1905 and 1909), sped up that process with related projects.  The Synod of 1910 permitted use of the forthcoming United Presbyterian Psalter (1912) throughout the denomination.  Classis Hackensack used a modified version, one which included its 190 hymns.  The 1912 United Presbyterian Psalter, with some material unique to the CRCNA, became the Christian Reformed Psalter of 1914, modified slightly and republished in 1927.

Separatism and the Kuyperian Paradox

The CRCNA, prior to and well into the twentieth century, defined itself not only as a bastion of doctrinal purity but of Dutch identity.  Thus it remained separate from the mainstream U.S. society and other denominations.  In the 1890s reunion talks with the RCA failed, as did merger discussions with the United Presbyterian Church of North America–the former for doctrinal reasons and the latter for ethnic ones.  This separatism had both cultural and doctrinal reasons.  Given the fact that one of the main historic purposes of free public education in the United States has been to Americanize students, the CRCNA’s long-standing practice of operating parochial schools had a cultural purpose.  It also had a theological purpose, as in other denominations.

There were three distinct theological parties within the Christian Reformed Church relative to the Kuyperian Paradox, at the center of which was Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920), a Dutch theologian and politician who served as Prime Minister from 1901 to 1905.  Kuyper, early in his career, favored Christian separatism from society, with all the unredeemed people in it.  Later in life, though, after he had joined a coalition government, Kuyper concluded that even unsaved people could do good things and function as instruments of God.  The label for this theology was Common Grace.  Many members of the CRCNA, caring deeply about what Kuyper had said and written, divided into camps relative to the Kuyperian Paradox:

  1. The Antitheticals supported his first position only.
  2. The Positive Calvinists affirmed his second position only.
  3. The Confessionalists found a way to favor both positions.

This debate, which pertained to salvation, preaching, and sacraments, went to the 1906 CRCNA Synod.  The Antitheticals and the Positive Calvinists were Supralapsarians, meaning that they stated that election (as in Double Predestination) had occurred before the Creation.  Thus, they argued, redemption and damnation were already realities at birth, so preaching and the sacraments merely confirmed regeneration.  The Confessionalists, however, were Infralapsarians, meaning that they stated that election had occurred after the Creation and before the Fall of Man.  Thus, they argued, preaching and the sacraments induced regeneration.  The 1906 Synod sided with the Confessionalists.

The RCA, meanwhile, supported the reforms of the Progressive Era instead of becoming bogged down in polysyllabic theology and the politics of doctrinal purity.

V.  CONCLUSION

The Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church in North America traveled along divergent paths from 1857 to 1913.  They shared a few things, such as The New Metrical Version of the Psalms (1905 and 1909) and resentments and suspicions, however.  The two paths continued to diverge for years to come.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HARDCOPY SOURCES

Brink, Emily R., and Bert Polman, eds.  Psalter Hymnal Handbook.  Grand Rapids, MI:  CRC Publications, 1998.

Bruins, Elton J., and Robert P. Swierenga.  Family Quarrels in the Reformed Churches in the 19th Century.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 32.

Brumm, James Hart, ed.  Liturgy Among the Thorns:  Essays on Worship in the Reformed Church in America.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 57.

The Liturgy of the Reformed Church in America Together With the Psalter Arranged for Responsive Reading.  New York, NY:  The Board of Education of the Reformed Church in America, 1968.

The Psalter, Doctrinal Standards, Liturgy, and Church Order of the Christian Reformed Church in America.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1927.

Psalter Hymnal:  Doctrinal Standards and Liturgy of the Christian Reformed Church.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Publication Committee of the Christian Reformed Church, 1934.

Smidt, Corwin, et al.  Divided By a Common Heritage:  The Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America at the Beginning of the New Millennium.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006.

Worship the Lord.  Edited by James R. Esther and Donald J. Bruggink.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 22, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD BIGGS, ACTOR

THE FEAST OF JULIA BULKLEY CADY CORY, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ROTA WAITOA, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Posted May 22, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Predecessors, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Predecessors' Offshoots, Reformed (General)

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“United as Members of One Body in True Brotherly Love”: The Reformed Church in America, 1628-1857   10 comments

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Above:  Marble Collegiate Church, New York, New York, 1901

Publisher and Copyright Claimant = Detroit Publishing Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/det1994005022/pp/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-det-4a08186

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U.S. DUTCH REFORMED LITURGY, PART I

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Besides, that we by the same spirit may also be united as members of one body in true brotherly love….

–The Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper, 1789

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I.  PREFACE

There is a long-running conflict between the quest for doctrinal purity (according to whatever standard one measures that) and the desire for ecclesiastical unity.  The former flows from an exclusive spirit, but the latter indicates an inclusive impulse.  The names, dates, places, and issues change, but people repeat the old pattern.  I have studied these matters closely and long enough to recognize without surprise that breakaway groups frequently suffer from schism.  Apparently many of the self-identified pure are impure according others among the self-identified pure.  What else is one supposed to expect when setting out on the schismatic enterprise?  The quest for doctrinal purity is the road to a series of schisms, for each of us is somebody’s heretic.

I write as one outside the Reformed camp.  My initial theological formation occurred inside The United Methodist Church.  At age eighteen I became an Episcopalian.  Since then I have never looked back.  The mix of my Anglicanism has become more Lutheran in recent years, but I have collection of Madonnas and crucifixes.  I am, in order, an Anglican-Lutheran-Catholic.  Thus I approach this material as an outsider–an intellectually curious one committed to the idea that, despite the plethora of small theological differences among we Christians, more unites us than divides us.  We ought, therefore, to focus on the latter, not the former.

II.  INTRODUCTION

The saga of Dutch Reformed Christians in the United States of America is a fascinating one.  This series of blog posts, focused on liturgical matters, requires a certain amount of historical background for comprehension.  So this post will provide much of it.  I will not attempt to recreate books I have consulted while preparing this post or will consult while preparing subsequent ones.  Therefore I refer anyone who seeks more details to the books in my bibliography and to the links I have embedded and will embed in the text.

The Reformed Church in America (RCA), one of the oldest denominations in the United States, is among the smaller of the mainline Protestant bodies.  It is a denomination with a mixed identity, for its shrinking Eastern branch is more progressive than its growing Western arm.  The Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA or just CRC), the RCA’s more conservative offshoot, is moving to the left while the RCA is moving to the right.  The two denominations are converging, even sharing a hymnal, Lift Up Your Hearts, since 2013.  Nevertheless, substantial differences remain.  The continuing saga of the evolving relationship between these two bodies will remain a story worth monitoring for some time to come.

One storytelling technique is to start at the end then move to the beginning and move forward.  I have given you, O reader, a glimpse of the end of the story.  Now I take you to the beginning and move forward.

III.  THE DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH IN AMERICA DURING THE COLONIAL AND REVOLUTIONARY ERAS, 1628-1783

Our story begins in New Amsterdam, the capital city of the colony of New Netherland (New Jersey, much of New York, and parts of Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland).  In 1628 the congregation known today as Marble Collegiate Church came into being.  From that event the present Reformed Church in America (RCA) dates its beginning.  For a few decades the Dutch Reformed Church was the religious establishment in New Netherland, enjoying all the benefits which come with that status.  Then, 1664, forces of the British Empire seized the colony.  New Amsterdam became the City of New York and the slow process of the Americanization of the Dutch Reformed Church in the territory which would become the United States of America began.

This was an emotionally and theologically difficult transformation, for the question of identity was at stake.  Dutch Reformed adherents settled on ethnic loyalty to their church, keeping it distinct from other Calvinist groups, such as the Congregationalists and the Presbyterians.  “Dutch” mattered more than “Reformed.”  That was how the former establishment adjusted to its demoted status.  Few liturgical issues have proven thornier down the corridors of time than the language of worship.  That language remained Dutch among the Dutch Reformed for a long time.  The Marble Collegiate Church installed its first English-speaking pastor, Archibald Laidlie, in 1764.  Many congregations used a variety of English-language psalters, none of which the Dutch Reformed Church had authorized, prior to the publication of the official and English-language Psalms of David in 1789.

Those who study the immigrant experience know that the process of adjusting to and accommodating another culture is difficult.  In the case of the Dutch of the former New Netherland this process played out on home turf.  I have mentioned some changes they made.  Here are two more:

  1. A church in New York City installed a pipe organ in 1727.  This proved quite controversial.  The organist, however, did not play the instrument on Communion Sundays.
  2. The practice of separating men and women during Sunday worship became less frequent during the 1700s.

And here is a third.  The (First) Great Awakening also proved controversial in Dutch Reformed circles.  Not only did it shape the Dutch Reformed Church, but that denomination influenced it.  Two components of Dutch Reformed theology clashed.  The experiential aspect of the religion told people that ought to have a personal experience of salvation and emphasized personal piety, often at the expense of sacraments and other “externals.”  Thus Pietism and Revivalism occupied the minds of one wing of the church.

There was a very different camp of Dutch Reformed Christians, however.  They looked back to the Canons of Dort (1619), from which we receive our explanation of the five points of Calvinism:

  • Total depravity,
  • Unconditional election,
  • Limited atonement,
  • Irresistible grace, and
  • Perseverance of the saints.

Some especially strict Dutch Calvinists regarded the Canons of Dort as not only accurate but divinely inspired.  Back in the old country

The Dutch Calvinists came to consider themselves as the new Israel, a chosen people under God, country, and the house of Orange.

–Elton  J. Bruins and Robert P. Swierenga, Family Quarrels in the Dutch Reformed Churches of the 19th Century (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), page 9

And many Dutch Calvinists in America, part of a church still part of the Dutch national church, agreed.

The Reverend Theodorus J. Frelinghuysen (1691-1748), a leading light of the pro-(First) Great Awakening wing of the church, struggled with the conundrum of affirming both Predestination and the message that people must be born again.  Many of his critics thought that emphasized the latter too much and the former too little.

From 1747 to 1771 the colonial Dutch Reformed Church had two warring factions:  Coetus (Frelinghuysen’s camp) and Confertentie (traditionalists).  Coetus partisans favored not only Pietism and Revivalism but American control of the American church.  No longer should candidates for the ministry have to study in The Netherlands, they insisted.  And, they said, the time to cut the umbilical cord had come; the American church should cease to answer to the Classis of Amsterdam.  Confertentie partisans, being traditionalists, favored a stricter reading of the Canons of the Dort as well as maintaining the status quo with regard to the church in The Netherlands.  They were, relatively speaking, the more orthodox Calvinists.

The Reverend John H. Livingston (1746-1825) became the Father of the Reformed Church in America.  In 1772 he reunited the Coetus and Confertentie factions.  For the rest of his life Livingston shaped the denomination liturgically and theologically.  That body achieved independence from the mother church in 1772, becoming the Reformed Dutch Church in North America (RDCNA).  Later it became the Reformed Dutch Church in the United States of America (RDCUSA).  In 1819 the denomination became the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in North America (RPDCNA).  Finally, in 1867, it took its current name, the Reformed Church in America (RCA).

Both Frelinghuysen and Livingston felt the irenic influence of the Heidelberg Catechism (1563).  Elector Frederick III of the Palatinate, a German state, had commissioned the writing of the catechism, designed to be agreeable to Lutherans and Calvinists alike.  That theological generosity was evident in Livingston’s emphasis on the unity of church as it continued to adapt to changing political and social conditions.  That theological generosity marked the denomination’s leadership even as forces within the body tore it asunder in subsequent decades.

IV.  THE DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1784-1857

The Psalms of David (1789), The Psalms and Hymns (1814), and Additional Hymns (1831 and 1846)

The Reverend John H. Livingston (1746-1825), Father of the Reformed Church in America, presided over the denomination’s continued Americanization and edited its earliest service books-hymnals The Psalms of David (1789) and The Psalms and Hymns (1814).  He adapted the Canons of Dort for the American scene in 1792, accepting voluntary church membership, for example.  And his Psalms of David (1789) broke with the already weakened Reformed tradition of singing only Psalms and rejecting hymns, “the compositions of sinful men,” as many said of them.

I plan to avoid the trap of attempting to do too much in this post.  Therefore I will discuss the 1789 Psalms of David and 1814 Psalms and Hymns in detail in the next post in the series.  In this post I remain committed primarily to providing historical background information.  Nevertheless, I do offer a brief summary of the those books here.

The table of contents for the 1789 and 1814 books was identical:

  1. The Psalter;
  2. Hymns and spiritual songs “faithful to the Heidelberg Catechism” and pegged to it;
  3. A Compendium of the Christian Religion, a catechism;
  4. The Confession of Faith and the Canons of Dort;
  5. The Liturgy; and
  6. The Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.

The Liturgy came in six sections:

  1. Public Prayer;
  2. The Administration of the Holy Sacraments;
  3. The Exercise of Church Discipline;
  4. The Ordination of Church Officers;
  5. The Celebration of Marriage; and
  6. Comforting the Sick.

The thoroughly Reformed liturgy fell into widespread disuse in the early 1800s.  Proponents of the liturgy lamented this fact, but their protests changed nothing.  Liturgical differences proved pivotal in preventing an attempted union of the Reformed Church in America and the German Reformed Church, for the latter U.S. denomination was undergoing a liturgical revival due to the Mercersburg Theology of the Reverends John Williamson Nevin (1803-1886) and Philip Schaff (1819-1893).  They called the Reformed Churches back to their Protestant Reformation liturgical roots and away from Revivalism and Pietism.  Along the way Nevin and Schaff faced charges of heresy–Romanism, specifically.  That was strong language in those days.  Yet Nevin and Schaff won the argument in their denomination.  The Reformed Church in America, however, was not yet ready for the Mercersburg Theology.

The Reformed Church in America, in its post-Livingston phase, embraced the Second Great Awakening, which was at its height after his 1825 death.  Two hymnals, both named Additional Hymns and bound with both separately and with The Psalms and Hymns, proved indicative of their times.  Additional Hymns (1831) abandoned the practice of pegging hymns to the Heidelberg Catechism in favor of a topical arrangement.  Most of the content of this revivalistic hymnal came from Pietists.  The largest category was “Revival,” focused on individual believers struggling with adversity.  Most of the 172 new hymns in the book were about people, not God, in true Pietistic fashion.  Additional Hymns (1846), also Pietistic, went further, adding 340 new hymns.  “Particular Duties” was among the largest categories.  The sense of social responsibility which the Heidelberg Catechism engendered and which had influenced the 1789 and 1814 collections, although present, was weaker.  The authorized texts indicated an emphasis not on God or on social improvement, but on judgment, the uncertainty associated with death, human responses to grace, and how individuals should live faithfully each day.  The first person singular was prominent, consistent with much of Evangelicalism.

I feel the need to make a point plainly:  another aspect of Evangelicalism encourages social responsibility.  At the time of the Second Great Awakening many Northern Evangelicals became deeply involved (or more so) in the movement to abolish slavery.  Many Southern Evangelicals, however, quoted the Bible more vigorously to defend slavery.  The Second Great Awakening encouraged many people to join social reform movements.  It fostered a sense of social responsibility in many people, but not in all whom it influenced.

Hopkinsian Theology and the Secession of 1822

Tensions focused on the question of how strictly Reformed to be and to remain resurfaced in the early 1800s, as the Reformed Church in America engaged in ecumenical efforts related to Sabbath observance, temperance, the abolition of slavery (some people were for it, others against it), and frontier evangelism.  The church was expanding westward.  But what was the best way to do so?

This question began to flare up in the second decade of the nineteenth century and led to a minor schism in the third.  The General Synod of 1814 questioned the practice of receiving Congregationalist clergymen without doctrinal examination.  The trigger for the dispute was the Reverend Jonathan Hopkins, a student of Jonathan Edwards.  Hopkins, however, emphasized free will more than his teacher did.  Was Hopkins too Arminian?  Was Arminianism infiltrating the Reformed Church in America?  This was a major issue.  The Synod of Dort (1618-1619), after all, had convened to refute Arminianism and produced the Canons of Dort.

Two synods were the chief ecclesiastical bodies involved in the conflict internal to the Reformed Church in America.  The Synod of New York favored relaxing Calvinist orthodoxy in the name of winning converts on the frontier, but the Synod of Albany preferred the old orthodoxy.  This dispute of 1822-1824 rehashed an ecclesiastical altercation from 1747 to 1771.  Abstract theology, however was not the major issue for the Synod of New York.  The Dutch Reformed of southern New York, having lost their establishment status in 1664, had retained numerical strength for a long time.  Yet, in the early 1800s, that was changing due to changing demographics and to intermarriage with descendants of English people.  The Synod of New York was playing catch-up.

Some of the stricter members of the Reformed Church in America broke away in 1822, forming the True Reformed Dutch Church (TRDC), also known as the True Protestant Dutch Reformed Church (TPDRC).  (Was the parent body false?)  The new denomination formed with twenty-six congregations and twenty-four ministers.  Some of the churches of this body joined the Christian Reformed Church in North America (founded in 1857) in 1890.  The first of the three U.S. Dutch Reformed schisms had occurred and presaged the second.

The General Synod of 1824 addressed the dispute with the theological generosity.  It reaffirmed the Canons of Dort and permitted participation in revivalism.  The True Reformed Dutch Church was not impressed.

The Secession of 1857 and the Christian Reformed Church in North America

The Secession of 1857, which created the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA or just CRC), had its roots in The Netherlands.  The National Synod of 1816 had altered the church-state relationship by making King Willem I the highest authority in the church.  Later that year he had mandated the singing of hymns–an affront to many strict Calvinists.  An ecclesiastical resistance movement ensued and culminated in the Secession of 1834.  Religious persecution–fines, imprisonment, et cetera–followed.  The persecution, although over in 1848, had convinced many of the Seceders to emigrate to the United States, with encouragement from the Reformed Church in America.

There were several factions of Seceders in The Netherlands.  All agreed that they wanted nothing to do with the Dutch national church, but they disagreed regarding what should replace it.  One camp argued for a return to the Canons of Dort in lieu of the national church.  Another favored congregational independence and an experiential Gospel in that place.  A third faction, that of the Reverend Albertus C. Van Raalte (1811-1876), supported defense of liberty and the separation of church and state in lieu of the national church.  Van Raalte’s mentor was the Reverend Hendrik P. Scholte (1805-1868), who emigrated to the United States and remained within the Reformed Church in America from that point to his death.

Van Raalte led an exodus to the United States.  He arrived in late 1846; many others followed.  The Reformed Church in America sponsored their journeys westward and financed the construction of houses of worship.  These new congregations formed the Classis of Holland (as in Holland, Michigan), which joined the Reformed Church in America  (RCA) in 1850.  This merger proved crucial to the Reformed Church in America, for it gave the denomination an anchor for expansion into the Midwest and the West.

Van Raalte had found his ecclesiastical home in the New World.  He began to Americanize, something which some of those who had followed him to the United States never did.  Van Raalte, ever grateful for all the Reformed Church in America had done for him and his partisans, remained within it for the rest of his life.

Some of Van Raalte’s fellow emigrants disagreed, however.  No matter how generous the Eastern establishment of the Reformed Church in America was, that amount of money proved to be less than some had expected.  Regardless of how orthodox the RCA was, it proved to be too liberal for some people.  Emigrants had broken away from a national church they considered too liberal, formed more orthodox churches, moved to the United States, and affiliated with a denomination considerably more conservative than the Dutch national church.  Yet, for some, the Reformed Church in America was still too liberal–apostate, even.

There was a litany of complaints.  The singing of hymns proved unacceptable to many.  Some RCA congregations in the East used choirs in worship and/or practiced open communion.  Freemasonry was a widely accepted secret society (albeit less so than before the late 1820s).  Many RCA congregations permitted Freemasons to join.  None had to do so, however.  And sermons based on the Heidelberg Catechism were less frequent than in former times.

Purity of doctrine was only one issue, though.  It was not even the major one.  Cultural differences took center stage.  Those who formed the Christian Reformed Church in North America (five congregations and one minister at the beginning) in 1857 were thinking as transplanted Europeans, not as Americans.  They reacted against the Dutch national church and took out their frustrations on the Reformed Church in America.  They did  not make the distinction between European Freemasonry and American Freemasonry.  And they resisted Americanization, clinging to their Dutch identity, language, and Psalters in the wilderness of the Midwest.  They, Van Raalte said, fought ecclesiastical battles from the old country.

What separated the seceding emigrants from the non-seceding ones in 1857?  As Elton J. Bruins and Robert P. Swierenga wrote:

The RCA members acted like immigrants and the CRC members acted like colonists.

Family Quarrels in the Dutch Reformed Churches of the 19th Century (1999), page 103

The deed was done.  The Christian Reformed Church, initially weak, became a major force via the third secession of the 1800s.

That, however, is a story for another post.

V.  CONCLUSION

The past, in a real sense, is present.  This is especially true in ecclesiastical groups with origin stories which many well-informed adherents have come to regret.  The Southern Baptist Convention, for example, came into existence in 1845 in defense of slaveholding missionaries.  That, like so much else which almost nobody in the Western world defends these days, seemed like a good idea at the time.  That denomination, to its credit, has apologized for the conditions of its founding.  The Christian Reformed Church came into existence for reasons which many of its leaders these days admit were dubious at best.  I have read criticisms from prominent contemporary CRC figures of the founders of that denomination.

The previous owner of my copy of Family Quarrels in the Dutch Reformed Churches of the 19th Century resisted agreeing with those leaders.  He, a member of the Christian Reformed Church, underlined much and wrote fascinating marginalia.  He suspected an anti-CRC bias in the book, to which a prominent Christian Reformed pastor wrote the Preface.

We humans form attachments to organizations, about which we prefer to hold the best possible opinions.  We tend to be loyal to these groups.  That can be laudable, but somber honesty is a higher virtue.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HARDCOPY SOURCES

Benedict, Philip.  Christ’s Churches Purely Reformed:  A Social History of Calvinism.  New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press, 2002.

Bruins, Elton J., and Robert P. Swierenga.  Family Quarrels in the Dutch Reformed Churches in the 19th Century.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 32.

Brumm, James Hart, ed.  Liturgy Among the Thorns:  Essays on Worship in the Reformed Church in America.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 57.

Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), The.  Part I.  Book of Confessions.  Louisville, KY: The Office of the General Assembly, 1996.

Lift Up Your Hearts:  Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2013.

Our Faith:  Ecumenical Creeds, Reformed Confessions, and Other Resources; Including the Doctrinal Standards of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and the Reformed Church in America.  Grand Rapids, MI:  Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2013.

Smidt, Corwin, et al.  Divided by a Common Heritage:  The Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America at the Beginning of the New Millennium.  Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006.  The Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America, No. 54.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 16, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANDREW FOURNET AND ELIZABETH BICHIER, COFOUNDERS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE CROSS; AND SAINT MICHAEL GARICOITS, FOUNDER OF THE PRIESTS OF THE SACRED HEART OF BETHARRAM

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF SUDAN

THE FEAST OF TE WERA HAURAKI, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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