Protestant Church in the Netherlands

Protestant Church in the Netherlands

Logo of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands
Classification Protestant
Orientation Reformed and Lutheran
Polity Mixture of Presbyterian and Congregationalist
Associations Conference of European Churches
World Communion of Reformed Churches
Lutheran World Federation
World Council of Churches
Origin 1 May 2004
Merger of Dutch Reformed Church
Reformed Churches in the Netherlands
Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Separations Restored Reformed Church
Continued Reformed Churches in the Netherlands
(newly organized denominations; refused to participate in the merger)
Congregations ca. 2,000
Members 2 million,[1][2] 11.8 % of the population (2016)[3]
Official website

The Protestant Church in the Netherlands (Dutch: Protestantse Kerk in Nederland, abbreviated PKN) is the largest Protestant denomination in the Netherlands, being both Reformed (Calvinist) and Lutheran.

It was founded 1 May 2004 as the merger of the Dutch Reformed Church, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.[4] The merger was the culmination of an organizational process started in 1961. Several orthodox Reformed and liberal churches did not merge into the new church.

A bulk of its membership, along with that of other Protestant denominations, is distributed in the Reformed north, which contrasts with the Roman Catholic south.

The Protestant Church of the Netherlands (PKN) forms the second largest Christian denomination after the Roman Catholic Church, with approximately 2 million members[5] or some 11.8% of the population in 2015.[6] From the onset of the Protestant Reformation, the Dutch population became divided into about two-thirds Protestant (mostly Reformed) and one-third Roman Catholic believers.[7] This began to change gradually in the 20th century[8] as there has been a steep decline in religious adherence. It is the traditional faith of the Dutch Royal Family a remnant of historical dominance of the Dutch Reformed Church, the main predecessor of the Protestant Church.

Doctrine and practice

The doctrine of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands is expressed in its creeds. In addition to holding the Apostles', the Nicene and the Athanasian Creeds of the universal church, it also holds to the confessions of its predecessor bodies. From the Lutheran tradition are the unaltered Augsburg Confession and Luther's Catechism. From the Reformed, the Heidelberg and Genevan Catechisms along with the Belgic Confession with the Canons of Dordt. The Church also acknowledges the Theological Declaration of Barmen and the Leuenberg Agreement.[9] Ordination of women and blessings of same-sex marriages are allowed.

The PKN contains both liberal and conservative movements; although the liberal Remonstrants left talks when they could not agree with the unaltered adoption of the Canons of Dordt. Local congregations have far-reaching powers concerning "controversial" matters (such as admittance to holy communion or whether women are admitted as members of the congregation's consistory).


The polity of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands is a hybrid of presbyterian and congregationalist church governance. Church governance is organised along local, regional, and national lines. At the local level is the congregation. An individual congregation is led by a church council made of the minister along with elders and deacons elected by the congregation. At the regional level are the 57 classical assemblies whose members are chosen by the church councils. At the national level is the General Synod which directs areas of common interest, such as theological education, ministry training and ecumenical co-operation.[10]

The PKN has four different types of congregations:

  1. Protestant congregations: local congregations from different church bodies that have merged
  2. Dutch Reformed congregations
  3. Reformed congregations (congregations of the former Reformed Churches in the Netherlands)
  4. Lutheran congregations (congregations of the former Evangelical-Lutheran Church)

Lutherans are a minority (about 1 percent) of the PKN's membership. To ensure that Lutherans are represented in the Church, the Lutheran congregations have their own synod. The Lutheran Synod also has representatives in the General Synod.[10]


Secularization, or the decline in religiosity, first became noticeable after 1960 in the Protestant rural areas of Friesland and Groningen. Then, it spread to Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the other large cities in the west. Finally the Catholic southern areas showed religious declines. A countervailing trend is produced by a religious revival in the Protestant Bible Belt, and the growth of Muslims and Hindu communities resulting from immigration and high birth rates.[11][12] Research in 2007 concludes that 42% of the members of the PKN is a non-theist[13] Furthermore, in the PKN and several other smaller denominations of the Netherlands, 1 in 6 clergy are either agnostic or atheist.[14][15] A minister of the PKN, Klaas Hendrikse has described God as "a word for experience, or human experience" and said that Jesus may have never existed.[14][16]


History of the churches in the Netherlands

Only those congregations belonging to the former Reformed Churches in the Netherlands have the legal right to secede from the PKN without losing its property and church during a transition period of 10 years. Seven congregations have so far decided to form the Continued Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.[4] Two congregations have joined one of the other smaller Reformed churches in the Netherlands. Some minorities within congregations that joined the PKN decided to leave the church and associated themselves individually with one of the other Reformed churches.

Some congregations and members in the Dutch Reformed Church did not agree with the merger and have separated. They have organized themselves in the Restored Reformed Church. Estimations of their membership vary from 35,000 up to 70,000 people in about 120 local congregations.[17] They disagree with the pluralism of the merged church which maintains, as they see it, contradicting Reformed and Lutheran confessions. This group also considers same-sex marriages and female clergy unbiblical.

Involvement in the Middle East

In a meeting of eight Jewish and eight Protestant Dutch leaders in Israel in May 2011, a statement of cooperation was issued, indicating, for the most part, that the Protestant Church recognizes the issues involved with the Palestinian Christians and that this is sometimes at odds with support for the State of Israel, but standing up for the rights of the Palestinians does not detract from the emphasis on the safety of the State of Israel and vice versa.[18]

See also


  1. "Netherlands". Lutheran World Federation. Retrieved April 5, 2016.
  2. "Statistische Jaarbrief" (PDF). PKN. Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  3. "Population Counter". Statistics Netherlands. Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  4. 1 2, "Three-way PKN Union Drastically Changes Dutch Denominational Landscape: Two Groups of Merger Opponents Stay Out", May 24, 2004. Accessed July 13, 2010.
  5. "Netherlands | The Lutheran World Federation". Retrieved 2016-06-17.
  6. "Population Counter". Statistics Netherlands. Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  7. For detailed statistics, see Statistics by the Dutch Centraal Bureau van de Statistiek.
  8. The religious development of the Netherlands in the 20th century, and its three defining censuses: The census of 31 December 1930 recorded various Protestants at 46.3%, Roman Catholics at 36.5% and the remainder at 17.2%. The census of 31 May 1947 recorded various Protestants at 42.3%, Roman Catholics at 38.6% and the remainder at 19.1%. The census of 31 May 1960 recorded various Protestants at 40.7%, Roman Catholics at 40.5% and the remainder at 18.8%.
  9. Church Order of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. Article I, p. 1. Accessed July 13, 2010.
  10. 1 2 Organisation of the PKN. Accessed July 14, 2010.
  11. Hans Knippenberg, "Secularization in the Netherlands in its historical and geographical dimensions," GeoJournal (1998) 45#3 pp 209-220. online
  12. Tomáš Sobotka and Feray Adigüzel, "Religiosity and spatial demographic differences in the Netherlands" (2002) online
  13. God in Nederland' (1996-2006), by Ronald Meester, G. Dekker, ISBN 9789025957407
  14. 1 2 Pigott, Robert (5 August 2011). "Dutch rethink Christianity for a doubtful world". BBC News. Retrieved 2 October 2011.
  17. Official website Restored Reformed Church
  18. Encounter and dialogue
This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 10/12/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.