The Reformed Church in Australia has its roots in the Dutch Reformed tradition, which traces its origins back to the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. The Dutch Reformed Church emerged in the Netherlands in the 16th and 17th centuries, and it became one of the dominant religious and cultural institutions in the country.
Many Dutch immigrants came to Australia after World War II, and a number of these immigrants were members of the Dutch Reformed Church. These immigrants sought to establish a Reformed Church presence in Australia, and in 1953, the Reformed Church in Australia was officially founded.
The Reformed Churches of Australia is the name of the church established by post-war Dutch immigrants of the Reformed faith in Australia. It is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the Dutch Reformed Church.
The first Reformed Church of Australia was established at Kingston, Tasmania in 1952. Its name was chosen to make clear the desire to integrate into the Australian community and to remove the stigma of being Dutch and ‘foreign’. Nevertheless, it was based on the principles of orthodox Reformed theology so that its members were predominantly former members of the Gereformeerde Kerken in the Netherlands.
The parent controlled John Calvin School in Kingston, became the model not only for the Reformed Church but also for other conservative Protestant Churches in Australia. The school in Kingston was opened in January 1962 with an enrolment of 77 primary students.
As Dutch migration to Tasmania continued in the 1950s and 1960s, Reformed Churches were established in Ulverstone, Penguin, Hobart and Howrah. Since the 1970s, the ethnic diversity of its membership has increased. They now are established all over Australia.
A stated on their website, the desire to start a new denomination grew out of a commitment to establish churches that –
- embraced and upheld Biblical and Reformed theology,
- had a national profile that could enfold new settlers and others interested in every state and capital city; and
- was governed by a group of elders chosen periodically by the church and linked with representative state and national bodies.
Up through the 1990s the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia (CRCA) experienced steady growth and saw churches between established throughout Australia. Again from their website, “Since 2000 the CRCA has renewed its commitment to be a church that is reforming to reach the lost for Christ. It adopted a fourfold task (Pray, Train, Grow, Align) as the framework to expand the CRCA’s gospel impact throughout Australia. In every state there are renewed efforts to continue the pattern of the first CRC churches in Australia: to plant many new churches and also welcome migrants who are making their home in Australia. The CRCA is committed to see “the gospel bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world.”
See also: Reformed Theologian Rev. John Vanderbom