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Netherlands ‘second only to US’ in number of Christian groups


The reputation of the Netherlands as being a country with many Christian denominations has been boosted by the publication of a new reference book detailing churches.

The authors have tallied a list of 648 churches, congregations and meetings, making the Netherlands the country with the second-largest number of Christian denominations and religious movements in the world, after the United States.

Still, the authors of the book, the Dutch-language Handbook of the Christian Netherlands, acknowledge that their list is not exhaustive. "The real number of churches and groups is much higher," said co-author Rein Ipenburg.

In their inventory, the authors discern a general trend of a return to the "atmosphere" of the early Christian communities, said fellow author Gerard Hoekstra in his speech at the book’s launch in March. While larger denominations are losing members in the Netherlands, evangelical, Pentecostal and house congregations flourish.

The publisher, Kok (Kampen), refers to the book as containing "all Christian-inspired faith communities in one volume".

The book is intended as a sort of encyclopaedia of denominations and Christian movements in the Netherlands. It includes Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Reformed, Lutheran, Mennonite, evangelical and Pentecostal groups. Each entry gives a brief history as well as an introduction to the group’s religious beliefs, worship, traditions, liturgy and rituals.

A similar book in the United States lists more than 2000 denominations and movements there, say the Dutch book’s authors.

The Catholic Church with 1400 parishes and the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, which has about 1800 congregations, are the country’s two largest denominations.

The Dutch church landscape has been diverse ever since the 16th-century Reformation. Religious freedom that followed conflicts within the nation resulted in a culture of tolerating a diversity of denominations.

Ecumenical News International