Emmanuel's history extends as far back as the 1500s when the Protestant churches were born as a result of the Great Reformation in the sixteenth century in Europe. Men like John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Knox, Martin Bucer, and many others rediscovered the Bible as the only authority for the church and Christian life. What now follows is a simple history of Emmanuel Church as a part of the federation of the Canadian and American Reformed Churches.
OUR DUTCH HERITAGE
The first Canadian Reformed Church was instituted on April 16, 1950, in Lethbridge, Alberta. Its members were people who emigrated from the Netherlands following the end of the Second World War. The War had left Europe in financial and political ruin, and with the scare of Russian Communism on the horizon, many people emigrated to other countries. The Dutch settled in Australia, Canada, South Africa and The United States. The people who formed the Canadian Reformed Churches had belonged to a church in The Netherlands called the Gereformeerde Kerken in de Nederlanden - Vrijgemaakt (known in English as the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands - Liberated). This Dutch church had been formed in the 1944 due to a split from the Reformed Churches of The Netherlands.
RELATIONS WITH THE CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCHES
Due to this recent split in The Netherlands, the Dutch immigrants were very concerned with and involved in finding the same Reformed churches. When they arrived in Canada, many immigrants joined the Christian Reformed Church. This church had been formed in 1857 by Dutch immigrants to the United States and Canada, and it had always served as the North American sister church to the Dutch churches. Soon enough, however, many post-War immigrants realized that the Christian Reformed Church was similar to the Reformed Churches of The Netherlands which they had left in 1944. Therefore they tried to initiate the same reform in the Christian Reformed Church as they had in The Netherlands.
BREAK WITH THE CHRISTIAN REFORMED CHURCHES
In 1946, the Christian Reformed Churches decided that they would discontinue ties with the Reformed Churches of the Netherlands - Liberated. Since this was the church to which the immigrants had gone in the Netherlands, the post-War immigrants looked at moving to a different church. They examined the Protestant Reformed Churches, but found them lacking. Therefore, in the early 1950s, the immigrants set up their own churches, and joined them together into a federation called the Canadian Reformed Churches.
Our church at Denver seceded from the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in January 1991, and immediately sought to affiliate itself with a true church in the region. In March 1991, the congregation decided to pursue membership in the federation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Churches (OPC). It petitioned the Presbytery of the Dakotas for admittance to the OPC. Yet after their minister, Rev. M. Pollock, had sworn his ministerial vows in one of the Presbyteries, he and the congregation came to the conclusion that they could not in good conscience join the OPC after all. They then sought admittance to the Canadian Reformed Churches, which they eventually received.
The following ministers have served Emmanuel over the years:
- Rev. M. Pollock (1991 – 1997)
- Rev. D.W. Vandeburgt (1999 – 2002)
- Rev. D.M. Boersma (2003 – 2008)
- Rev. R.J. Kampen (November 2011 – 2014)
THE DISTINCTIVES OF THE REFORMED FAITH
How is the Reformed faith different from, say, the Roman Catholic faith and the faith of mainline churches?
Here are a few statements to help you grasp what the Reformed faith is all about. When you read this please check out the Scripture references so that you can become convinced that this is really what the Bible teaches.
BY SCRIPTURE ALONE (SOLA SCRIPTURA)
Only the Scriptures have authority in the church. Human ideas and traditions may never take the place of the Word of God. It is the only rule for faith (cf. Acts 5:27-32; 2 Timothy 3:10-17).
Why is this important? Because Jesus Christ is the head of the church and believers need to obey him as Lord. He guides and directs his church by his Word and Spirit. If the church follows human ideas and traditions it denies the Lord Jesus his place of authority. He is the shepherd who leads his flock of sheep and gives us life. His sheep need to listen to his voice (John 10:1-18).
BY GRACE ALONE (SOLA GRATIA)
We are all sinners before God's judgment seat. We cannot offer him anything in payment for our debt; our good works are not good enough to withstand the fire of God's holiness. Instead, the Bible tells us that believers are saved by grace alone: God gives us forgiveness because of his love, portrayed in Jesus Christ who died for our sins (Ephesians 2:1-10).
BY FAITH ALONE (SOLA FIDE)
The Lord Jesus says, "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news" (Mark 1:15). He is the Savior who died for the sins of his people. The only way you can receive what he has earned is by faith. Jesus has taken the place of the believer in God's judgment, therefore every believer can be certain that Jesus has carried the punishment in their place. His death takes away the guilt and the power of sin; his life (because he has risen from the dead) guarantees that every believer will receive eternal life from him (Romans 5:1-11). This faith is not our own accomplishment; it is God's gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8).
The Reformed faith helps you to understand what the Bible is all about: God brought reconciliation between himself and sinners through Jesus Christ, his Son.
At the heart of the life of the Canadian and American Reformed Churches is the proclamation of the gospel. Central in the preaching is the covenant relationship between the LORD and his people. This preaching can be characterized as redemptive-historical. In it the history of redemption, the history of God’s revelation, comes to God’s covenant people today in order to show the faithfulness of the LORD to his covenant promises. These promises were fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom all God’s promises are "Yes" and "Amen." The gospel of salvation is proclaimed with the command to repent and believe! Through the working of the Holy Spirit, the life of believers is sanctified unto a new obedience according to God’s covenant demands.
By the ministry of the Word, God places his people before himself, strengthening them in their faith, enriching them in their life with him in his faithfulness to his promises, and motivating them in their responsibility and calling to live in faith, hope, and love before him. In this way the LORD restores the relationship and responsibilities as laid down in his creation of man to his honour and glory.
In a redemptive-historical approach the Scripture accounts are proclaimed so that the congregation may know the LORD as the Deliverer of his covenant people, on whom He works for the strengthening of their faith. God’s covenant people learn to deal with their guilt, with the temptations in their life, with the LORD’s way for their life. Then in Christ they find the comfort of salvation from sin and death and the renewal of their life by the power of his Holy Spirit! The children of the LORD learn to live with the promises of the LORD! In this context the preaching may assure the children of the covenant of the certain fulfilment of the promises signified and sealed by Holy Baptism as well. It pursues the renewal of the whole man, who finds his life in Christ, embraces him and all his benefits, and so has communion with God through him! It is this proclamation of the gospel which the Canadian Reformed Churches still wish to preserve.
In order to develop the common bond of faith and promote the unity among the federation of churches, a first issue of a common magazine was published on June 1952, Canadian Reformed Magazine, which became Clarion in 1973. This magazine is published by Premier Printing. Study materials are published by the Inter-League Publication Board, a publishing association established for the Bible study societies in the CanRC as well as for family studies and for personal studies. The Mission News is a publication published by Premier Printing, containing reports from missionaries and Mission Boards established in the course of the years by the churches (and supporting churches) of Surrey, British Columbia; Toronto, Ontario and Hamilton, Ontario, while the church of Smithers, British Columbia, is involved in a church plant project in Prince George, BC. Other prominent magazines in the CanRC are: Reformed Perspective, a magazine for the Christian family; Horizons, a magazine for the women’s societies; In Holy Array, a magazine for the Young Peoples' Societies,; Diakonia, a quarterly for officebearers; Evangel, a magazine issued four times a year by the "Reformed Evangelism Taskforce" formed in the Fraser Valley, BC., and distributed by local congregations in hospitals, offices, waiting rooms, etc.