Reformed Church in the United States
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|Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS)|
|Associations||North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council, International Conference of Reformed Churches|
|Separations||1933-34 majority merged with the Evangelical Synod of North America to form the Evangelical and Reformed Church (now part of the United Church of Christ)|
|Source: Abstract of the Minutes of the 266th RCUS Synod, 2012|
The Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) is a Protestant Christian denomination in the United States. The present RCUS is a conservative, Calvinist denomination. It affirms the principles of the Reformation: Sola scriptura (Scripture alone), Solo Christo (Christ alone), Sola gratia (Grace alone), Sola fide (Faith alone), and Soli Deo gloria (Glory to God alone). The RCUS is most heavily concentrated in California, Colorado, and South Dakota.
Originally the German Reformed Church, the RCUS was organized when German settlers in 18th-century America, who originally affiliated with the Dutch Reformed Church (now the Reformed Church in America), formed their own synod by the end of the century. The 19th century saw controversy as the German Reformed Church debated issues such as revivalism and especially the Mercersburg Theology of John Nevin and Philip Schaff.
The twentieth century saw the RCUS increasingly move toward ecumenism and higher criticism of the Bible. Some who were more conservative in their theology united to form the Eureka Classis of the RCUS to continue classical Reformed worship and polity. The RCUS merged with the Evangelical Synod of North America (ESNA) in 1934 to form the Evangelical and Reformed Church. The Eureka classis, however, abjured that move and decided to continue its existence as the "continuing" Reformed Church in the United States. The classis principally objected to the ESNA's admixture of Lutheran teachings with Calvinist practices; most of its churches and members descended from late 19th-century immigration either from parts of Germany where Reformed confessionalism had taken hold or from the Volga River region of Russia, who were ethnically German and isolated from liberalizing influences in the motherland. By contrast, most RCUS churches, classes, and synods farther east had significantly assimilated into generalized American Protestantism, with decidedly ecumenical leanings.
The Evangelical and Reformed Church later merged with the Congregational Christian Churches (itself a merger of Congregational and Restorationist churches) in 1957 to become the United Church of Christ, a body noted for its strongly liberal doctrine and moral stances.
Polity and beliefs
The polity of the RCUS is presbyterian, with local congregations ruled by elected elders and deacons. The pastor is the presiding officer of the church council or consistory. The RCUS has around 50 congregations with about 4,000 baptized members throughout the United States. The congregations are grouped together in four classes: Western Classis, Northern Plains Classis, South Central Classis, Covenant Eastern Classis. A classis is equivalent to a presbytery in Scots-Anglo-Irish Presbyterian denominations. A general, or national, synod convenes annually in mid-spring.
The old RCUS, as well as the continuing RCUS, originally held only to the Heidelberg Catechism as its statement of faith. In 1995, the Synod officially adopted the Belgic Confession of Faith and the Canons of Dort, which along with Heidelberg are known as the Three Forms of Unity which are commonly used together by Reformed churches (especially those coming out of the Dutch branch of Reformed churches). By holding strictly to these standards, the RCUS maintains a strong affiliation with Calvinism and the 16th-century Reformation.
The RCUS believes in biblical inerrancy, including a teaching that Genesis 1:1—2:4 must be understood as a literal 24-hour, six-day creation account. In keeping with tradition, nearly all congregations prohibit women from voting in church elections. The RCUS also does not allow women to hold special office (elders, deacons, pastor), a stance held by many conservative Reformed or Presbyterian bodies in the United States. In addition, the RCUS rejects some standard positions associated with American fundamentalism such as premillenialism and total abstinence from alcoholic beverages, holding instead a focus on a European Calvinist orthodoxy rather than American-style revivalism.
- "Abstract of the Minutes of the 266th Synod" (PDF). pp. 64–68. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
- Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) Official homepage
- City Seminary of Sacramento
- Heidelberg Theological Seminary
- Leben, a journal of Reformation life
- Reformed Herald
- Henry Beets (1920). "Reformed Church in the United States (The)". Encyclopedia Americana.