Original Research

Die Sinode van Emden: Bakermat van die Nederduitse Kerke in Suid-Afrika

Willem A. Dreyer
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 54, No 1 | a2630 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v54i1.2630 | © 2020 Willem A. Dreyer | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 14 April 2020 | Published: 29 September 2020

About the author(s)

Willem A. Dreyer, Department of Systematic and Historical Theology, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa


The Synod of Emden: Cradle of the Netherdutch churches of South Africa. The Synod of Emden, which took place from 04 to 13 October 1571 in the city of Emden, is of great importance to the reformed churches in South Africa. In this contribution the importance of the Synod is highlighted from three distinct perspectives: Firstly, from a historical perspective, the establishment and growth of Calvinism in the Netherlands up to the Synod of Emden is described. Secondly, from the perspective of church polity, some principles of church governance, which the Synod of Emden has formulated, are discussed. Thirdly, from the perspective of language history, some remarks are made on the use of Netherdutch by the Synod of Emden and the continued use of Nederduits in the name of the Dutch Reformed churches in South Africa. The early phase of Dutch reformation was characterised by great diversity. It was a time of fluid and changing reformation movements. Not only did the magisterial reformers such as Luther, Bullinger, Calvin, Beza and Zwingli influenced ecclesial transformation in the Netherlands, but the Humanism of Erasmus was well-known and influential; the work of the Brothers of Common Life and Geert Groote had much influence through the education of children; the Devotio Moderna and Imitatio Christi of á Kempis influenced a new type of spirituality; the older proto-reformation movements of Cornelis Hoen and Hinne Rode still had some influence; the Anabaptist movements of Melchior Hoffmann, Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt and Menno Simmons were active in many towns and communities. Despite this diversity, it is quite remarkable how the Dutch reformation was influenced fundamentally from the French-speaking south, especially by the theology of John Calvin. The unity between the Dutch and French churches was formalised by the Synod of Emden. The unity in confession and organisation was articulated expressis verbis in the second resolution of the Synod. The reformed churches in the Netherlands were persecuted and disorganised. War broke out between Spain and the Netherlands. There existed a great need for direction and structure. One of the remarkable features of the Reformation was its ability to rethink, reorganise and restructure the church. Instruments used in this process of reformation was not only the establishment of the sana doctrina, but also the use of assemblies such as synods and the publication of church orders which articulated the basic principles of reformed church governance. The importance of church orders as instruments of change is often under-valued. It was no different with the Synod of Emden. The Synod and the principles of church governance laid the foundation of the Dutch Reformed Church and gave direction to the reformation movement in the Netherlands, also in terms of language and the use of Nederduitsch, a term which is still used in the names of some reformed churches in South Africa.


church history; church polity; Calvin; Calvinism; Netherlands; Luther; Bugenhagen; Northern Germany; Synod of Emden 1571; Netherdutch; Cape of Good Hope; First General Assembly Cape Town 1824.


Total abstract views: 1611
Total article views: 2118

Crossref Citations

No related citations found.