What’s a “Dominee”?


Dominee is the Dutch word for pastor. I like to say I am Dutch by marriage and religion, with tongue planted securely in cheek. My family was evangelized into the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) in Southern California back in the mid-1970’s. We had no Dutch background (well, maybe some traces back in New Amsterdam, but that’s another story). We claimed the Irish part of our heritage.

The CRC has its origins in the Reformed churches of the Netherlands. As a result, persons who come into the church “from the outside” sometimes have to work at finding their place and identity in the church. Sometimes it can be quite difficult. People in the CRC sometimes react quite strongly to this problem by rejecting all things Dutch. Their motivation is a good one, namely, to make the CRC a more diverse and welcoming place. But it can also have some unintended consequences. For example, it can cut us off from unique, exceptionally valuable assets in our history, such as our deep and solid Reformed Confessions, or the pastorally-informed Church Order that was hammered-out at the Synod of Dordrecht. Rejecting all things Dutch could tempt us to forget or neglect great thinkers in our family history, such as Herman Bavinck and Abraham Kuyper. Sometimes the attempt to jettison all things Dutch (“burning the wooden shoes” is a famous and/or infamous phrase in our ecclesiastical family history) can result in tossing out our robust, confessionally Reformed articulation of our faith as well. But that confessional identity is our greatest asset. It was that robust, practical, intellectually durable, pastorally rich Reformed tradition that drew me in and held me as a young convert to the faith. God used that Dutch Reformed distinctiveness to plant the seeds of my call to ministry and to scholarship and teaching the Reformed faith. Sadly, in recent decades, the dominant church planting mindset urged us to treat our greatest assets as liabilities, and tried to plant churches that did not reflect our Reformed identity. Predictably, this strategy failed miserably. Recently I discovered that many church planters are charting an exciting new course, one that gives me hope. One that does not try to force us to be something that we’re not, or to force us into a mold that does not fit us.

So, instead of throwing the Reformed baby out with the Netherlandic bathwater, or burning the wheat along with the chaff and the klompen, I playfully embrace the Dutch parts of my adopted church tradition. I even learned to read and speak Dutch. So I am an Irish dominee.