Construction begins on Redeemer URC building

group-shovel
Building Committee members

Thirteen years after Redeemer United Reformed Church began meeting in Dyer, IN, the congregation broke ground for the construction of its own building.

The ground-breaking ceremony was held on April 21, 2018, on the church’s property located in the “Gates of St. John,” a subdivision of that city in northwest Indiana. The property is accessed from US 231, between US 41 and I-65, and is near Crown Point Christian School.

Redeemer’s minister, Rev. Jacques Roets, and its three associate pastors (all professors at Mid-America Reformed Seminary) participated in the ceremony.

Since the groundbreaking, the foundation has been laid, and framing has started for classrooms and the fellowship section. The building will also include a nursery, kitchen, council room, secretary’s office, pastor’s office, and a sanctuary that will seat more than the current membership of 75 families.

Rev. Roets explains that when the church realized it would have to scale back on its original plans, due to financial considerations, it decided to make concessions in the educational area rather than give up sanctuary space. “We have struggled with how to do this,” he says, “but from the beginning we were committed to building a sanctuary since worship is so important to God’s people.”

venema
Dr. Cornel Venema

Current needs will be met by allowing classes to meet in the council room and church office. The hope is for worship services to begin in the new building by Easter of 2019.

Many reasons lay behind the long wait for a building. The church had purchased land on what was know locally as the “shoe corner” more than a decade ago. But shortly after Rev. Roets arrived in 2007, a recession hit that put everything on hold. As the congregation kept growing (it has doubled in size since 2007), it became apparent that the lot was too small for a building that would adequately meet the church’s needs. The larger property in St. John was purchased in 2010, and the smaller parcel was sold in 2016.

“Also, the cost of construction made us very wary of over-committing ourselves, and so we waited until we had saved more money and were able to afford a better building,” Rev. Roets says. “A factor that reduced the urgency to build was that we were comfortable worshipping in the Dyer Presbyterian Church (PCUSA).”

About three years ago, church leaders realized the building was getting too cramped for the growing congregation. They had hoped to start building last year, but first needed to revise the design in order to reduce expenses.

The congregation has received significant donations of an organ and a grand piano.

Jacques speaking-close
Rev. Jacques Roets

Redeemer’s vision statement identifies the church as a community “striving to be Christ-centered, grace-filled and people-loving.” Rev. Roets believes the church’s own building will be a visible tool in loving people, which is defined as: Love towards one another. (Carrying each other’s burdens. Encouraging each other. Seeking each other’s good.) Love towards the stranger in our midst. (Welcoming them in the name of Christ. Showing genuine interest in them.) Love towards those who are lost. (Working deliberately to display God’s love to them. Seizing every opportunity to testify to God’s love in Christ.)

“We are looking forward to being able to have a more visible presence in the community,” Rev. Roets says, “to have a place around which to center our life together and be a place where people can come to hear the gospel, grow in faith and be excited to bring others to hear the gospel.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared with the headline “Long awaited building for Dyer congregation under construction” on pages 11 & 12 of the September 14, 2018, issue of Christian Renewal.

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Calvary Chapel in Oregon transitions to the Reformed faith

family-0ceanA former Calvary Chapel church has called a Reformed minister and hopes to move toward affiliation with the URCNA.

Cornerstone Community Church will install Dr. Quentin Falkena (currently of First URC in Chino, CA) as its Teaching Pastor at the Sunday morning service on September 16, 2018. Rev. Danny Hyde (Oceanside URC, CA), who has been instrumental in bringing Dr. Falkena and Cornerstone together, will preach at the installation service. Cornerstone’s current pastors Stan Way (Senior Teaching Pastor) and Mark Delladio (Christian Education and Music Pastor) will also participate in the service, using the installation form from the new URCNA Forms and Prayers book.

Cornerstone also has a Children and Youth Ministry pastor, Mike Mayben. Both Pastors Mayben and Way plan to retire in the near future, although they will remain in the congregation and help as needed.

“I’m now 72, it’s time for a younger man and a new voice in the pulpit,” Pastor Way says. “I’ll retire from the church at the end of this year, but the Lord willing not from ministry. I hope to remain active in the life of the church in any way Quentin would like me to. Also, I hope to be more involved in our local Bible college (Pacific Bible College) and write more.”

Dr. Falkena’s primary responsibilities will focus on preaching the Word and administering the sacraments, but he’ll also be teaching, visiting, counseling, and performing other pastoral duties. He and his family planned to move to Medford at the end of August.

“After ten years, two doctorate degrees (Amanda’s and mine), and three kids, we have a lot to weed through,” he says. “To begin, we’ll be renting a home about 15 minutes south of the church. Our home is on the grounds of what used to be a retreat center situated next to a vineyard, which is adjacent to a beautiful garden that serves as a wedding venue. It’s picturesque!”

After the move, Dr. Falkena will return to Chino for a few days, to function for his final time as Clerk for Classis Southwest US and to conduct a wedding ceremony. He’ll be back in Medford before the installation on September 16 and begin preaching on September 23.

Cornerstone Community Church is currently independent, but hopes to be provisionally accepted into the URCNA by Classis PNW within 18 months with ratification at Synod 2020.

Pastor Way explains that when he arrived at the church in 1997, he and the elders “shared the same convictions regarding the Doctrines of Grace,” which “were new to us but very compelling.” For the next four or five years, they studied the Reformed faith: reading and discussing Reformed confessions, attending conferences (hosted by Ligonier, The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Westminster Seminary California), and listening to Reformed and Presbyterian ministers online.

“We also invited Reformed teachers to be guest lecturers at our Spring and Fall lecture series,” he says. “Dr. Derek Thomas, Dr. Michael Horton, Dr. Carl Trueman, Dr. John Fesko and many others came and ministered to us. Having men like these with us for a weekend allowed us to have very helpful private conversations and receive wise counsel.”

In 2009, Cornerstone’s elders decided to subscribe to the Three Forms of Unity as their confessional standards. For the next two years, two of the church’s pastors taught through the confessions on Wednesday and Sunday evenings.

“Becoming Reformed has touched and reshaped every area of the church’s life: liturgy, pastor-led worship, the administration of the sacraments (we’re now paedobaptists!), and the establishment of church membership in 2014,” says Pastor Way. “It’s been a challenging, yet rewarding, transition. The Lord has been extremely gracious to us. The church is spiritually stronger than ever before. Now it’s time for us to affiliate with a like-minded denomination (or federation of churches). The URC seems to be a ‘good fit’ for us, and we believe Quentin will be able to help us move successfully in this direction.”

On the recommendation of Dr. Trueman, Rev. Danny Hyde was invited to speak at the church in 2016. Rev. Hyde explains, “Since it’s a former Calvary Chapel that has become Reformed over the years, these are my ‘peeps!’” He maintained regular contact with Cornerstone’s leaders about what it means to be Reformed as well as the church’s plan for Pastor Way’s retirement and a new minister.

“In January of 2018, the staff was down at Westminster Seminary for its annual conference, and we met to discuss further,” Rev. Hyde says. “They asked me to vet a list of men, but instead I gave my recommendation of Quentin. They wanted a seminary-trained man, and Quentin has recently finished his DMin from Reformation Bible College. They wanted a man with a young family, and Quentin and Amanda are that. And they wanted a man who could lead them into the future and especially into affiliation with a Reformed ecclesiastical body. Quentin had other inquiries, but I persisted he and CCC continue down a mutual path, and the Lord brought them all together.”

While the Cornerstone congregation is excited about this new chapter in the church’s life, First URC in Chino will miss the Falkenas. And it is a bittersweet farewell for the Quentin and Amanda, who have been part of the First Chino fellowship since Quentin accepted that call as his first.

“Amanda and I arrived ten years ago, just a couple months after we were married,” Dr. Falkena says. “We’ve grown as a family, having three children in the last seven years, but we’ve also become a part of the church family. I’ve had the privilege of working with Rev. Scheuers for many years and with Rev. Nymeyer for just over a year. It’s been a great joy being part of Classis SWUS. These things are hard to leave behind.”

He adds, “However, the opportunity in Medford is a remarkable one, with a unique story. It’s not every day that a church, which began as arminian and dispensationalist, comes to the point of desiring to join a Reformed federation. It is a privilege to take up that task. I’m looking forward to settling into a more routine position in which I can focus more on preaching regularly. As a family, we’re looking forward to what southern Oregon has to offer in terms of its beauty and outdoor pursuits.”

For more information about Cornerstone Community Church, check out its website: cccm.org.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 12 & 13 of the September 14, 2018, issue of Christian Renewal.

Rebuilding Faith

SanctuaryOn February 11, 2018, Faith United Reformed Church in West Olive, MI, enjoyed its first worship services in a new sanctuary, part of a recently-completed project to replace a significant portion of the building destroyed by fire on May 13, 2016.

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it,” Rev. Matthew Nuiver welcomed the assembly. He said that outside seeing his wife on their wedding day and their children when they were born, he didn’t know if he’d ever “seen anything more beautiful” in all his life than the congregation gathered for worship in the new space.

The call to worship came from 1 Peter 2:4-10, about God’s people as living stones and a holy priesthood. “That’s what we celebrate this day,” he said. “That God is making us a people together in Him and building us up to be a church to praise His holy name.”

The sermon, “Remember,” came from Lamentations 3:16-26 and was structured around the theme, “The Lord’s people remember their struggles rightly, so that they will find all of their blessings in Him.” Rev. Nuiver pointed out that we do that in humbleness, faithfulness, and hopefulness.

Rev. Nuiver referred at times to the fire and tied in the message with the upcoming celebration of the Lord’s Supper. He noted that struggles, even those far worse than the fire, help us humble ourselves before God and remember His faithfulness, which we tend to forget.

He admitted it was hard on May 13, 2016, to wait for what “we now know” would be February 11, 2018. But he stressed that in all our trials, “We fix our eyes on him. Not on this place, not on our circumstances. This is nice. But we long for the Lord. We long for heaven” and full fellowship with the Lord. “That’s what we’re looking for,” he said. “This building was worth the wait, but how much more is Christ! How much more is the eternal life we long for! Blessed are those who wait on him.”

NarthexThe evening scripture reading included The Beatitudes from Matthew 5:1-15, and the sermon was based on Lord’s Day 15 from the Heidelberg Catechism, which deals with Christ’s suffering and death. Rev. Nuiver expounded on the question: “Why Are We Free?” under the following theme and points: The believer is free because of the completed work of Jesus Christ in His Suffering, Sentencing, and Shouldering. Stressing the great love of God, Rev. Nuiver urged hearers to exercise their blessing by being blessings to others.

A praise and prayer service was held on February 10, to allow members to experience the new space prior to their first Sunday of worship in it. Members met for corporate prayer, singing, and sharing reflections before splitting up into small groups that met in new rooms to pray, as Rev. Nuiver said, “for the Lord’s blessing and presence to be in and about this building.” He added, “Just to see all the wide eyes and smiles as people walked in and to hear what everyone loved and noticed was a joy.”

The gym and several classrooms were spared from the fire, which allowed the congregation to worship on site during the rebuilding process. A rented educational trailer provided additional classroom space. The local Christian school allowed the Faith congregation to host potlucks in its gym, while South Olive CRC and other churches opened their facilities for funerals.

Footings and most of the original concrete pad could be reused. The cornerstone from the old building was salvaged and installed on one side of the entry doors, across from a new cornerstone.

Many people who drive up to the church have remarked about its similar appearance to the old structure. The exterior is nearly the same, but the front of the building is closer to the road and the back extends farther into the parking lot. The worship space is similar, except the pews are slightly angled.

Rev. Nuiver said, “The most dramatic changes are seen in the warm color palette, which plays throughout the entire space, in the large narthex, and in the ways we were able to plan for classroom spaces and study and office spaces, making our building incredibly functional and beautiful in the now, and we pray in the future as well.”

The trial by fire provided the blessing of expanded fellowship and visibility within the community. It’s also been an opportunity for the congregation to witness God’s faithfulness and recommit to witness faithfully for the Lord.

“When we see a new and beautiful building, a resonant worship space, a restored study, and so many other blessings, we marvel at having been given something that allows us to serve and worship and reach out in ways that we couldn’t before,” Rev. Nuiver said. “We loved our old space, the sacrifices that were made to provide it, the memories that were made in it, and so many of the things that were lost that you cannot receive back by way of a purchase. But we are so thankful for the ways that many within and outside of our body prayed for us and provided for us and cared for us, so that what we now have is an even fuller reflection of the Lord’s great mercy, love, and faithfulness. And we pray that it will be used as a testimony to the same to the glory of His name!”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 5 & 6 of the March 23, 2018, issue of Christian RenewalGreat faithfulness

WSC: New President, student housing

Joel Kim and Godfrey-c
Drs. Kim and Godfrey

When W. Robert Godfrey spoke to a group of Christian students at UCLA almost 25 years ago, he had no idea that college senior Joel Kim would one day take his place as President of Westminster Seminary California.

Rev. Joel Kim began serving as WSC’s fourth president on August 1, 2017, following Dr. Godfrey’s retirement. Rev. Kim received his M.Div. degree at WSC in 1997 and later obtained a Th.M. from Calvin Theological Seminary. He is a teaching elder in the PCA and has 16 years of ordained ministry experience in Presbyterian and Reformed congregations. He and his family attend New Life PCA in Escondido, CA. He chairs the Candidates and Credentials Committee of the Korean Southwest Presbytery of the PCA and has been involved with Southeast Asia Partnership. He has served WSC as Assistant Professor of New Testament since 2005.

Rev. Kim explained how his initial meeting with Dr. Godfrey set him on his WSC trajectory and formed a long-lasting relationship. “Bob Godfrey is one of the reasons I ended up at WSC. As a child of a CRC minister, I seriously considered attending another seminary.” But spending time with Dr. Godfrey during his visit to UCLA, “convinced me that I needed to stay nearby and attend WSC. During my years in seminary, he was my prayer group leader where we prayed for our denomination and our churches. Even now, he remains a trusted mentor and a dear friend from whom I learn daily.”

Dr. Godfrey said, “I am very pleased with the choice of my successor. Joel Kim is an excellent Christian, scholar, and minister, who is committed to the inerrancy of the Bible and the Reformed confessions. He will faithfully continue and advance our work here at the Seminary.”

Now that Rev. Kim has functioned as the Seminary’s president for a few months, he realizes more than ever that he has stepped into some very large shoes.

“I’ve come to appreciate my predecessors even more. They have served with so much wisdom, grace, and faithfulness,” he said, noting how each man brought “something unique” to the position of President. “Bob Strimple was a wonderful academic administrator, setting up the structure and curriculum of the institution. Bob Den Dulk was tireless in fundraising and building relationships for WSC. Bob Godfrey is such a fine speaker and teacher and promoted the school to a wide audience. Our institution is where it is because of God’s grace in providing faithful and trustworthy leaders.”

In his presidency, Kim hopes to carry on the faithfulness of previous leaders. “Like my brothers before, I want to be faithful. Faithful in teaching and upholding the unchanging and inerrant Word of God, engaging and articulating the confessional Reformed faith, and educating and modeling a life of pastor-scholar for our students. We hope to produce graduates who love the Word, serve the church, and exalt Christ in their lives and ministries.”

He additionally hopes to expand the Seminary’s worldwide outreach. “Our school is in a unique location,” he said. “We are about forty miles from the border to our south, with Mexico and Latin America as our neighbors. Head west and we face the Pacific Rim, where churches are growing and flourishing. As we continue to support and partner with local churches, we hope to engage and build up the global church, not only to bless but also to be blessed by them.”

The WSC constituency is familiar with Rev. Kim and appreciates his gifts. Donna Mastalio, a member of Christ URC in Santee, CA, has often heard him speak or preach and interacted personally with him. While she and her husband, Kim, have enjoyed a long friendship with the Godfreys, they are excited about Rev. Kim’s appointment.

“He’s a wonderful man,” she said. “The more we know of him, the more we are impressed with him as a person and as a leader.”

prospective students with new housingAs Rev. Kim assumes the presidency mantle, WSC is in the middle of a visionary building project that consists of constructing 64 student apartments on the school’s campus. Commenting in the Fall 2017 WSC Update, Rev. Kim noted the hope is to provide affordable housing, especially for students from other states or countries. “We have students here from all over the country and the world. In many ways, the world is coming to us, and we are sending them out into the world.” He also expressed the hope that “this residential village will bless the students by enhancing the community of learning. This community of learning is important for seminarians who learn as much outside the classroom as inside. But just as important is this community for the spouses and children of seminarians who often do not benefit from seminary life. Our sincere hope and prayer is that this residential village will be a place of growth, both spiritually and communally.”

Dr. Godfrey’s 24 years of service were celebrated at a special event on May 24, 2017. Dr. Godfrey anticipates continued involvement with the school through assisting the new president during this transition period and teaching some classes. He said, “I will miss my contacts with students, but not the daily administrative responsibilities.”

In his retirement, Dr. Godfrey hopes to remain active in Escondido URC by teaching adult Sunday School and preaching occasionally. “I do hope to continue preaching and speaking in conferences from time to time, but probably not as much as I had been doing,” he said. He also intends to remain on the Board of Ligonier Ministries and keep serving that organization as a teaching fellow. He anticipates retirement will provide more uninterrupted time to focus on writing.

“I am working on a book on the Synod and Canons of Dort, which I hope will be completed in March, 2018, as part of the 400th anniversary of the Synod,” he said. “I have several other writing projects, including a book on a biblical defense of historic Reformed worship.”

Asked how he might advise future seminarians and young pastors, Dr. Godfrey said, “I would advise young men considering the ministry to get the best education they can to prepare them for a lifetime of studying the Bible. I’d encourage young ministers to remain confident that what the people of God need is not creativity or cleverness, but the Word of God. Preach it and teach it! Do not let it go stale in your hearts or ministries.”

He believes Reformed churches need to cultivate a “real knowledge” of the Reformed confessions and heritage. “So many alien voices inside and outside our churches would lead us away from the great inheritance that is ours of faithful, biblical Reformed teachers,” he said. “We need to get the Bible, Christ, the church, justification, and holiness right for ourselves and for generations to come. Our confessions will help us recognize the truth as we have it in the Bible.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 10 & 11 of the January 19, 2018, issue of Christian Renewal.

NAPARC: Missions “Thriving” and Organic Unity Discussed

 

2017 NAPARC1The annual NAPARC (North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council) met from November 14-16, 2017, at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI.

This was the 43rd meeting of the Council, which now consists of 13 member federations. As usual, denominational reports followed by questions and prayers for those organizations took a great deal of time. According to Rev. Ralph A Pontier, NAPARC’s newly-elected Secretary, “One theme was repeated in several reports, that the work of missions is thriving among the churches.”

A more unique feature of this year’s NAPARC meeting involved a lengthy discussion regarding organic unity. Four matters related to the subject had been forwarded from the previous year, and delegates had been encouraged to be prepared to discuss them this year. Discussion began Wednesday afternoon and continued Thursday morning on four topics:

  1. How important is organic union among dissimilar NAPARC denominations?  For example, do the denominations which focus on a specific ethnic/linguistic group in North America really need to merge with other NAPARC denominations?
  2. What denominational distinctives presently exist as obstacles to organic union?  (Examples: exclusive psalmody, delegated or non-delegated assemblies or synods, strict subscription or good faith subscription, unique denominational histories, etc.)
  3. What denominational distinctives should be considered as valid obstacles to organic union under biblical scrutiny?
  4. Discuss the possibility of a structure that allows for both distinctives and organic union.

Rev. Steve Swets, pastor of Rehoboth URC in Ancaster, ON, viewed this as the meeting’s most significant discussion. “It was good to hear the brothers speak openly about the joys and difficulty of unity,” he said. “Some churches asked the FRCNA why they are slow in uniting with the HRC. Some asked the URCNA the same questions about the CanRC. It was an honest dialogue.”

In the official press release, Rev. Pontier reported: “The discussion revealed different ideas about the importance and feasibility of organic (organizational) union, but also a common commitment to giving visible expression to that unity which is already ours in Christ.”

As discussion continued, a motion was made to appoint an ad-hoc committee “to explore concrete ways in which we could begin to bundle our resources for greater visible expressions of our unity in Christ.” The committee would include a representative from each member church. Because the number of official delegates per federation at this meeting ranged from one to four, the body adopted a procedural motion to allow one vote per delegation. The main motion, however, was defeated.

“One thought that was expressed in discussion was that we would be asking a committee to do what we all were supposed to be doing together,” Rev. Pontier said. “I think the majority thought that a committee was not necessary and would not be able to do any better than what we could all do together.”

Other business

Another item on the docket dealt with religious liberty in light of the US Supreme Court’s action legalizing same-sex marriage. Delegates approved the Interim Committee recommendation that this matter would be best handled within the member churches.

A World Mission’s Consultation has been held for more than three decades. The 2018 event is scheduled for September 18-19 in Willow Grove, PA. Mr. Mark Bube will chair the event and Rev. Douglas Clawson will serve as secretary.

Steve ParkNAPARC called for three additional consultations. The OPC will host one on relief and diaconal ministry, convened by Mr. David Nakhla, part-time administrator for the OPC’s Committee on Diaconal Ministries. The ARP will host an event on theological training, convened by Dr. Kyle E. Sims. And the ERQ will host a conference on youth ministries, to be convened by Rev. Ben Westerveld.

Dues for NAPARC remain at $1,000 per member church. The website committee requested and received a $200 budget.

In addition to the election of Secretary Pontier, delegates elected Rev. Dr. S. Steve Park (KAPC) as Chairman and Rev. David Kim (KPCA) as Vice-Chairman. Dr. Maynard Koerner (RCUS) agreed to serve another year as Treasurer. An official resolution of thanks was adopted to express gratitude to Rev. Ron Potter (RCUS) for his 15 years of faithful service as Secretary.

Interspersed with NAPARC’s regular business were evening worship services and opportunities for ecclesiastical meetings among member representatives.

Next meeting

The KAPC is slated to host the next meeting of the Council in the Philadelphia area on November 13-15, 2018. According to the minutes, the docket will include these topics:

  1. As North American culture is becoming increasingly pluralistic and secular how might we develop a vibrant Reformed witness, although we are a small, minority group?
  2. Retaining the integrity of Reformed Confessionalism and Ecclesiology in a secular world.
  3. The Reformed Church and norms for gender, sexuality, marriage, and the family.

NAPARC Member churches

  1. ARPC – Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
  2. CanRC – Canadian Reformed Churches
  3. ERQ – Église réformée du Québec
  4. FRCNA – Free Reformed Churches of North America
  5. HRC – Heritage Reformed Congregations
  6. KAPC – Korean American Presbyterian Church
  7. KPCA – Korean Presbyterian Church in America (Kosin)
  8. OPC – Orthodox Presbyterian Church
  9. PCA – Presbyterian Church in America
  10. PresRC – Presbyterian Reformed Church
  11. RCUS – Reformed Church in the United States
  12. RPCNA – Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America
  13. URCNA – United Reformed Churches in North America

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 6 & 7 of the January 18, 2018, issue of Christian Renewal.43rd (2017) Meeting of NAPARC

Greenville Conference Celebrates Gospel Freedom

crowd-c“Trumpet Call: 500 Years of Gospel Freedom” served as the theme for the spring conference of Grenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (GPTS). About 375 people (including people from Nigeria, South Africa, and Canada) attended all or part of the lectures presented at Woodruff Road Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Simpsonville, SC, from March 14-16, 2017.

A chapel service on Tuesday morning concluded the Seminary’s annual open house for prospective students and initiated conference activities. Dr. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr., President of GPTS, preached from Romans 3:1-4 on “Whose Fault?”

Lectures began on Tuesday afternoon with Dr. Joel Beeke, President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, MI, speaking on Sola Scriptura. Using Psalm 19:7ff and 2 Timothy 2:14ff as his texts, he first delineated doctrines that flow from Sola Scriptura. He then defined and clarified the sufficiency of Scripture, before bringing practical applications. He stated, “The heart of Sola Scriptura is that the Bible is sufficient for the faith and practice of the church.”

Dr. Robert Kolb, Professor Emeritus at Concordia Seminary and a widely-recognized expert on Luther, presented a lecture on “Luther’s Providential God.” He noted that while most people think of Luther’s primary emphasis as being on Christ, he also had a robust theology of God’s providence.

Pipa chapel
Dr. Pipa

Following a Question & Answer session, Dr. Pipa drew from Ephesians 2:1-10 to speak on Sola Gratia. His three points were the function of grace, the purpose of grace, and the fruit of grace. He said, “Salvation, from beginning to end, is of Jehovah, the triune God, that He might be glorified in His people.”

Dr. Kolb then enlightened listeners on “Luther’s Preaching on the Parables.” The key to understanding this biblical genre, he said, is to “recognize the Person telling the parable as the main point of it,” and that Christ provides the proper interpretation for each one.

On Wednesday, Pastor Cliff Blair, Redeemer Presbyterian Church (OPC) in Charlotte, NC, preached from John 6:26-71 on Solus Christus. He spoke movingly of Christ as the focus of the entire Scriptures, the holy One of God, who is the center of it all. He urged listeners, “Set your feet on this rock, eat this bread, drink this blood, taste eternal life now, and know that you will have it forever and ever.”

Pastor Carl Robbins, Woodruff Presbyterian Church, used James 2:14ff to address the topic of Sola Fide. He noted that Protestants tend to warn against legalism, but fail to recognize the danger of antinomianism. In a memorable introduction, he compared the two threats to ditches on the sides of a narrow country road.

Panel
L-R:  Drs. Pipa &, Whiting, Pastor Blair, Ryan Speck (moderator), Dr. Morales, Pastor Robbins, and Dr. Kolb

After another panel discussion, Dr. L. Michael Morales, Professor of Biblical Studies at GPTS, spoke on Soli Deo Gloria. Based on Matthew 4:1-11, he encouraged hearers to look to Jesus, who lived completely to the glory of God and glorified the Father through obedience to His Word.

Dr. Michael Whiting, author of Luther in English, led off Thursday’s lectures by exploring “Law as Friend and Foe in Luther’s Theology.” He noted that Luther’s famous paradox about believers being simul justus et peccator (both righteous and sinners) can guide our understanding of his paradoxical language regarding the law.

The last presentation by Dr. James E. McGoldrick, GPTS Professor of Church History, was about “Luther on Life without Dichotomy.” Based on 1 Peter 2:1-12, he spoke about Luther’s doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, which was in stark contrast to the prevailing dichotomy between clergy and laity. He stressed that a life of service is indispensible to the Christian life, saying, “True faith is always active in love.”

The conference concluded with a final Question & Answer session.

The above article by Glenda Mathes was one in the Reformation Conference Series and appeared on pages 10 & 11 of the May 31, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal.

URCNA Classis Western Canada welcomes two pastors

greetingsClassis Western Canada met in a special session on April 7, 2017, in order to conduct colloquium doctums for two ministers. The consistory of Trinity Reformed Church of Lethbridge, AB, desired to call the two men to serve its congregation.

“This classis meeting was truly a joy to witness,” reported Stated Clerk Rev. James Roosma (Grace Reformed Church, Kelowna). “We thankfully moved quickly through the ordinary mandatory classis business in order to devote the vast majority of our time having a very good doctrinal conversation with the two brothers.”

The two examinees were Rev. John van Eyk, who has been serving the Tain/Fearn Associated Presbyterian Church (APC) in Scotland since September of 2008, and Rev. Thomas Albaugh, who recently retired after serving five years at the Redeemer OPC mission work in Pittsburgh, PA. Since September of 2016, Rev. Albaugh has been ministering to the Trinity congregation in Lethbridge.

Rev. Keith Davis (Bethel URC, Calgary) conducted the first half of the exam, questioning the ministers in the areas of practica, church polity, and ethics. Rev. Bill Pols (Orthodox Reformed Church, Edmonton) presided over the second half, examining the men regarding Reformed Doctrine and Confessional Knowledge.

“It was absolutely clear during the course of the these examinations,” wrote Rev. Roosma, ‘Rev. van Eyk and Rev. Albaugh’s commitment to the Christian faith and the 3 Forms of Unity was unwavering and their desire to serve Christ’s church in Lethbridge was for His glory alone.”

Each man successfully sustained his examination and will now serve Trinity as a Minister of the Word and Sacraments; however, according to Council Chairman, Lloyd Van Eeden Petersma, their roles will be different. Rev. van Eyk will function as the Senior Pastor and Rev. Albaugh will serve part-time as the Pastor of Congregational Life.

“As we are a large congregation with many older members, widows and widowers,” he explains, “Rev. Albaugh will focus much of his time visiting with these members as well as an active group of families and young people. This was something he did a great deal of as he served as an interim pastor and something that was very much appreciated.”

Rev. Albaugh and his wife, Martha, anticipated moving their household goods from Pittsburg to Lethbridge early in May. Rev. Albaugh, who was in the Christian Reformed Church for 12 years, believes the transition back to the continental confessions complements his ministry of the last few years and propels him into future service in the Lord’s kingdom.

“As an OPC minister, I have found the Dutch Reformed tradition to be a wonderful expression of the biblical faith,” he said. “The OPC and the URCNA have a fine working relationship together and a commitment to the preaching of a ‘Christ-centered Gospel’.” He described the move from the OPC’s Presbytery of Ohio to the URCNA’s Classis Western Canada as “smooth” and noted that “the leadership of both denominations has been a great encouragement to me and my family.”

Rev. van Eyk taught in Turkey at the beginning of May and planned to move in mid-June with his wife, Lucy, and six of their seven children. A married son, whose wife is expecting their first child, will remain with his family in Scotland for at least another year to finish his university education.

“I leave dear Christians in the Associated Presbyterian Church in Scotland, but I am excited to be ministering in the URCNA,” Rev. van Eyk said. “I was welcomed so warmly by the brothers at Classis Western Canada and the colloquium doctum demonstrated their commitment to the Word of God and their love for the Confessions. I am especially humbled and thrilled to be serving Trinity and have a real desire to proclaim Christ from his Word so that God might be glorified and enjoyed.”

Both pastors anticipated preaching for their first official Sunday at Trinity on June 25. Rev. Albaugh is a graduate of Westminster Seminary California, and Rev. van Eyk graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Prior to serving in Scotland, Rev. van Eyk pastored the Riverside Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Cambridge, ON.

Classis Chairman Rev. Rich Anjema (Providence Reformed Church, Winnipeg), who now serves Providence Reformed Church in Winnipeg, became acquainted with Rev. van Eyk during the decade Rev. Anjema pastored Hope Reformed Church in Brampton.

“During those years, Rev. van Eyk was pastor of Riverside ARP in Cambridge. I don’t know the exact dates of his time there, but it overlapped my time in Ontario,” he said. “We had some natural connections since members of Hope Reformed and Riverside ARP were involved with what formerly was known as Cornerstone Bible Institute, which is now Redemption Prison Ministries.”

Trinity Reformed Church has been vacant since September of 2015. During that time, a variety of pastors provided pulpit supply. Mr. Van Eeden Petersma said, “In 2016 alone, we had 16 different ministers and four seminarians on our pulpit. We look back and quickly can see how the Lord has blessed us.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 6 & 7 of the May 31, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal.

From a church plant to an organized church in San Antonio

Moody prays laying hands-1An OPC mission work in San Antonio organized in a special service held February 10, 2017. Rev. Andrew Moody, who has served as the group’s church planter, was installed as its pastor. Elders Amit Kholsa and Thomas Roe and deacon Kyle Huizenga were ordained and installed.

About 100 people attended the service, including several Presbytery of the Southwest pastors, who participated in various ways.

Rev. Dr. Glen Clary (Providence OPC in Pflugerville, TX) preached from 1 Timothy 3:14-15 on “How to Behave in Church.” Referring to this and other texts in Paul’s letters to Timothy, he focused on three areas: worship, government, and discipline. He noted the priority of prayer in worship and how a minister must devote himself to preaching and teaching God’s Word. Worship must be done decently and in good order to reflect the character of God, whom we worship and who is with us when we worship. Church government should also be well-ordered because Christ governs the church by His word and Spirit. He does so through ordinary men who’ve been ordained to their offices and carry out their ministry under His dominion and direction. Finally, the church ought to be well disciplined because discipline is the means by which the Good Shepherd brings wandering sheep back into the fold.

Rev. Mark Sumpter (Regional Home Missionary for the Presbytery of the Southwest) exhorted the congregation to rely on God for discipleship strength in seven ways: 1) Be spiritually fervent in serving the Lord. 2) Be patient in enduring hardships. 3) Anticipate a variety of gifts in the body of Christ. 4) Remember to treat one another as gifts purchased by Christ’s blood. 5) Be eager to receive the preached Word with meekness. 6) Take up prayer and your post, eager to live out a witness for Christ. 7) Children and young people should realize they are being trained to make up the church of today as well as of tomorrow. 8) Make much of sin, but make more of Christ.

Moody-Wagenmaker-c
Revs. Moody and Wagenmaker

In the administering of vows, Rev. Todd Wagenmaker (Covenant OPC in Ft. Worth, TX) addressed Pastor Moody, Rev. Bob Cannode (Providence OPC in Pflugerville, TX) spoke to the congregation, and Rev. Dr. Alan Story questioned the new elders and deacon. Rev. Andrew Moody prayed during the laying on of hands for the three officers.

Rev. Dr. Jim Cassidy (South Austin OPC) then gave the charge to the new office-bearers. Focusing on 1 Corinthians 4:1&2, he said, “Regard yourselves as servants and stewards.” He noted that being ordained is not a promotion, but a demotion as one goes from those being served to someone who serves. He acknowledged the authority of office-bearers, but reminded them it was not a license to lord it over others. He concluded by urging the men, “Be faithful servants.”

Out-of-town Presbytery visitors enjoyed a meal in the Moody home prior to the service, and all attendees were invited to a reception following it.

“Many people stayed for up to two hours after the service to fellowship,” Rev. Moody said.

Charter members of the congregation signed a special document prepared by local artist Maggie Gillikin.

“It is a 16 x 20” calligraphy that features Psalm 127:1 and Ephesians 2:19-22,” explains Rev. Moody. “It will be signed by our current members and framed to commemorate the Lord’s faithfulness in building His church.”

San Antonio Reformed Church began as a home Bible study in March of 2011. Its first worship service was held on October of 2011, and Pastor Moody was installed as an evangelist to continue his church planting work in May of 2012.

The group recently began renting a storefront space on the north side of San Antonio’s inner circle of freeways (8705 Botts Lane). Up to this point, the congregation has functioned under the oversight of elders from Grace OPC, which is about 20 minutes away. Grace has also provided financial support for the fledgling group.

“We have been blessed to have the session of Grace OPC oversee the life and ministry of the church for several years,” said Rev. Moody. “Now, the Presbytery has ordained and installed our own church officers.”

He adds, “This is a huge milestone for San Antonio Reformed Church. We are excited to see how the Lord will continue to grow His church and use us to glorify His name!”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 6 & 7 of the March 22, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal.

The path to ministry from Michigan to New Zealand

benedictionOn December 10, 2016, Aaron Warner was ordained in the Reformed Churches of New Zealand (RCNZ) and installed as the minister of the Reformed Church of Palmerston North. Rev. Warner was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is a 2015 graduate of Mid-America Reformed Seminary.

About 100 people attended the ordination and installation, which took place at 1:30 on a warm Saturday afternoon during New Zealand’s summer. Rev. Albert Couperus, a recently-ordained Mid-America graduate, led the service.

“Albert was a classmate with me at the Seminary and spent all three years convincing me to come to New Zealand,” said Rev. Warner.

Another Mid-America graduate, Rev. Andre Holtslag (who supervised Aaron’s vicariate at the Reformed Church of Dovedale in Christchurch), preached from 2 Timothy 1:1-14. He focused on the essence of ministry revealed in five remembrances: prayer, fellowship, discipleship, preaching, and Jesus Christ.

Just as verse 3 notes Paul’s constant prayer for Timothy, the minister and congregation are called to pray continually for each other. Paul’s longing to see Timothy, expressed in verse 4, reflects the joy of fellowship believers can experience. Verse 5 relates Timothy’s godly upbringing and indicates the necessity to disciple others. In verse 6, Paul reminds Timothy to “kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (NASB). That gift was the calling to preach the Word. Rev. Holtslag encouraged Aaron to spend time in the Word so that he would be ready to preach it. He drew the final point from 2 Timothy 2:8, when Paul urged Timothy, “Remember Jesus Christ.” A minister must always remember Christ in his personal life and in his preaching.

Rev. Michael Flinn, a retired minister and elder at Palmerston North, led the ordination section of the service. His son, Daniel Flinn, led a concluding portion of the service. He welcomed to the podium elders from several visiting churches, who brought greetings from their congregations and expressed wishes for God’s blessings. He also read letters from many other congregations without representatives present.

The Flinns have a Mid-America connection as Daniel planned to begin studies there in the fall of 2017, and his brother, Josh, graduated in 2016. Josh also persuaded Aaron to consider ministry in New Zealand, particularly at Palmerston North (which in on the North Island), and is now serving his vicariate at the Reformed Church of Nelson (on the South Island).

Aaron’s journey to ministry in New Zealand, which encompassed far more than moving his family to another country, began many years ago. He explains that God used Rev. Arthur Besteman, his former pastor in Michigan, “in a substantial way” in his life, and he made his public profession at a young age.

Having little desire for further education after high school, Aaron entered an electrician apprenticeship. Two years later, he shadowed a missionary in Toronto for a weekend and began to feel called to the mission field. But the prospect of completing both undergraduate and graduate degrees was daunting.

“I decided instead to invest myself in the church and other programs. I went on several short-term mission trips, led junior high youth group, and did a mentorship program for men dealing with substance abuse,” he said. “I had hoped these things would satisfy the hunger I had for working in ministry without all the schooling.”

Still, he continued to feel the tug toward more formal ministry and its prerequisite education. During a mission trip to Trinidad, a minister heard one of Aaron’s lectures to young people and suggested he consider ministry.

“He did not know that this had been already heavy on my heart,” Aaron said. After his return, he spoke to his own minister, who encouraged him to pursue the internal call he was feeling. He began university classes with a view toward attending seminary.

On that same trip to Trinidad, Aaron had become acquainted with Audra, a fellow team member who shared his passion for missions and interest in other cultures. The two were married in 2008 and blessed with their first child a year later.

Being a non-traditional student and caring for a family was not easy, but Aaron graduated from Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids with a Bachelor of Arts in Biology and a minor in philosophy. His plan to attend seminary, however, was put on hold.

charge to ministerWhen the Warners approached their church council for assistance, the elders expressed concern about their college debt and their anticipated second child. The council asked them to take off a year or more to try to pay down their debt.

“At first, it was difficult for us,” Aaron said, “but we soon realized the wisdom of our elders.”

Over the next two years, Aaron worked at an automatic car wash, drying cars. He took an online class from Mid-America to determine his ability to handle seminary level course work. It went well. He began full-time studies in 2012 and graduated in 2015.

The couple’s third child was born while Aaron was in seminary, and their fourth child was born in New Zealand, while Aaron served his vicariate at Dovedale. (The RCNZ requires its ministers to serve a year-long internship as a vicar in an established congregation under the supervision of an ordained minister and elders.)

When Aaron entered seminary, he and Audra had a goal of doing mission work. “New Zealand was not even a thought in our minds until I met Albert,” he said. “He helped us understand the need for pastors in New Zealand.”

By the time the Warner family arrived in Christchurch, seven out of the 20 churches had no full-time pastor. Some had been without a minister for several years. If ministers preparing to retire were not replaced, the federation could face empty pulpits in half its churches. Two of the three existing church plants had no minister.

Although Aaron and Audra realized they would miss family and friends in the United States and regretted living so far from their children’s grandparents, they came to believe that their struggles were well worth enduring to help God’s people in New Zealand.

After completing his vicariate, Aaron sustained his preliminary examination on July 8, 2016, making him eligible for call within the RCNZ. Two churches extended calls to him prior to the ten-week deadline. He accepted the call to Palmerston North on September 22, and passed a final examination on November 4 & 5.

laying on handsHis ordination on December 10 concluded his eleven-year seminary odyssey and marked the beginning of the formal ministry toward which the Spirit had nudged him so many years ago.

As the Warners adjust to cultural, geographical, and federational differences, they find Kiwis friendly and God faithful.

Aaron shared his personal goals. “In these first years, I hope to increase in my prayer life,” he said. “I hope to be shaped more by God’s word, so as to be a better shepherd to my family (both immediate and church). I hope and pray that God would strengthen me to the immense task that He and the church have called me to.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 10-12 of the March 1, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal

Annual gathering provides fellowship and teaching for pastors and wives

2016 group-croppedFor the past several years, pastors and wives from Canadian Reformed and United Reformed churches in western North America have gathered for the Western Ministerial Conference (WMC), which many participants describe as more of a retreat.

Part of the relaxed feeling may arise from the conference’s scenic location at Cedar Springs Christian Retreat Center in Sumas, WA. But the atmosphere also differs from ecclesiastical meetings because wives attend with their pastor husbands and the fellowship crosses federational boundaries.

Rev. Brain Cochran (Redeemer Reformation URC; Regina, SK) and his wife, Julie, have attended the WMC for the last five years.  He says, “It is a wonderful opportunity for strengthening our ecumenical ties as sister denominations. I’ve grown in my appreciation for the CanRC and in trust and thankfulness for my brothers who are serving in our sister denomination.”

Conference organizer Rev. Ben Schoof (Maranatha CanRC; Surrey, BC) explains who is invited to attend: “All pastors and missionaries and their wives of Regional Synod West of the Canadian Reformed church (Manitoba, British Columbia, Denver, and Washington state) plus any URCNA pastors in the same area.”

According to Rev. Schoof, the retreat aspect is the first intended goal of organizers. “It is a time for pastors and their wives to get away, to recharge their minds and strength and souls.” The WMC “allows ministerial colleagues to get to know each other, reconnect with each other,” and experience fellowship on many levels.

A secondary goal is for learning. “Each time we have a knowledgeable keynote speaker on a topic applicable for life and work in the ministry,” he says. “Often there will be workshops specifically for the wives.”

This year the Langley, Cloverdale, and Surrey CanRCs (Classis Pacific West) organized the Ministerial with the assistance of New Westminster and Cloverdale URCs. The approximately 50 pastors and wives, some who brought along infants, about evenly represented the two federations. The time frame of October 25-27 allowed attendees to enjoy fall weather as well as good food and creation’s beauty.

“The venue and the hospitality are amazing,” Cecilia Vandevelde says. “It’s lovely to be fed with the finest of food, and take advantage of our free time to do some hiking on the trails that are on the property, or rest on the trestle bridges and watch the creek flow past.”

Cecilia and her husband, Rev. Steve Vandevelde (Carman East CanRC; Carman, MB) have attended the conference for four years. While they love the hospitality, they also enjoy the interaction with colleagues during free times and meals. “It’s a safe environment for us to discuss and talk about the hard things that can come along in ministry (either in our homes or in our congregations) and support each other in these things,” she says. “We are both so glad that retired ministers and their wives come too, as they are a wealth of information and encouragement for us.”

As a young couple, the Schoofs are also grateful for the opportunity to learn from more experienced pastors and their wives. Rev. Schoof most enjoys “relaxing and recharging, spending time away from my work, and with my wife, and getting reacquainted with or getting to know my ministerial colleagues.” He adds, “My wife from her side very much enjoys getting to know the other pastors’ wives and learning from them how to manage some of the issues and difficulties that come from being a pastor’s wife.”

Attendees always experience such retreat aspects, but speakers and topics vary greatly from year to year. Rev. Dick Moes, pastor of Surrey Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Surrey, BC, says, “Every year the speeches make each WMC special and unique.”

This year’s speaker, Kevin Hoogstad, from Christian Counselling in Burlington, ON, enlightened attendees on the science of the teenage brain. He also administered a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test and applied it to aspects of life such as ministry and marriage.

“His speeches on the teenage brain were very insightful,” Rev. Moes says. “I wish I had heard this material much earlier in my life.”

Rev. Cochran says, “He helped everyone better understand teen culture and how we can engage our teens and disciple them.” He found the Myers-Briggs tests “fascinating” and adds, “It turns out my wife and I are almost opposites on the MBTI but complement each other well. He used it to help us understand how we can better interact with our church members and fellow office bearers.”

“I think everyone enjoyed the Myers-Briggs personality test,” Rev. Moes says. “It gave us a little more insight into what kind of personality we have with its strengths and weaknesses.”

Another unique feature of this year’s ministerial was a presentation from a pastor and wife, who shared their personal story of his struggle with clinical depression. “It was a very moving talk,” says Rev. Cochran, “and I felt very privileged and blessed to hear it.”

In some ways, the WMC functions as a retreat for couples. “The ministerial is definitely a highlight of the year for us,” Cecilia says. “Along with everything else, it’s also a time for us to focus on each other and our marriage. The ministerial is busy, to be sure, but there are moments in between where we can have a chance to talk together and touch base with each other and pray with and for each other.”

Rev. Moes, who served for a second year on the conference’s organizing committee, says, “Since the goals and purpose of the conference are first, warm fellowship and relaxation, and second, inspiring speeches, I think this year’s event was once again a success.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 6 & 7 of the January 18, 2017, issue of Christian Renewal.