The Dutch Reformed Church (Reformed Church in America) is one of the oldest Christian denominations in the world. According to Britannica
and the denomination, it was formed in North America, specifically from Dutch settlements in now modern day New York, out of the Dutch Reformed Church in Europe in the 17th century and slowly grew from there.
It became the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in 1819 and the Reformed Church in America (RCA) in 1867.
The RCA has seen a decline in Dutch Reformed Church Christian membership in recent years from 300,000 members to 240,000, due to increasingly liberal denominational positions on issues like ordination of homosexual and lesbian clergy, and same-sex marriage, according to The Gospel Coalition and other reports.
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In addition, the RCA has given women more leadership positions in the church. These two beliefs are out of alignment with most theologically conservative denominations.
Here are two beliefs that set the Dutch Reform Church apart from other Christians:
1. Homosexuality and Ordination of Gay Clergy:
Unlike most denominations that consider themselves theologically conservative, the RCA began allowing homosexuals and lesbians to be ordained as church ministers. The RCA General Synod labeled homosexuality a sin in its 2012 report, pointing to the Bible's teaching on homosexual behavior, and declared that RCA pastors who performed same-sex weddings would be disciplined, according to the Gospel Coalition.
A year later, the 2013 Synod continued describing homosexual acts as disobedient to God but added that it now "usurped the constitutional authority reserved for the classes."
A pastor who had been suspended for marrying his daughter and her partner was restored to his position by his classis as well, sending a clear signal to local congregations and pastors who support gay marriage.
The 2013 Synod also declined to repeal the 2011 installation of the denomination's first openly homosexual minister, sending the appeal back to the regional synod. The regional synod subsequently upheld the ordination.
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2. Ordination of women:
While the RCA claims to be a biblically conservative denomination, its stance on the ordination of women as pastors, elders and deacons stands contrary to most other theologically conservative denominations. According to the RCA
, the denomination changed its position on women in church leadership in 1972, when it made women eligible to become church elders and deacons.
Seven years later, the denomination allowed women to be ordained as "ministers of Word and sacrament," according to the denomination's website. Women throughout the U.S. now serve as RCA pastors, deacons and elders, a stark contrast to many evangelical denominations, such as in the Baptist and non-denominational traditions.
Shrinking Membership: RCA churches like University Reformed Church (URC) in East Lansing, Mich., are voting to leave the denomination over sexual ethics issues. According to the Gospel Coalition and Christian Post
. URC Pastor Kevin DeYoung said evangelical churches will experience this same tension that mainline denominations are undergoing in the coming years.
"This big sorting that's happening in the mainline is also going to happen in evangelical churches, colleges, seminaries, and parachurch organizations," DeYoung said. "You'll find a stronger, more doctrinally robust evangelical church, even though it may be smaller than it once was."
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