the history of calvary church

 

Calvary Church is a community of believers that finds its roots in the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation.  During the 1500s, Roman Catholic clergymen like Martin Luther of Germany (1483-1546), John Calvin of Switzerland (1509-1563) and Thomas Cranmar of England (1489-1556), endeavored to bring reform to the Catholic Church.  It was not their vision to start a new church but to reform the Roman Catholic Church from within.  However, the disagreements were so strong that those who wanted reform were called “Protesters,” resulting in the Protestant-Roman Catholic schism occurring around 1517.  These Protestants were also known as “Evangelicals” (Luther’s preferred term) because of their emphasis on the “evangel,” which means “gospel.”  During the 1600s, English Protestants (Anglicans) splintered over how extensively reformed measures should be taken.  One particular group called the “Baptists” emphasized the complete separation of church and state (a radical idea at the time), as well as baptism for believers only. Baptists were considered Protestants who differed from their Protestant brethren on the issues of baptism and the church’s relationship with the state.

 

During the early 1900s, many Evangelical-Protestant churches were significantly impacted by theological liberalism, a movement that arose during the mid-1800s challenging the truthfulness of the Bible, the deity of Christ and the necessity of conversion.  Between 1920 and 1950, many churches “came out” of their liberal denominations and formed groups like the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, the Independent Fundamental Churches of America, and the Bible Presbyterian Church of America.  This was known as the “Fundamentalist Movement.”

 

Calvary was founded in 1947, with thirty-three charter members, as Calvary Baptist Church in fellowship with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.  The church was a part of a nation-wide movement involving thousands of local churches comprised of Evangelicals who wanted to return to the fundamentals of the faith.  In August of 1947, they purchased property on the corner of Harrison Boulevard and Valparaiso Street where they built a church and a parsonage for their first minister.  During a forty year period, attendance grew from thirty to two hundred, with worship attendances reaching almost 300 by the early 1990s.  In 1995, church leaders prayerfully relocated Calvary to its present location on the corner of Evans Avenue and Roosevelt Road.  

 

With the rise and influence of the famed Billy Graham, many Evangelicals became less comfortable with some of the extreme views of fundamentalism.  Leaving liberal denominations may have been necessary in the 1930s and 1940s (though some Evangelicals remained within them in an effort to bring reform), but Graham and others felt that, by the 1960s, fundamentalists had gone too far.  While retaining the “fundamentals,” Billy Graham criticized the extreme views of the “fundamentalists.”  Most of Evangelicalism followed Graham and the movement became known as the “New Evangelical movement.”  Those who left “fundamentalism” were called New Evangelicals, often a term of derision among fundamentalists.  New Evangelicals emphasized the “fundamentals of the faith” but wanted to lose the baggage.  They grew weary of narrow-minded denominationalism, provincialism, legalism, and the lack of concern for the world's social problems. New Evangelicals wanted to restore the fundamentalist movement to the historic Evangelical movement that found its history in the sixteenth-century Reformation. 

 

During the decade of the 1990s, Calvary Baptist Church joined thousands of other churches in America in a difficult transition out of fundamentalism into New Evangelicalism.  A greater emphasis was placed on teaching the Scriptures verse-by-verse, and a transition was made to contemporary worship in the Sunday morning services.  Christian liberty was emphasized and Augustine’s maxim was upheld:  “In the essentials unity, in the non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”  While retaining a commitment to missions and gospel proclamation, the church became more involved in ministering to the poor and needy as “pure religion before God.”  Calvary also placed a greater emphasis on peacemaking and discipline, as well as unity with the larger Christian community.  Our church’s name was eventually changed from Calvary Baptist Church to Calvary Church as less emphasis was placed on adherence to denominational ties.  During the transition, the church also endured the painful loss of some members who did not agree with the changes that were being made.  However, with the strong leadership of the church board and many dedicated families who refused to give up, the church persevered during the difficult transition. 

 

Today, Calvary Church is a nondenominational community of over 1000 worshippers.  Our church family is comprised of a broad demographic of Christ-followers ranging from local college students to senior adults who are committed to “spreading the Word throughout Northwest Indiana and the world”.