Our History

Where are we from?

1. The Reformed Church of Québec is not a "new religion". It's roots go as deep and are as old as those of Quebec itself. A certain popular conviction would have it that French is synonymous with Roman Catholicism and that Protestantism is "the religion" of non-French-speaking races or nations. In reality, the Protestant Reform ("pro" meaning "for", "testatus" meaning "that which is attested to or proven": in favour of the truth) was initiated by a renowned Frenchman, Jacques Lefevre d'Etaples, professor of theology of the University of Sorbonne. His commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, written in l512, was God's instrument in the life of the famous German Reformer Martin Luther, and of many French Reformers, amongst whom were William Farel and John Calvin.

2. We often jump to the conclusion that there was no relationship between the French Reformers - also named Huguenots, Protestants or Reformed Catholics, - and Canada's beginnings. As in the preceding opinion, this latter shows itself to be false in the light of history. The Huguenots' initiative and economic expertise, and their desire to found a colony loyal to the French throne where they would be free to worship God as Reformed Catholics were the foundations of Québec and Canada. Without them, it is difficult to imagine a modern French-speaking population in North America. If France had allowed a greater number of Reformed Christians to emigrate to New France in the 17th century, in all probability the English would not have taken Canada. The following list of governors of New France reveals the influence of Reformed Christians in the colony.

1540 Jean-François de la Rocque, sieur de Roberval Huguegot

1598 Le marquis de la Rocque Roman catholic

1599 Pierre Chauvin de Rouen Huguenot

1602 De Chastes, gouverneur de Dieppe Huguenot

1604 Pierre de Gua, sieur de Monts, gouv. de Pons Huguenot

1611 Charles de Bourbon, comte de Soissons Huguenot

1612 Le prince de Condé Huguenot

1620 Le prince de Condé sells control of the colony to Roman catholic Admiral de Montmorency, Champlain assumes responsibility (Huguenot)

1625 Henri de Levy, duc de Ventedour Roman catholic

1629 Louis de Kerke assumes responsibility as Huguenot governor of New France refugee in England

1632 Traité de St-Germain. New France is ceded to the king of France by the English

3. The year 1540 marks the beginning of French expeditions and endeavours to colonise New France. François the First ordered Jacques Cartier to have the natives (Indians) taught "in love and in fear of God, in the holy faith and Christian doctrine". There was no question at that point of distinguishing "Roman faith" from "Reformed faith".

4. In 1541, the Huguenot sieur de Roberval received the same instructions, still with no distinction made between Roman and Reformed faith, when he was named Viceroy and Lieutenant-Governor of New France. It wasn't until 1588, forty-eight years later, that Henry III, fearing the power of the Reformers in possession of two hundred cities in France, including La Rochelle, Montauban and Montpellier, declared that henceforth, the Huguenots should submit themselves to the Catholic Apostolic and Roman Religion (letter from Henry III, January 12th, 1588).

5. Nevertheless, the Reformation continued to make its way in France and "Christianity" was no longer necessarily a synonym of "Roman Catholicism". Ten years later, Reformed Christians reappeared in full force in New France. Pierre Chauvin "a very expert man though of the faith that claims to be Reformed" Sieur De Monts, founder of Port Royal and colleague of Samuel de Champlain (also of Huguenot origin), became Governor of New France.

6. In 1608, Champlain arrived in Quebec and in 1610 he married a Reformed Christian, Hélène Boullé, with full agreement from De Monts. Until 1625, on the arrival of the Jesuits, the economy was dominated and daily life greatly influenced by the large number of Huguenots present. In 1625, with the Jesuits, up-holders of countre-reform, we note the existence of a steady and persistent campaign to "free" New France from the Huguenot presence and influence. In France, Cardinal Richelieu had become powerful on a political level and, with the Jesuits, proceeded to crush the Huguenots. La Rochelle fell under armed forces and henceforth Richelieu requested that the Huguenots be considered enemies of the crown of France because of their "false religion".

7. In 1627 Richelieu revoked the charter of De Caen, Governor of New France. De Caen, a Reformer, saw his position as Governor, as well as his Huguenot commercial monopoly yielded up to a new Roman Catholic company. Richelieu created the company "les cents associés" "to promulgate the Roman faith in the colony". In spite of this pressure, the Huguenots continued to emigrate to New France. The Vatican archives contain two acts dated 1635 and 1637 insisting that French authorities prevent non-Roman Catholics from settling in the colonies. On a practical level it was impossible to apply the ban of 1627 to the letter. In 1661 His Lordship de Laval wrote Rome complaining that the French authorities forgot to put into effect the king's orders concerning the non-establishing of "protestants". But in 1665 after a series of measures were taken against the Reformers (abjuration, obliging them to attend Roman mass, obliging them to marry before a priest, dragonnades, explicit exclusion from certain professions and occupations, slander, etc.), His Lordship de Laval wrote to Pope Alexander that almost all "protestants" leave the hospital to "enter into heaven or the Roman Church." But five years later in 1670 His Lordship de Laval sent a new memorandum to France aimed at denying reformers access to the colonies. In the same year, de Laval had Daniel Veiel executed, probably as an example, for having once again taken up with the Reformed faith.

8. Even so, in spite of the staunch opposition of the clergy there was a certain tolerance on the part of lay people. With the revoking of the Edict de Nantes in 1685, the Huguenots sought to flee renewed religious oppression in France. Many found refuge in the colonies, including those of New France. Unfortunately their suffering continued there. In 1715 Louis XIV died and the worst era was terminated for Reformed Christians. Real tolerance spread throughout France and to her colonies. There was a new wave of arrivals of Protestant settlers and, maybe more important, a return of the Reformed La Rochelle merchants. Nevertheless, a great many restrictions continued to apply. Reformers were denied the right to practice medicine, to be pharmacists, midwives, lawyers, notaries, judges and civil servants. It was impossible for them to become citizens, because this was the sole privilege of those of Roman faith. Children of Reformed Christians were obliged to enrol in Roman Catholic schools and no Reformed worship services were permitted.

9. Even so, in 1741, the Reformed presence was so large that the clergy judged it necessary to warn the Marine Council. Many Protestant enterprises such as La Rochelle, de Montauban and de Roven had set up their commerce there. In 1757, Bishop de Pontbriand, again complained of the great number of "protestants" established in Quebec, and this in spite of explicit decrees and in spite of the insistent opposition of the clergy. In 1759, New France was taken by the English. A British soldier wrote in his diary that a number of French Protestants were at a Protestant worship service with the English soldiers (Captain Knox's Diary). Henceforth the new government permitted religious liberty. After the French revolution in 1789 and Napoleon Bonaparte's seizure of power in France. The identity and worship services of the Reformed faith were officially recognised in 1804. But it was not until 1835 and the arrival at Montréal of two Swiss missionaries, Louis Roussy and Mrs. Henriette Feller from the Swiss Missionary Society, that Reformed faith began to be organised. The Therrien stated the Society's objectives:

"When the Lausanne mission's committee resolved to send its first workers to the Canadian Indian tribes, a decisive motivation was the hope that they could also proclaim the gospel to Roman Catholic Canadians who were all French-speaking... This is what decided some of our compatriots to dedicate themselves exclusively to this people."

10. Through their initiative the first parish was set up in 1837. In 1839 with the help of the missionaries and English Protestants the Franco-Canadian Missionary Society was established "to teach (French Canadians) the great doctrines of the Reformed faith:

"the complete fallen nature of man (total depravity) the supreme divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ the sacrificial nature of Jesus Christ's death the divinity, person and saving work of the Holy Spirit justification through faith in Jesus Christ alone the necessity to live a holy life through the working of the Holy Spirit in us the eternal Glory of God's people the eternal condemnation of God's enemies."

11. Well before the beginning of the modern ecumenical trend, this Society was already ecumenical. Presbyterians, Baptists, Anglicans and Congregationalists together founded this Society to spread the Gospel of Christ in French to all the inhabitants of Canada.

12. With the termination in 1921 of the Society's work, the Presbyterian Church in Canada inherited most of the established parishes. It is interesting to note that the Franco-Canadian Missionary Society aimed at the establishment of a French-speaking indigenous church, not segments of French-speaking assemblies in a predominantly English denomination. In 1860, and again in 1874, the Society reiterated this goal:

"the deepest desire of this Society is to see itself transformed into a French-speaking church... freed from difficulties, divisions so visible in the British Churches, but following all that is biblical in doctrine and in practice. Such an ecclesiastical organism is most suitable and appropriate for the French Canadian people."

13. In 1875 The Presbyterian Church in Canada established a committee for French Canadian evangelization "to continue with the multidenominational work of the French Canadian Missionary Society." A bilingual secretary was appointed and the committee adopted the following objectives and programme:

1. to do door-to-door work

2. to provide basic training for all, including boarding schools for those coming from afar

3. to offer aid to all groups, large and small, in need of a pastor

4. to offer financial aid and Bible study to parishes

5. to establish a place for a French-speaking theology professor at the Presbyterian College.

14. The results of the committee's work were considerable. Twenty-five schools and as many parishes were established. "Our objective is to offer the Bible to all in view of their receiving Jesus Christ as their only Saviour." More than six thousand students were trained at the French Institute in Pointe-aux-Trembles, not to speak of the other schools . Their contribution and influence on the provincial educational system were felt as much by Roman Catholics as by Protestants.

15. From l881 on, the Presbyterian Church's missionary resources were directed more and more toward development in the Canadian West. Each year immigrants arrived in successive droves and the Church's mission tried to keep up with this increase in population. The West succeeded in attracting the attention of the hearts and purses of Presbyterian Church members. Of course, the result was that from 1912 on, the Quebec mission weakened. This reorientation of the mission together with a lessening interest in evangelization due to a new liberal theology, resulted in a decline of the French-speaking work. In 1922, three years prior to its uniting with other denominations to become the United Church, only nine parishes still belonged to the Presbyterian Church, a considerable decline over a short period. This decline was to continue during the following fifty years. In 1975, St. Luc's in Montréal, St. Marc's in Ste-Foy and St.Paul's in Melbourne were the only remaining parishes of the French work. André Poulain, pastor of St.Luc, had launched the journal "La Vie Chrétienne", the only Presbyterian publication in French, while the United Church, having a few more parishes than the Presbyterians, published "L'Aurore".

16. In spite of the limited size of the work, a new beginning was being prepared. After having served at St.Marc's in Sainte-Foy, Ross Davidson became pastor of St.Paul's Church in Melbourne. David Craig became pastor at St.Marc's in January 1976 after his return from studies in Switzerland. His considerable contribution to the development of a church for Quebecers increased the growth of his own parish and that of the work of the region.

17. In 1978, the Rev. Harold Kallemeyn of the Christian Reformed Church did an in-depth analysis of French Reformed work in the province. The results, which were enthusiastically received both by his church and by the other Reformed workers in the province, were largely responsible for the considerable contribution of the Christian Reformed Church to the common work in Quebec. Convinced that there was much work needed in Quebec, the CRC nevertheless refused to give to that work its own denominationers name. Their vision was that of our spiritual forebearers: a single French Reformed church. In this framework, Harold Kallemeyn began a new parish on the south shore of Montréal.

18. The Presbyterian Church in America was also interested in the mission in Québec. Their own analysis of the situation convinced their representatives of the importance of working in Quebec. Representatives of their missionary agency, Mission to North America, accepted the principle of forming a single French-speaking Reformed church, and they became active participants in this work as had the CRC.

19. The Evangelical Reformed Alliance (Alliance réformée Évangélique or A.R.E.) was founded in 1978 at Montmorency in the region of Québec, on the basis of the Montmorency Manifesto. In order to promote Reformed work in Québec, the members of A.R.E. formulated three objectives :

(a) to help in the establishment of Farel Institute, a theological faculty, so that students could complete theological education;

(b) to launch a magazine of biblical and theological reflection, to be called Parole;

(c) to revise and publish French Reformed works such as "l'Institution chrétienne" by John Calvin.

A.R.E. called on the Rev. Martin Geleynse to work on the formation of Farel Institute. His parish, the Christian Reformed Church of Montreal, graciously liberated him to permit him to become the head of Farel Institute. Daniel Racine was named editor-in-chief of Parole, and Harold Kallemeyn was put in charge of publications for Farel.

20. It is in the image of the proverb which says "God does not scorn small beginnings" that Farel Institute announced its beginnings. For some time a need for such an organism had been felt in Québec. After several negative experiences in which French-speaking Québecois tried to study in the established anglophone theological institutions the pastor of St.Marc's Church in Sainte-Foy agreed to offer courses in history and in dogmatics. It was truly a "small beginning", with only two students in the first course. But the enthusiasm of the students communicated itself to others and so other courses could be offered. Thus it happened that John Miller began to teach biblical languages. And it was he who suggested that the new-born theological faculty be named "Institut Farel". An extension course was offered to a Christian community in Montmorency, and the demand for teaching grew. Daniel Racine, who was the French secretary of the Canadian Bible Society and one of the founding members of the South Shore Church in Montreal, was invited to teach at Farel. The arrival of Martin Geleynse as co-ordinator and dean of the Institute permitted the faculty to develop a structure and to make itself known more widely. It was then a question of administering the offices and the personnel, of establishing a teaching programme, and of promoting the faculty in other institutions. When Martin Geleynse left in 1986, Jean-Guy deBlois became the new co-ordinator, and thus part of the administrative council, which also includes Jean Zoellner, Ross Davidson and David Craig. After a period of questioning and reorientation, Farel returned to more modest dimensions, even as it offered a new program of studies leading to a Bachelor's degree in theology.

21. A short time after the formation of Farel, a group of young professionals from St-Georges de Beauce, who had participated in the Navigators' movement during their university years, requested a course on the history of the Church. And in 1980, Guy Dubé, who had obtained his diploma at the Faculty of Theology at Aix-en-Provence, prepared the foundations of a new parish at St-Georges, later becoming the first person called there.

22. As the church grew it became evident that a more formal structure than A.R.E. was needed. Thus on January 5, 1984, upon the request of the elders of the Reformed Church of St-Georges de Beauce and in the presence of representatives of the Christian Assembly of Sainte Croix de Lotbinière, St.Marc's Reformed Church, the Christian Community of the South Shore of Montréal, a resolution was passed : "Be it resolved that the Conseil des Églises Réformées du Québec (C.E.R.Q) be established and that it include representatives of the Churches and Christian communities who are co-operating in the Reformed mission in Quebec, based on the Montmorency Manifesto". The objectives of C.E.R.Q. were:

(a) to establish and maintain an official liaison with the mother churches, i.e. the Christian Reformed Church, the Presbyterian Church in America and the Presbyterian Church in Canada;

(b) to co-ordinate strategy and activities of the Reformed mission in Quebec;

(c) to assemble the parishes, which result from the Reformed mission, into a visible Church.

23. Another important step in our work took place on the 10th and 11th of February, 1984. During a meeting to which representatives of the three mother Churches had been invited, Luc Thibodeau presented the following propositions formulated by the new Conseil des Eglises réformées du Québec :

(a) that the mother Churches recognise the C.E.R.Q. as spokesman for the Reformed Churches in Quebec;

(b) that the mother Churches accept the creation of a French-speaking evangelical Reformed Church;

(c) that the mother Churches recognise that the mission of C.E.R.Q. is a co-operative mission involving the Presbyterian Church in Canada, the Presbyterian Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church.

During this meeting emphasis was placed on the common base unifying francophone workers from these three denominations ; the historic lines between Reformed Churches and the ecumenical history of francophone work from the beginning and especially in the previous five years. Need for francophone work became more and more apparent and reflected in a sense the objectives and sentiments of the old Société missionnaire franco-canadienne of 1860, "that such a church organism seems the most appropriate to the French Canadian people".

24. The Christian Reformed Church and the Presbyterian Church in America welcomed these propositions with enthusiasm and their representatives signed an agreement in principle with C.E.R.Q. The Presbyterian Church in Canada, on the other hand, expressed more hesitation. Though they understood the desires and intentions of C.E.R.Q. and were individually in favour of the formation of this Church, Ralph Kendall and Sam Priestly refused to sign because of their different convictions and because of the doctrinal pluralism of their own Church.

25. Since that time, numerous pastoral and missionary activities have continued. The establishment of new parishes and the contributions of new people came to enrich the work. Guy Dubé had left St. Georges de Beauce to continue his theological studies at Calvin Seminary at Grand Rapids. In 1983, Jean Zoellner, who had obtained his Master's degree (M.Th.) from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, was named pastor at St.Georges after his ordination by the presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America. On his return in the summer of 1984, after being ordained by the Christian Reformed Church, Guy Dubé assumed responsibility for the parish at Sainte Croix de Lotbinière. When François Cordey who had studied at Institut biblique Emmas in Switzerland and at Farel Institute, took over pastoral responsibility for St.Marc's, Church in Sainte-Foy, a new parish could be born in Trois.Rivières, presided over by David Craig. In addition, francophone work has developed in Ottawa since 1985, through Yannick Baudequin and with the collaboration of the Christian Reformed Church in Ottawa and of C.E.R.Q. In July 1986, while still studying at Farel, Mario Veilleux replaced Guy Dubé at Sainte-Croix de Lotbinière. For the first time, in October of that same year, the pastors and elders associated with C.E.R.Q. participated in the ordination of an elder: Mario Veilleux, at the Church of Lotbinière. In the meantime, Guy Dubé formed a parish in Montreal. In the autumn of 1987, Jeff Marlowe, who had studied first at Farel and then at the Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi and at the Faculty of Aix-en-Provence, took the place of Harold Kallemeyn by accepting the call to the Church in St-Lambert on the South Shore of Montreal. At the same time, a group of people from this church called another graduate of Aix-en-Provence, Francis Foucachon, to found a church at Repentigny. Another elder, Georges Boisvert, was ordained in September at Sainte-Croix de Lotbinière. Two months later the same church, on September 29, 1987, the first pastor was ordained: Mario Veilleux. In the Quebec City area, effort was also made to permit the establishment of a parish on the south shore of the St-Lawrence in September 1988, the project involving several families from St. Marc's and another graduate of Farel, Jean-Guy deBlois. Recently other development projects are being studied in the area of Lac St-Jean, and the Beauce.

26. Since the establishment of the Conseil des Églises Réformées du Québec in 1984, structuring and development of the work has continued, but there remained numerous tasks to be accomplished before the official establishment of the Église Réformée du Québec (E.R.Q.). The work was distributed among different committees in C.E.R.Q. Elaboration of governing principles and ecclesiastic structure was entrusted to the Committee on church organisation, whose mandate was to write a document on Church order and ecclesiastic discipline. On July 8, 1985, representatives of the different parishes put this document into effect and thus became associate-members of C.E.R.Q. L' Église Réformée du Québec was henceforth established in principle. The Committee on the Confession of faith, whose mandate was to provide the new Church with an adequate confessional base, adopted the Heidelberg Catechism on November 6, 1987 and the Westminster Confession on August 19, 1988. The Committee on vision and mission strategy continued with the co-ordination of mission development. Finally, the Committees on the education of leaders and on the translation of educational material provided and additional contribution in the education sector.

27. All was in place for the next step, the official inauguration of the Église Réformée du Québec, which was held the Sunday commemorating the Reformation, November 6, 1988 at the Château Frontenac in Québec.

28. As God said to his people through His prophet Ezekiel : "I have promised you faithfulness and I have concluded a convenant with you. In this way you became my people. I (the Lord) have said it".

If you want more information about the history of the Church, contact Jason Zuidema, lecturer in Church History at Institut Farel, Montreal, Quebec.



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