Netherlands - (Europe)

Information about Netherlands

41526 square kilometres
Roman Catholic 34%, Protestant 25%, Muslim 3%, other 2%, unaffiliated 36% (1991)
Christian (%)
Protestant (%)
Reformed (%)

In 1648, after the Eighty Years’ War with Spain, the Netherlands became free and independent and the Republic of the United Netherlands, comprising the seven Northern provinces, was established. In 1814 this republic was transformed into the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In the 19th and the first half of the 20th century this kingdom also included the Netherlands Indies in Southeast Asia, Surinam, and the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean. After the Second World War both the Netherlands Indies/Indonesia and Surinam became independent. The Netherlands Antilles became a self-governing part of the kingdom.
The reformation of the church in the Netherlands was closely associated with the struggle for political and religious freedom under William of Orange (1533-1584) and his successors. In 1651 the Reformed Church became the privileged religion. However, the Batavia Revolution (1795), influenced by the French Revolution (1789), led to the separation of church and state, and the Reformed Church lost its privileged position. Since then other Prot churches, the RCath Church, and the Jewish religion have been granted greater religious liberty. The constitution of 1848 affirmed religious freedom for all. Until World War II the Netherlands Reformed Church remained influential, but thereafter secularism and nonaffiliation gradually became dominant.
Through the centuries the Netherlands Reformed Church has experienced several schisms, separations, or secessions, starting with the Remonstrants, who were expelled from the Reformed Church in 1618/1619 (cf. no. 2). The churches rooted in the Afscheiding (Separation 1834) and in the Doleantie (Abraham Kuyper 1886) were afflicted by a number of further schisms. All churches, however, which have separated from the Netherlands Reformed Church, with the exception of the Covenant of Free Evangelical Congregations in the Netherlands (cf. no. 4), are one in maintaining the three classical confessions of the Dutch Reformation: the Belgic Confession (1561), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), and the Canons of Dordrecht (1618/19). Some of these churches follow these confessions strictly and others more moderately. It should also be noted that the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (cf. no. 5), the most important church of the secession, modified the Belgic Confession in 1905, deleting from Article 36 the passages which entrusted the government with the task of suppressing all false religions and “destroying the reign of Antichrist.”
In 1830, when the first census took place, 59.1% of the Dutch population was Prot (mainly Reformed), 39% RCath, and 1.0% Jewish and 0.1% adhered to other religions or professed no faith. Since then the situation has changed remarkably. In 1971 the RCath outnumbered the Prot, while the number of people with no church allegiance increased from 0.3% in 1879 to 23.3% in 1971. After 1971 church membership continued to decline, with the Church of the Nazarenes and the Pent being the main exceptions. According to some sociological studies the percentage of people who are not affiliated to any church increased to 48.7% in 1985. If this is true, the Netherlands is now one of the most secularized countries in the West. Recently the Dutch government decided to stop registering the religious affiliation of its citizens.
In addition, since the end of World War II the religious situation has become more diverse and complex through immigration, especially from Surinam, North Africa, and Turkey. Among the immigrants there are many Christians, but the greater part belongs to Islam. Hinduism and other non-Western religions can also be found in many of the larger cities. Muslims have established mosques in practically all towns and even in a good number of villages. Today, therefore, the Reformed churches in the Netherlands are called to cope not only with secularism but also with non-Christian religions, especially Islam and new religious movements.
The following survey of the Reformed churches in the Netherlands cannot claim to be complete. In addition to the 17 churches (with a nationwide ministry) at least ten small and independent Reformed congregations, mainly at the local level, could have been mentioned. The survey presented here lists first the “historical” churches in the Netherlands (nos. 1-11) and then mentions the communities which resulted from recent immigration (nos. 12-17). Since World War II the number of immigrants has rapidly grown. Many immigrants have joined one of the existing Dutch churches, while others have set up their own Bible groups, congregations, or churches. A first group of churches came into existence in connection with decolonization (nos. 12-15), and the others are due to other immigrations (nos. 16-17). In addition to the churches listed in this survey, the Indonesian community in the Netherlands (Indonesische Christelijke Gemeenschap in Nederland / Persekutuan Kristen Indonesia di Nederland PERKI), an association of Prot, mainly Reformed, Christians from Indonesia, could have been mentioned.
In Dutch there are two words for the term Reformed — hervormd and gereformeerd. They have the same meaning but differ in emotional value. Since 1814 the term hervormd is primarily linked with the Netherlands Reformed Church, the former state church, while gereformeerd is used for the separated churches and congregations since the Afscheiding of 1834. The orthodox wing within the Netherlands Reformed Church, however, bears the name gereformeerd (Gereformeerde Bond / Reformed Alliance).




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