The leaders of the two largest reform church groups expressed great excitement this week about their impending union during the first meeting of the two organizations' governing bodies.
"We are at a very significant moment to witness to the reconciliation we find in Christ," said Clifton Kirkpatrick, president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), at the meeting on Wednesday.
Kirkpatrick was speaking at the meeting between WARC officers and the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC) executive committee, which is taking place Oct. 6-10 in Utrecht, Netherlands, to work on finalizing a draft constitution, by-laws, staffing, structure and logo for their new 80 million-member organization, World Communion of Reformed Churches.
"This is not a merger or a takeover but the creation of something new," explained Peter Borgdorff, president of REC. "I am very excited that this has come about.
"At its core Reformed history is a history of separation," he said. "This is a global witness that emphasizes the better and more excellent way."
The Utrecht meeting is being hosted by the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, which was created by a merger in 2004 of the Netherlands Reformed Church, Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
WARC and REC leaders have said that the Netherlands union was one of the inspirations behind the creation of WCRC.
"We need each other for a common witness and so I am very happy that this union is taking place," said Arjan Plaisiers, general secretary of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, at a news conference. "And we are very proud to host it."
WARC has 75 million members in 214 churches in 107 countries. REC has 12 million members in 41 churches in 25 countries.
A uniting General Council will be held in June 2010 in Grand Rapids, Mich., under the banner "Unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
After the official merger, the new Reformed body intends to invite movements, agencies and theological institutions of the Reformed movement to become affiliates of the group.
"The World Communion of Reformed Churches will be an important body in promoting the Reformed heritage throughout the world," commented Arenda Masnoot, the vice-moderator of the Netherlands church.