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Continental European Protestantism

Reformed Church of France

Doctrines The Reformed Church of France shares the principal doctrines of other reformed churches: the Bible is the Word of God and sole authority for Christian belief, Jesus is the incarnate Son of God, double predestination, justification by grace through faith, and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper.

History In the 16th century reformed theology established itself only slowly in France. Once it did make itself felt it was severely persecuted. On 18 October 1534 a group of French Protestants spread placards around Paris condemning the Catholic Mass. The French king, Francis I, with the support of the church, severely and indiscriminately put down the protests by imprisoning and executing those suspected of organising or supporting the incident of October 18.
Francis I's successor, Henry II (1547-59), continued to persecute the Protestants by imprisoning or putting to death by fire those who would not convert to Roman Catholicism. The consequence of this repression was a series of long civil wars between the Protestants and the French monarch.
Peace was restored when the Protestant king, Henry IV, came to power in 1589. The Protestants (now known as the Huguenots) were protected by the Edict of Nantes (1598) which secured toleration for the Protestants. French Protestantism enjoyed sustained growth until the Edict of Nantes was revoked by Louis XIV in 1685. This led thousands of French Protestants to flee to other European countries or America.
The small remnant who continued to live in France practised their faith in secret. It was only with the French revolution of 1789 that French Protestants were able to regain their full rights. As in other countries, French Protestantism experienced a number of schisms during the 19th century. These were addressed in the 1930s when efforts to unite the various reformed groups led to the establishment of the Reformed Church of France.

Symbols The principle symbol of the Reformed Church of France is the Huguenot Cross. The Huguenot cross is composed of a four petal lily of France in the form of a Maltese cross. The four petals represent the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Connecting each of the four petals are four fleur-de-lis, the fleur-de-lis being a symbol of France. Hanging from the lower petal on a ring of gold is a dove which represents the church.

Adherents The Reformed Church of France has 350,000 members. Affiliated to the Reformed Church of France is the Reformed Church of Alsace Lorraine which has 35,000 members (Europa Publications Ltd. 1997 I, 1296).

Main Centre
 Reformed Church of France, 47 rue de Clichy, 75009 Paris, France; Reformed Church of Alsace Lorraine, 1 Quai St Thomas, 67081 Strasbourg, France.