HOLLANDERS OF IOWA
JACOB VAN DER ZEE
Submitted by Gayle Harper
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THE CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCH IN IOWA
IN THE month of August, 1866, forty-two members of the First Dutch Reformed congregation of Pella withdrew from the fold, declaring that they would return to the doctrine, discipline, and liturgy ordained by the Reformed Church of their fathers in The Netherlands. They joined what was then called the True Reformed Dutch Church. This denomination had been organized by five New Jersey ministers who found the Dutch Reformed Church too mildly Calvinistic in its theology. Several congregations of Christian immigrants in Michigan seceded from the Dutch Reformed Church in the autumn of 1856 and later called themselves the Christian Reformed Church.(285)
These seceders put forth as their bill of grievances against the Dutch Reformed Church the following counts: first, the forms of unity such as the Belgic Confession and the Heidelberg Catechism were merely professed, not practiced; secondly, heretic ministers were not prevented from disseminating their opinions; thirdly, bad practices were allowed, such as choir singing, bringing corpses into the church, and funeral sermons; fourthly, hundreds of English hymns were used in addition to the Psalms; fifthly, the publication of Sunday-school literature was allowed jointly with other denominations, and members of other denominations were admitted to the Lord's Supper.(286)
After the organization of the first congregation in 1866, a second one was formed at Pella in 1869, and others have been planted at various places within a radius of about twenty miles from Pella: in 1893 at Leighton and in 1894 at Taintor, small towns of Mahaska County, at Sully in 1896, at Otley in 1898, at Reasnor in Jasper County in 1898, at Harvey in 1902, at Oskaloosa in 1903, and at Prairie City in Jasper County in 1904. The Church's growth in that region indicates how the Hollanders are spreading in three counties around Pella. In 1911 about four hundred and fifty families . consisting of 2000 Hollanders worshipped in these churches.(287)
The Hollanders of northwestern Iowa brought their Christian Reformed Church connections at Pella with them, and organized a congregation at Orange City in 1874. Subsequently they established flourishing churches at Sioux Center and Rock Valley in 1891, at Le Mars, Plymouth County, in 1892, at Hull in 1893, at Hospers in 1894, at Middelburg in 1901, at Doon, Lyon County, in 1902, at Lebanon in 1903, at Carnes in 1904, at Sheldon, O'Brien County, in 1906, and at Ireton in 1908. Over eight hundred families or approximately 3000 Hollanders attended these churches in 1911. There were also many Hollanders in the Classis of East Friesland at the towns of Ackley in Hardin County and Wellsburg in Grundy County, but most of the members of the Christian Reformed denomination in this part of Iowa were Germans. (288)
The Christian Reformed denomination in Iowa had but few Sunday-schools, and few young people's societies or other associations in 1907, but has always emphasized instruction in the Heidelberg Catechism, long deemed very important in the training of children. Many of the ministers received their training in The Netherlands before they emigrated to America, but the majority were graduates of John Calvin Junior College with its four-year preparatory course and three-year college course, and of the theological school at Grand Rapids, Michigan, the American stronghold of the church.(289)
The Christian Reformed Church in America has increased its membership with remarkable rapidity since 1880 - a year famous in its history on account of the anti-Masonic movement in Michigan. A fierce dispute arose in certain congregations of the Dutch Reformed Church over the question whether membership in secret societies was consistent with membership in the church. The Dutch Reformed Church adhered to its custom never to legislate on abstract questions and referred the matter entirely to the decision of each church consistory concerned. Secessions from the older church commenced with renewed vigor and continued for two years.
Since then the younger church has opposed secret societies because: first, they boast too much of their charity, whereas it is simply a matter of business, like insurance; secondly, they exert a bad influence on politics and political institutions, and are "an empire within an empire"; thirdly, they have a nomenclature which is immodest, ludicrous, inconsistent with republican usage, and even blasphemous, and the titles of their officers "savor too much of child's play and are unworthy of serious men"; fourthly, they have ceremonies too frivolous for earnest Christians and too dangerous to life; fifthly, they use or rather abuse the Bible in their ritual; sixthly, they virtually exclude Christ as the Savior, yet they often declare deceased members saved; and seventhly, they require unwarranted and sinful oaths.
The spread of the Christian Reformed Church since 1880 has been phenomenal compared with that of the Dutch Reformed Church. From 144 congregations in 1900 the number had leaped to 189 in 1911, ministering to about 15,000 families or 80,000 souls in nineteen States of the Union and in the Dominion of Canada. In fifteen of these churches the English language was used exclusively; in ten churches of the Classis of East Friesland in Iowa the German language prevailed; and. Dutch was spoken in all the others.
There was a time when the stream of immigrant Hollanders turned into Dutch Reformed channels, but in recent years nearly all Christian Netherlanders have united with the Christian Reformed Church, chiefly because of an impression gained in Holland that the older church in such matters as retaining within its fold members of secret oath-bound societies, laxity in preaching the catechism, and neglect of catechetical instruction, was not really Reformed in doctrine or practice, and was too much given to Americanization. Hence the younger church has aimed to maintain Calvinistic principles and practices in their purity and to keep the churches distinctively Dutch in preaching and teaching. Adherents of the Dutch Reformed Church have exclaimed against the attitude of people in The Netherlands but have not been able to remove the cloud.(290)
NOTES AND REFERENCES
(285) For short historical sketches of the Christian Reformed Church see Corwin's Manual, pp. 136, 140, 288, 479; The Banner, Vol. 46, pp. 6, 36, 37, 55; and van Stigt's Geschiedenis, Part III, pp. 118, 131-13:3.
(286) Nollen's De Afscheidding, p. 60; Corwin's Manual, p. 140.
(287) Yearbook o f the Christian Reformed Church, 191.1, pp. 28, 30; and Pella's Weekblad, February 2, 1.869.
(288) Yearbook of the Christian Reformed Church, 1911, p. 25. The Classis of East Friesland in Iowa is almost exclusively German, with congregations at Wellsburg in Grundy County, Ackley in Hardin County, Lincoln Center and Parkersburg in Butler County, Kanawha and Wright in Hancock County, and Ostfriesland near Wesley in Kossuth County.
(289) Yearbook of the Christian Reformed Church, 1907, pp. 80, 81; and the Yearbook for 1911, pp. 60, 61.
(290) The Banner (Grand Rapids, Michigan), Vol. 46, pp. 376-378, 393; and Dosker's Levensschets van Ds. A. C. van Raalte, D. D., pp. 115, 116, 330-333. See The Banner (Grand Rapids, Michigan), Vol. 46, p. 328, for objections to secret societies. It will be noticed that the United Presbyterian Church is practically identical with the Christian Reformed Church in doctrine, government, and liturgy.
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