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Dutch Immigration and American Presbyterianism

Bryan Winter discusses the relationship between Dutch immigrants and the American Presbyterian Church, particularly as seen in the ministry of the Dutch secessionist minister, Peter Zonne. Winter is an attorney who practices law in Lake County, Illinois and serves as a Deacon at Hope OPC in Grayslake. Mr. Winter’s yet unpublished paper on Zonne details how Zonne uniquely led his congregation of Dutch Reformed immigrants in Wisconsin to join the American Presbyterian Church. Thus, Zonne transcended his ethnic identity to become the founder of Dutch-American Presbyterianism, in Wisconsin. This episode’s feature photo shows the church in Genderen, the Netherlands, which Zonne pastored from 1842–46.

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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program or subscribe to the podcast feed.

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Barry Waugh

5 years ago

Considering that people often view the different ethnic groups that settled and developed America as tending to isolate themselves via communities speaking their native languages, Rev. Zonne’s concern to learn English and do what was best for his congregation shows his pastoral concern overcoming his Dutch heritage.

In and around Charleston, South Carolina, and the Low Country to the north and west there were Huguenot congregations. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries French Huguenots that had settled in the Low Country sometimes united their French Reformed congregations with the Presbyterians recognizing their common Calvinism. Today, the Huguenot Church in Charleston is the only remaining one in the country and the city streets have French names and old houses built by Huguenots in the antebellum years. There are Presbyterian congregations, particularly around Abbeville, with French surnames occurring often on the grave markers in their cemeteries. So, the Dutch were not the only ones to recognize that sometimes national identity must be second to the welfare of a church.

The presentation of Bryan Winter’s extensive research was interesting. It would be nice if Reformed Forum could post the bibliographic information when the article is published. Thank you for an interesting program.

Steve Schmidt

5 years ago

Great episode, especially for us OPC’ers in Wisconsin. We have our share of Dutch presbyterians in our congregation who can trace their roots to the churches which resulted from Zonne’s efforts.

Frank Aderholdt

5 years ago

What an enjoyable and informative episode! I was encouraged to learn about Reformed heritage in an area of which I know little (I am deepest of Deep South), and an ethnic heritage different from mine (my roots are English and German).

I am a direct descendant of William Whitaker (1548-1595), the author of “Disputations on Holy Scripture.” Whitaker’s sons were in the Jamestown colony before 1620. How and when the English and German branches of my family united to become Southern Presbyterian, I do not know. What is most important to me is God’s covenant faithfulness through an (apparently) unbroken 450-year Calvinistic and Reformed witness.

The more we learn of God’s sovereign hand throughout history, the more we stand in awe of God’s “amazing grace.”

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