>This is the second of my two articles about Classis Michigan that appeared in the September 15, 2010 Christian Renewal.
URCNA Classis Michigan: Two new pastors
by Glenda Mathes
Two pastors, formerly in the Protestant Reformed Churches in America (PRCA), have affiliated with United Reformed congregations in Classis Michigan and are seeking calls within the URCNA.
Rev. Mitchell Dick and Rev. Nathan Brummel each successfully sustained his Colloquium Doctum at the February meeting of Classis Michigan. Rev. Dick and his family are members of Bethel URC in Jenison, MI, while Rev. Brummel and his family belong to Trinity URC in Caledonia, MI. Their respective consistories hold the pastors’ ministerial credentials and are recommending them for calls to United Reformed congregations.
Since it is hoped that both men will receive calls to URCNA congregations in the near future, they are not considered as associate pastors and have not been assigned specific responsibilities within their churches. Each minister does, however, participate in the life of his congregation and preaches when the opportunity arises.
Christian Renewal readers may recall that Rev. Dick was at the center of a controversy within the Protestant Reformed Churches regarding a minister’s right to home school his children. After a lengthy debate that included many appeals (most in favor of the minister’s right to home school) at multiple PRCA Classes and Synods, the Protestant Reformed Synod of 2009 ruled that although home schooling may be an option that falls “within the area of Christian liberty” for “some parents” and may even be the “best option” in “some instances,” it is not an option for office bearers (see “Church Order rules in PRC vs. homeschool clash” by John Van Dyk in the February 24, 2010 issue of Christian Renewal).
The PRC Synod decision was based on its interpretation of Article 21 of the denomination’s Church Order, which states: “The consistories shall see to it that there are good Christian schools in which the parents have their children instructed according to the demands of the covenant.”
Synod and those supporting the decision view attendance at the “good Christian schools” maintained by the Protestant Reformed churches to be a part of the covenant community’s responsibility. Officebearers are to encourage this by the example of sending their own children to those schools and not educating them at home.
Those opposing the decision objected to this interpretation. Their view was that the article was written simply to encourage good Christian education, and not to endorse or prescribe one particular form of Christian education over another. Appellants argued convincingly from scripture that it cannot have been meant to disparage or prohibit home schooling. They noted the lack of scriptural grounds for Synod’s narrow interpretation of Church Order Article 21, and criticized it as an extra-confessional statement of a binding nature. They also affirmed that parents have the primary responsibility to educate their children, which should be in a way they deem best according to the dictates of conscience.
Although Rev. Dick had been released from his pastoral position at Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, MI, he remained a minister in good standing in the PRCA. But the decision of Synod of 2009 made it clear that he could no longer educate his children according to his conscience and remain an officebearer in the PRCA. In October of 2009, he requested that Bethel URC, where he had been leading a Bible study, begin the process of making him eligible for call within the URCNA.
“We understood that he was leaving a church that he had lovingly and faithfully served for many years as a diligent servant,” says Rev. Wm. Jason Tuinstra, Minister of Word and Sacraments at Bethel URC. “We knew this was hard for him. He had no ill-will toward the PRC and never sought to denigrate their churches or members.”
Rev. Tuinstra relates that Bethel URC formed an ad hoc committee to investigate the matters leading to Rev. Dick’s removal from Grace PRC as well as his theological and confessional commitments.
“Rev. Dick willingly submitted to our process of examination and submitted his answers to be reviewed by the ad hoc committee,” he explains. “After reviewing Rev. Dick’s answers and witnessing his teaching and preaching among us, the committee was glad for the opportunity to sponsor him into the URCNA.”
The consistory of Bethel voted unanimously in favor of sponsoring Rev. Dick for a Colloquium Doctum in the URCNA. But the homeschool issue was not the only reason that the Dicks affiliated with the URCNA.
“We joined the URCNA for a number of reasons,” he says. “One, it is a biblical, conservative, confessionally Reformed Denomination. Two, it is no more than that. In other words, the URC does not go beyond either Scripture or the creeds in its positions, practices, and pronouncements—something for which we are extremely grateful. Third, the URC stresses the autonomy of the local church. It is on guard against any form of synodocracy, tyranny, and hierarchy. We appreciate this freedom! Fourth, we see the fruit of God’s Spirit and grace in the URC—among clergy and laypersons. Fifth, we appreciate the URC’s true ecumenicity—its own appreciation of and desire to manifest the unity of the body of Christ among true believers and churches also outside of the federation of the URC. There are many other reasons, but one more we mention: our reception at Bethel URC in Jenison, MI, just down the street from us, has been very warm and gracious.”
Rev. Brummel was intimately aware of Rev. Dick’s situation since these two ministers are married to sisters (nee Faber). Rev. Brummel’s wife, Paula, taught at a Christian school for 12 years. Rev. Dick’s wife, Grace Kay, taught at Protestant Reformed schools for 12 years. Rev. Brummel was one of many bringing appeals to Synod of 2009. But, like Rev. Dick, the homeschool issue was not the only factor influencing Rev. Brummel’s decision to move from the PRCA to the URCNA.
“Over the years, it became evident that there was not freedom to do covenant theology or pursue the mission of the church within the context of the PRCA,” he says. “I became convinced that we must not allow a desire to protect non-confessional denominational distinctives to function as a barrier to outreach with the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’ve been working on developing the contours of a confessionally Reformed missionary theology in line with the thought of J.H. Bavinck, Roger Greenway, and Herman Hoeksema.”
Just as Bethel URC welcomed the Dick family with open arms, Trinity URC has welcomed the Brummel family.
“Rev. Brummel and his family have been well received by our congregation,” says Rev. Brian Vos, pastor of Trinity URC. “His preaching has been a great blessing to us. We are confident that both his preaching as well as his pastoral experience and wisdom will be a great blessing to any church that calls him. He and his family have exhibited much godliness, love, humility, and kindness in the midst of our congregation. We recommend him to the churches without reservation.”
Rev. Brummel and his wife, Paula, have four adopted children (from Russia and Ukraine) and two biological children, ranging in age from one year to 18 years old. After Rev. Brummel requested that his ministerial credentials be transferred to Trinity URC, he and his family vacated the parsonage of his former charge in Dyer, IN, and moved to the Grand Rapids area. He is supporting his family by painting and preaching at local churches. He also is engaged in research for a dissertation on the “nexuses between covenant and justification” in the thought of Herman Bavinck.
Rev. Dick and his wife, Grace Kay, have six children between the ages of seven and eighteen. He is preaching in URCNA churches as well as in RPCNA, PCA, OPC, and independent Reformed and Presbyterian churches. He also directs Grace Home Ministries, a ministry serving nearly 50 area rest homes.
Rev. Travis Grassmid, Minister of Congregational Life at Bethel URC in Jenison, is a member of the Grace Home Ministries board and works closely with Rev. Dick.
“Rev. Dick is a wonderful asset, both to the Bethel congregation and to the federation at large,” says Rev. Grassmid. “He is theologically astute, tempered with winsome humility; a powerful preacher, and a sensitive counselor. He is firm in conviction, yet willing to discuss and consider differing opinions; driven in his ministry, yet patient with others. In short, Rev. Mitch Dick is a servant of God, who diligently strives to serve his Master in all spheres of life.”
Rev. Dick may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 616-662-4338.
Rev. Brummel may be reached at NathanBrummel@att.net or 616-822-2397.