Originally written by W. Aardsma in February 2003 and updated September 2006.Edit
You have touched into an area of my research. In 1989 I started a research project into tracking down all congregations and ministers of the TRDC. Surprisingly I have almost succeeded. A couple of things for now. I am going from memory, resisting the urge to dig up my boxes of material.
The True Reformed Dutch ChurchEdit
The name of the group. The great [file:///Users/dknight/Dropbox/reformed.net/tdrc/solomon-froeligh.htm Dr. Solomon Froeligh] wanted to take the name "Reformed Church in the United States". The RCA, like the Presbyterians and Episcopalians, was fooling around with different names at the time, and "Reformed Dutch Protestant Church" was then in vogue. The seceders took this name and added "True" to the front of it, a clear declaration who was right and who was wrong.
"Protestant" was quickly dropped. The last TRDC secession was in Tuscarora in the town of Mt. Morris in 1829. This may be referred to as Sparta. About the time this happened, a larger geopolitical body called Sparta was divided into the towns of Mt. Morris, West Sparta, and Sparta. The Sparta of the Reformed Church and TRDC secession is not the Sparta of today.
After association with the 1857 secession group, the TRDC started calling themselves TDRC, as was the manner of the 1857 seceders.
Classes Union and HackensackEdit
Something that you missed. The great Gysbert Haan was in the Albany area. That's the territory of Classis Union. He could have been in touch with the Bethlehem TRDC; it moved to King St. in Albany in the early 20th century when Mr. Kimmey was the last pastor of Classis Union (the building stands at 21 King and is currently used by a Unity congregation). He could have been in touch with the Wynantskill Church - that would have been the next closest. Wynantskill was originally a joint congregation with Poestenkill, but the Poestenkill group had died out many years before.
Classis Union was not corresponding with the Michiganders, however. That was being done by Rev. John Berdan of Classis Hackensack, one of the very few (just three) ministers in the U.S. who could still preach in Dutch when the Netherlandic immigrants arrived, although he was of Huguenot ancestry.
Classis Hackensack was not on speaking terms with Classis Union at this time.
Shortly after organizing the general synod (delegated synod, as opposed to a synod open to all elders), three issues ripped the churches of New York from the churches in North Jersey: the "irregular" ordination of Henry Bellinger, the regular seating of Albert Ammeran at classis without his being admitted to classis, what was the third? It may have been the Pelagian views of a certain member of Classis Union trying to transfer to a Classis Hackensack church.
After a certain meeting of the synod, a majority of the congregations of Classis Union declared themselves independent of the synod and incorporated themselves as an independent classis. A majority of ministers and five congregations in western New York remained loyal to the synod until they withered away just after the end of the Civil War.
Rev. Christian Zabriskie Paulison, a minister of the Reformed Church who came to faith in Christ after the TRDC was established and seceded later, got into problems and split the Hackensack TRDC. At this point there were three Reformed churches in Hackensack - the Reformed, the TRDC, and the Independent TRDC. The Hackensack Reformed Church seized control of their historic property, and the TRDC and ITRDC ended up both meeting at an academy - at different times. The Tappan and Paterson TRDCs had both had congregational splits, and seceders from both these bodies hooked up with Paulison. Paulison later took his following into independent Classis Union.
I believe that there was a fourth splinter group, but I cannot confirm it. Rev. Sylvanus Palmer of Classis Union was at the synod the next year after the split, but he never appeared again. He pastored two groups in upstate N.Y. which were referred to as "Palmerite", while the other Classis Unionites were known as "Wyckoffites". Did he go his own way? The first two volumes of the minutes of Classis Union are missing. I have read volume three, the final volume. However the TRDC in Ovid, NY, was known by their pastor's name as well, and he was loyally part of the general synod.
So the TRDC was in fragmented condition. In the post Civil War 1860s, Rev. John Cooper of the Monsey and Nanuet TRDC started meeting with Henry Bellinger of Classis Union. Finding no problems with his theology, he made a report at synod, I guess (synod met for the last time in 1866 and 1869, and then turned its business over to Classis Hackensack), and Classis Hackensack opened their pulpits to Classis Union men and sent visitors to the next meeting at Classis Union. They reconciled but did not reunite. Classis Hackensack sent men to preach in Classis Union pulpits using the "stated supply" method until proven that this was not working. A classical home mission board was set up to assist Classis Union; in time this became the Home Mission Board of the CRC.
In the 1920s, at the urging of Mr. Kimmey, their last minister, the last surviving churches of Classis Union (Glen, Piermont, Albany, Wynantskill, Sharon, and Johnstown) "closed the books" on Class Union and reincorporated as the True Church of Christ. Mr. Kimmey abolished this organization in the late 1950s. By then, Glen, Piermont, and Wynantskill were gone. Albany and Johnstown died a few years later with Mr. Kimmey. Sharon closed its doors in 1982 or 1984, having been without a pastor since Mr. Kimmey stormed out their front entrance in the late 1950s.
Glen was an extension of the Charlestown TRDC, which was the Second Reformed Church of Charlestown. The seceders lost control of the property of First but retained Second. Charlestown burned down in the mid-1800s and was not rebuilt. The congregation continued to meet at Glen. Geopolitical boundaries changing, and the physical moving of the building put First Charleston Reformed in Glen as the Glen Reformed Church. In the 1930s, the Glen Reformed Church took control of the abandoned Glen TRDC property and turned it into their fellowship hall. With their pastor, I examined it in 1991.
I suspect Piermont was the seceder group from Tappan moved further north once Piermont hit the big time. Piermont was the starting point of the Erie R.R, then the longest trunk line in the world at 400 miles (Erie to Dunkirk on Lake Ontario). It was referred to as "the chapel at Piermont," so it wasn't a big building.
Johnstown used to be a joint congregation with Mayfield, but Mayfield died at some point in time. The former church building is now (as of 1992) a theater and has been moved across the street.
I am not certain what happened to Paterson. Classis Hackensack launched missions in Paterson, Newark, and Englewood after the Civil War. One source told me that the Paterson was a descendent of the earlier Paterson secession group. The Paterson and Tappan groups loyal to synod quickly died out. The Tappan property was bought by a Methodist group and turned over to a German Methodist congregation. An older man from the Tappan Reformed Church told me that as a boy there was a Christmas ornament factory in "the old German church", and he wonders if that was the former German Methodist congregation.
Albert Ammeran took the Classis Union Hackensack congregation (Paulison's group) into the Presbyterian Church as First Presbyterian Church of Hackensack in 1871.
Classic Hackensack's SecessionEdit
Most of Classis Hackensack did withdraw to independence in 1908. This is what the Christian Reformed researchers get wrong. First, Classis Hackensack TRDC returned in 1924. Secondly, five churches voted to continue as Classis Hackensack of the CRC. They miss Mariaville and Flat Creek, both originally Classis Union congregations. Thirdly, of the seven congregations that seceded, one (Ridgefield, NJ) was a legal fiction set up for a court case to regain control of the property. It dissolved a year later, after the NJ Supreme Court ruled in favor of the seceding group.
Ramsey, NJ, had already left for the PCUSA before the secession vote in 1908 and without incident. Leonia CRC had split, with their pastor taking initially one-third of the membership into the PCUSA. I suspect that others followed him later. By the time this happened, Leonia was cosmopolitan, and most of the members of the Leonia CRC were of Methodist background.
The lodge membership problem came from two congregations. Ridgefield had an elder who admitted to being an Oddfellow, and another elder was suspected of being a Mason. Rev. Charles Van Houten at Bergenfield/Schraalenburgh, son of the great Rev. Abraham Van Houten, who had pastored almost every congregation in Classis Hackensack, had been part of the PCUS and apparently had joined the Masons while in the South. He left them, but his enemies said that he had not sincerely broken with them. He eventually joined the PCUSA, and his congregation followed him; they are now the South Presbyterian Church of Bergenfield.
The Hackensack TRDC called a man from the Hammonton, South Jersey, Presbyterian Church to be their pastor. After some years, he said that he wanted to go back to the PCUSA. The congregation followed him and became the Second Presbyterian Church of Hackensack. After a fire destroyed their property in the 1920s, the presbytery forced them to merge with a struggling mission work in Maywood (?), NJ.
During the late World War I years, Monsey started quiet and unofficial discussions with Classis Hackensack CRC. About 1924, Classis Hackensack TRDC returned to Classis Hackensack CRC - a ne'er do well Monsey, a fractured Leonia, and the New York city church. The last two did not survive the Depression, and Monsey is perpetually in danger of having the plug pulled.
The Lodge ControversyEdit
The lodge controversy is a CRC bogeyman. Yes, it did happen. When the pastor of the Leonia CRC was being tried for his views, Paterson Third CRC (the former Paterson TRDC mission) said that one of the elders from the Ridgefield CRC was a well-known Oddfellow. The man admitted such, saying that he had to join the Oddfellows to keep his inheritance. He resigned his eldership.
Paterson Third went further and said that another Ridgefield elder was a Mason. This was the one who refused to admit or deny his membership, nor would he resign. Classis refused to seat him and infuriated Rev. Iserman, Ridgefield's pastor. Voorhees told the Ridgefield church to just re-elect those men and classis would seat them. However, there already was bad blood between Voorhees and Iserman, and Iserman went off in a huff. He left the CRC, and the NJ Supreme Court awarded the property to Iserman - who promptly joined the PCUSA and turned the property over to them, the dummy!
There were two main reasons for the split: external and internal pressure.
External pressure came from Classis Hudson CRC, an immigrant classis. Classis Hackesack says that when they joined the CRC, they were granted autonomy in certain areas. Classis Hudson took upon themselves the role of supervising Classis Hackensack. This caused deep resentment. Classis Hackensack appealed to Dutch American and Presbyterian precedent, Classis Hudson to the precedent of the Netherlands.
Internal pressure came from Rev. John Calvin Voorhees, stated clerk of Classis Hackensack, who took it upon himself to supervise the churches. He chased his enemies out of the classis, such as Rev. Iserman of Ridgewood and Iserman's ally at Ramsey. It was Voorhees who told Van Houten that it would be okay if he just announced that he had had left the Masons. Voorhees used "classical" publications to attack his enemies, frequently by anonymous letters to the editor.
Hopkinsianism was rampant in the RCA in the 1820s, according to Paulison. He wrote a damning indictment of the RCA. He says that the leadership was openly bragging of their being Hopkinsian, including the head of their missions committee.
This article copright ©2003 by W. Aardsma. All rights reserved.