Unification at last

So, in June 2003 the formal decision to unite could be taken in first reading, and again the minor assemblies were given a final opportunity to react.

The final decision on church unification was taken in separate synod meetings in three different churches in Utrecht, on 12th December 2003. An impressive joint service of thanksgiving and prayer was held in the historical Dom church of Utrecht the same evening. The united church became a fact as from 1st May 2004. 

Why unification could become a reality

The unification of Lutherans and Reformed became an option as a consequence of the Leuenberg Agreement (1973). In this document over one hundred churches from the major Protestant traditions in Europe declare the mutual doctrinal condemnations of the past to be no longer valid in light of a new and common understanding of the Gospel. The PCN church order consistently maintains this position. Lutheran and Reformed confessional documents have an equal position in the new PCN Constitution – immediately following the three classical ecumenical symbols. Besides the large number of united congregations, there are also separate Reformed and Lutheran congregations in the united church. There is diversity, but within the framework of a full mutual recognition. Adherence to one’s own specific tradition is legitimate, as long as it does not lead to the rejection of the theological legitimacy of the other tradition. In other words, the diversity is reconciled diversity  

Unification... and split

Nevertheless, for a minority in the Netherland Reformed Church this equality of the Lutheran and Reformed traditions was unacceptable. They maintain that in good conscience they can only be members of a church which is exclusively based on the Reformed confessions. They have kept expressing this view at every occasion since 1990. As a consequence, the 2004 unification was not completely without damage. A number of congregations has split. There were also a few RCN congregations which decided not to participate, although for less fundamental reasons. They founded a new community as well. Altogether more than 97 % of the total membership of the three former denominations is now part of the new Protestant Church. Less than 3 % is not.