Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Courtney Werner and Professor Alex Galarza

Document Type


Event Date



The schism between two Dutch churches, the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) and the Reformed Church in America (RCA), shaped the demographic and cultural landscape of Holland, Michigan. While most research on the schism appears in books and articles, our project presents this history in a simple, accessible way using an interactive timeline on digitalholland.hope.edu. We draw on interviews, archival research, and existing literature on the topic to critically compare Dutch identity, liturgy, schooling, and worldview in these respective churches. The theological differences underlying the schism are clear, but we have investigated the demographic and cultural identity issues that may have had an even greater role in the schism. Many of the immigrants to America coming from the more theologically liberal state church in the Netherlands joined the CRC, which held significantly more purist views. One of the founding impetuses behind the CRC was the preservation of Dutch culture. The RCA was traditionally based in a worldview that embraced ecumenism and American culture whereas the CRC prioritized doctrinal purity. The CRC claimed separatism because they believed they were the one true church. Thus, we tentatively conclude that one of the main motives behind the founding of the CRC was their desire to preserve Dutch culture.