United Reformed Churches in North America
|United Reformed Churches in North America|
|Abbreviation||URCNA, URC, or URCs|
|Associations||North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council, International Conference of Reformed Churches|
|Region||United States and Canada|
|Separated from||Christian Reformed Church in North America|
|Absorbed||Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches (2008)|
The United Reformed Churches in North America (URCNA) is a theologically conservative federation of Reformed churches, that was founded in 1996 in Lynwood, Illinois, with many churches having left the Christian Reformed Church in North America.
The United Reformed Churches trace their roots back to the earlier Protestant movements in Europe, and to the Reformed churches in Belgium and the Netherlands. From 1618 to 1619 the international Reformed churches, with representatives from several countries, met at the Synod of Dort in the Netherlands and there collectively stated their faith, summarizing biblical teachings in the Canons of the Council of Dordrecht. Along with the Canons of Dordt the URCNA also holds the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism as doctrinal standards. These documents are collectively known as "The Three Forms of Unity". The United Reformed Church also subscribe the Ecumenical Creeds (Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed). A fundamental doctrine they describe is forensic justification, according to which Christ offers a double benefit: one's sin is imputed to Christ and he suffers for it on the cross, while His perfect obedience is credited to believers who receive its benefits, including eternal life.
In the 1980s a sizable group within the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA) felt that the denomination was moving away from the truths of the Reformation. This group grew considerably in the 1990s. The Christian Reformed Alliance was formed in 1990 which become The Alliance of Reformed Churches two years later. In 1994 about 62 churches met to discuss solution to the problem. Some of them had already left the CRC, while some had never been part of that denomination.
The URCNA was founded as a federation of Reformed churches in 1996 at Lynwood, Illinois CRC. Most of the members that founded the URCNA left the CRCNA, due to disagreement on several issues like women's ordination and evolution cases, and conservative reformed believers were concerned that the Christian Reformed Churches were departing from Scriptural teaching to accommodate modern social trends. Some 36 churches with 7,600 members joined the federative unity and held their first Synod and adopted the name The United Reformed Churches in North America. They wanted to claim back their original, confessional Reformed roots. In 1997 the synod in St. Catharines adopted the church Order based on the Church Order of Dort. Currently there are 8 classes (regional groups of congregations) in the URCNA. At least once every three years elder and pastor delegates gather for a synodical meeting.
URCNA churches can be found in 22 US states, mostly in the Upper Midwest (Iowa and Michigan) and California, and in six Canadian Provinces mostly in Ontario and Alberta. As of 2008, the churches have grown, mostly through additional members leaving the CRCNA in the late 1990s, to approximately 105 congregations spread across the United States and Canada, with 22,495 members, 146 ministers, and 9 Classes (Michigan, Central US, Eastern US, Southwest US, Pacific Northwest, Southern Ontario, Ontario East, Southwestern Ontario, Western Canada).
The URCNA supports several mission work in the USA and Canada and foreign missions in such as Reformed Mission in Ecuador, Trinidad, India, Mexico, Honduras, the Philippines, Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea. For the URCNA mission work in Italy.
- Ecuador- The mission in Ecuador is called the Iglesia Reformada Luz de Vida. It is located in the capital city of Quito. It was founded in 2005 by Rev. Donoso and is made up of 14 families. The United Reformed Church first became involved with the mission in June 2014 when the minister of Covenant URC, Rev. Landázuri, began to work with its consistory. Covenant URC is working with The Iglesia Reformada Luz de Vida to purchase a permanent place of worship which they do not yet have due to high rent rates. An obstacle to expansion is a low number of Protestants in the country.
- Costa Rica- The mission in Costa Rica was started in 1985. It was headed by Rev. Bill Green. The mission joined with the United Reformed Churches in 1997. Rev. Green along with the help of the URCNA have worked to translate Bible commentaries including those of John Calvin into the Spanish. They have also built a church and school in Tepeyac, Costa Rica. The 35 staff members of this school teach over 150 students of all ages.
- Honduras- The mission in Honduras is called the Iglesia Reformada Luz de Vida. Rev. Ernie Langendoen began work there in 1990 under the administration of the Christian Reformed Church. Rev. Langendoen was called by Immanuel Orthodox Reformed Church, a church to soon become part of the URCNA. The church in Honduras is made up of about 35 members. Rev. Langendoen recently expanded its work into the city of Tegucigalpa.
- India- The mission in India is run by Rev. Steve Poleman. He is a main teacher at the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Dehra Dun. He is the mediator between the URCNA and the seminary in India. During the summer and school breaks, Rev. Poleman travels around the country spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Italy- Rev. Ferrari began his work as a pastor in 2001. He and his church became dissatisfied with the non reformed doctrine in the church. He was introduced to some Reformed Baptist Churches in the US and sought guidance. Rev. Ferrari was introduced to Rev. Brown, Pastor of Christ United Reformed Church in California, in 2006. Since then, he has been guided by the URCNA and maintains teachings consistent with the URCNA.
- Philippines- In the Philippines, Protestant Christianity is a minority religion. Even so, the two church established by Walnut Creek and Rev. Nollie Malabuyo, a native of the Philippines. Two churches have been established. One, located in the Pasig City near the city of Manila, is composed of 40 to 45 people. Most of its members are relatively young with most in their 20’s. A good number of these members are training in the MINTS program to become ministers. The name of the second church is Imus and it too is located in Manila. Its membership is slightly lower with a total of 30 to 35 people.
- Mexico- The work in Mexico began in 1995, when Messiah's Independent Reformed Church of Holland, Michigan decided to call a missionary to work in Mexico. After visiting different cities in Mexico and talking with local pastors, the decision was made to begin a work in Tepic, Nayarit. Rev. Harry Bout was called in 1997 and after finishing his language training Pastor Harry Bout and his wife Joanne moved to Tepic to begin the work in 1998. Soon after, Rev. Richard Bout and family were called and sent out as a missionaries in 1999. For 9 years they were involved in church-planting together, and were blessed to see God's faithfulness and a small church form.
Training of ministers
The United Reformed Churches do not have a denominational seminary or college; rather, Candidates for Ministry are extensively examined by their Calling Church and Classis regardless of seminary prior to their ordination or installation. Most of the ministers of the URCNA have been trained at Calvin Theological Seminary (Grand Rapids, Michigan), Mid-America Reformed Seminary (Dyer, Indiana), or Westminster Seminary in California (Escondido, California) but the number of other seminaries represented is growing.
The Canadian and American Reformed Churches are currently pursuing "Federative Unity" with the United Reformed Churches of North America. Organic union was being pursued with the Canadian and American Churches in 2010. The Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches, another breakaway from the Christian Reformed Church, voted to join the URCNA in 2008 upon the latter's invitation.
The URCNA has dialogue with the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Korean American Presbyterian Church, Canadian and American Reformed Churches and other confessional Reformed churches. It is a member of the International Conference of Reformed Churches and the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council.
- Bill Konynenbelt (2011). "Directory of the United Reformed Churches in North America" (PDF). United Reformed Churches in North America: 10. Retrieved Feb 20, 2017.
- www.urcna.org/What We Believe
- Bill Konynenbelt. "Directory of the United Reformed Churches in North America" (PDF). United Reformed Churches in North America. p. 3. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
- www.urcna.org/Foreign Missions
- "Costa Rica". www.urcna.org. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
- "Honduras". www.urcna.org. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
- "India". www.urcna.org. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
- "Italy". www.urcna.org. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
- "Philippines". www.urcna.org. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
- "Mexico". www.urcna.org. Retrieved 2016-01-11.