A Dutch City upon the Flemish Hill. Neo-Calvinist church life in Dutch-speaking Belgium (1894-1978)
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In 1892, the «Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerk» and the «Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerken (dolerende)» – denominations that had come into being as a result of two schisms within the nineteenth-century «Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk» – amalgamated into the «Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland» (GKN). Two years later, several orthodox Calvinists in Brussels – almost all of them were Dutch –, who had seceded from the local «Nederlandse evangelische hervormde kerk», established a congregation of their own and sought alliance with the GKN. After the creation of a «gereformeerde kerk» in Brussels, «gereformeerde kerken» were founded in Antwerp (in 1899), in Ghent (in 1926), in Mechlin (in 1938), in Denderleeuw (in 1953) and in Boechout (in 1955). Although these churches were all part of the GKN and fell within the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Dutch «classis» Dordrecht, they came to be known as the «Gereformeerde Kerken in België» (GKB). On January 1st, 1979, the GKB merged with two other Belgian Protestant denominations into the «Verenigde Protestantse Kerk in België» (VPKB). In the Netherlands, their specific ‘Neo-Calvinist’ mentality, identity and theology distinguished the «gereformeerden» from the rest of society. The members of the GKB – of whom most were, before the mid-1960s, Dutch – were, however, confronted with a religious, cultural and political context that differed considerably from the Dutch civil order. To see how the «gereformeerden» have dealt with this discrepancy, this thesis looks at the members of the GKB as a distinct socio-religious group in Dutch-speaking Belgium; it focuses on their way of life, their opinions (on societal, ecclesiastical and political issues), their self-image, their attitude towards other Protestants in Belgium as well as Belgian society and culture in general, their relationship with the ‘mother church’ in Holland, the way they legitimised their presence in Belgium and the way others reacted to their presence. The central research question is: how have the «gereformeerden» (Neo-Calvinists) in Belgium positioned themselves in Belgian society at large, in Belgian Protestantism in particular and within the denomination of «Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland», during the existence of separate «gereformeerde kerken» in Flanders in the period between 1894 and 1978?