Nederlands Indische Kerk
Gereja Hindia Belanda
Primate: Archbishop of Buitenzorg
- Lutheran World Federation
- World Council of Churches
- Christian Conference of Asia
- Council of Hindia Belandan Churches
Region: Hindia Belanda and territories
Separated from: Dutch Reformed Church
- Free Church of Hindia Belanda
- Hindia Belandan Evangelical Lutheran Church
Members: 36.3 million members (2015)
The Church of Hindia Belanda (Dutch: Nederlands Indische Kerk) is the largest Christian denomination in the Commonwealth of Hindia Belanda. As a Lutheran church, it believes in the Trinity, the Original Sin, that Jesus Christ was both God and man, and that salvation can only be achieved through Christ alone (Solus Christus). The church, unlike its Dutch counterpart in mainland Europe, maintains the historical episcopate and is considered a high church, having retained the Mass and the traditional use of liturgical vestments. The Primate of the Church is the Archbishop of Buitenzorg, currently Harun Kusuma.
The church is known for its progressive approach to theological issues. It is expected to hold a synod to consider the ordination of homosexual persons into the clergy within six months.
Despite a significant yearly loss of membership, its 36.3 million adherents make up 30% of the Hindia Belandan population, making it the largest Christian church in the country.
Protestantism in Hindia Belanda traces its origin to the arrival of Dutch evangelists in the early years of the colonial era. It was at this point in time that Christianity first entered the archipelago. Soon after the arrival of the Protestant Church, many natives in the eastern part of Hindia Belanda had accepted Christ and were Christianised.
The Dutch Reformed Church had become the sole Protestant denomination in Hindia Belanda by the 1800s and continued to remain as the primary church until 1953, when churches across the newly-autonomous country voted to separate from the Dutch Reformed Church, forming the Protestant Church in the Netherlands Indies.
In Hindia Belanda, the Protestant Church is now officially called ‘the Church of Hindia Belanda’ and differs from the one in the Netherlands in terms of its form of polity. The Protestant Church in Hindia Belanda is episcopal, meaning that the church is governed by bishops whose authority is considered to be derived from an unbroken chain of apostolic successions, dating back from the disciples of Jesus Christ.
The church puts a great emphasis on ecumenism and has been working towards its realisation since the beginning of the 1990s. It was at the Buitenzorg Synod in 1992 that the Javan Creed was formulated as the church’s confession of faith, in preparation for eucharistic communion with the Church of England.
Among the church’s many teachings and documents of inter-church organisations, only a few were made official:
- 1953 Catechism
- Documents of the Dutch Reformed Church
- Constitutions of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands
- Constitutions of the World Council of Churches
- Constitutions of the Lutheran World Federation
- 1978 Treaty of Communion with the Church of Iceland
- 1993 Treaty of Eucharistic Communion with the Church of England
Church politics and structure
As an episcopalian polity, the church has a structured hierarchy of clergy similar to the Church of England. The governing structure of the church is based on dioceses, each led by a bishop. Traditionally, the highest and most-senior member of the clergy is the Archbishop of Buitenzorg, who is the primate of the church in Hindia Belanda. The Archbishop of Buitenzorg resides in Buitenzorg, a satellite city about 60 miles south from the capital of Jakarta. The primate’s see, however, is located within Jakarta’s city limits at the Cathedral of Buitenzorg-inside-the-walls (Kathedraal van Buitenzorg binnen de Muren).
The church organises a Synod twice a year, in June and in December. At these Synods, bishops and laities of the church convene in Jakarta to discuss issues pertaining to the church and pass measures dealing with the institutions of the church. Ecclesiastical measures passed by the church do not hold legal power whatsoever, as the Hindia Belandan government is secular.
The Church of Hindia Belanda is divided into 38 dioceses. A bishop of the Church of Hindia Belanda is elected by priests, deacons and laity in the diocese. Priests are ordained by the Archbishop of a province in which they graduated from their priestly seminary. Deacons are elected by the laity of the church.
There is an ongoing debate on the official name of the church. The church was officially known as the ‘Protestant Church in the Netherlands Indies’ from its inception until August 2016, when many in the Synod of February 2016 voiced their support to change the name into a simpler ‘Church of Hindia Belanda’. Some among the church's adherents, however, prefer the previous name as it embodies the church's history in the country.