Herman Bavinck, the great Dutch Reformed theologian, succeeded Abraham Kuyper at the Free University of Amsterdam. The topic of his first rectoral address was The Catholicity of Christianity and the Church. His remarks are particularly helpful as the conservative American Reformed church wrangles over the meaning of “catholicity”:
“This catholicity of the church, as the Scriptures portray it and the first congregations show it, is of a moving beauty. He who shuts himself up in his own small church or conventicle, does not know it and has never experienced its power and comfort in his own life … There is no general Christianity above religious difference, yet it is present in these differences. Just as not one single church, however pure, coincides with the universal church, so not one single confession, however much purified according to the Word of God, may identify itself with the Christian truth. Every sect that regards its own circle as the only church of Christ and believes to be the sole owner of truth, pines and dies away, as a branch severed from its trunk” (emphasis mine).
[as quoted by Klaas Runia, “Catholicity in the Reformed Confessions and in Reformed Theology,” in Paul G. Shrotenboer, ed., Catholicity and Secession: A Dilemma?, 1992; 71].