When Classis Central US of the URCNA convened on September 15, 2014, the primary item on the agenda was the colloquium doctum of Rev. Ken Anema, who served Messiah’s Independent Reformed Church in Holland, MI, for almost 21 years and recently began teaching inmates through Divine Hope Reformed Bible Seminary.
A requirement for that position is affiliation with a NAPARC-member church, and Immanuel URC in DeMotte, IN, had requested the colloquium doctum in order to receive Rev. Anema—like Rev. Nathan Brummel—as an associate Minister of the Word and Sacraments in the URCNA, on loan to Divine Hope.
Delegates voted to conduct each section of the exam for 20 minutes, with the exception of Reformed Doctrine, which was kept at 40 minutes. Throughout the examination, participants emphasized its nature as a “doctrinal conversation.” Examiners demonstrated respect and amity, while Rev. Anema responded with thoughtful and articulate answers evidencing humility and theological acumen.
As Rev. Todd De Rooy questioned him about his personal and spiritual life, Rev. Anema testified how God had been preparing him for teaching at the Seminary. He related that as a young, single man, he initially aspired to foreign missions. But after the Lord closed that door, he’d realized his lack of experience and wisdom for foreign mission work. Instead the Lord provided a wife—after he’d been in the ministry for a year—and a strong group of elders who helped him develop good study habits and mentored him for more than 20 years.
Rev. Anema spoke about his work at a rescue mission with men who have been in and out of jail and how he had begun with a “more arrogant, condescending approach,” but “the more I got to know them, the more I realized that these are real life people who are not that different from us.” A wise person once told him that we are all “only one or two bad decisions away from them.”
Although the move from Michigan to Indiana had been “unsettling literally and metaphorically,” he said, “I continue to grow, continue to look to Jesus as my Savior, and continue to rely on the Spirit.”
When asked to state his expectations for teaching at the Seminary, Rev. Anema responded that he has learned in his ministry not to develop expectations but how “God very graciously gave me encouragements along the way.”
He said, “I know that God, by his grace and his mercy, will certainly bless the work. We have a little slogan at the Seminary: Theological education for moral transformation.” He hopes and trusts that “God will begin to change the environment in the prison” and “change the lives of men.”
Questioned about loving the unlovable, Rev. Anema replied, “This is somebody who has been made in the image of God. Who am I to look down on them?”
His response to how he would answer a pre-teen’s question about Jacob Arminius clearly revealed his ability to express complex theological issues in simple terms.
The independent status of Rev. Anema’s former church was the basis for a question if his perspective regarding ecclesiastical federation had changed or if he sought URCNA membership simply due to his new position. Rev. Anema answered by challenging the assumption that his former congregation was isolationist and didn’t benefit from ecclesiastical fellowship, describing several ways it participated in events and ministry with other churches.
Delegates quickly agreed that Rev. Anema had sustained his exam. Because he is originally from Sanborn and attended Mid-America Reformed Seminary while it was in its Orange City location, many relatives and friends witnessed his examination. He and Renee have three children: Noah, Faith, and Liberty.
Another major item on the agenda was a report from Classis Central’s Church Plant Advisory Committee (CPAC), which recommended guidelines for church planting in an effort to increase cooperation and effectiveness among the churches through shared wisdom and resources.
While nearly every speaker expressed appreciation for the report, concerns were raised regarding what some delegates viewed as its occasional vagueness or its centralization tendencies.
Eventually Rev. Jacque Roets moved to recommit the report to the committee, saying, “We have a history that makes us suspicious of working together. I do believe this is very necessary, but we have to think carefully about how to move forward.” The motion to recommit was adopted.
Rev. John Vermeer encouraged the churches to submit their suggestions for improvements to CPAC, and Rev. Harold Miller suggested the Committee confer with the new URCNA Missions Coordinator.
Classis did, however, formally thank the consistory of Immanuel URC of DeMotte for its work supervising CPAC. It also requested that the classical and federational clerks send inquiries about planting churches to CPAC. Delegates additionally directed the classical webmaster to revise the Classis website’s church planting page so that inquiries about church planting within the Classis Central region are sent to CPAC as well as to the federational Mission Committee.
Because the report was recommitted, CPAC required funding to continue its work. The consistory of Immanuel URC brought forward a budget, which Classis approved.
Fraternal delegates speaking at Classis Central included Rev. G.I. Williamson (OPC Presbytery of the Dakotas), Mr. Keith LeMahieu (OPC Presbytery of the Midwest), Rev. Maynard Koerner (RCUS South Central Classis), and Rev. Jonathan Haney (RPCNA Midwest Presbytery).
Rock Valley URC will convene the next meeting of Classis on April 13, 2015.
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 8 & 9 of the October 15, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.