Even though we are a church in Canada, our roots trace back across the ocean and across the centuries. We are not a new church but treasure a long history and deep connection with the ancient church. When you look at things from God’s point of view, His church has been in existence since creation itself. He has always had people who loved Him and worshiped Him in true covenant.
In the Bible you can follow the line of God’s church from Adam to Noah, then through Abraham, Jacob and the people of Israel. Following Pentecost, the Lord Jesus Christ reached out again to all nations and began gathering in the Gentile people once more.
When you see it that way, the church has always existed and the Son of God only adds to it over the years and around the globe. We in Canada today believe what Adam in Eden believed. We worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in obedience to His Word and hold the same faith as God’s people through all times and places.
Over the course of time, then, the Lord Jesus brought the gospel to Europe. The church thrived for many years on this continent. Sadly, however, it eventually became corrupt, filled with false teachings and ungodly practices. God, however, did not abandon her. He caused a revival to take place known as the great Reformation of the 16th century. During that time men such as Martin Luther in Germany, Ulrich Zwingli in Switzerland, John Calvin in France and Switzerland and John Knox in Scotland were used by God to bring the church back to the obedience of the Word of God.
The Reformation had a great impact on the Church in many different parts of Europe, including the Netherlands, from which our immediate roots come. Over time the Reformed churches in the Netherlands came under attack repeatedly from various quarters and this led to some significant events and developments.
The Synod of Dordrecht 1618-19:
This synod, which included delegates from many different countries in Europe, had to deal with the teachings of Jacob Arminius. Arminius taught that man had a free will and could save Himself by choosing independently to believe in Christ. His attempt to inject a more man-centered emphasis into matter of salvation was refuted and the sovereignty of God's grace was maintained.
The Secession of 1834:
In 1834 a number of ministers and members were either expelled or departed from the Dutch Reformed (State) Church. This church had drifted away from its biblical and confessional basis. It had also adopted a hierarchical form of church government which left no room for the autonomy of the local church. As a result, those expelled led an exodus out of the State Church which had become untrue to the Word and continued the faithful church known as the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands. The Lord again preserved His people.
The Doleantie of 1886:
In 1886 there was a second expulsion/exodus out of the Dutch Reformed Church. It was called the Doleantie (literally: Grieving) and differed in character from the Secession of 1834. The causes, however, can be traced once again to biblical deviance and hierarchy. This movement was led by the well known theologian and statesman Dr. Abraham Kuyper. In 1892 the churches of the Secession merged with the Doleantie churches and were called the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands.
The Liberation of 1944:
In 1944 another reformation took place under the leadership of Dr. Klaas Schilder and Dr. S. Greijdanus. The causes related once again to doctrine and church government. The Synod of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands took more power unto itself than was right. In doing so, it made certain questionable views regarding the covenant and baptism suddenly binding on all ministers and members. When certain ministers, elders and deacons refused to conform, they were deposed and excommunicated. Those who were expelled and those who departed of their own accord formed the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated).
The Canadian Reformed Churches
After World War II there was a massive emigration from the Netherlands to North America, especially to Canada. When members of the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Liberated) arrived, they first took up contact with their former sister church, the Christian Reformed Church. They had hoped to receive an earnest hearing about what took place in 1944 and thus join the CRC in good conscience, but the CRC did not wish to pursue the matter. They continued to maintain official ties to the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands (Synodical) and refused to recognize the Liberated churches. The consequence was that on April 16, 1950, the first Canadian Reformed Church was instituted in Coaldale, Alberta.
In Ontario, efforts were made during this same time to integrate with the Protestant Reformed Churches. That effort soon ground to a halt when it became clear that the PRC expected the newly-arrived immigrants to accept an extra-confessional doctrinal statement relating to election and the covenant. This they refused to do. This led to more Canadian Reformed Churches being established in Ontario and in other locations across Canada.
The Church at Carman
Immigrants largely came at first to rural areas. To immigrate, one needed a Canadian sponsor who would promise to employ those sponsored for at least one year. Most of the Dutch immigrants attracted agricultural sponsors and ended up working in farming communities, often quite remote from urban centres. This is how many Reformed immigrants came to the small country town of Carman, Manitoba in the early 1950s. As the group grew, one of their first priorities was to establish a church. Despite the poverty and difficult living conditions of the day, the Canadian Reformed Church at Carman was instituted on August 12, 1951. The Lord again provided for the needs of His people.
The first minister to serve at the church in Carman was Rev. H. Scholten in 1953, a pioneering pastor. He was followed by Rev. J Mulder, Rev C. Van Spronsen, Rev. J. Geertsema, Rev. J. VanRietschoten, Rev. P.K.A. DeBoer, Rev. J. Moesker and Rev. P.H. Holtvlüwer.
Throughout the years, the hand of the Lord was upon the church and the people were blessed with significant growth in numbers and in prosperity. In the early 1970s, members of the church were able to establish a Christian day school, Dufferin Christian School. Some members eventually moved toward the urban centre of Winnipeg and presently there are two Canadian Reformed churches in that city under the names Grace and Redeemer.
By the late 1990s, Carman church had grown to over 600 members and was bursting out of its building.. This led to the amicable splitting into two congregations on July 4, 1999 so that today the small town of Carman has two Canadian Reformed Churches known simply as East and West. The congregations continue to grow and presently have over 800 members combined. Carman West is served by Rev. A.J. Pol while Rev. S. Vandevelde is the pastor for the Carman East congregation.