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June 2013


The Commons 137th Commencement

Faculty Marshal David Stubbs leads the procession, followed by students Melisa Blankenship and Smirna Lezcano.

Dr. Lauren Winner of Duke Divinity School gives the commencement address.

Western Theological Seminary celebrated its 137th Commencement on Monday evening, May 13, in the Dimnent Memorial Chapel on the campus of Hope College. The seminary awarded 31 Master of Divinity degrees, four Master of Theology degrees, and one Doctor of Ministry degree. Dr. Lauren Winner of Duke Divinity School gave the commencement address based on the story of the woman at the well from John 4. She asked the graduates, “What would our ministries look like if we knew what the woman at the well knew: that we are known and loved by God and nothing is more urgent than provoking other people’s curiosity about that knowledge and love?” In his charge to the graduates, Dr. Timothy Brown closed the evening with the story of Jesus in John 11, raising Lazarus from the dead and directing onlookers to “unbind him, and let him go.” Dr. Brown urged the graduates to take that phrase into their ministries and remember that God is calling them to the same work. “The Lord sets the prisoners free and opens the eyes of the blind...” (Ps 146:8a)

The graduates stand to take vows of faithfulness in their ministries.

It’s official! Tassles to the left!

Dr. I. John Hesselink and Dr. Elton Bruins, from the Class of 1953, pray a blessing over graduates representing each degree program.

Class of 2013


Lorene Duin Th.M. Humboldt, IA

Michael Edmondson M.Div. Sacramento, CA

Sarah Farkas M.Div. Holland, MI

K. Eric Folkers M.Div. Grand Junction, CO

Louis Ford M.Div. Zeeland, MI

James Kast-Keat M.Div. New York City, NY

Jeremy Kreuze M.Div. Holland, MI

Susan LaClear M.Div. Farmington, NH

James Leadley M.Div. Dexter, MI

Andrew Lickel M.Div. Stevens Point, WI

D. Kevin Nolen M.Div. Janesville, CA

Steven Pierce D.Min. Manhasset, NY

Elsie Ellendorf Punt M.Div. Midland, SD

Thomas Reynolds M.Div. Grand Rapids, MI

Andrew Rogers M.Div. Sheridan, MI

Stephanie Smith M.Div. Kokomo, IN

Joshua Van Der Maaten M.Div. Orange City, IA

Cory Van Sloten M.Div. Maurice, IA

Mark Vellinga M.Div. Orange City, IA

Jewel Willis Thomas M.Div. South Holland, IL

M.Div. = Master of Divinity

Th.M. - Master of Theology

D.Min. = Doctor of Ministry

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Graduates of Western Theological Seminary

Samuel Gutierrez M.Div. Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Vincent Harris M.Div. Bronx, NY

Steven Harthorn M.Div. Martin, MI

Traci Jarka-Parker M.Div. Nunica, MI

Sung Hwan Kan Th.M. Seoul, Korea

Amy Lunde-Whitler M.Div. Houston, TX

Henry Majwala Th.M. Mukono, Uganda

Moses Maponya Th.M. Lebowakgomo, Polokwane, South Africa

Deborah McCreary M.Div. Grand Rapids, MI

Bogdan Mircea M.Div. Joliet, IL

Joshua Scheid M.Div. Oostburg, WI

Nathaniel Schipper M.Div. Holland, MI

Olga Shaffer M.Div. Gowanstown, Ontario, Canada

Stephen Shaffer M.Div. Grand Rapids, MI

Brandon Smith M.Div. Kokomo, IN

Class verse: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." – Luke 4:18-19 Jonathan Ytterock M.Div. Flint, MI


Photos by deVries Photography, Zeeland, MI



(clockwise from front) Melvin DeVries, Bette DeVries, Lois Maassen, Edith Maassen, Etta Hesselink, I. John Hesselink, Eugene Vanderwell, Lenore Ridder, James VanRoekel, Elaine Bruins, Elton Bruins NOT PICTURED: Gordon Alderink, Donald Boss, Louis Branning, Louis Brouwers, Abraham deVries, Leon Dykstra, Floyd Goulooze, Bernard Hakken, Jr., Roger Hendricks, William Jellema, Paul Lupkes, Richard Madsen, George Menning, James Pfingstel, Sylvio Scorza, David TerBeest ON TO GLORY: Theodore Byland, Harvey Calsbeek, J. Wilbur DeYoung, Roger Johnson, Walter Kline, Harold Lenters, Pierce Maassen, Roelf Meyer, William Miedema, George Murray, John Pelon, Wendell Pyle, Wilson Rinker, Paul Tanis, Dick Vriesman


60 years


50 years


40 years


25 years

CLASS of 1963

Harold Rust, Larry Izenbart, Sherwin “Chic” Broersma, Eugene Klaaren, John Kleinheksel, John Nordstrom, Wendell Karsen, Roger Kleinheksel, Robert DeYoung, Ervin Roorda, Evert Fikse NOT PICTURED: Wayne Hall, Richard Huizinga, Moses Keng, Gary Looman, John Opmeer, Ronald Smith (ThM), Richard Stadt ON TO GLORY: Alvin Eissens, John Grooters, Harvard Kruizenga, Elsie Law, Jeremy Law, Stanley H.K. Lin, Donald Lohman, John Padgett, Adrian VanWyk, Stephen Veldhuis

CLASS of 1973

David Sikkema, Gerald Dykstra, Herman VanGalen, Anthony Vis, Cornelis “Case” Koolhaas, James Zinger, Ronald Mayers (ThM) NOT PICTURED: MDiv: Andrew Atwood, Stanley Bomgarden, Gene Carr, John Debreceni, David Dethmers, Robert Dietz, John Engelhard, Kenneth Eriks, J. Robert Flier, Joel Hansma, Harvey Heneveld, Donald Hoekstra, Roger Huitink, Allan Janssen, Erwin Johnson, Jr., William Martin, Jr., Dale Matthews, Dean Meeter, Charles Morris, Dennis Redeker, Ronald VandeBunte, Mark Volkers, Stanley Yonker MRE: Robert Faulman, Kim-Toin Lim, Douglas Ritsema ThM: David Maris ON TO GLORY: John Nieuwsma (ThM)

CLASS of 1988

Scott DeBlock, Jeff Munroe, Tim Dieffenbach NOT PICTURED: MDiv: Robert Baird, Richard Baukema, Sr., LeRoy Boender, Harry Boonstra, Robert Bouwer, Mark Bradford, David Brazel, Harold Bush, Daniel Deffenbaugh, Thomas Fiet, David Groenveld, Brian Hansen, James Scott Harrison, George Heartwell, Stephen Hielkema, John Kapteyn, Douglas McClintic, A. Martha Rammelkamp, Philip Rauwerdink, Janet Rogacki, Gary Roozeboom, John Scholte, Scott Summers, Brian Taylor, Douglas Tensen, Thomas VandeBerg, Thomas VanderZouwen, H. Martyn VanEssen, Gregory VanHeukelom, Kristine Veldheer, William Wensink, Charles Wiessner, Cary Winn MRE: Joyce Carroll, Nancy Clodfelder, Joyce Ann Kroes, Helena Riekse, Joyce Sluiter DMin: Glen Chapman, Stanley Hagemeyer, Daniel Miller, Rodney Otto ThM: Julius Amping, Andrea Baare-Nair, Wilson Rambau ON TO GLORY: Edith Winter


News Melvin DeVries ’53 retired June 3, 2013, 60 years since being ordained. He served Reformed pastorates all those years and retired at age 88. Sylvio “Syl” Scorza ’53, professor emeritus of religion at Northwestern College, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at Northwestern’s Commencement on May 11, 2013. Now 90, Syl taught at Northwestern from 1959 to 1990, and since retiring has amassed 220 credits at the college, taking courses in a variety of subjects. As General Editor of the Historical Series of the RCA since 1968, Donald J. Bruggink ’54 announces its 78th volume, Oepke Noordmans, Theologian of the Holy Spirit. This November Don will lead a tour to Dubai and Muscat. More info at: On March 19, Melvin J. Voss ’55 retired after serving four RCA churches in Iowa and Illinois for 42 years, including 27 years as Stated Clerk and Treasurer of The Pleasant Prairie Classis. Melvin continues to be active at Bethany Reformed Church in Belmond, IA and preaches at area churches. Henry Stegenga ’59 and his wife, Charmaine, have moved into The Warm Friend, a retirement community in Holland, MI. For five months starting this August, John Kleinheksel ’63 will again be on the staff of the American Church in Paris, in charge of destination weddings (mostly Japanese). In retirement he is concentrating on music (playing, composing, singing) and on justice for Palestinians. Erv Roorda ’63 is enjoying retirement in Mill Creek, WA playing tennis and competitive international croquet, power-walking, and making annual international trips. He serves on his Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry and provides weekend pulpit supply. Gerald Bates ’64 (ThM) is the interim rector of Hope Africa University (HAU), a Christian liberal arts school of 5700 students in Bjumbura, Burundi. Gerald and Marlene Bates served in Burundi for many years as missionaries. This assignment takes them out of their retirement as Gerald was asked to serve after the death of the university’s founder. Harold “Hank” Lay ’71 took part in a Christian Peacemaker Team

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Delegation to Palestine last fall. The delegation of 13 members from Brazil and the U.S. met with Israeli activists and Palestinians living under Israeli military rule. Hank has stories and can be contacted at hanklay@ To join the network of RCA Middle East Peacemakers, go to In January, Mark Nieuwsma ‘76 became the Interim Senior Pastor at McGraft Memorial Congregational Church in Muskegon, MI. McGraft is affiliated with the NACCC. Since 2009, Terry A. DeYoung ’87 has been serving as the RCA’s first Coordinator of Disability Concerns, encouraging churches to engage and be engaged by people with disabilities. He also assists the RCA Office of Communication. Jeffrey G. Davis ‘89 is currently serving as Senior Minister for St. Paul United Church of Christ, Wapakoneta, OH. Armando C. Arellano ’95 (ThM) was elected delegate to the General Conference 2012 of the United Methodist Church. He was also a delegate to the Jurisdictional Conference 2012 of the North Central Jurisdiction of the UMC. Since August of 2011, David Van Huisen ’05 has been the pastor of West Bay Advent Christian Church, Panama City Beach, FL. He and Sherry own a home three blocks from the Gulf and make it available to full-time pastors, missionaries and Christian workers. If you and your family need a break from ministry obligations, you are invited to call David and Sherry at 616.318.2307. Josh ’06 and Heather ’08 Van Leeuwen have moved to Waukee, IA. After serving 6 ½ years as the senior pastor at North Holland Reformed Church in Holland, MI, Josh accepted a call to be the Lead Pastor at Westview Church in Waukee, starting in Feb. 2013. Heather is currently a stay-at-home mom with their three children. Travis West ’08, ’09 (ThM) will begin studies this summer at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in pursuit of his Ph.D. in Old Testament. He will continue to teach part-time at WTS while he researches and writes during the next few years. Steve Pierce, ’03, ’13 (DMin) and his wife, Monica, announce the birth of Campbell Anne on March 3, 2013.

In May, Ralph Beidler ’11 became the pastor and teacher of Spring Valley Reformed Church in Fulton, IL. Ralph was ordained April 28 at Ottawa Reformed Church in West Olive, MI. Nancy Lee Boote ’11 is serving at Ridgewood Christian Reformed Church in Jenison, MI as Pastor of Congregational Care. The Classis of Illinois ordained her on April 1, 2013 at Western Theological Seminary. Nathan Johnson ‘12 is entering the Ph.D. program at Princeton Theological Seminary in the area of Biblical Studies (New Testament). He looks forward to serving the church through scholarship, preaching, and teaching while in New Jersey.

On to glory... Albert Van Dyke ‘43 b. Chicago, IL 4/18/1917 d. Oostburg, WI 4/11/2013 Hope ’40, WTS ‘43 Reformed churches served: (1943-46) Matlock, IA (1946-50) Sioux Falls, SD (1950-56) DeMotte, IN (1956-66) First, Sheldon, IA (1970-79) First, Berwyn, IL (1979-90) First, Oostburg, WI Other service to the church: (1967-70) Director, Indian Work (1973-74) VP, Pres, P. Synod Chicago John A. VanderWaal ‘50 b. Knoxville, IA 12/17/1923 d. Bloomington, MN 7/13/2012 Central ‘47; WTS ‘50 Reformed Churches served: (1953-55) Third, Albany, NY Other service to the church: (1950-51; 55-58) Prof., Central Coll. Dis. to Presbyterian Church, ret. 1986 Peter J. Van Dyke ‘52 d. Mesa, AZ 8/21/2012 (87 yrs old) WTS ‘52; CTS Indianapolis (DMin) Presbyterian pastor serving churches: Montpelier and Portsmouth, OH West Allis, WI Navajo Reservation, Ganado, AZ Trinity Presbyterian, Prescott, AZ Larry J. Arends ‘62 b. Hammond, IN 6/19/1937 d. Holland, MI 4/4/2013 Hope ‘59; WTS ‘62 Reformed churches served: (1962-67) Alexander, IA (1967-73) Bethel, Bellflower, CA (1973-81) Midland, MI (1981-85) New Life Community, Milwaukee, WI


John Ellis Bandt, Sr. ‘62 b. Germania, WI 4/9/1935 d. Aurora, CO 2/7/2013 Central ‘59; WTS ‘62 Reformed Churches served: (1972-76) Jay Gould Mem., Roxbury, NY (1976-81) Peace, Mt. Prospect, IL (1989-94) Jicalla, Dulce, NM Other service to the church: (1964-71) Director of Cebu Christian School & Pastor of Cebu Chinese Gospel Church, Cebu, Philippines (1982-89) Chaplain, Schumpet Med. Center, Shreveport, LA Stephen Sipko Veldhuis ‘63 b. Almelo, Netherlands 11/9/1928 d. Pella, IA 4/4/2013 Hope ‘63; WTS ‘63 Reformed Churches served: (1963-67) First, Ireton, IA (1967-68) Ebenezer, Stoney Creek, Ontario, Canada (1968-78) First, Knoxville, IA (1978-87) Washington, Ackley, IA (1987-94) Bethel, Ellsworth, MN David Breen ‘75 b. Holland, MI 1/10/1950 d. Grand Rapids, MI 6/1/2013 Hope ‘72; WTS ‘75, ‘83 (DMin) Reformed Churches served: (1975-81) Southridge, Kalamazoo, MI (1981-92) Beechwood, Holland, MI (1993-2004) FairHaven Ministries, Hudsonville, MI Other service to the church: (1993) Minister of Evangelism, RCA (2004-13) Sunrise Com., Hudsonville, MI Cleo Ludwick ‘78 b. Grand Rapids, MI 12/7/1926 d. LeSueur, MN 5/27/2013 Hope ‘72; WMU ‘74 (MFA), WTS ‘78 Service to the church: (1988-92) Church of the Saviour, Coopersville, MI (1978-88) Chaplain, Pine Rest Chr. Hospital (1993-94) Int. Dir. Spiritual Formation, WTS (1995-2000) Spiritual Care Coordinator, Hospice, Grand Haven, MI David J. Sterk ‘86 b. Grand Rapids, MI 3/19/1958 d. Cadillac, MI 4/5/2013 Hope ‘80; WTS ‘86 Reformed churches served: (1986-90) First, De Motte, IN (1990-96) First, Fulton, IL (1996-01) First, Orange City, IA (2001-13) Rehoboth, Lucas, MI Edith Winter ‘88 b. Oak Park, IL 7/25/1933 d. Holland, MI 5/1/2013 Monmouth College ‘55; WTS ‘88 Int. pas., First Cong. Church, Saugatuck, MI (1988-2013) First Congregational Church, Grand Junction, MI


2013 Distinguished Alum

The Rev. Dr. Gordon D. Laman ‘59

Gordon Laman ‘59

The year 1947 was pivotal for 13-yearold Gordon Laman. He professed his faith in Christ at Unity Reformed Church in Muskegon, MI. That summer he heard a challenge from missionary John Piet at the newly opened Camp Geneva, and seeds of a call to mission work were planted in his mind and heart. In his mid-teens he met and began dating Evon, who came to share his passion for world mission. Gordon entered Hope College as a pre-seminary student, and Evon followed him to Hope the next year. They received encouragement to missions each year when mission secretary Ruth Ransom came to visit the campus. Gordon’s missionary goal was further impacted through Hope College classmate Ki Bum Han of Korea. Gordon invited him to share his tiny rented room, and soon his new roommate ignited an interest in East Asia. Gordon and Evon married in 1957 and departed for Japan in 1959. Surprisingly little hatred of Americans remained from World War II. Instead, the people blamed the nationalist Japanese military leaders who had brought such shame and destruction upon the nation. After

Japan’s surrender, there had been a short window of opportunity when people were eager to hear the gospel, but then the U.S. freed Japanese war criminals to create a conservative counterbalance to the encroachment of Communism. Many Japanese felt betrayed. Youth rioted in the streets, and things American —including the gospel brought by missionaries—went under a cloud of suspicion. All that could lift that cloud was the presence of people like the Lamans. Unassuming and quiet in nature, Gordon was well equipped to work in Japanese culture. He achieved great competence in both spoken and written Japanese. A servant’s heart toward the people he loved and served paired with scholarly perseverance made him an ideal messenger of the gospel. His gifts were highly respected in Japanese society, where there is little tradition of charismatic oratory or self-promotion. Missionary work, especially in a resistant field like Japan, is not easy to describe, much less to do. Day-to-day Gordon studied the difficult language, society and culture, he prepared sermons, tracts and lessons, and he built relationships with Japanese colleagues (which could be thorny at times). Understandably, while help from a foreigner was needed and welcomed, some resented it. In spite


Gordon with his first four pastor colleagues in Saga, 1962.


of this, Gordon’s patient persistence and faithful service to the church won respect and acceptance. Saga Prefecture was the

At a Glance Gordon D. Laman Missionary and Professor

b. Muskegon, MI 1/30/34 Married Evon Southland in 1957 Three children, Tim, Lisa, and Greg, and six grandchildren A.B. Hope College, 1956 B.D. Western Theological Seminary, 1959 Th.M. Western Theological Seminary, 1970 D.Min. Western Theological Seminary, 1983 D.D. Tokyo Union Theological Seminary, 2002 1959-2002 Missionary, Japan 1981-2002 Professor, Tokyo Union Theological Seminary Book: Pioneers to Partners: The Reformed Church in America and Christian Mission with the Japanese (Historical Series of the Reformed Church in America), 2013

Reg. $60 Available directly from Gordon for $40, contact him at 145 Columbia Ave #565, Holland, MI 49423 or 616.394.7144.

Evon and Gordon at language school, June 1960.

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scene of his early work for ten years, and later the family moved to Sasebo and Hirado for the next ten. In order to reach as many people as possible, Gordon began a radio ministry, a late night broadcast called ”Friend of the Heart,” aimed at students who were burning the midnight oil. Follow-up included correspondence Bible lessons and literature. He also walked to distribute 1200 “Friend of the Heart” evangelistic newspapers doorto-door each month. Gordon’s parish included Nagasaki, where the second atomic bomb was dropped in 1945. The epicenter of the bomb, ironically, was directly above the site of the brutal martyrdom of Japan’s first Christians that began in 1597. The bomb melted the stone angels on the cathedral built to commemorate those martyrs. A history of persecution and the site of nuclear devastation provided the context in which Gordon and Evon labored. In any mission endeavor, family is an important witness. Although a gifted missionary in her own right, Evon adopted the role of Gordon’s supporter and homemaker/ teacher for their three children, Tim, Lisa and Greg. Later Evon suffered debilitating illness, as well as the amputation of her leg. Through all of this, the courage and loving care the Lamans showed each other was an inspiration to all and a vital part of their Christian witness. When leaders in the United Church of Christ in Japan asked Gordon to consider a call to help train future ministers at Tokyo Union Theological Seminary, Gordon was reluctant but obedient. He had been prepared by earning a Doctor of Ministry degree from Western Theological Seminary, where Dr. Eugene Heideman and others helped him deepen his theological thinking. Love of scholarship, 22 years of experience on the front lines and dedication to future Japanese church leaders made him an ideal mentor and trainer at the seminary for the next 21 years. The Lamans retired in 2002, but being conscious of following in the footsteps of the pioneers of the RCA Japan mission and walking on soil hallowed with the blood of martyrs, Gordon was determined to give the world church a record of their achievement. His recently published book, Pioneers to Partners, is the outstanding fulfillment of that goal. In the resistant and frustrating field of Japan, I can think of no one who has been more faithful or effective serving Christ’s church than the Lamans. They are a credit to their Lord, to the seminary that equipped them, and to the church that sent them. It is no small honor for all of us to have been part of their company. by Rev. George Magee ‘62 RCA Missionary to Japan, 1963-2005


The Laman family in front of the Hirado Preaching Station where Gordon was the pastor, 1973.

Tokyo Union Theological Seminary class, early 80s.

The Faculty of Tokyo Union Theological Seminary, 1981.

Presiding over convocation, Tokyo Union Theological Seminary, April, 1998.


2013 Distinguished Alum

The Rev. Vicky Menning ‘89

Vicky Menning ‘89

“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God?” Micah 6:8 These well known words are at the center of Vicky Menning’s life. She embodies them, living life and practicing ministry in ways that have impacted hundreds of pastors and thousands of disciples of Jesus. Vicky was born in Holland, Michigan; raised by parents who taught her to love and trust the triune God she came to know in Jesus Christ; formed by the pastors and people of Trinity Reformed Church; educated at Hope College; drawn deeply into the mission of God through her marriage to Bruce Menning and the ministry they shared; called by God as a minister of Word and sacrament; and used by God to be an agent of grace and to transform congregations in ways far beyond what can be told in this brief article. Vicky and her husband, Bruce, were greatly influenced by an internship Bruce served while at seminary. Their year at Hope Reformed Church in Los Angeles crystallized a commitment to racial justice and reconciliation. It became central to the work they shared while Bruce was the pastor of Covenant Reformed Church

in Muskegon Heights, MI from 1970 five years, Vicky continued to lead Trinity— to 1983. They led the congregation in revitalizing the life, ministry, and impact of ministries that equipped and empowered the church in deep and profound ways. the people of Muskegon When Tony Vis, Presi“It was my privilege to work with Heights, a predominantly dent of the RCA General Vicky Menning for 10 years on the African-American city, to Synod from 1997-1998, RCA's Church Revitalization Team. work toward greater racial Her love of Christ and his Church gathered a group of 25 reconciliation. was clearly evident at all times. We pastors God had used to Vicky was one of the could always count on Vicky for an bring revitalization and original members of the amazing mix of wisdom and humil- growth to congregations, RCA’s Commission on Race ity. Her eagerness to learn and grow Vicky was among them. and Ethnicity. She has been was contagious.” — Rev. Tony Vis Their report led to the a consistent opponent of creation of the RCA’s Reviracism in all its forms and an advocate for talization Team. Vicky was a key member, racial justice at all levels of RCA ministry. articulating the importance of holding toShortly after Bruce left Covenant gether word and deed, justice and evangeReformed Church, Vicky began her lism, and grace and truth while seeking to seminary education. She was drawn to transform lives and renew communities. Western Theological Seminary by her love In 2001 God called Vicky into wider of scripture and learning and her desire to circles of influence; first through a serve more effectively. To Vicky’s surprise, partnership with the Synod of the Great God used seminary and the discernment of Lakes, Western Theological Seminary professors—most notably and the RCA. Vicky’s I was blessed to have Vicky as my the late Rev. Dr. James unyielding insistence on the peer group facilitator during WTS Cook—to call her into importance of collaboration and then as my coach for my first ministry as a minister of created the environment seven years as a pastor. She helped Word and sacrament. in which significant efforts me lead with precision and clarity After Vicky graduated such as “Learning to while leaning into compassion and in 1989, she and Bruce Follow, Learning to Lead” love for the people I was called to accepted a call to serve for recent WTS graduates serve. She didn’t simply make me a as co-pastors of Trinity and the Ridder Church better pastor; she made me a better Reformed Church in a Renewal process have been person. — Rev. Aaron Vis west side neighborhood developed. of Grand Rapids—a ministry they shared Part of Vicky’s work was to facilitate until 1996, when Bruce was called to the peer groups for students at Western RCA’s denominational staff. For the next Theological Seminary. Her ability to


Ken Eriks and Vicky Menning lead a class for pastors in their first year of ministry, 2005.


Bruce and Vicky Menning, 1993.

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create a safe space, to be authentic and to ask questions helped create a powerful environment for learning. When God called Vicky to the work of revitalization on the staff of the RCA in 2005, Vicky took seriously the words of the RCA’s ten year goal, Our Call, challenging us to work with all of the partners God provides. Those partners have been found in denominations, synods and classes, congregations, and communities. They have included processes such as Natural Church Development, in which Vicky served as a congregational coach and denominational trainer, contributing to increased health and missional living in hundreds of congregations. Prior to her retirement in 2011 and continuing today, Vicky has devoted her time and energy to ministers in their first call and to women in ministry. She helped

At a Glance Victoria M. Menning Pastor, Collaborator, Coach

b. Holland, MI (1946) B.A. Hope College, 1968 M.Div. Western Theological Seminary, 1989 (1989-96) Co-pastor, Trinity, Grand Rapids, MI (1996-2001) Pastor, Trinity, Grand Rapids, MI (2001-05) Partnership for Church Revitalization (2005-11) Coordinator for Church Health and Coaching, RCA

create the RCA coach development process and has trained hundreds of people. She has coached many pastors, helping them listen, discern, and gain the courage and competence to act. Vicky has shown pastors how to form networks—peer learning groups—where they can learn from each other, hold each other accountable and sustain each other through the ups and downs of congregational renewal. Beyond all of these contributions, Vicky has helped women find their voice and claim their place in ministry. She has helped the RCA embrace the full gifts of women, reminding us how much richer and deeper our life and ministry is when women and men serve together. She has done this as an exceptional leader in RCA congregations and on the RCA staff, and she has done it by modeling the way for all of us to live with a clear sense of call and deeply rooted values. The RCA is a far better denomination through the life and ministry of Vicky Menning, and this writer will be forever grateful for the important roles Vicky played and still plays in my life. by Rev. Ken Eriks ‘73 Director of Congregational Mission, RCA

Facilitator of a Western Theological Seminary peer group, 2005.


Baptising Michael Reese Kelly, 2001.

“The pastor’s network Vicky helped me gather has transformed the lives and ministries of eight women pastors. Her coaching has helped me to come out from behind myself and speak the truth in a way people can hear. She has never sought to lead me in the way SHE thought I should go, but helped me to hear and follow the voice of the Holy Spirit even when it was uncomfortable.” — Rev. Mara Joy Cooper-Norden Vicky was a pioneer who wonderfully paved the way for many of the women who serve now in this generation. I will forever be indebted for the impact she had on my life and ministry. — Rev. Jessica Shults

The Menning family gathers, 2012.


Giants in our Midst There is a puzzling verse in Genesis 6 that the King James Version of the Bible translates: “There were giants on the earth in those days.” Since I work at a seminary, I could walk down the hall and ask a couple of colleagues about that verse and take most of the mystery out of it…but I’d rather run with my Jeff Munroe imagination. I know there Vice President of have been giants who have Advancement and gone before me. Communications I was reminded of the giants of our past on Monday, May 13, when we held our annual Alumni/ae Day and several reunion classes gathered. My class, the class of ’88, celebrated 25 years, but we seemed like mere mortals compared to the class of ’73, celebrating 40 years, and the class of ’63, celebrating their 50th reunion, and especially the class of ’53, celebrating their 60th. Two of the legendary figures from 1953—Elton Bruins and I. John Hesselink—prayed a special blessing over the class of 2013 at Commencement, and it was a wonderfully holy moment. I thought of another giant that day as we held our first event for the new James I. Cook Endowment in Christianity and Literature. Noted author Lauren Winner (who would speak that night at Commencement) gave a wonderful address entitled, “Confessions of a Bookworm.” The purpose of the Cook endowment is to encourage reading, engage life and faith through the lens of good books, help discover new voices with something to say, and sponsor

Library Director Retires Paul Smith grew up as a preacher’s kid in Iowa, first in a town of 400 and then a town of 100. Although Paul would say he’s still sort of a “small town boy,” he has spent most of his career managing a very wide expanse of territory…that of information. When Paul first came to work at Western Theological Seminary in 1985, the personal computer was just entering the market and the internet was a test project of the US Defense Department. Information was relayed mostly with paper and ink. In 1985 the seminary had one computer in the library, a big box with a little screen and glowing green letters, and it was connected to a large mainframe computer at a national library database service in Columbus, Ohio. At that time Hope College and Western were beginning to automate their libraries on a joint computer system. For many years much of Paul’s time and effort went into reshaping and moving the seminary’s


events and the creation of learning communities interested in Christianity and literature, all with an eye toward “Good Reading, Good Writing, and Good Thinking.” Jim Cook was a giant. He epitomized the “pastorprofessor” combination that has made Western Theological Seminary such a unique and special place. He was on our faculty from 1963 to 1995 and taught for several years after that as an emeritus professor. His field was New Testament, and anyone who took Romans or Corinthians from him remembers what a gifted scholar he was. Yet, his first love was literature. I learned recently that he intended to pursue a Ph.D. in English when he fell in love with Jean, who was in Holland, and he decided to enroll at Western Theological Seminary to be near her. The Lord works in mysterious ways! As a New Testament professor, Jim was given the latitude to develop a course in Christianity and Literature that has gained mythical status around this place. It is in his honor that we’ve created this endowment. We’ve received a large matching gift opportunity to fund the endowment, and our alumni will be asked to help us reach our goals this summer. I am hoping you will make a giant gift to this fund. Jeff can be reached at 800-392-8554, x111 or

Rev. Paul Smith “then and now” Director of Beardslee Library, 1985-2013

processes, procedures and records into electronic format. That was the first stage of automation, with many more projects to follow in the years to come. These days, instead of walking to the library and rummaging through the card catalog, you can use your smartphone to access the library’s resources anywhere. In his “Last Meditation” given at chapel on May 1, Paul asked students to think theologically about how technology affects who we are as human beings. Are we simply “consumers of information” who gather, process, and give output? The Bible gives us a goal that is much different: Pursue wisdom, the true knowledge of who we have been created to be and how God wants us

to live in relationship to him. Paul’s biggest challenge as director has been charting a course through the sea of information— the databases, websites, books, journals— sorting, choosing, organizing, making accessible, and interpreting so that ultimately in the process of working through the information students may truly hear God’s word speak to them at a deep level. “This is my prayer for you as I exit the stage,” Paul said, “that you will resist the values of a society that wants to define you as a consumer of information and live instead rooted in God’s wisdom among those who hear the word of God and do it.” Paul Smith is retiring on June 30.

JUNE 2013

News from WTS Faculty Positions Filled Four new faculty members will be joining the seminary on July 1: Dr. Kristen Johnson - Dr. Johnson is presently on the faculty of Hope College; she earned her Ph.D. in political theology at St. Andrew University in Scotland. She will be Associate Professor of Christian Discipleship and Theology. Dr. Chuck DeGroat - Dr. DeGroat is on the pastoral staff of City Church San Francisco, heads up the Counseling Center there, and co-founded the Newbigin House of Studies. He has a Ph.D. in Pastoral Care and Counseling and will be Associate Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling and Senior Fellow of Newbigin House of Studies. Dr. John Brogan - Dr. Brogan is leaving a position as Dean of Students at Northwestern College in Orange City, IA. His Ph.D. is in New Testament. He will be Dean of Formation for Ministry. Dr. Ben Conner - Dr. Conner earned his Ph.D. in missiology at Princeton Theological Seminary. He has served as the Area Young Life Director in Williamsburg, VA. He will be Associate Professor of Christian Discipleship.

New Roles In a special inauguration ceremony on April 17, J. Todd Billings was installed as the Gordon H. Girod Research Professor of Reformed Theology. Rev. Girod was an esteemed and beloved pastor of the Seventh Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, MI from 19581980. Generous donors made a gift to the seminary to establish this faculty chair in his honor. This chair provides the funds to ensure a future of faithful theological engagement in teaching, scholarship and scholarly publication.

Meet our Students... at their Summer Internship placements: Will Brooks, St. Thomas Reformed Church, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands Matt Cook, First Reformed Church, Grandville, MI Dan De Graff, Calvary Christian Reformed Church, Ontario, Canada Steven DeVries, North Holland Reformed Church, Holland, MI Ryan Donohoe, Clinical Pastoral Education (Pine Rest), Westminster Presbyterian Church, Grand Rapids, MI Kayla Fik, Jamestown Reformed Church, Jamestown, MI Anne Harrison, Words of Hope, Grand Rapids, MI Ray Hudson, Clancy Street Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI Smirna Lezcano, Iglesia Reformada de Fe, Los Angeles, CA Angel Lopez, Bridge to Grace, Atlanta, GA Molly Mead, Journey, Western Theological Seminary Mike Metten, Spring Valley Community Church, Allendale, MI Grace Miguel, West End Collegiate Church, New York City, NY Judy Nelson, Holland Classis, Holland, MI Derek Noorman, Theresa Presbyterian Church, Theresa, NY Jake Porter, Hamilton Christian Reformed Church, Hamilton, MI Kevin Slusher, First Reformed Church, Oak Harbor, WA Lance Sonneveldt, Covenant Life, Grand Haven, MI Garrett Szanter, The Citadel, Detroit, MI Rodney TeSlaa, United Church of Two Harbors, Two Harbors, MN Paul Towne, Valley Life Community Church, Boise, ID Dan Unekis, Clinical Pastoral Education (Pine Rest), Grand Rapids, MI Austin Vondracek, Beechwood Reformed Church, Holland, MI Jordan Warntjes, First Christian Reformed Church, Zeeland, MI Cody Raak, Trinity Reformed Church, Holland, MI Meghan Vanderlee, Faith Reformed Church, Dyer, IN

or through their writings: The Board of Trustees has appointed Chris Dorsey as Assistant Professor of Theology and Preaching effective July 1. Professor Dorsey came to the seminary in 2011 as a Faculty Fellow and was a visiting professor in 2012-13. Ann Nieuwkoop has been appointed Interim Director of Beardslee Library upon Paul Smith’s retirement June 30. Since becoming Associate Director in 2003, Ann has coordinated, implemented and supervised all aspects of the day-to-day operations of the library. Her qualifications and commitment to the seminary, along with the diligence of the library staff, means our library is in capable hands until a permanent director is hired.

Welcome We welcome Andrew Bast to the seminary staff as an Associate Director of Advancement. Andrew is a 1998 graduate of St. Olaf College and has worked in the field of music education for 12 years in the Minneapolis area. Andy’s father, David Bast, is a 1976 WTS graduate; his grandfather, Henry Bast, graduated from Western in 1933 and taught here from 1956-63.



WTS students wrote the summer issue of Words of Hope. Order yours at or call 616-459-6181. You may also stop by the seminary to pick one up.

New RCA-CRC Worship Resource After seven years of talks, research and collecting, Lift Up Your Hearts: Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs, became available on May 2. The 13 editors and 80-member advisory committee came from the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church. Carol Bechtel, Professor of Old Testament, and C.J. Kingdom-Grier, Associate Director of Admissions, served as senior editors. Carol Bechtel and Ron Rienstra, Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship Arts, wrote songs that are included in the book. It offers 965 items, including 850 hymns as well as readings, indices, liturgy for baptisms and the Lord’s Supper, and hymn texts in 39 different languages. For more information, visit www. or call 800.245.7025.


A Note from


A few months ago in this column you were looking at my bald head, shaved in solidarity with my faculty colleague, Dr. J. Todd Billings, who had undergone five rounds of chemotherapy and was facing a stem cell transplant and months of quarantine—all in a massive effort to push his blood cancer into remission. Sixteen of us here at the seminary shaved our heads in February as a visual cue to any who saw us to pray for the healing of Todd Billings. And pray we did! On April 17, the doctors allowed Todd to come out of quarantine for one evening to be installed as our first Gordon H. Girod Research Professor of Reformed Theology.

Our gracious God gave Todd a burst of energy, and he delivered his thoughtprovoking inaugural address with vigor and enthusiasm. In mid-May, we received wonderful news. After taking many tests to evaluate the success of the stem cell transplant, Todd’s doctor told him he is in a “fantastic remission,” a complete remission from his cancer. O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples. Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wonderful works. (Ps. 105:1-2)

June 2013, Vol. 16, No. 3 Editor and Graphic Designer: Carla Plumert Capotosto Editorial Council: Dr. Timothy Brown, Dr. Dawn Boelkins, Rev. Jeff Munroe, Dana Daniels. The Commons is published three times a year for alumni/ae and friends of Western Theological Seminary by the Office of Advancement and Communications, Jeff Munroe, vice president, 101 E. 13th Street, Holland, MI 49423. 616-392-8555; fax 616-392-7717. Reproduction in whole or in part by permission only.

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WTS Commons June 2013  
WTS Commons June 2013