News Articles

Opposition to emerging Protestant Church ‘massive’ in many congregations

Constituency GB in NHK torn over ratification of merger

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

UTRECHT - The struggle towards the union of the two largest Reformed church groups, the NHK and the GKNs, and the tiny Lutheran denomination ELK appears to be far from finalized even though all three by majority votes ratified the decision last December. Even before the appeal deadline of February 1, a spokesman of the Netherlands Reformed Church (NHK) admitted to ‘massive’ opposition in many congregations. Nearly ten procent of the denomination’s consistories now have lodged an appeal against organizational union.

Opponents to the merger with the Gereformeerde Kerken (GKNs) and the Evangelisch- Lutherse Kerk (ELK) now are attempting to arrange an NHK emergency synod under an extremely rarely used clause which allows ten classes (ten regional groups of churches) to convene one. It may not be that difficult to reach that number since 17 of the 75 classes opposed merger plans. (Only eleven classes supported the merger unanimously.) Opponents long have argued and still do that a federative union between the three merger partners could be acceptable to them.

Meanwhile, concerned NHK office bearers held a meeting which attracted over 800 representing about 125 (district) consistories to contemplate on their trying situation. Although not convened to settle any issues, the closed gathering by observers was seen as an effort to reach out to others opposed to what is seen as compromising the denomination’s confessional integrity. It is expected that the naysayers to the merger eventually will hold a convent as a step towards reorganizing as a continuing Nederlands Hervormde Kerk. Over the past number of months, news has emerged of efforts to study the legal consequences of such a direction. Opinions that naysaying consistories could lose all their currents financial assets, including monumental buildings, are openly challenged by legal advisors of the concerned faction which is known as Comité ter Behoud van de Nederlands Hervormde Kerk (Committee to maintain the NHK). One of the group’s advisors recently successfully defended his thesis on the subject.

Thirty consistories already have joined in an effort to take a legal test case to court over issues dealing with property rights should their congregation remain outside the emerging Protestant Church of the Netherlands


Division over merger

The prospect of a split in the NHK particularly has created great unrest in the ranks of what generally is considered to be the Gereformeerde Bond (GB, Reformed Alliance). The century-old orthodox wing which over the decades increasingly has become a significant factor in the NHK, since the late 1990s has been divided over its response to the merger-drive of the larger mainstream segment in the denomination. While the GB originally stated, “we kunnen niet weg en we kunnen niet mee” (we can’t leave and we can’t go along), a significant segment is resolving their predicament by stating that the NHK has left them when it over protests agreed to adopt other confessions which are seen as contradictary to its previously exclusive Reformed confessional foundation. Both sides of the GB constituency are agonizing over increasing divisions, realizing that it is the orthodox segment that is facing a split.