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Close merger vote nearly scuttled plan for united Dutch church

Thanksgiving service subdued

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

UTRECHT - Three separate synods with majority votes ratified the decions to merge two of the largest with one of the smallest Dutch church groups into the new Verenigde Protestantse Kerk in Nederland (United Protestant Church in the Netherlands). A large majority supported the union in the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland (Reformed Churches in the Netherlands, GKNs) and the Evangelische Lutherse Kerk. It was a different story in the mainline Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk (Netherlands Reformed Church, NHK).

The focus of the concluding NHK synod was almost entirely on the opponents of the merger who nearly scuttled the entire process of forty years which in recent years saw increasing opposition. A number of pro-merger delegates voted against, to avoid a split in the denomination. The NHK approval only had a margin of two votes.

Following the three votes, the merger parties attended a special but subdued Thanksgiving service which also was attended by Queen Beatrix and Justice Minister Donner.

The groups within the NHK which want to continue the denomination now are reviewing their legal options. It is expected they will try to hold on to their properties even though title is with the local congregations as part of the merging denomination.

Although the vast majority of delegates at the GKNs synod voted in favour of merging into the VPKN, a number of churches, possibly of much as one tenth, in recent years started to oppose the plan. Much of the opposition so far is centred in northeast Friesland.