History and Government
The Protestant Reformed Churches in America are a denomination of 31 churches and over 7800 members in the United States and Canada. Founded as a separate denomination of Reformed churches in 1924, the PRC stand in the tradition of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. Their origin as a denomination was the doctrinal controversy over "common grace" within the Christian Reformed Church in the early 1920s, occasioned by that church's adoption of the doctrine of common grace as official church dogma. The result of the controversy was that several ministers with their congregations were put out of the Christian Reformed Church. These men then established the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC) on the basis of the truth of God's sovereign, particular grace in Jesus Christ as taught in Scripture.
Foremost among the founders of the PRC was Herman Hoeksema (1886-1965), long-time pastor in the First Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI; prolific author; professor of theology at the Protestant Reformed Seminary for 40 years; and outstanding theologian. In his book, A Half Century of Theology (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1977), the well-known Dutch theologian G.C. Berkouwer, acknowledged that "the unquestionably sharp theological thought of the American theologian Herman Hoeksema played an important role" in his theological development. In fact, Berkouwer chose Hoeksema as his "dialogue partner" (p. 98). The "dialogue," however, was profound disagreement, particularly Berkouwer's disagreement with Hoeksema's staunch adherence to the Reformed doctrine of predestination.
Congregations are located throughout the United States, especially in the Midwest but also extending to Colorado, California, and Washington state in the west. Additionally, we have three congregations in Canada, two in Alberta, Canada (Edmonton and Lacombe) and one in Ontario (Wingham).
Holding the Presbyterian form of church government, the denomination is organized in two classes, Classis East and Classis West (the eastern border of Illinois being the boundary), which meet two or three times a year, and in a Synod, which meets annually in June. Without detracting from the principle of the binding authority of the major assemblies, the Protestant Reformed churches emphasize that each congregation is self-governing by a body of elders chosen out of the congregation (the "autonomy of the local congregation"). Hence, the name of the denomination -- not "Church" (singular), but "Churches" (plural).
The churches endured a severe, internal, doctrinal controversy in the early 1950s in defense of the unconditionality of the covenant of grace (sovereign, particular grace applied to the covenant). As a result of this struggle, the denomination was reduced in size. However, at the present time there is stability and steady growth, lovely activity, and peace for these churches.
For more on PRC history, visit our Archives page
Missions and Contact
The Protestant Reformed Churches are active in missions both domestically and abroad (Click here to go to our Missions page.) Besides, each congregation is engaged in evangelism work locally through its Evangelism committees and societies.
In the words of the "Constitution" of their denominational mission committee, these churches "believe that, in obedience to the command of Christ, the King of the church, to preach the blessed Gospel to all creatures...it is the explicit duty and sacred privilege of said churches to carry out this calling." The foreign mission committee regulates the churches' work abroad. In addition to mission endeavors in the Eastern and Western United States, the PRC have been working in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. Our sister church there, Covenant Protestant Reformed Church in Ballymena, N.Ireland, is very active in bringing the gospel of sovereign grace near and far, also carrying on a work in Limerick in the Republic of Ireland.
In the recent past, the churches have engaged in foreign missions in Singapore with the mainly Chinese inhabitants of that nation. The fruit has been the organization of a sister congregation -- the Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church of Singapore. More recently we have carried on work in the Philippines (Manila and beyond) to the point that a congregation has been formed there - the Berean Protestant Reformed Church.
Confessing "that it is their sacred duty to manifest the true unity and catholicity of the Church on earth in as far as that is possible, not only in their denominational fellowship but also in conjunction with all churches which have obtained like precious faith with us, both domestic and foreign," these churches have a denominational "Committee for Contact with Other Churches." In recent years, they have either established contact, or explored the possibility of contact, with churches in the British Isles, Germany, Singapore, and Australia.
Beliefs and Practices
The PRC have as their creeds the "Three Forms of Unity" -- the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic confession, and the Canons of Dordt. The churches require that all officebearers subscribe to these Reformed confessions. The PRC confess and proclaim the doctrines of double predestination; limited, effectual atonement; total depravity; irresistible grace; and the perseverance of saints, as fundamental truths of the gospel of grace.
By their rejection of "common grace," they mean especially to deny that God is gracious in the preaching of the gospel to all who hear the external proclamation, holding that, although the gospel ought to be preached to all and although all ought to be confronted with the command to repent and believe, God is gracious in the preaching to the elect alone ("particular grace").
The biblical doctrine of the covenant is precious to these churches. They regard it as a truth that is central in Scripture and basic to the Reformed faith, even as it is fundamental to the life of the Reformed believer. The doctrine has been developed in the PRC. They conceive it, not as a contract mutually agreed upon by God and men and dependent upon the fulfillment of stipulated conditions by two parties, but as a living relationship of friendship between God in Christ and the elect church, established and maintained by the sovereign grace of God alone. They deny that faith is a condition to the covenant, holding rather that faith, the "gift of God' (Ephesians 2:8), is the means by which God realizes His covenant, as well as the means by which the elect enjoy the covenant and willingly carry out their part in the covenant.
Among the practical implications of this covenant view, in the thinking of the PRC, is the calling of the church to promote and defend marriage, the earthly symbol of the covenant between Christ and the Church (cf. Ephesians 5:22ff.), as a life-long unbreakable bond - broken and dissolved only by God in death. On this basis, the church should, and can, oppose the evil of divorce and remarriage in her communion -- an evil that devastates Protestant churches today, angers God, and disgusts godly men and women. Thus also, the family is safeguarded for the sake of the godly rearing of the children, who are included in the covenant (Malachi 2:14-16; Matthew 19:3-15).
Members of the PRC believe that good, Christian schools are a demand of the covenant. They, therefore, have established a number of Christian grade schools and high schools, maintaining them with no small amount of sacrifice (for a listing of these schools, go here). In areas where their own schools are not possible, parents use the existing Christian schools or home school their covenant children. Young people are encouraged to attend Christian colleges. [For additional reading in this area, go here.]
In their public worship on the Sabbath, these churches sing the 150 Psalms (with organ and piano accompaniment), along with a few other "hymns and spiritual songs", in keeping with article 69 of the Church Order adopted for the Reformed Churches by the Synod of Dordt (1618-1619). They use the King James Version of Holy Scripture, judging it to be the best English translation available, especially as regards the crucial matter of faithfulness to the inspired original.
The PRC note with alarm, if not horror, the widespread abandonment of the doctrine of the inerrant inspiration of Scripture by Reformed churches both in the United States and in Europe; the openness of reformed churches to the charismatic movement; the involvement of Reformed churches in ecumenicity that allies them with churches which are hostile to the distinctively Reformed doctrines, with churches which are theologically "liberal" (churches in the National and World Councils of Churches), and even Rome; and the sheer worldliness of life now tolerated, and in some cases promoted, by Reformed churches, contrary to what the Reformed churches once exhorted as the "antithesis" --the spiritual separation from the world of a holy life. (This last evil is what Francis A. Schaeffer deplored as the evangelical churches' "accommodation" to the world, in his The Great Evangelical Disaster.)
Not a whit less serious to the PRC is the threat of Arminianism. Despite the rejection of Arminianism as false doctrine by the Synod of Dordt, and the condemnation of it by the Westminster Standards, it makes deep inroads into the Reformed churches in the popular doctrines of a universal love of God for sinners revealed in the Gospel; of a death of Jesus for all men without exception, with appeal to John 3:16;and the dependency of God in salvation upon the decision of the sinner ("free will"). If free will is not openly espoused, all too often there is deep silence in the churches' preaching and confession with regard to predestination (election and reprobation) and the other doctrines of sovereign grace. The PRC believe themselves called, as a denomination of Reformed churches, stoutly to defend and enthusiastically to proclaim the historic, creedal, and distinctive doctrines of "Calvinism." They rejoice whenever they see men and women standing, not alone for "conservatism," but for the faith set down in the Canons of Dordt and in the Westminster Confession.
Institutions and Publications
The churches maintain a seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan for the training of men for the ministry. Three full-time professors give a complete course in all the branches of theology. Although the seminary has as its main purpose the preparation of men for the pastorate in the PRC and its mission endeavors, others from various churches are encouraged to enroll. The instruction is uncompromisingly and unashamedly Reformed according to the confessions. It aims at producing preachers and pastors for the Reformed churches, the greatest need in the world, as our Lord Himself told us (Matthew 9:37-38). A catalogue is available from the seminary at 4949 Ivanrest Ave., Wyoming, MI 49418 USA. You will also find it online here.
Solid Reformed books on various doctrinal and practical subjects written chiefly by Protestant Reformed writers are published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association.
For a listing of these titles visit their website, or for more information write to:
You may also find these complete Reformed books online (including some in Spanish) at this page.
Various local evangelism committees publish tracts and booklets on the Reformed faith and life. Information on this literature can be obtained from this page, or by writing to:
Although it is not an official publication of the churches, The Standard Bearer, a semi-monthly magazine, is recognized as the voice of the PRC. The address of the business office is
Sample copies of the magazine are available upon request without charge. Sample Issues are also available online. Click on the image above to go to access these.
There is a monthly magazine for Young People - Beacon Lights. Click on the image below to visit its website and see sample copies.
The Protestant Reformed Teachers' Institute publishes a quarterly magazine, Perspectives in Covenant Education. Visit their website and view past issues of the Perspectives (Currently being redone - check back later.).
For more information on the PRC, write:
Liturgy, Church Order, Declaration of Principles and Directory
- Church Order
- Declaration of Principles (Lecture on the document by Prof. David Engelsma)
- Directory of Protestant Reformed Churches
- Book: "The Confessions and Church Order of the Protestant Reformed Churches"