We as a congregation are a member of the Confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches. In this article I’m going to briefly explain each of these 4 terms, and delve a bit deeper into the middle two: “Reformed” and “Evangelical.”
The CREC is a confederation. This comes from the Latin con-feudus: covenant with. It is meant to emphasize the covenantal relationship God has set up with us. He makes promises to us on His own, that define and redeem us. And that colors our relationship with each other: we make promises to each other as a group of churches that define us. These are summarized in our constitution - how we will work and live together. We have similar beliefs about certain issues, which I'll summarize in another article. The word confederate is an inadvertent reminder of the War between the States in the 1860s. While there are more southern sympathizers in the CREC than you will find in other denominations, per capita, there are also those nervous about the word and what it conveys. Dialogue continues over this.
Skipping to the last word, the CREC is a confederation of churches. Many denominations have the word “Church” in them somewhere. The CREC folks chose the plural to emphasize that the real essence of the church is not in the denominational identity, but at the local congregational level. All the churches in an area have as much right to the word "Church" as any one denomination does. A denomination cannot claim to be the Church in a given area (The “Reformed Church in
The CREC is Reformed. We stand in the tradition of Calvin, and identify with the Westminster Assembly or with the Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dordt (5 points – TULIP), and Belgic Confession. Here are some defining distinctions of the Reformed, from other Protestants, a bit on the simplistic side, for clarity’s sake.
- We do not have bishops like the Anglicans, but believe elders have equal authority among themselves. This is called presbyterian polity (church structure). The elders rule in a local church, not the simple majority of voting members.
- We believe Christ is not physically present in the Lord’s Supper (the Lutherans do), but that He IS truly present specially by the Spirit and fed upon by believers (most evangelicals don’t).
- We emphasize the positive, guiding use of the Law, while Lutherans emphasize the negative, convicting use of the Law – though we all believe in both.
- We think God’s sovereignty and His covenant with us are major themes of the Bible.
- We baptize infants before they can profess faith, unlike the Baptists. We do not re-baptize people, typically, unless a prior baptism was obviously not legitimate.
- Unlike broad evangelicalism, we believe the church is an important institution, with real (not absolute) authority, which institution we need to join and be accountable to as a member.
The CREC is Evangelical. We must preach the basic Gospel of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, which atones for our sin before the Father’s wrath, saves us from hell and restores us to His favor. We must evangelize the lost with a call to respond with repentance and faith in this good news. Even given the Reformed distinctions above, and the foibles of evangelicalism (below), evangelicals remain our friends and brothers in Christ. There are problems with evangelicalism to avoid. It is largely captured by marketing and publishing trends, these days. It has a very low view of the church and sacraments. It is vulnerable to false teaching since it often refuses to define anything beyond the very basic gospel (“no creed but Christ”). Evangelicals focus on a crisis conversion experience, our feelings, and the Spirit’s work. Reformed folks, by contrast, focus on covenant nurture through the outward means of grace (preaching, prayer, sacraments), objective truth in Scripture, and Christ’s work. To illustrate the Reformed perspective, it is not necessary to have a dramatic testimony – the important thing is to have faith. It is not necessary to have certain intense feelings, the important thing is that you believe the truth and that it leads you to personally trust God. Experiencing signs and wonders of the Spirit is not necessary (and chasing after them is bad); following the Spirit leading you into the truth in the Word He inspired IS needed. Some of us are pilgrims from evangelicalism into the Reformed view of the Gospel. Some of us have yet to see the debilitating effects of evangelicalism on our own piety. Wherever we are on that grid, we are committed to being evangelical and Reformed, both in what we say and in how we live.