While mainline churches continue to decline in the Netherlands, evangelical and charismatic and even Catholic churches are showing new growth in this liberal and secular nation. Quadrant (March) the newsletter of the British Christian Research Association, reports that the smaller Protestant denominations, such as the various conservative offshoots of the Dutch Reformed Church, are showing an average growth of 20 percent in 10 years.
Five of these denominations publish their annual membership data and it shows that these bodies are growing faster than the national population by 6.2 percent. Abram J. Krol writes that their growth is mainly biological since they only lose a small percentage of their young people. But they are also more evangelistic now. Since 1995, Krol writes that the various evangelical streams in all the churches are showing new influence and vitality.
There is also a “hidden” development of the conservative Reformed League’s influence within the liberal Dutch Reformed Church. This conservative Calvinist caucus comprised 12.5 percent of all church members in 1950; today the league accounts for over 20 percent of the membership of this denomination. Together with other “orthodox pockets” of the DRC, the conservatives represent over two-thirds of the churches. Krol finds that two percent of all Reformed church members attend the liberal churches.
The Dutch Mennonites have likewise abandoned liberal positions and moved to a more conservative stance. In churches that are uniting with the Reformed, such as the Lutheran churches, there is also evangelical renewal taking place. The Alpha course, a seminar in Christian basics which started in Britain, was introduced by the Reformed League of the DRC and is drawing many unchurched into church life.
Krol adds that the Catholic Church in Holland, long one of the world’s most liberal, is changing. Under orthodox bishops appointed by Pope John Paul II, the numbers of new priests have increased during the last 10 years and the membership declines are less dramatic than found in the Protestant churches.
(Quadrant, Christian Research Assoc., Vision Bldg., 4 Footscray Rd., Eltham, London SE9 2TZ England; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.