The Reformed Family Worldwide: A Survey of Reformed Churches, Theological Schools, and International Organizations, compiled and edited by Jean-Jacques Bauswein and Lukas Vischer. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1999. Pp. xiii + 740. $35 (paper). [Reviewed by the editor.]
Committees on ecumenicity, theological libraries, students of the universality of the Reformed faith, and world travelers will prize this thick book. It is a listing, alphabetically by country (beginning with Albania!), of all the Reformed churches in the world. “Reformed” is stretched to its uttermost limits and then some. The total is 746 church federations.
Each denomination is very briefly introduced as to its origin, history, and salient features (in the mind of the editors). Then follows a paragraph giving statistics, confessions, language, church relations, seminary (if any), church paper, and corresponding addresses.
Choosing at random, the listing of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRC) is representative:
33.Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRC) (3219)
In 1924 27 congregations separated from the Christian Reformed Church in North America in a dispute over the doctrine of common grace. In the early 1950s several of the congregations returned to the Christian Reformed Church. The church continues today primarily in the Midwest. It has its own seminary and supports churches in Singapore and New Zealand with a missionary pastor.
TM: 6,291 BM: 2,863 CM: 3,528 Congr: 27 Pstations: 2 OrdM: 33 Eld: 130 Deac: 96 EvgHome: 1 Mission: 2 Women Ord: no ChurchOrg: 2 classes (East and West, meeting 2-3 times yearly), 1 synod (meeting yearly) Off/otherLang: English DoctrB: ApC, NicC, AthC, BelgC, Cdort, HeidC Infant or believer’s baptism: both Frequency of the Lord’s Supper: 4 times a year Close relations with: Evangelical Ref Churches of Singapore NatRel: none RegRel: none IntlRel: none TheolSchool: Prot Reformed Seminary (Grandville, MI) Periodicals: The Standard Bearer (religious/semi-monthly/2,500), Prot Ref (theological journal/semi-annual/850)
Address:Protestant Reformed Churches in America, 4949 Ivanrest Ave., Grand Rapids MI 49418, United States, Tel: +1 616 531-1490, Fax: +1 616 531 3033, E-mail: email@example.com.
It strikes me as odd that “Women Ord” followed by a “yes” or “no” is made a category for every church. Why not “Wives in Subjection” or “Keepers at Home” or “Women Silent at Church”? Whatever the intention of the editors, one thus has clear identification of a number of Reformed churches that have both renounced the Reformed tradition and abandoned the creedally Reformed doctrine of Scripture, caving in to the pressure of the world.
The book similarly lists and describes some 529 Reformed theological schools (alphabetically by city). Eight international Reformed (ecumenical) organizations are also listed and described.
An introductory chapter gives a helpful history of the Reformed churches, as well as a doubtful analysis of what Reformed essentially is. This doubtfulness goes some way towards accounting for so many different Reformed churches today.
Valuable as a resource, the book makes interesting reading. Concerning the Reformed Congregations in the Netherlands (GGN), a denomination in the Netherlands of about 20,000, we are told that “in 1953 Dr. C. Steenblok was dismissed as a teacher at the theological seminary of the GG … in Rotterdam because he taught that God does not offer grace to all sinners but only to those persons who are elected and acknowledge their sins.” The formation of the Netherlands Reformed Churches in the 1960s from the Reformed Churches (Liberated) is attributed, first of all, to the fact that “believers who formed the new church were critical of the tendency within the GK(v) (Liberated—DJE) to consider itself the only true church in the Netherlands.”
Of the Evangelical Reformed Churches in Singapore, we read that this denomination was founded by “Pastor Lau Chin Kwee … who adopted in 1976, under the influence of visiting guests of the Reformed Church in America, a decidedly Ref confessional position,” which reminds one not to accept the data in such a book uncritically.
Although one uncomfortably recalls David’s sin of numbering the people, he finds himself drawn to the membership totals.
The editors have obviously put a great deal of tedious work into this unique volume. The product is worth it.