The present-day Reformed Church in the United States (RCUS) is the continuing remnant of the German immigrant denomination of the same name which was founded in 1725 by the Rev. John Philip Boehm. The old RCUS continued as a separate denomination until 1933-34 when the larger part of it united with the Evangelical Synod of North America to form the Evangelical and Reformed Church. This new church merged with the Congregational Christian Churches in 1957 to form the United Church of Christ.
One classis-the Eureka Classis-refused to participate in the 1934 merger. This classis continued as a separate entity for the next five decades. During this time, several congregations of like mind have become part of it. The North Dakota Classis dissolved in 1936 and its ministers and churches joined the Eureka Classis. During the 1950s, congregations at Menno, SD; Manitowoc, WI; Garner, IA; Sutton, NE; and Shafter and Bakersfield, CA, which had either left the Evangelical and Reformed Church or had been independent, joined the Eureka Classis. The 1970s welcomed the arrival of several churches from the General Association of Regular Baptists that had become Reformed. In subsequent years, several groups (some as whole congregations) have left the UCC to join the RCUS. Today, the RCUS numbers about forty congregations.
At its annual meeting in 1986, the Eureka Classis dissolved to form the Synod of the Reformed Church in the United States. Today, instead of one classis, the RCUS consists of four classes: Covenant East, Northern Plains, South Central and Western.
First Things First
There are several reasons why the Eureka Classis refused to participate in the 1934 merger, but its fundamental reason is the doctrine of Scripture. The Eureka Classis was established in 1910 by churches that were already concerned with the rising tide of liberalism in the Eastern Synod, the seminaries and bureaucracy of the church. Its reason for existence was to maintain the pure preaching of the Word of God.
The foundational principle of all Christian teaching is that the Bible is the very Word of God, by which every question must be tested (cf. Isa. 40:8; Matt. 5:18; 24:35; 2 Tim. 3:16; 1 Pet. 1:21, 25). Eve, believing Satan’s lie, fell into sin and recommended the same to her husband, who followed her sad advice (Gen. 3:1ff.; 1 Tim. 2:14). Today, our only hope of salvation is in believing God’s Word of Truth (John 17:17; 18:37). Upon this principle, the Protestant Reformation was established. The answer to Question 21 of the Heidelberg catechism begins, “True faith is a certain knowledge whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word.”
Liberalism, by contrast, is built solely upon human opinion. This is manifested in two common tendencies: (1) relegating the fundamental teachings of Scripture-the virgin birth of Christ, his substitutionary atonement and bodily resurrection, etc.-to the realm of non-binding and merely theoretical, and (2) replacing these teachings with popular humanistic notions, including the universal brotherhood of believer and unbeliever, socialistic political theory, and a broad one-world, one-church ecumenism.
The merger of 1934 signaled the victory of these liberal tendencies as ruling the church and thus compromised loyalty to the Bible as God’s infallible and inerrant Word. This is not to say that every congregation of the Evangelical and Reformed Church had submitted to these tendencies (some never have), nor that everyone in the merged church was in a position to recognize them. Sadly, the leadership of the Evangelical and Reformed Church covered up criticism of the merger and willfully hid from the people the existence of a continuing remnant of the RCUS. The prophet Isaiah denounced such false prophets of his day: If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (Isa. 8:20).
The RCUS is not the only Reformed or Biblical church, nor are Reformed believers the only Christians. Christ warns us against such arrogance in Matthew 24:23, 24. Nevertheless, we are convinced that the teaching summarized in the Reformed creeds is the most faithful expression of Biblical teaching known to man. This is a matter of conviction, not pride, for we confess with Jacob of old, I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant (Gen. 32:10; cf. 1 John 5:19).