A collaboration between two Hope College colleagues has yielded a book concerning a divisive time in Reformed church history.
Dr. Robert P. Swierenga and Dr. Elton J. Bruins
are co-authors of the book "Family Quarrels in the Dutch
Reformed Churches in the Nineteenth Century," recently
released by the Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. of Grand
Swierenga is a senior research fellow with the
college's A.C. Van Raalte Institute and an adjunct professor
of history at Hope. Bruins is director of the A.C. Van
Raalte Institute and the Evert J. and Hattie E. Blekkink
Professor Emeritus of Religion at Hope.
"Family Quarrels" focuses on the religious history
of the Dutch Calvinist emigration from the Netherlands to
West Michigan and the church struggles of the early
settlers. The book explores the reasons that Dutch
religious separatists immigrated to the United States,
founding settlements like Holland; the Holland Classis
joining the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in the United
States; the 1857 secession that produced the Christian
Reformed Church; and the Masonic controversy that led to
more secessions in 1882.
The book deals with the division and strife within
the Dutch Reformed Church, but according to the authors grew
out of a spirit of reconciliation and an ardent desire for
The 158-page illustrated and annotated volume came
out of a lecture series sponsored in March of 1997 by the
Pillar Christian Reformed Church of Holland in celebration
of its sesquicentennial. The lecture series was preceded in
February of 1997 by a "Unity Service"--a joint service of
the Pillar Church with its long-estranged daughter church,
First Reformed Church of Holland--to celebrate the Rev. A.C.
Van Raalte's founding of the town and church.
The authors themselves are members of the Reformed
Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church.
Swierenga is a long-time member of the CRC and is currently
a member of the Pillar Christian Reformed Church. Bruins is
an ordained minister in the RCA and a long-time member of
Third Reformed Church of Holland.
In their introduction, the authors observe that
they are celebrating the rich religious heritage of the
Dutch-born Reformed Churches--"a history of factiousness and
strife, but also of deep piety, love of Christ's church,
defense of biblical truth, and bold action to work out the
faith in 'world and life.'" In his preface to the book, the
Rev. Michael De Vries of Pillar Church also noted, "Becoming
knowledgeable about these early struggles within the colony
will help us understand the past and, hopefully, encourage
us to go forward in faith and hope."
"Family Quarrels" is the 32nd volume in the
Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America.
General editor of the series is the Rev. Dr. Donald J.
Bruggink, who is a professor emeritus of historical theology
at Western Theological Seminary, which is an educational
institution of the RCA.