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Dutch Lutheranism keeps its identity as it becomes part of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands.

In May 2004 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Netherlands merged with the two largest Dutch Reformed Churches into the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. In this article I outline this reunion process. I briefly sketch the development of Lutheranism in the Netherlands, indicate the motives to participate in this merger, and point out the expectations Dutch Lutherans have of this new Protestant Church.

History of Dutch Lutheranism

Martin Luther's ideas found early acceptance in the Netherlands. (1) The stage was set by movements like the Devotio Moderna and by the biblically inspired Humanism of thinkers like Erasmus. The adherence to Luther's ideas had consequences as his fellow members of the Augustinian order in Antwerp, Hendrik Vos and Johannes van Essen, had to pay with their lives for propagating Lutheran ideas in 1523. A shocked Luther reacted to their execution with an encouraging letter to the Christians in the Netherlands and was inspired to write the song "Ein neues lied wir heben an." In the Northern Netherlands Jan de Bakker shared the fate of the martyrs in Antwerp.

The exact origins of Dutch Lutheranism are disputable. The dispute is connected with the meaning of the word "Lutheran." In the first half of the sixteenth century "Lutheran" did not specify a confessional Lutheran identity or indicate the existence of a Lutheran church but was an umbrella term for all those who opposed the Roman Catholic Church of those days. From that point of view, Lutheranism can be spoken of as movements inspired by Luther, not so much as specific Lutheran congregations in the Netherlands.

Antwerp. (2) The birth of a Lutheran Church in the Netherlands can be set on September 2, 1566, when the "Martinists" in Antwerp got permission from the city government to build a few churches via a contract between Prince William of Orange and the Lutheran deputies representing the Lutheran congregation. That contract was vital for the Antwerp Lutherans, because it implied governmental approval of the Lutheran Church. Around 1540 Antwerp Lutherans, who had asked Luther whether it was legitimate to found churches "under the cross," received from him a negative reply. They could read the Bible and pray together at home, he said, but for all public worship they should remain dependent on the Roman Catholic Church. Reluctantly Lutherans resigned themselves to Luther's advice.

In 1566 the government allowed the Lutherans as well as the much larger Calvinist congregations in Antwerp to hold their own religious worship services. Under the influence of German advisers, among them Matthias Flacius Illyricus, the Antwerp Martinists developed into a more confessional Lutheran community. Unfortunately, opposition to the Calvinists also increased, especially on the nature of the real presence of the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Lord's Supper. (3) The Calvinists also thought the Lutherans were too docile politically, and the Lutherans accused the Calvinists of resisting the legitimate Prince.

The victory of the government troops at Oosterweel in the spring of 1567 led to the end of the tolerance of the Reformed and the Lutherans in Antwerp. In the middle of 1567 Roman Catholic worship was restored and the Lutheran congregation largely expelled. Among the Lutherans an exodus took place to Aachen and Cologne (Germany), where for the first time the organization of the Lutheran Church was taken into their own hands according to principles which later would be used for the founding of Lutheran congregations in the Northern Netherlands.

The "Pacification of Ghent" (1567) brought some improvement to the fate of the remaining Lutherans at Antwerp. The government allowed the Lutherans to worship in two places in the city, and Lutherans overcame their shyness to found and organize a church themselves. When Antwerp was occupied again by Parma in 1585, it meant the definite end of the Lutheran congregation. Protestants now had the option of becoming Roman Catholic again or leaving the city. Many Lutherans went into exile into Germany, but most of them fled to the Northern Netherlands. The provinces of Zealand and Amsterdam especially had to cope with a big rush of Flemish Lutheran immigrants.

Northern Netherlands. In the Northern Netherlands Lutheran communities have existed since the second half of the sixteenth century. Here could be mentioned Woerden, the oldest Lutheran community in the North, where since the pawning of the town to the Lutheran Duke, Erik of Brunswick (1558), the Word was preached and the sacraments were administered according to the Augsburg Confession. Lutheranism in the Northern Netherlands experienced strong growth from Flemish Lutheran immigrants. Though they were impeded almost everywhere by the Calvinists, they were no longer hampered by the obstacles which Luther had placed in the way of forming Lutheran congregations. Thanks to the presence of German and Scandinavian merchants and soldiers Lutheran congregations were built in trade centers and garrison towns.

The Lutherans were, however, not able to get a foothold in Dutch society. This was due to the mainly foreign character of Lutherans in the Netherlands as well as to their incapacity to take the lead in the Dutch insurrection against the Spanish king during the Eighty-Year War. The Lutherans left that role to the Calvinists, whose church soon became the "privileged religion" in the Netherlands.

Lutheran communities in the Northern Netherlands grew rapidly, when the Dutch Republic was economically flourishing and imported much foreign labor during the time of the "Twelve-Year Truce" with Spain (1609-1621). Unskilled laborers and craftsmen came in large numbers to the Dutch towns, especially from Germany. The climate was very favorable to the further development of existing congregations and the founding of new Lutheran ones.

Amsterdam. Since the beginning Amsterdam has taken an important place in Dutch Lutheranism. Already traces of Lutheranism can be found there in the early decades of the sixteenth century, and through the immigration of German and Flemish Lutherans it soon became the largest, wealthiest, and most influential Lutheran congregation in the Netherlands. No wonder that in 1605 the first Lutheran Synod met at Amsterdam. At this Synod a certain uniformity in liturgy and church order was established. The next Synod founded a "brotherhood" of Dutch Lutheran congregations which was presided over by Amsterdam.

In the course of the seventeenth century Amsterdam definitely took over the leadership in the Dutch Lutheran Church. Congregations that did not want to go along with the Amsterdam supervision were expelled from the brotherhood. And a union of expelled or dissatisfied congregations--the "Union of The Hague" (1698)--had a short life. During the eighteenth century all twelve congregations of the Union were reconciled with Amsterdam.


Dutch School. The Dutch School tried to put an end to the foreign and confessional isolationism of Lutheranism in the Netherlands. Its main achievements were the introduction of a translation of the Bible into Dutch and the obligation imposed on Lutheran pastors to preach in Dutch. This Dutch School adopted an irenic and even ecumenical attitude toward other denominations. Just like some Reformed theologians, representatives of this Lutheran Dutch School tried to overcome the Lutheran-Reformed separation. Furthermore, the Dutch School was open to new ideas that came up in science and culture in the second half of the seventeenth century. The education of Lutheran pastors in Amsterdam contributed much to spread the ideas of the Dutch School.

The Dutch School was sharply attacked by the "German Trend," which wanted to maintain the true Lutheran doctrine and was not ready to give up Lutheran isolation. Both movements, also named the Wittenberger and Helmstedter School, fought about filling vacant ministries and the election of members of the consistories. At the end of the seventeenth century the Dutch School appeared to have gotten the upper hand. Nevertheless, because of their longtime self-chosen isolationism Lutherans were not able to obtain an important place in Dutch society.

Enlightenment. A serious problem arose when the theology of the Enlightenment gained ground in the Netherlands. This time the pastors, who were educated at German academies, brought typical Enlightenment ideas home and spread them through the Dutch Lutheran community. In the middle of the eighteenth century, however, "Germany" stood for modern, enlightened thought, which appealed to a Lutheran elite but provoked severe resistance among conservative, lower-class Lutherans. This conflict was characterized as a conflict between the "old" and the "new" light--that is, between the followers of Enlightenment ideas and those who adhered to the old light of the Scripture and the old Christian creeds.

This time the conflict could not be averted by measures of the Lutheran Synod, and in 1791 it led to a split of the Restored-Lutheran Church. This split caused deep wounds in the Lutheran communion, and it took about 160 years before both of these Lutheran churches were reunited.

In spite of these internal troubles, the Dutch Lutheran Church steadily kept growing. With the Dutch colonization in Africa, Asia, and America, Dutch Lutheranism also expanded abroad. A Lutheran church in Batavia (the present Indonesian Djakarta) and Capetown was founded, as well as Dutch Lutheran Churches in Brazil, Suriname, and the Caribbean. In New Amsterdam (later called New York) the Dutch Lutheran communion had far-reaching effects, because the Dutch Lutheran Church order became the matrix for the organization of the Lutheran churches in the U.S.A.

An acknowledged Lutheran denomination. The growth of the Lutheran Church almost stopped at the end of the eighteenth century. During the French occupation of the Netherlands, imposed financial regulations brought several Lutheran congregations almost to bankruptcy. In 1818, after being liberated, Lutherans accepted the royal approval and financial support for their church, which then took on its present name, Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It consisted of about 45 Lutheran congregations. Later the Restored Lutherans also accepted acknowledgment by the crown. This new status led to a further integration of the Lutherans in Dutch society but also drove Dutch Lutherans in the direction of a nonconfessional religious association.

With the rise of modernism in the nineteenth century conflicts among the Lutherans broke out again. Anti-modernism did not lead to the founding of new denominations but to the building of associations that propagated orthodox Lutheran ideas and ideals. In general, liberalism and modernism seized the Lutheran church at this time in all its dimensions. Lutheran identity was a forgotten theme, and the mutual ties between Lutherans became more and more loose.

From about 1900, however, the tide started to turn. New attention was paid to Lutheran doctrine, and a revival of an awareness of Lutheran identity led to the building of new Lutheran congregations and to remarkable renewals, such as the appearance of women in consistories and ministries.

After World War II. Experiences during the German occupation (1940-1945) induced a critical reflection on fundamental theological questions. In combination with a new ecumenical elan, which also influenced the founding of the Lutheran World Federation (1947), this ecumenical spirit resulted in the reunion of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Restored Lutheran Church (1952). In 1949 the Lutheran church order changed deeply. With the so-called "Praeambular Articles" (statutory articles), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Netherlands got its confessional basics back. The Augsburg Confession and Luther's Catechism were explicitly accepted as true confessions of the Christian faith.

Through new ecumenical contacts Dutch Lutherans became aware of their membership in a Lutheran world family, but these also paved the way for talks about cooperation with other churches in the Netherlands. In 1956 a consensus about the doctrine on the Lord's Supper with the Dutch Reformed Church was accepted, which made intercommunion possible between the Lutherans and the Reformed. (4) Important practical ecumenical steps were taken with the acceptance of the New Bible Translation and in the participation in the development of a new Book of Hymns.

By signing the "Leuenberg Agreement" (1973) doctrinal obstacles for an inner-Protestant unity were removed. In the 1970s the Lutheran Church decided to deliberate about her position and not to join any program for church reunion for the time being. In the 1980s, however, the Lutheran Synod determined to participate in the reunion process between the two largest Calvinistic Churches--the Dutch Reformed Church and the smaller Reformed Churches in the Netherlands. The three churches, which are involved in "Together-on-the-Way"--as this (re)union process is called--decided in December 2003 to merge into the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. The merger was accepted by a large majority of the Synods of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Netherlands. However, a considerable minority of the Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church voted against the merger, and a Reestablished Reformed Church with over 60,000 members was founded after the new Protestant church became effective 1 May 2004.

Motives for participation

Regarding the motives that moved the Lutherans to decide to participate in this Reformed reunion process, three arguments need to be mentioned.

1. Problems of a decreasing church. The Lutheran Church in the Netherlands is one of the smallest Protestant churches in that country, with about 14,000 members in 56 congregations spread over all the country. These congregations are served by 37 pastors, of whom only 16 have a full-time job. Compared to the situation in the Dutch Lutheran Church a half century ago, the numbers have declined rapidly: In 1948 the Dutch Lutherans had about 58,000 members in almost 70 congregations served by 56 mostly full-time pastors.

With Lutherans spread all over the country, some pastors have to serve a whole province. Due to the usually small number of parishioners it is becoming more and more difficult to find Lutherans who are ready to participate in congregational work. On the regional and national--not to mention international--levels also this decline is painfully felt. There are not enough human and financial resources to carry out all the national and regional tasks in theological education, outreach, and ecumenical affairs. A permanent group of volunteers, which is becoming ever smaller, has to bear an ever more heavy burden. Many small Lutheran congregations seem to have no other perspective than to wait until the last churchgoer will turn the light off and lock the door.

2. Opportunity to participate in the Reformed merger. In the 1980s, the opportunity arose to participate in the reunion program of the largest Reformed churches in the Netherlands, the "Together-on-the-Way" process. In 1985 the Lutheran Synod decided, not without wavering, to participate, first as an observer and later as a full participant.

The "Together-on the Way" movement started with the pursuit of reunification between the Dutch Reformed Church and the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands. The latter church originated in the nineteenth century and was the result of two movements that seceded from the former "established" church. These developments should be seen as the result of a tendency in the nineteenth century toward (re)confessionalism. The most important issues were the replacement of a more or less democratic and independent church structure by an enforced, state-supported ecclesiastical authority and the perceived erosion of a classical Reformed confessional stance.

After almost a century, specifically in the decades after World War II, the idea arose that there was no longer a reason for a separate existence of these two Reformed churches. The Dutch Reformed Church realized that the nineteenth-century liberal views on the organization and on the confession of the church should be abandoned. These ideas were reflected in its new church order of 1951, in which the Dutch Reformed Church defined itself as a confessional public church. Meanwhile in the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands some things changed as well: rigid and literal adherence to the Reformed confessions was viewed as neither possible nor desirable.

Although the two Reformed churches clearly had grown closer in the course of time and had become more and more interdependent in response to advancing secularization, it proved to be quite difficult to reunify them. But by the mid-1980s both churches managed to produce a Declaration of Consensus, which was attractive enough to appeal to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands as well as the Remonstrant Brotherhood (Arminians) to participate in the "Together-on-the-Way" process. Discussions about a new church order were arduous, because both Lutheran and Reformed views had to be combined, and there was a broad spectrum of views within the Reformed tradition.

Following the first draft of the constitutional articles of the new church order, the Remonstrants left the process, because they could not find room enough for their liberal opinions in the new church. At times the Lutherans also considered ending their participation out of fear of being overwhelmed by a large Reformed majority. Furthermore, the Lutherans felt very frustrated by the orthodox wing of the Dutch Reformed Church, which tried to minimize the Lutheran influence. These orthodox Calvinists proposed, instead of a church reunion, a confederation of churches, each maintaining their own Reformed and Lutheran confessional status. After this confederation model was rejected, Lutherans fully continued their participation.

Two guarantees are crucial for the Lutherans in this merger: (1) the guarantee of being taken seriously in their confessional tradition and (2) the guarantee that vital kernels of Lutheranism should not be dissolved in the Reformed masses. It can be objectively stated that Lutherans have almost reached the optimum in both guarantees. They have achieved the best result on the second point. In the organization of the new church a status aparte for the Lutherans has been created, and at least on paper the new Protestant Church is a classic example of how to deal with minorities! Lutherans will keep their own Synod (as well as its Executive Committee) and their own seminary. Moreover, no Lutheran congregation will be forced to merge with other Reformed or Reformed-United congregations.

Lutheran confessional identity is a more complex matter than the practical arrangements. It was especially difficult to find a basis on which Reformed and Lutheran confessions could be kept together. The Theological Declaration of Barmen (1934) and even more the Leuenberg Agreement were of great importance. The latter is an ecumenical document signed in 1973 by all churches participating in the "Together-on-the-Way" process.

The first draft of the constitution of the new church order, which simply enumerated all the creeds in use in the new church--the early Christian, the Reformed, and the Lutheran--was the best way to deal with a variety of confessions. But orthodox Reformed were not satisfied until these creeds were divided into a Universal, Reformed, and Lutheran group. So the final version of this article now reads: "that the Protestant Church in the Netherlands feels itself related to the Universal Christian Church through the early Christian creeds, to the Reformed tradition via the Reformed confessions, and to the Lutheran tradition via the Lutheran confessions."

An imminent split into two confessional traditions was forestalled only by assuring that the new church clearly wants to be related to both traditions. But on what basis should this be done?

The new church order refers to the Leuenberg Agreement: "With the Leuenberg Agreement the [new Protestant] church acknowledges that the Lutheran and Reformed traditions have come together in a common understanding of the Gospel."

3. Theological possibility of combining different confessional traditions. The Leuenberg Agreement formulates a consensus on a common understanding of the gospel focused on the message of justification as the expression of God's free grace. As a result, fellowship could be declared among the participating churches. This church fellowship has far-reaching consequences for the confessional doctrines of these churches. On the one hand, loyalty to existing confessions of faith is not neutralized by the Leuenberg Agreement. On the other hand, the mutually pronounced doctrinal condemnations of the past are declared no longer to be applicable to the contemporary assenting churches and so could no longer be an obstacle for church fellowship. Here the Leuenberg Agreement is comparable to the recent agreement between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and three Reformed churches in the U.S.A. (5)

In several respects the Leuenberg Agreement is a unique ecumenical document. It has nothing to do with unions imposed from above (like the Prussian Union in nineteenth-century Germany), but it was developed in view of the challenges posed to the churches by modern culture. The most peculiar aspect of the Leuenberg Agreement is its ecumenical method, as it is based not on one of the traditional unification models but on the satis est of article VII of the Augsburg Confession, where it says that it is sufficient for the true unity of the church to agree on the doctrine of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments. This article is quoted almost verbatim in [section]2 of the Leuenberg Agreement.

The Leuenberg Agreement is not easily classified among ecumenical models. It declares church fellowship based on a common understanding of the gospel, which implies a proleptic doctrinal consensus, in which a complete doctrinal agreement is anticipated. Why is this? An answer to that question brings us to the essentials of the theology of the Reformation.

Doctrine derives its meaning only from the pivotal center of the faith, the mystery of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Confessional doctrine, however, is the result of human attempts to refer to this mystery. This does not make doctrine relative, but it does relate it to the pivotal center to which it refers. Reformation confession could and should be no more than reference to the justifying message of the gospel.

The Leuenberg Agreement follows this way of thought of the Reformation. It does not compel the assenting churches to put aside traditional confessions but calls for using them in relation to the heart of the gospel. Because of the common understanding of the gospel, the Leuenberg Agreement urges reassessing and deepening the traditional doctrine of the participating churches. That gives the Agreement a profoundly dynamic power. It includes a challenge for a continuing search for unity, which has already been reached in principle. But the Agreement is not so naive as to assume that traditional doctrinal differences have simply disappeared by the declaration of the common understanding of the gospel and of church fellowship. The participating churches may keep their traditional creeds and confessions, but the Leuenberg Agreement has robbed them of their divisive force. The Agreement must not be seen as a new confession but as a new way of dealing with old confessions ([section]37). With respect to the points of controversy between Reformed and Lutheran in the past, the Agreement does not offer a new doctrine on these subjects but formulates what is necessary for overcoming a split over these doctrines. The common understanding of the gospel is not only the bridge uniting diverse traditions; it also gives confidence that on those points where a full doctrinal consensus has not yet been reached, it will be reached tomorrow or the day after tomorrow--at least, as long as the pursuit of the common understanding of the gospel is continued! (6)

Especially in the context of the Protestant merger in the Netherlands this approach is very much needed, as is apparent in the discussions about predestination with the orthodox wing of the Dutch Reformed Church. At the moment opinions differ too much to formulate a doctrine of predestination that is acceptable for all parties. There are still differences that have not been thoroughly discussed. But from a common understanding of the sufficiency of the gospel and the administration of the sacraments one may be confident that some day we will overcome the remaining doctrinal differences.

Mutual contribution of the Reformed and Lutheran tradition

Some Lutherans are anxiously asking whether they made the right decision in boarding this train. Will Dutch Lutheranism not go to rack and ruin in that united church with such a large Reformed majority? Lutherans comprise about one percent of the new church. What will remain of the Lutheran tradition? As a matter of fact, a serious form of cooperation between a Reformed and a Lutheran congregation has arisen in a very small number of places.

It is doubtful whether the benefit for Lutherans of "Together-on-the-Way" should first be looked for on a congregational level. The assistance in regional and national tasks for the church seems more advantageous. Some fresh blood is a real blessing for a decreasing church in which there is an in-crowd mentality. Most benefit can be gained when there is an optimal contribution of the Lutheran tradition; in the words of the new church order, "to take care that the Lutheran tradition will be kept and will serve the whole church." The Lutheran tradition contains elements that deserve to be brought into the united church as broadly and deeply as possible. The best way of keeping the Lutheran tradition is by sharing it with others. Lutherans must have the courage to think in the long term, letting the valuable elements of their tradition permeate the whole church as a leaven.

Here also lies a very important task for the Lutheran congregations. Often "Together-on-the-Way" is not considered by the Lutherans until one of their congregations cannot support itself anymore. Then it is actually too late to merge with another (Reformed) congregation, because who wants a weak partner? The purpose of making the Lutheran tradition subservient to the whole works only when a strong partner brings this tradition in.

This is not just a practical consideration. Lutherans would act contrary to their tradition if they would strive only for the existence of an independent Dutch Lutheran church. The Lutheran church derives its right to exist only from preaching the gospel through Word and Sacrament and serving the world with its diakonia. Herein is concealed a deep ecumenical insight: just as Luther never intended to start a new church on his own, his present-day followers should be focused not on the continuation of a Lutheran church, even when it has existed for centuries, but on preaching the gospel in word and deed, which (as the Dutch Lutheran Synod rightly observed in 1985) could only be carried out by merging with kindred churches.

This does not necessarily mean that after the (re)union every Lutheran congregation should merge as soon as possible with a Reformed congregation. In many cases it will be more worthwhile for the whole of the new church if Lutherans continue in a relative independence, not as an end in itself but as the best way of spreading the Lutheran tradition.

The Synod of the Lutheran Church made a wise decision by taking a parallel course regarding the Protestant Church in the Netherlands: on the one hand fully aiming at a broad and deep introduction of the best that Lutheran tradition can offer, and on the other hand stimulating vital Lutheran communities to fold themselves into this new church body. The former requires a consciousness of Lutheran identity for which support of the LWF partner churches would be very helpful. The latter will succeed only if it is carried out with a realistic and positive attitude.


The new Protestant Church in the Netherlands can profit from a Lutheran presence, as it contributes the essential elements of Lutheran faith and confession such as the pivotal position of justification, the distinction between law and gospel, attention to the liturgy, emphasis on the real presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper, and stress on Christian freedom.

Dutch Lutherans have applied those ideas in peculiar contexts of openness, which characterize the Lutheran tradition in the Netherlands. I give two brief examples of this application.

1. Modest doctrinal defense of the real presence. From the Antwerp Confession (1566) it can be deduced that the Dutch Lutherans were not ready to give up their conviction of the real presence in the Lord's Supper. In 1603 the Amsterdam Lutherans had to defend themselves again, this time against their interpretation of the Lord's ascension. The Lord's ascension implied, according to the Reformed, that the body of Christ being in heaven could not be present in, with, and under bread and wine as the Lutherans hold.

The church council of the Amsterdam Lutheran congregation replied to this with an Amsterdam Confession in which they absolutely insisted on the real presence of the body and the blood of Christ in the Eucharistic communion. (7) The Amsterdam Confession, however, did not want to fall back on the idea of the ubiquity of the body of Christ, explained by the communication of attributes, as in Article VIII of the Formula of Concord. The latter theory must have been too severe a doctrine for the Dutch Lutherans, perhaps too severe to coexist with their Reformed fellow believers. Hence they resorted to the ubiquity of the body of Christ, explained by the mystical thought of the presence of everything in Christ. (8) This modest doctrinal explication was doubtless inspired by the still very worthwhile thought that the mystery of the presence of Christ should not be explained but should only be referred to in order to keep it a mystery.

2. Flexible organization form. Almost from the beginning Dutch Lutheranism followed a specific line in the organization of the church. Against Luther's advice, the Dutch Lutherans learned to organize themselves, because they could not rely on any governmental support. As a consequence they had to take the material interests of the church into their own hands. This principle, which came from Antwerp to Amsterdam, took shape in the Amsterdam church order, which came by various ways to North America. There it proved to be very useful in a political situation that was strongly marked by the separation of church and state. As a bottom-up order it appeared to fit very well in the democratic constellation of the United States of America. (9)

Of course, the American church order is not a copy of the Dutch one. It would even be contrary to the spirit of the Dutch Lutheran Church order for it to be rashly adopted, but this order should be accommodated to the needs of various situations. Without denying other influences, it is evident that the typical Dutch Lutheran form of administration, giving the congregation the basic authority and ascribing the super-congregational bodies no more authority than what was granted to them by the congregations, had become a fundamental idea in the polities of the Lutheran churches in the United States.

As the Americans once did, the new Protestant Church in the Netherlands now could gain from these Dutch Lutheran ideas, as the latter is confronted with serious challenges in organizing church ministry and church government.


By joining the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, the Dutch Lutherans rightly seized the chance that they had not gotten or taken before. The problem in the past was that Lutherans were not able to penetrate into Dutch society, and Lutheranism always remained a denomination on the margin. First isolated, later suppressed, but soon tolerated, and today simply too small to play a role of any importance: that is in a nutshell the development to the present position of Lutheranism in the Netherlands. By this merger, however, Dutch Lutherans get a tremendous opportunity to spread their ideas and ideals and to learn in many respects from their partners. In this mutuality faith will grow and the church will be built up. In this respect the merging churches have a promising future.

1. Casper Ch. G. Visser, Hollands Lutheraner. Geschichte und Gegenwart (Erlangen, 1991).

2. Oliver K. Olson, "The Rise and Fall of the Antwerp Martinists," Lutheran Quarterly 1 (1987): 98-119.

3. This conflict prompted Lutherans to publish the "Antwerp Confession" (1566). See Johannes W. Pont, De luthersche kerken in Nederland. Haar belijdenisgeschriften, kerkeordeningen en liederenschat historisch toegelicht en ingeleid, tweede stuk (Amsterdam, 1929).

4. Willem J. Kooiman, "Consensus on the Holy Communion," Lutheran World 3 (1957): 384-85.

5. A Formula of Agreement between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Reformed Church in America and the United Church of Christ on entering into full communion on the basis of a Common Calling (Chicago, 1997).

6. In this respect a difference between the Leuenberg and the North American Agreement can be observed. Whereas the latter seems to have accepted doctrinal differences "even to the extent of their irreconcilability" (A Formula of Agreement, 5), the former is trying to overcome these differences by continuing common doctrinal discussions between the participating churches ([section]37).

7. "Confessie, ofte Bekentenisse des Geloofs, der Gemeente de Confessie van Augspurgh toegdaan in Amsterdam," in Ferdinand D. Domela Nieuwenhuis, Geschiedenis der Amsterdamsche Luthersche Gemeente. Supplement D (Amsterdam, 1856), 73vv.

8. The Amsterdam Confession used thoughts developed by Philip Nicolai, who inserted himself into this conflict with the audacious writing Verantwortung der Evangelischen Kirchen in Hollandt, wider die Lasterung Petri Plancii Calvinischen Predigers in Amsterdam und seiner Consorten ... (Hamburg, 1603).

9. Willem J. Kooiman, "Die Amsterdammer Kirchenordnung in ihrer Auswirkung auf die Lutherischen Kirchenordnung in den Vereinigten Staaten Amerikas," Evangelische Theologie 16 (1956): 225-38, and Klaas Zwanepol, "Lutheran-Reformed Unity in the Netherlands," Lutheran Quarterly 9 (1995): 419-51.

Klaas Zwanepol

Professor of Lutheran Theology

Evangelical Lutheran Seminary of Utrecht University
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Author:Zwanepol, Klaas
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Geographic Code:4EUNE
Date:Jun 1, 2005
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