Protestant Church in the Netherlands

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Protestant Church in the Netherlands
Protestant Church in the Netherlands.svg
Logo of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands
Classification Protestant
Orientation Reformed and Lutheran
Polity Mixture of Presbyterian and Congregationalist
Associations Conference of European Churches
World Communion of Reformed Churches
Lutheran World Federation
World Council of Churches
Origin 1 May 2004
Merger of Dutch Reformed Church
Reformed Churches in the Netherlands
Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Separations Restored Reformed Church
Continued Reformed Churches in the Netherlands
(did not participate in the merger)
Congregations ca. 2,000
Members 2 million,[1] 8.6 % of the population (2015)[2]
Official website

The Protestant Church in the Netherlands (Dutch: Protestantse Kerk in Nederland, abbreviated PKN) is the largest Protestant Christian denomination in the Netherlands, being both Reformed (Calvinist) and Lutheran. The Protestant Church of the Netherlands (PKN) forms the largest Protestant denomination, with some 8.6% of the population in 2015, based on in-depth interviewing,[2] down from 60% in the early 20th century. It is the second largest church in the Netherlands after the Catholic Church. Historically the various Protestant churches had collectively formed the largest Christian denomination in the country, with about 60% of the population being Protestant in the early 20th century, but religiosity drastically declined after the 1960s. It is the traditional faith of the Dutch Royal Family – a remnant of the church's historical dominance. The church today has approximately 2 million members.[3]

The PKN was founded 1 May 2004 as the merger of the Dutch Reformed Church, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.[4] The merger was the culmination of an organizational process started in 1961.

Doctrine and practice[edit]

The doctrine of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands is expressed in its creeds. In addition to holding the Apostles', the Nicene and the Athanasian Creeds of the universal church, it also holds to the confessions of its predecessor bodies. From the Lutheran tradition are the unaltered Augsburg Confession and Luther's Catechism. From the Reformed, the Heidelberg and Genevan Catechisms along with the Belgic Confession with the Canons of Dordt. The Church also acknowledges the Theological Declaration of Barmen and the Leuenberg Agreement.[5] Ordination of women and blessings of same-sex marriages are allowed.

The PKN contains both liberal and conservative movements; although the liberal Remonstrants left talks when they could not agree with the unaltered adoption of the Canons of Dordt. Local congregations have far-reaching powers concerning "controversial" matters (such as admittance to holy communion or whether women are admitted as members of the congregation's consistory).


The polity of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands is a hybrid of presbyterian and congregationalist church governance. Church governance is organised along local, regional, and national lines. At the local level is the congregation. An individual congregation is led by a church council made of the minister along with elders and deacons elected by the congregation. At the regional level are the 57 classical assemblies whose members are chosen by the church councils. At the national level is the General Synod which directs areas of common interest, such as theological education, ministry training and ecumenical co-operation.[6]

The PKN has four different types of congregations:

  1. Protestant congregations: local congregations from different church bodies that have merged
  2. Dutch Reformed congregations
  3. Reformed congregations (congregations of the former Reformed Churches in the Netherlands)
  4. Lutheran congregations (congregations of the former Evangelical-Lutheran Church)

Lutherans are a minority (about 1 percent) of the PKN's membership. To ensure that Lutherans are represented in the Church, the Lutheran congregations have their own synod. The Lutheran Synod also has representatives in the General Synod.[6]


Secularization, or the decline in religiosity, first became noticeable after 1960 in the Protestant rural areas of Friesland and Groningen. Then, it spread to Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the other large cities in the west. Finally the Catholic southern areas showed religious declines. A countervailing trend is produced by a religious revival in the Protestant Bible Belt, and the growth of Muslims and Hindu communities resulting from immigration and high birth rates.[7][8] Research in 2007 concludes that 42% of the members of the PKN is a non-theist[9] Furthermore, in the Protestant Church in the Netherlands (PKN) and several other smaller denominations of the Netherlands, 1 in 6 clergy are either agnostic or atheist.[10][11] A minister of the PKN, Klaas Hendrikse has described God as "a word for experience, or human experience" and said that Jesus may have never existed.[10][12]


History of the churches in the Netherlands

Only those congregations belonging to the former Reformed Churches in the Netherlands have the legal right to secede from the PKN without losing its property and church during a transition period of 10 years. Seven congregations have so far decided to form the Continued Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.[4] Two congregations have joined one of the other smaller Reformed churches in the Netherlands. Some minorities within congregations that joined the PKN decided to leave the church and associated themselves individually with one of the other Reformed churches.

Some congregations and members in the Dutch Reformed Church did not agree with the merger and have separated. They have organized themselves in the Restored Reformed Church. Estimations of their membership vary from 35,000 up to 70,000 people in about 120 local congregations.[13] They disagree with the pluralism of the merged church which maintains, as they see it, contradicting Reformed and Lutheran confessions. This group also considers same-sex marriages and female clergy unbiblical.

Involvement in the Middle East[edit]

A PKN supported organization, Kerk in Actie,[14] employs an individual to represent them in Israel who works at the Palestinian Christian non-profit Sabeel in Jerusalem,[15] which promotes the Kairos Palestine document and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel. In addition, Kerk in Actie works together with Interchurch Organisation for Development Cooperation[16] also involved in controversial activities critical of Israel.[17]

In a meeting of eight Jewish and eight Protestant Dutch leaders in Israel in May 2011, a statement of cooperation was issued, indicating, for the most part, that the Protestant Church recognizes the issues involved with the Palestinian Christians and that this is sometimes at odds with support for the State of Israel, but standing up for the rights of the Palestinians does not detract from the emphasis on the safety of the State of Israel and vice versa.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Netherlands". Lutheran World Federation. Retrieved April 5, 2016. 
  2. ^ a b God in Nederland 1966-2015, dr. Ton Bernts & dr. ir. Joantine Berghuijs, Uitgeverij Ten Have, ISBN 9789025905248
  3. ^ "Netherlands | The Lutheran World Federation". Retrieved 2016-06-17. 
  4. ^ a b, "Three-way PKN Union Drastically Changes Dutch Denominational Landscape: Two Groups of Merger Opponents Stay Out", May 24, 2004. Accessed July 13, 2010.
  5. ^ Church Order of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. Article I, p. 1. Accessed July 13, 2010.
  6. ^ a b Organisation of the PKN. Accessed July 14, 2010.
  7. ^ Hans Knippenberg, "Secularization in the Netherlands in its historical and geographical dimensions," GeoJournal (1998) 45#3 pp 209-220. online
  8. ^ Tomáš Sobotka and Feray Adigüzel, "Religiosity and spatial demographic differences in the Netherlands" (2002) online
  9. ^ God in Nederland' (1996-2006), by Ronald Meester, G. Dekker, ISBN 9789025957407
  10. ^ a b Pigott, Robert (5 August 2011). "Dutch rethink Christianity for a doubtful world". BBC News. Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Official website Restored Reformed Church
  14. ^ Official Website for Kerk in Actie
  15. ^ Faith in Progress, 2009, page 24
  16. ^ Faith in Progress, 2009, pages 15-16
  17. ^ Bashing Israel on behalf of the Protestant Church
  18. ^ Encounter and dialogue

External links[edit]