Arriving in America in 1720, it was Domine Theodore Jacobus Frelinghuysen who initiated the push to educate and ordain clergy in America. April 27, 1738, the Reformed Church in America held a meeting of clergy and drafted a request to the Classis of Amsterdam to be allowed to form an Association with the power to ordain ministers in America.
It was not until 1747, the year in which Domine Frelinghuysen died, that the Classis of Amsterdam allowed the Reformed Dutch and German churches in America the right to form a Coetus (pronounced seetus). The Classis of Amsterdam imposed enough restrictions that the Coetus was ineffectual. In 1754, the Coetus declared itself independent of the Classis of Amsterdam calling itself the Classis of America.
Following the death of Theodore Frelinghuysen, his son, John, continued to push for the establishment of a college for the training of men for the clergy. In 1754, the charter to establish King's College in New York City (now Columbia University) was granted. Both the Anglican and Dutch churches desired a chair for a professor of divinity. Domine Johannes Ritzema, the senior minister of the Dutch Church in New York City, represented the church's interest in this matter. Although no chair was established, the Anglican Church's interests prevailed.
Domine Ritzema and other Dutch clergymen concerned that the Anglican Church might gain in influence were alarmed when the Coetus declared its independence from the Classis of Amsterdam. They saw that being subordinate to the body in Amsterdam afforded some power over the Anglican interests. So in 1754, Domine Ritzema and four others formed the Conferentie taking the church records with them.
John Frelinghuysen did not live to see a college established for the education of Reformed clergymen in America. He died in 1754. Jacobus Hardenbergh, a man whom Frelinghuysen educated, took up the quest. In 1766, Domine Hardenbergh became the first president of Queen's College (now Rutgers University).
The rift between the Coetus and the Conferentie continued until 1771. A young American, John Henry Livingston, went to Europe to study for a doctorate degree in theology at the University of Utrecht. Completing his studies, he was ordained by the Classis of Amsterdam in 1770. Upon his return to America, Domine Livingston with the support of the Classis of Amsterdam forged an agreement between the Coetus and Conferentie to end the rift.
Just as the factions of the Reformed Church in America were coming together, another, much greater, dispute was beginning to unfold...The American Revolution.
James Hastings and John A. Selbie. Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics Part 20. Whitefish, MT: Kessing Publishing, LLC, 2003.
Daniel J. Meeter. Meeting Each Other in Doctrine, Liturgy & Government. Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1993.
James Isaac Good. History of the Reformed Church in the United States 1725-1792 Volume 2. Reading, PA: Daniel Miller Publisherh, 1899.
Hugh Hastings. Ecclesiastical Records State of New York Volume VI. Albany, NY: J. B. Lyon Company, 1905.