The Christian Reformed denomination has its roots in the Dutch Afscheiding of the 1830s that created the Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerk and was also influenced by the True Dutch Reformed Church.
In 1816, King William I reorganized the Gereformeered Kerken (Reformed Churches) in the Netherlands with state oversight. The Nederlandse Hervormed Kerk (Dutch Reorganized Church) was created as a church for the people, no longer followed the Church Order of Dordt, and preaching was generally liberal, to the point that orthodox Calvinism was no longer acceptable.
The Afscheiding, a scession from the NHK, began in 1834 when Hendrik de Cock was deposed as pastor. Over time, the seceders organized into two denominations, the Christelijke Afgescheiden Kerk (Christian Seceded Church) and the Gereformeerd Kerk onder het Kruis (Reformed Church under the Cross), the second of which refused to petition the state for its right to exist.
At first, the seceders where persecuted by the state, which still had some Napoleanic laws on the books forbidding the meeting of more than a small number of people. There was also unofficial oppression in the community and workplace, and in the 1840s, several groups decided to emmigrate to the United States. One of those groups, under the leadership of Rev. Albertus van Raalte, settled Holland, Michigan, in 1847 and affiliated with the Reformed Church in America.
In and Out of the RCAEdit
When van Raalte's party arrived in New York, they were welcomed by the Reformed churches, some of which had roots going back to the early 17th century. After founding Holland, Michigan, several congregations, and their own classis, the immigrants were approached about joining the Reformed Church in America (RCA), which they heartily agreed to do.
That wasn't to last. In 1853, Rev. R. Smit lead the part of the Drenthe congregation out of the RCA and affiliated with the Reformed Associate Church.
Later, Gysbert Haan had remained in New York longer than the rest and became acquainted with the True Dutch Reformed Church, which had separated from the RCA in 1822. Haan would take their anti-RCA dogma to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and foment schism. In 1857, a portion of Dutch-speaking Second Reformed Church in Grand Rapids withdrew from the RCA and created their own congregation.
Other seceder churches were begun in Graafschap, Polkton (now Coopersville), Vriesland, and Noordeloos, and with the Grand Rapids congregation, they formed their own denomination on April 29, 1857. This is the birthdate of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). Rev. Klein, pastor of the Grand Rapids church, returned the the RCA later in 1957, and the Polkton congregation rejoined the RCA in 1858.
We should never deny that the Reformed Church in the East was infected with modernism and was frequently out of touch with its official Reformed standards, but the denomination had welcome the immigrants and had never told them to stop preaching their traditional Reformed faith. The reason for the schism that create the CRC was to avoid being associated with the modernists - not because the modernists had tried to stop the preaching of Calvinism as had happened in the Netherlands. The necessity of this secession remains debated to this day.