Christian Reformed Church Sutherland Shire - A History

Sutherland Christian Reformed Church (SCRC) is one of 45 congregations established across all states by the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia since 1951. It is part of the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia (CRCA), a member of the Protestant – Calvinist (that is, Reformed and Presbyterian) wing of the Christian Church

This denomination is part of a family of Reformed and Presbyterian Churches that have spread worldwide. These churches trace their roots back to the setting up of the Church at the time of Jesus, and through the Protestant Reformation – a 16th century reform movement in church and society led by people such as Martin Luther and John Calvin. As such we share an important part of the history and beliefs of the whole Christian Church.

It was migration that brought Reformed Churches to North America, South Africa and Australasia. Mission work has further spread the Reformed faith to Asia and other parts of the world.

Christian Reformed Church of Sutherland Shire - A Timeline

March 2023

27-28 March 2010

Rev. Gerald van der Kolk ceases his ministry at CRCSS after 27 years of service.

Our Church celebrates its 50th anniversary.

8 June 2008 Rev. Simon is ordained as minister.
February 2008 The church votes to change from having a single minister to dual ministry. Rev. Simon is called to join the newly formed dual ministry.
2006 The church buildings are extended, giving extra meeting rooms and a bigger back hall.
2000 After our denomination changes its name from the Reformed Churches of Australia to the Christian Reformed Churches of Australia, our church name becomes Christian Reformed Church Sutherland Shire
3 March 1996 Rev. Gerald Vanderkolk is installed as minister.
October 1991 The new premises in Barden Ridge are completed and opened, and our name is changed from Reformed Church of Sutherland to Reformed Church Sutherland Shire
1991 The first Holiday Bible Club was held.
1990 The church building in Sutherland is sold. Our church services are held in Minerva Street Public School hall while the new premises are being built.
5 February 1984 Rev. Bruce Gillard is installed as minister.
2 April 1977 Rev. Fred Vanderbom is installed as minister.
30 January 1970 Rev. Manfred Schwartz is installed as minister.
15 October 1965 Rev. Gerald Hanscamp is ordained as minister.
4 May 1963 The newly erected church building at Glencoe Street, Sutherland, is dedicated.
15 October 1960 Rev. Willem (Bill) Vanderkolk is ordained and becomes the first minister. His ordination service is conducted by Prof. Alexander Barkley, Principal of Reformed Theological College, Geelong.
1 January 1960 The Reformed Church of Sutherland is instituted. The first church service is held at the Sutherland School of Arts Building.

The Reformed Churches of Australia (and New Zealand)

The aftermath of World War II led many people to migrate from devastated Europe to come to Australia and New Zealand. However it was not only the chaos of war that caused people to migrate. The GKN in 1944 (in the middle of the war years) had gone through a massive upheaval in which some 100,000 members left under the leadership of Dr. K. Schilder. This sad disruption to church life had split villages and families. The Free Reformed Church traces its beginning to this disruption.

The migrants, weary of war and church strife, had no wish to begin yet another church in their new country. In many places they joined the Free Presbyterian Churches but found that the ‘unaccompanied, Psalms only’ worship was difficult for them to adapt to. Others joined the Presbyterian Church of Australia but that denomination was in the middle of a battle with liberalism and also tolerated elders and ministers to be members of secret societies such as The Masonic Lodge.

In 1950 the GKN sent Rev. J. Kremer to Australia to investigate the spiritual situation of the migrants. As a result of this the Free Church of St Kilda actually extended a call to a GKN minister from the Netherlands to work within the Free Church to work with Dutch migrants. Once the decision had been made, late in 1951, to organise a separate denomination the migrants also found that the social and cultural links also helped bind them together so that even though it had not been their motivation for forming a new denomination it did help to bind together the diverse Christians who came from the various streams of Dutch Reformed Church life.

In 1952 the new, fledgling denomination held its first Synod and decided on the name Reformed Churches of Australia. The name sought to do justice to the importance and autonomy of each local church even as they agreed to work together as a denomination. Their Church Order was a modified version of that of the Christian Reformed Church in North America and from them too the new denomination bought its first hymn book and Catechism material.

The Protestant Reformation

The corruption of the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages (papal excesses, indulgences etc) came to a head with the priest Martin Luther nailing his 95 ‘Theses’ to the door of the chapel at Wittenberg. Luther was ‘excommunicated’ after refusing to ‘recant’ at the Diet of Worms. The groundswell of popular support ensured the future of the Protestant church. Lutheran Churches originated in Germany and Scandinavia.

John Calvin, in France, followed Luther’s teaching and became a leading figure of the Reformation in Geneva, Switzerland. Reformed Churches trace their roots back to Calvin. In Scotland John Knox fled persecution and came under Calvin’s influence – on his return he established Presbyterian Churches. In England the Reformation took a somewhat different course over the issue of Henry VIII’s marriage. Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer, the English leaders had been influenced by the teachings of Luther and later by Calvin.

Reformed Churches were strongest in Switzerland, some parts of Germany, the Netherlands and later in Hungary and other Eastern European countries.

The Reformed Church in the Netherlands

In Holland the support for the Protestant cause was tied closely to Dutch opposition to the rule of Spain over the lowlands. Dutch leaders came under the influence of Calvin and his successors and brought the Reformed faith back, translating Calvin’s writings into Dutch and setting up churches with a Presbyterian form of Church government. Still under persecution the church held its first synod at Emden in 1571 and was officially recognised as the church of the Republic Of The United Netherlands at the ‘Peace of Westphalia’.

Controversy with Arminius

The national church in the Netherlands was split late in the late 16th century. Professor Arminius was the leading figure in rejecting key areas of Reformed teaching, now generally known as the ‘five points of Calvinism’. To resolve the issue an international Presbyterian/Reformed Synod was held at Dort in 1618-19. This Synod rejected the views of the Remonstrants (followers of Arminius) and spelled out the five points of Calvinism in the Canons of Dort.

Revival and Secession

The French Revolution was a humanistic movement that made man the measure of all things. One of the results was that humanistic thinking influenced the church in the form of liberalism. The church came more and more under the control of the State. At the grass roots of the church people remained faithful to Scripture and Confessions and sought to keep the church regulated by the Church Order that had been agreed upon at the Synod of Dort. In the early 1800’s a revival swept through parts of Europe and in the Netherlands affected the upper classes.

This revival grew out of the English revivals under Whitefield and Wesley that had saved Britain from going down the path of revolution. By 1834 it had become impossible for faithful preachers to stay within the State Church as opposition to reform grew. One of the ministers, De Cock, led a secession in that year. The leaders of the secession stated that they would not fellowship with the Dutch Reformed Church ‘until it returned’ to the service of the Lord. This was called an ‘act of Afscheiding’ (separation).

The church growing out of this became known as the Christian Reformed Church. The movement away from the State Church grew and in 1836 they held their first Synod, formed their own theological college and adopted the Church Order of Dort. Persecution followed and two secession leaders led their congregations to Iowa and Michigan which now have flourishing Reformed communities. The Christian Reformed Churches of North America (sister church of the CRCA) grew out of this migration.

The Secession of 1886

Abraham Kuyper, a young minister of liberal persuasions was converted by the witness of a peasant lady in his first congregation. His own congregation was staunchly Reformed and Kuyper attempted to bring the churches once more back to faithfulness to Scripture. Like most of his predecessors he tried to work within the church until that became impossible. The door of the church was actually nailed shut to bar his entrance.

This led to a second large secession from the State Church – a movement known as the Doleantie (grieving). Both of the above groups began to work together more and more until, in 1892 they merged and became known as the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (GKN). This church then consisted of 700 churches and some 300,000 members. Some churches, however, stayed out of this union being suspicious of some aspects of Kuyper’s teachings (they felt he leaned to much towards ‘presumed regeneration’ of infants).

The new church took a strong position against the interference of the State (separation of Church and State). Kuyper, who later became Prime Minister of the Netherlands had a strong view of Christ’s Lordship over all areas of life.