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June 2014


The Commons 138th Commencement

The graduates first give a round of applause to all those who have supported them

Dr. Ellen F. Davis of Duke Divinity School gives the commencement address

In a very warm but joy-filled celebration, the seminary’s largest graduating class in its history received their degrees on Monday evening, May 12, in Dimnent Memorial Chapel on the campus of Hope College. Western Theological Seminary awarded 46 Master of Divinity degrees, four Master of Arts degrees, five Master of Theology degrees, six Doctor of Ministry degrees, and three Graduate Certificates in Urban Pastoral Ministry. Dr. Ellen F. Davis of Duke Divinity School gave the commencement address entitled, “Read, Pray, Trust,” based on portions of Psalm 119. She spoke about the psalmist’s acute longing and vulnerability and prayed that the graduates would have the courage to lose their self confidence and instead trust in God in wide open vulnerability to God and neighbor. In his charge to the graduates, Dr. Timothy Brown gave two pieces of advice. First, “In your enthusiasm for worship and leading the church, don’t go too long on a hot muggy night!” Second, quoting Jesus, he said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt 22:27-29) “Believe this Gospel, live this Gospel, and live in its peace!”

The first four Master of Arts graduates: DeAnna Kohl, Samantha Kadzban, Janet Herrick, and Trevor Berrian

Master of Theology graduates Csilla Török and Jong Man Joen

GCUPM graduate Alice Taylor leads the prayers of the people

Class of 2014

Vicki Ackerman GCUPM Vicksburg, MI

Jose Angel Lopez Dominguez M.Div.

Trevor Berrian M.A. North Bend, OR

Daniel Bierma M.Div. Holland, MI

Daniel Claus M.Div. ‘13 Grand Rapids, MI

Grace Claus M.Div. ‘13 Crystal Lake, IL

Kevin Clouse Th.M. Battle Creek, MI

Howard Earle, Jr. D.Min. Fort Worth, TX

Royce Evans D.Min. Toledo, OH

Chad Farrand M.Div. Grand Rapids, MI

Kayla Fik M.Div. Holland, MI

Joseph Graham M.Div. Midland, MI

Samantha Kadzban M.A. Wyckoff, NJ

Henry Kliewer D.Min. Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

DeAnna Kohl M.A. Oak Harbor, WA

Chelsea Lampen M.Div. Sibley, IA

Judith Nelson M.Div. Ann Arbor, MI

Derek Noorman M.Div. Zeeland, MI

Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico

W. Raymond Hudson, Jr. Jong Man Joen M.Div. Th.M. Grand Rapids, MI Grand Rapids, MI

No picture available

Amy McCabe M.Div. Greenwood, IN


Molly Mead M.Div. Orange City, IA

Michael Metten M.Div. Coopersville, MI

Bradley Nelson M.Div. Swartz Creek, MI

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Graduates of Western Theological Seminary

Matthew Cook M.Div. Grandville, MI

Daniel De Graff M.Div. Lowell, IN

Steven De Haan M.Div. Pella, IA

Scott DeLeeuw M.Div. Tulare, CA

Steven DeVries M.Div. DeMotte, IN

Jason DeWaard M.Div. ‘13 Holland, MI

Anne Harrison M.Div. Grant, MI

Lisa Henderson D.Min. Rockford, MI

Janet Herrick M.A. Holland, MI

Jeffery Lampen M.Div. ‘13 Zeeland, MI

Smirna Lezcano M.Div. Los Angeles, CA

Robert Matthews M.Div. ‘13 Rockford, MI

Cody Raak M.Div. Sioux Center, IA

Debra Rensink M.Div. Sioux Center, IA

Steven Rodriguez M.Div. ‘13 Holland, MI

Class verse: “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16 NSRV

Sophie Ollier Th.M. Paris, France

Matthew Oosterhouse M.Div. Allegan, MI

Jacob Porter M.Div. Zeeland, MI



Class of 2014 No picture available

No picture available

Zachary Ruder M.Div. Columbus, OH

Luis Ruiz, Jr. GCUPM Holland, MI

Kevin Sanders M.Div. Kalamazoo, MI

Debra Schout D.Min. Parbatipur, Bangladesh

John Schrock D.Min. Goshen, IN

Megan Shoup M.Div. Roseland, MN

Kevin Slusher M.Div. Montgomery, MI

Lance Sonneveldt M.Div. Grand Haven, MI

Nicholas Spencer M.Div. Urbandale, IA

Stacey Sterkenburg M.Div. Cadillac, MI

R. Garret Szantner M.Div. Rochester Hills, MI

Alice Taylor GCUPM Kalamazoo, MI

Amber Taylor M.Div. Holland, MI

Csilla Tรถrรถk Th.M. Debrecen, Hungary

Paul Towne M.Div. Waupun, WI

Daniel Unekis M.Div. Rock Rapids, IA

Meghan Vanderlee M.Div. St. John, IN

Benjamin Vos M.Div. Orange City, IA

M.Div. = Master of Divinity M.A. = Master of Arts Th.M. - Master of Theology GCUPM - Graduate Certificate in Urban Pastoral Ministry D.Min. = Doctor of Ministry

Kerri Vryhof M.Div. Grand Rapids, MI


Jordan Warntjes Wasswa Asaph Senoga Mark Waterstone M.Div. Th.M. M.Div. Boyden, IA Kampala, Uganda Holland, MI

Photos by deVries Photography, Zeeland, MI

JUNE 2014

The Rev. Dr. Dennis Voskuil Retires “I love my students,” Dr. Voskuil is often heard saying. And for 37 years they have loved him back. Generations of students, first at Hope College (1977-94) and then at Western Theological Seminary (1994-2004) have been inspired by the teaching and genuine care of the Rev. Dr. Dennis Voskuil. He has a pastor’s heart, and that is what makes him so memorable and effective as a teacher and leader. Prior to joining the Religion department at Hope College in 1977, Dennis served Trinity Reformed Church of Kalamazoo, MI for three years, and he also © deVries Photography, 2013 served as acting senior pastor at his home church, Third Reformed Church of Holland, MI from 1990-92. He chaired the Religion department at Hope College for many years and left in 1994 to take up the leadership mantle of Western Theological Seminary. As president, Dennis brought deep conviction about the seminary’s identity and calling: “We are a Reformed theological institution, evangelical at heart with ecumenical arms. Our mission is to prepare leaders to serve the church, and the Reformed Church in America is our starting point. We are a community of faith and learning.” He began with the vision of connecting strongly with church congregations. His pastoral presence released an enormous amount of creative energy for productive work, and the seminary thrived under his leadership. Dennis is quick to give credit to everyone else. “People are the assets. They brought their visions and passions, and as a community we shaped those together and moved ahead.” After handing over the reins to President Timothy Brown in 2008, Dr. Voskuil returned to his first love—teaching—as the Marvin and Jerene DeWitt Professor of Church History for the six years that followed. He will retire on June 30 and continue to teach part-time as an adjunct professor. The intersection of faith and culture has always been central to Dr. Voskuil’s teaching and scholarship. On April 29, he gave his “last lecture” on the topic of “Back to the Future: History, the Church and Post-Christian America.” Although he presented sobering evidence that the church has lost credibility and influence in America, Dennis maintains that he is extremely hopeful and confident about the future of Christianity in America. “Christ will not abandon the church, the Gospel will continue to capture hearts and minds, and God is full of surprises!” (see for the video or transcript) The seminary community will miss Dennis Voskuil’s full-time presence on campus, and we are grateful for all the years he has given us and how he has blessed us with his wisdom and grace. A PUBLICATION OF WESTERN THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

In their words... When Dr. Voskuil says he loves us, we know he truly means it. He invests so much of himself into our development and education. —Holly Teitsma

Dr. Voskuil has such a positive attitude toward future generations of ministers. He has faith in us, and that’s something I really appreciate. —Isaias D’Oleo

I have had the privilege of calling Dennis my pastor, teacher, president, and friend. Whether rolling up his sleeves to wash dishes with the ladies in Trinity's kitchen, challenging me academically at WTS, or offering guidance about my call to ministry, his authentic witness as a humble servant of the Lord Jesus Christ has impacted me greatly. —Deb Yurk Dr. Voskuil was the first professor I had at seminary, coming back after 15 years out of school. He taught me so much about church history and also kindly guided me through writing papers and taking quizzes and exams. His passion for the subject made me want to learn. —Lisa Braunius God has given me, and so many others, a marvelous friend in Christ in the person of Dennis Voskuil. —Jeffrey Hubers Dr. Voskuil’s passion for teaching pours out of his genuine love for Christ and the church. He has deep knowledge and wisdom about the church of the past, present and future, while always challenging us to wrestle with the ongoing intersection of faith and culture. —Joe Graham Dennis Voskuil is the ultimate life-long learner and not ashamed to admit it. I love that man for that and so many other reasons! —Judy Nelson Dennis has great respect for each student no matter what they bring (or don't bring!) to the table. Students know he highly values their time, thoughts and ideas. Also, I have been amazed at how much knowledge is inside that skull! A three-hour class is never enough time to say all he needs to say. —Jill English I was and still am blessed by his wisdom and wit, and I know that his legacy will outlast that tree dedicated to him that is planted outside his window! —Adam VanDerStoep Dr. Voskuil was a pastor and dear friend during his time at WTS. His kind, gentle, knowing ways and love were expressed in such a way that he felt more like a father to me, and I will always treasure him and Betty for their support and encouragement through both difficult and joyful times. Blessings for a peacefilled and joyful retirement! —Sharon Smith


2014 Distinguished Alum

The Rev. John F. Nordstrom ‘63

John Nordstrom ‘63

As is often the case with John Nordstrom, the path isn’t traditional but the results tell the tale—in the end, few have impacted the greater church and strengthened its ministry as has John Nordstrom. His journey to become a Distinguished Alumnus of Western Seminary is best seen through the twists and turns of life with God’s hand visible only when one looks back to see how the pieces fit together. He’s a college graduate thanks to an employer who insisted he go back to school rather than settling into a job he loved. He’s in the RCA thanks to a wife who brought him reluctantly into the denomination. He’s a pastor thanks to a minister who finally made sense of the Gospel and walked with him into ministry. He’s in West Michigan thanks to a call he didn’t receive. He’s the denomination’s premier fundraiser thanks to a parishioner who suggested an alternative when conflict arose in the church. Throughout that journey, John has learned to trust God’s leading and respond in faith. The path to ministry began at the Chicago Tribune, where John had a summer job in advertising. He loved the selling and wanted to drop out of the University of Illinois to stay at “the Trib” but his supervisor insisted

he return to college, guaranteeing him a job following graduation. Though he took that offer and loved the work, the pay wasn’t great and John was recruited by a financial services firm which provided him considerably more to support his growing family. His wife Eileen had grown up in First Reformed Roseland so there was little negotiation where they would attend church. Given his Methodist roots, John struggled with the very conservative and Dutch nature of the congregation. With the new job, they purchased a home near the Ivanhoe Reformed Church where Gary Wilterdink served as pastor. That was life-changing for John. Through Gary’s ministry, John discovered joy in the Gospel, understood what it meant to be part of the people of God, and found a friendship in which he could explore alternatives to processing mortgages for the next forty years. On New Year’s Eve, 1959, with their two girls tucked in bed, John sat down with Eileen and raised the prospect of going to seminary. There was no hesitation. “It sounds like a good idea to me,” was her response. That next August, John moved the Nordstrom family to Holland into an apartment Eileen had never seen. John describes the experience as almost Abrahamic—following God into a land they did not know. It was a great time for John. He felt like a dry sponge— “ripe to learn” from faculty whom he viewed as giants. Lester Kuyper, Richard Oudersluys, Harold Englund, and John Piet all challenged him yet also confirmed that he was a child

of God, had gifts and abilities that could be used for the Kingdom, and provided him with the first community he really felt part of. After graduation, John and Eileen began ministry at the Harlingen Reformed Church in

At a Glance John F. Nordstrom

Pastor and Fundraising Professional b. Chicago, IL 3/11/1932 Married Eileen Mugg in 1954 Four daughters: Linda, Nancy, Martha, and Jane Several grandchildren and great-grandchildren B.S. University of Illinois, 1954 B.D. Western Theological Seminary, 1963 Th.M. Princeton Theological Seminary, 1968 Service to the church: (1963-68) Pastor, Harlingen, Belle Mead, NJ (1968-75) Pastor, Second, Zeeland, MI (1975-95) Dir. of Development, Hope College (1995-98) Dir. of Capital Campaign, WTS (1997-2000) Dir. Capital Campaigns, Camp Geneva (2000-present) Fundraising for misc. organizations, Words of Hope, Ottagan Addiction Recovery (2012-13) Interim V.P. of Advancement, WTS

Belle Meade, NJ. It was a wonderful start with great people. While there, John was selected as a family life consultant to train pastors in the Covenant Life Curriculum which led to his serving as the general chairperson of the RCA Family Festival at the YMCA of the Rockies. He also earned a Th.M. from Princeton Theological Seminary while in New Jersey. John eventually became eager to serve in an urban setting with civic leaders who

Four daughters (L to R): Jane Eppard, Linda Boeve, Nancy Nordstrom, and Martha Kuyten John and Eileen, 1954


John and Eileen at the 100th anniversary of Second Reformed Church, Zeeland, MI 2004

John Nordstrom, General Chairman of the RCA Family Festival, talking with Bert Van Soest, 1972

JUNE 2014

could make a difference in their community. He saw what he thought was the perfect opportunity but didn’t get that call. Instead he was called to Second Reformed Church in Zeeland, MI (hardly the urban setting he desired). John, however, describes that time in Zeeland as eight of the best years of his life—not always easy but a great time in ministry. It was a season of tension in the church with great social/church issues—civil rights, Vietnam, ordination of women, and children at the Lord’s Table among them. John served as a member of the Theological Commission during this time, a remarkable appointment he felt (“Imagine—me, a Methodist, on the Theological Commission!”), which allowed him to wrestle with these issues at a denominational as well as congregational level. As these issues boiled over, however, ministry became more difficult. One of the members of Second suggested John talk with President Gordon VanWylen of Hope College who was looking for someone to support the college’s development efforts. While he wasn’t excited about leaving parish ministry, John agreed to try it for a year and ended up serving the college for twenty years as Director of Development. It was a role that brought back his days of selling at the Tribune but was one in which he could serve the church. In this second phase of ministry as one of the preeminent fundraisers in the RCA John found a calling that has made him one of the seminary’s distinguished alumni. Following his retirement from Hope, John served Western first as a consultant and then later as interim vice president. In these roles he assisted in hiring the last two vice presidents for Advancement. He also directed capital campaigns for Camp Geneva, and he assisted the RCA, Words of Hope, and community organizations like Good Samaritan Ministries, OAR (Ottagan Addiction Recovery, of which he was a founding member), and the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area. John’s insight and expertise as a development professional, success in fundraising, and the relationships he built over decades across the church have placed these institutions in the strong financial positions they enjoy today. In doing so he fulfilled a primary goal— helping organizations see how successful fundraising can solidify their future and leave them better than when he joined them. “Trust the Journey” is John’s characterization of his eight decades of life and ministry. It’s what faith is all about—putting on your hat every morning and faithfully following God into whatever that day may bring. John Nordstrom has done that faithfully and distinguished himself for the way he’s helped the church develop the resources to sustain and enhance its ministry. For that extraordinary leadership and service, we salute him as one of Western Theological Seminary’s distinguished alumni. “No job too small,” Alumni phonathon, 1980

by Dave Vanderwel ‘71


John directs volunteers at a phonathon, Hope College, 1980

John served on the West Ottawa School Board 1981-1993, three years as president. Here he is pictured with Superintendent of Schools Peter Roon.

Hope College Campaign, “Hope in the Future,” 1992

Serving as interim vice president of Advancement at Western Theological Seminary, 2012


2014 Distinguished Alum

The Rev. Phyllis S. Palsma ‘78

Phyllis Palsma ‘78

I can still remember watching Disney movies in the church nursery, coloring in the back of the sanctuary, and receiving the parental “you are in big trouble if you don’t start behaving” look from the pulpit in the middle of a sermon. It’s a familiar tale for any pastor’s kid, but in my case the scolding stare from the pulpit came not only from my father, but from my mother as well. I’ve had the great privilege of growing up in the church never thinking it was out of the ordinary for a female pastor to be leading worship. I also have the blessing of calling this particular pastor, Phyllis Palsma, my mom. Phyllis’s story begins on February 23, 1952, in the farmlands near Pella, Iowa, as the oldest of four children born to Alfred and Doris Steenhoek. She was baptized at First Reformed Church in Pella and spent her days like any other typical Christian Dutch-American farm girl growing up in the 1950s and 1960s: 4-H, church activities, band, choir and Dutch dancing during the annual Tulip Festival. In her junior year at Central College while earning her degree in Music Education, Phyllis began to feel a strong call to ministry. General Synod met on

Central’s campus in 1973, and she was able to discuss her internal call with many leaders of the denomination, who encouraged her, saying, “All things are possible.” Phyllis began her theological studies at Western Theological Seminary in the fall of 1974, when women’s ordination had not yet been formally approved by the RCA. The Classis of Pella granted her a provisional license to preach at the end of each year’s exams, with little hope that her ordination would ever actually occur. In the fall of 1977, Phyllis met a first year student at Western by the name of Nolan Palsma, who would eventually become her husband and life-long partner in ministry. Phyllis graduated from Western in 1978, and in 1979 the RCA officially approved women’s ordination. At the Classis of Pella meeting in September of 1979, Phyllis put forth her formal request for ordination. She said, “The question of whether or not I should be ordained is more than a simple matter of obedience to the Book of Church Order. It’s a question of where lie your theologies of the use of spiritual gifts, of God incarnate, of personhood and of the church. As a church, we express the belief that God is alive and acting in the world today and that God’s acts and the Gospel are carried out in the life actions of men and women in the world and in the church.” Phyllis was ordained on All Saints’ Day in 1979 and began her first call as the resident chaplain at the Iowa Methodist Medical

Phyllis serves communion with Rev. Dr. Norman Kansfield, Dr. Donald Bruggink and Rev. Lynn Post, WTS, 1977



Pastors Nolan and Phyllis, 1981 Pequannock Reformed Church

Center in Des Moines. In 1981, Nolan and Phyllis received the call to co-pastor at Pequannock Reformed Church in Wayne, New Jersey. A few years later Phyllis added on the part-time position of Associate Minister at Preakness Reformed Church in Wayne. During this time, she also added the role of parent to her resume. My brother Ryan came first, then me, and finally my sister Anna completed our family. My mom and dad co-pastored in Wayne, NJ for nine years before taking the call to be co-pastors at Pitcher Hill Community Church in North Syracuse, New York. After they served at Pitcher Hill for ten years,

At a Glance Phyllis S. Palsma

Pastor, Leader, Writer

b. Oskaloosa, IA, 2/23/1952 Married Nolan Palsma in 1978 Three children: Ryan, Sarah, Anna B.A. Central College, 1974 M.Div. Western Theological Seminary, 1978 Service to the church: (1979-80) Chaplain, Iowa Methodist Medical Center, Des Moines, IA (1981-90) Co-Pastor, Pequannock, Wayne, NJ (1984-88) Assoc. Min., Preakness, Wayne, NJ (1990-2000) Co-Pastor, Pitcher Hill Community Church, North Syracuse, NY (2000-09) Min. for Leadership Dev. and Coord. for Revitalization, Regional Synod of Albany (2012-13) Int. Pas., Old Paramus, Ridgewood, NJ (2013- ) Int. Pas., Community Church of Glen Rock, Glen Rock, NJ

Phyllis leads VBS with Sarah on her lap, Pequannock Reformed Church, 1989

JUNE 2014

Phyllis began to work full time with the Regional Synod of Albany as the Minister for Leadership Development and the Coordinator for Revitalization. In 2009, Nolan and Phyllis moved back to New Jersey, where Nolan was installed as the pastor of Upper Ridgewood Community Church in Ridgewood. By 2012, the Palsma pastoral team was back in action, as Phyllis became the interim pastor at the other RCA church in the town of Ridgewood, Old Paramus Reformed Church. She currently serves as the interim pastor at the Community Church of Glen Rock. During her time in professional ministry, Phyllis has had a myriad of roles. She has been nominated several times as Vice President for General Synod and has served on the General Synod Council and as a member of the board of trustees of Western Theological Seminary. She has served on a commission and various task forces and committees for the RCA. Her leadership with the Children and Worship program took her to the World Council of Churches meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe. She has also served as the RCA delegate, per Formula of Agreement, to the UCC executive council, and was a founding member of the Capital Region Theological Center. However, most people probably know my mother from her years as a columnist for The Church Herald. Phyllis has certainly led a life worthy of her calling. No matter where she has served she has continued to share her genuine love and care for all people and

Baptizing twins at Community Church of Glen Rock, 2014

There will be three pastors in the family! Celebrating Sarah’s WTS graduation, 2011

Baptizing twins at Community Church of Glen Rock, 2014

her desire to see them discover their potential as followers of Jesus Christ. She has worked to empower, equip and strengthen leadership in the church from children to adults, and I am only one of many who has benefited from her tutelage. In 1978, Shirley Borgman wrote these words of support for my mother’s ordination in the August newsletter of First Reformed Church in Pella, IA: “Phyllis is Mrs. Nolan Palsma and will be a minister’s wife just as Nolan is now a minister’s husband, but first of all, in all her life, she is Phyllis, a minister.” These words still ring true 36 years later. Phyllis is a Minister of Word and Sacrament, and I am so proud to call her my mother. Countless others have had, and continue to have, the privilege

Revs. Phyllis and Nolan Palsma break ground at Pitcher Hill Community Church, 1991


Bible presentations at Old Paramus Reformed Church, 2012

of calling Phyllis a minister, a mentor, a colleague, and a friend. I thank God for my mom’s gentle and fierce spirit that continues to breathe new life into today’s church. by The Rev. Sarah Palsma ‘11 Associate Pastor New Hope Reformed Church, Powell, OH

Phyllis shares a Christmas lunch with the Albany Synod Staff, 2002



May 12, 2014

CLASS of 1954, including spouses (front) Joyce Jager, Jefferson Steenbergen, Mary Heideman, Eugene Heideman (2nd row) John Boender, Ruth Boender, Anita Decker-Steenbergen, Barbara Koskamp, Aaron Koskamp (3rd row) Luella Mulder, Cecil Martens, Bernice Dykstra, Bernice Blauw, Stuart Blauw (back) Edwin Mulder, Donald Bruggink, Erma Bruggink, Jacob Dykstra, Paul Hostetter NOT PICTURED: Alvin Hospers, Donald Lenderink, John Staal, Duane Tellinghuisen, Dean Veltman, Raymond Weiss ON TO GLORY: Henry Boekhoven, Richard Decker, James Hakken, Arthur Homberg, Henry Jager, Paul Kranendonk, Kenneth Leestma, Donald Nienhuis, Glen Peterman, Jerold Pomp


60 years


50 years


40 years

CLASS of 1964 William Burke, Jr., Charles Stickley, Frederick Kruithof, Ronald Beyer, Carl DeJong, Norman Kolenbrander, Gerald Wondra, Richard TerMaat NOT PICTURED: Gerald Bates (ThM), Peter DeJong, Frank DeVries, Mark DeWitt, Charles Doornbos, Victor Ebert, Richard Hunt, Ralph Ludwick, Harlan Ratmeyer, Arthur Scheid, David Smits, Stanley Vandersall, Paul VanEck, Rowland VanEs, Gordon VanHoeven, Edward Veldhuizen, Ralph VerPloeg, Leoncio Yao ON TO GLORY: Don Bekkering, Allen Buurma, Bruce Hoffman, Werner Minke, J. Samuel Ponniah, Luther Ratmeyer, Howard Schipper

CLASS of 1974 Curry Pikkaart, Ray Tilstra, Perry Raak, David Schutt, Charles Bigelow NOT PICTURED: MDiv: John Allen, Thomas Bos, Donald DeGlopper, Philip Grawburg, Donley Huitink, Donald Kazen, Mark Kraai, Franklin Mayimele, Terry Muller, Daniel Ramaker, Richard Tigchon, Harry Tysen, Eugene VanZee, Kenneth Zorgdrager ThM: H. Raymond Gaylord, Amaladass Karunakaran, John Kleinheksel ON TO GLORY: Richard Borst


JUNE 2014


News Several years ago Donald Buteyn ’51 retired at age 80 from a ten-year pastoral ministry at a Presbyterian church in San Diego, CA. He and his late wife, Marian, moved to Holland, MI, where Marian passed away in May of 2005. On November 6, 2010 Donald married Suzanne Rich, and they reside in a condo in Holland. Reflecting on the many mountain tops and valleys of his life, Tom Zylstra ’55 says that two events stand out. The first was his WWII service in the Marianas Islands, primarily on Saipan. There God called him into the gospel ministry. The second event was (and is) his 100% veteran’s disability. Tom says that God is using that thorn to help him be a steward of his gifts. “What a treasure it is to share abundantly what God has loaned me!” Tom and Doris are about to enter Sunset Village in Jenison, MI “for the final days of this life—to God be the glory.” Henry Stegenga ’59 and his wife, Charmaine, are now residents at The Warm Friend in downtown Holland, a senior housing community. In May, Lambert Academics published Union with Christ: the Heart of the Good News by Wendell Karsen ’63, ’67 (ThM). Originally written as his Master of Theology thesis in 1967, Wendell has updated and expanded the manuscript. Its purpose is to reassert the primary import of this foundational doctrine. Alumni may contact Wendell directly at for a free E-copy of the book. Gerald Bates ’64 (ThM) continues to serve as the interim rector of Hope Africa University pending the selection of an African rector (the previous head of the school died in March 2013). This Christian liberal arts university of about 6,000 students is the largest and fastestgrowing university in Bujumbura, Burundi. Gerald and Marlene formerly worked as missionaries in Burundi for 28 years. Gerald’s Ph.D. from Michigan State University is in educational administration. For the past six years, Ronald Beyer ’64 and his wife, Jean, have been ministers to seniors and have been responsible for congregational care at Calvary Reformed Church in Holland, MI.

Charles Stickley ’64 has served three congregations as a contract pastor since retiring in 2006. He is presently at Port Ewen Reformed Church in Port Ewen, NY. He and his wife, Esther, love to relax in Sanabell Island in Florida and enjoy spending time with family, especially their three college-aged grandsons. They are grateful for God’s love and many blessings over the years and the honor of serving him and the Reformed Church. Clifford and Barbara Feakes of Massachusetts endowed a chair at New Brunswick Theological Seminary in honor of their friend, Norman J. Kansfield ’65. Last October, Dr. Beth LaNeel Tanner became the first woman to be installed to an endowed academic chair at NBTS. She is now The Rev. Dr. Norman and Mrs. Mary Kansfield Professor in Old Testament Studies. Warren Bovenkerk ’70 has retired from working as director of the group homes for young children at Sierra Vista Child and Family Service Agency in Modesto, CA. Roger ’73 and Char Huitink retired from active ministry August 31, 2013, and moved from Indiana to Connecticut to be closer to their daughter and family. They are adjusting to retirement, little by little, and feel that being so much closer to their grandchildren is a special gift from the Lord. “We feel blessed to see them often now!” they say. Thomas Bos ’74 is Minister of Congregational Care at Newhall Community Church in Wyoming, MI. He also serves as an RCA Retiree Chaplain in the Holland, Zeeland, and Hudsonville areas. Tom enjoys music and has written three hymns in the last few years. He and his wife, Mary Bos ‘90, enjoy spending part of their winters in Florida. Mary is Minister to Seniors at Central Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. Robert Van Voorst ‘77, professor of New Testament at WTS, has been appointed a “Distinguished Overseas Visiting Scholar” at Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, in November of 2014. He will lecture over a two-week period on the New Testament and early Christianity, visit with faculty and students, and do research on Christianity in contemporary China.


After 19 years as a chaplain at Good Samaritan Ministries in Holland, MI, Dianne Mugg ’82 (MRE), ’93 is now the pastor of care and calling for Second Reformed in Zeeland, MI. Troy Van Beek ’03 is the Regional Coordinator of Development for the Reformed Church in America in the Synod of the Heartland area. Randy VanderWeit ’04 and his wife, Lisa, announce the birth of their second daughter, Annalise Lanae, on January 13, 2014. Randy is the Director of Youth, Education, and Worship at Bethany CRC in Muskegon, MI. Brett Vander Berg ’11 and his wife, Jaimi, announce the birth of their son, Trygve Michael, on February 19, 2014. Joe Graham ‘14 was ordained and installed as Pastor of Discipleship at First Reformed Church of Zeeland, MI on June 8. Jeff Munroe ‘88 preached, and Dennis Voskuil ‘69 gave the charge.

On to glory... Richard Allen Evers ‘57 b. 11/7/1931 Chicago, IL d. 3/2/2014 Citrus Heights, CA Central ‘54; WTS ‘57; CA Graduate School of Theology ‘76 (PhD) Reformed churches served: (1957-61) Unity, Grand Rapids, MI (1962-67) Winding Way (now Christ Community), Carmichael, CA (1967-83) Community Drive-in, Sacramento, CA (1983-96) Miraloma, San Francisco, CA Other service to the church: (1961-62) Missionary, Classis of Central California Gordon Webster ‘59 b. 4/25/1934 Grand Rapids, MI d. 3/28/2014 Grand Rapids, MI Hope ’56, WTS ‘59 Reformed churches served: (1959-67) Arcadia, Newark, NY (1967-76) Owasco, NY (1976-85) First, Ravenna, MI

Faculty News Two years ago Dr. Chuck DeGroat sent out a tweet to pastors and leaders he knew, asking simply, “If I were to write another book, what would be most helpful to you?” The nearly unanimous response was, “Write a book on the toughest, most difficult people in our lives, our organizations and our churches.” The result? The Toughest People to Love: How to Understand, Lead, and Love the Difficult People in Your Life -- Including Yourself (Eerdmans, 2014) Dr. DeGroat is Associate Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at WTS. He has 15 years of pastoral, counseling, and leadership experience. He’d love to hear your comments or questions about his book. Tweet him at @chuckdegroat #TP2L


A Note from


Friends, I wish you could have been there. What a thrill to see our largest graduating class ever walk across that stage on May 12, receive their diplomas, and turn their tassels toward a future of service to Christ’s church. I am proud of them all and ever so eager to see how the Lord will use them in the world. I am especially proud of one graduate in particular, Jose Angel Lopez Dominguez. When Angel arrived in the United States in 2011, he had a degree in Social Anthropology and spoke English as his fourth language. Angel is Maya Ch’ol, an indigenous Mayan people of Chiapas, Mexico, and our first Maya Ch’ol graduate. He is married to Janelle (Koolhaas), a ’01 graduate who served as a missionary in Chiapas, and they have two lovely daughters.

Angel wanted to be prepared for ministry, so he tackled his theological studies right alongside his efforts to learn the language better. He has mastered both, and he and Janelle are eager to do ministry together in the USA—one could say he will be a missionary to this country. This really isn’t strange— since the RCA began its work in Chiapas in 1925, the church there has multiplied to the point that it is now larger than the entire Reformed Church in America! Angel and another student, Sergio Reyes, have blessed us already by networking with local Latino pastors, whom we welcomed to campus in hopes of making the gifts God has given us more available to the Latino community. Pray with me, please, for the future ministry of Angel and for all of our students as they seek to find that particular place where God wants them to live out their call.

June 2014, Vol. 17, No. 3 Editor and Graphic Designer: Carla Plumert Capotosto Editorial Council: Dr. Timothy Brown, Dr. Carol Bechtel, 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 2014