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Religion Library: Presbyterian and Reformed


Written by: Ted Vial

The main branches of the Reformed church have been the Presbyterian Church, the Congregational Church, the Dutch Reformed Church, and the German Reformed Church.  During the religious wars in Europe (especially in England and in the Netherlands) many Protestants took refuge in Geneva or in Zurich, and were strongly influenced by Calvin and Zwingli.  Some of these refugees eventually immigrated to the North American continent.  English Calvinists (called "Puritans" because they wanted to cleanse the Anglican Church of Catholic influences) were the "Pilgrims" who landed in Massachusetts, and founded the Congregational Church.  Others landed in the Middle Atlantic Colonies and planted the Presbyterian Church.  Emigrants from Holland and Germany brought the Dutch and German Reformed Churches to the colonies.

All Reformed churches originate in the theologies of Zwingli and Calvin, and the church they created in Switzerland.   They are united by their theological commitments (though there are tensions here).  Until recently Dutch and German Reformed churches have defined themselves along national and ethnic lines.  Presbyterian churches are defined by their structure of government ("Presbyterian" comes from the Greek word in the New Testament for elder or priest).

Study Questions:
     1.    Who was Huldrych Zwingli? How was he similar to Luther? How was he different?
     2.    Why was the breaking of traditional liturgy significant to Zwingli’s movement?
     3.    What was the First Disputation? What was the result?
     4.    Who was John Calvin? What did he contribute to the Protestant Reformation?
     5.    What is the relationship of the Presbyterian Church to the Reformed church?


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