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.

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Chino conference explores money matters

group-cFew topics generate more feeling than money, but it seems few churches offer regular direction on biblical stewardship.

On March 20-21, 2015, First United Reformed Church of Chino addressed this important subject in its annual Growing Reformed Churches Conference under the theme, “Financial Freedom: Liberated From the Love of Money.”

Chino’s Youth Pastor, Rev. Quentin Falkena, explains the theme choice: “Every year we strive to pick topics that bear on the Christian life. Some years they are more theological in nature, other years they deal with more practical issues. [This year] we picked a topic that always stirs interest: money. The title was a collaborative effort, tying together terms from the financial realm, the graphic from the brochure, where the words ‘liberty’ and ‘In God We Trust’ are visible on the dime, and Hebrews 13:5-6.”

In the ESV, that text says, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?’ ”

Featured speakers were Dr. W. Robert Godfrey (Professor of Church History at Westminster Seminary California), Rev. Mark Vander Hart (Associate Professor of Old Testament Studies at Mid-America Reformed Seminary), Dr. J. V. Fesko (Professor of Systematic Theology and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California), and Rev. Chris Gordon (Preaching Pastor at Escondido URC).

Pastor Quentin says, “The speakers were pastors and theologians, rather than financial experts, so the content was largely biblical and spiritual in nature. Each speaker also has a different field or specialty, which helped round out the material. Dr. Godfrey shed some light on this topic from an historical perspective. Rev. Vander Hart explained a lot of the Old Testament materials and drew out some implications for the church today. Dr. Fesko addressed the biblical connection between idolatry and greed, and spoke to the matter of sanctification in the midst of consumerism. Rev. Gordon, coming specifically from a pastoral perspective, spoke to the heart issue of giving in light of how much we’ve been given in Christ.”

About 100 people attended the conference, one of whom was Rev. Andrew Compton (Associate Pastor at Christ URC in Anaheim, CA). He said other members of his church who attended either work in the finance industry or are involved in financial stewardship programs.

“They voiced on Sunday that they would have liked to hear more black-and-white ‘do-this-don’t-do-that’ advice from Scripture, but all appreciated the fact that God’s word doesn’t always speak directly to many of the same financial questions we have these days. They all recognized that the best tactic was to spell out the theology of money and giving and draw some more modest advisory conclusions.”

He added, “Most of us want an answer specifying that God desires at least 10%, but not necessarily more than 18% of our gross (or net) income, not including what we earned from investments and not including what we received via tax refund the previous year and yet making provision for yada yada yada…. Of course, I am getting silly here, but my point is that our questions about giving are usually too pragmatic and wrongly prioritized whereas they need to be better rooted in a broader understanding of God’s mercy in Christ and of proper gratitude. Too often we draw this connection too quickly and sound as though we are just ordering people to give more and guilting them for not being grateful enough to God for his mercy. But the speakers didn’t hurry us along this path. Instead, they led us on the journey and unfolded the glories of God’s grace, patiently helping us to see the relationship between our giving and God’s grace to miserable sinners. This enabled everyone to be in a better position to then even ask the question: how much do I give each week to my local church?”

Many attendees related how much they appreciated the speakers and their practical presentations, which were Christ-centered rather than money-centered. Several mentioned how they valued the opportunity for fellowship with other Reformed believers in southern California.

This year’s conference was the 17th hosted by First URC of Chino. Pastor Quention emphasizes that the church secretary, Mrs. Joan Dundon, deserves credit for the design of printed materials and many other church members voluntarily assisted with registration, the sound system, in the kitchen, and in many other areas. Gary Anderson chaired the committee and developed the list for a book table.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 12 & 13 of the April 29, 2015, issue of Christian Renewal.

URC in Santee reaches out with Reformation teaching

signThe first-ever Reformation Conference hosted by Christ URC in Santee, CA, drew an astounding number of first-time visitors. Of the approximately 130 attendees, more than 60 were not church members.

“The idea behind the conference was to provide San Diego with an opportunity to be introduced to the Reformation and Reformed theology,” explains Rev. Michael Brown, pastor of Christ URC. “We want others to come into contact with biblical Christianity, so this was a vehicle for doing that.”

The conference introduced basic Reformational truth by focusing on the five solas. Dr. R. Scott Clark spoke on three: Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, and Solus Christus. Dr. Michael Horton covered the concept of Sola Scriptura, and Dr. W. Robert Godfrey addressed Soli Deo Gloria. Christ URC’s pastor, Rev. Michael G. Brown, introduced the speakers and monitored a final question and answer session.

All speakers evidenced their thorough theological expertise and engaged the audience. The men know each other well, and their camaraderie was especially evident during the Q & A session.

Dr. R. Scott Clark
Dr. R. Scott Clark

In his presentation, Dr. Clark noted that the Reformation wasn’t about a lack of grace—the Medieval church was “soaked in grace”—but it was about the meaning of grace. He explained how the church considered grace as “a kind of medicine or stuff” with which you were injected in the seven sacraments, and that this “stuff” enabled you to do your part. He used the analogy of meat thermometer, saying that Luther was constantly sticking this thermometer into himself to see if his acceptance measured up. What Luther finally learned was the truth that justification was not a recognition of what has been accomplished by an infusion of medicine or by pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, but a declaration of what has been accomplished once for all by someone outside ourselves.

Going on to Sola Fide and Solus Christus, he said, “We only benefit from this by faith. Faith is the sole instrument that looks away from us and looks to Christ.” Although the Roman church replaced Jesus with other mediators (chief among them, Mary), Luther learned to rest, trust, and lean on the finished work of Christ alone.

Dr. Michael Horton
Dr. Michael Horton

Dr. Horton began his talk by correcting a misconception about the Reformation. “It was not a problem of the authority of Scripture, but the view of Scripture and tradition.” He pointed out that Rome viewed the two as different forms of the Word of God, written and unwritten. He referred to the “dogma of implicit faith,” noting that it requires the acceptance of all dogmas taught by the church rather that an act of real faith on the part of the Christian.

“Scripture is authoritative because it comes from the Father, the content is the Son, inspired by the Holy Spirit,” he said. “Candlesticks can be removed.”

As an example of how tradition changes, he cited the 1870 decree making it necessary now to believe that Mary was bodily assumed into heaven. “No basis for bodily assumption is found anywhere in Scripture,” he said.

He quoted extensively from early church fathers regarding the authority of Scripture alone. He concluded, “If any church agrees with the scriptures, that is a Christian church.”

Dr. W. Ro
Dr. W. Robert Godfrey

Dr. Godfrey tackled the large topic of Soli Deo Gloria by focusing on the aspect of worship. He began by expounding on the meeting between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, recorded in John 4. He noted that Jesus took her question seriously and responded to her theological awareness in a way that indicated “worship issues are central” and “foundational to the experience and life of God’s people.” The day of the old debate between Jews and Samaritans came to an end in Christ. We no longer worship at the mountain in Jerusalem, but in spirit and truth.

“This doesn’t mean we worship really emotionally,” he said, “but in the Spirit, which he gives to his people without measure so they can enter into worship. In truth, God is seeking worshipers. True worshipers, who worship in truth. No matter how sincere the worship, if it’s not according to God’s word, God is not pleased with it.”

“We must not be wiser than God,” he said, reminding hearers of the Heidelberg Catechism’s discussion on the second commandment. Idolatry is “always the besetting temptation of our hearts. We want more than the Lord has given us because we’re not content.” He compared the attraction of Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic worship over Reformed worship to the appeal of a buffet over ham and cheese buns. “But someone has sprayed the whole buffet with salmonella,” he said. “Ham buns are sufficient and safe.”

“We should insist that we’re not going to be led into…idolatries,” he concluded. “This is the heart of the matter of how we give glory to God alone. We treasure his Word. We honor his Word.”

Rev. Brown reads questions for the panel.
Rev. Brown reads questions for the panel.

Presenters answered questions regarding the practice of indulgences, the relationship between faith and works in the book of James, and the state of American evangelicalism.

Dr. Horton said, “We’re born Pelagian and we go in that direction, unless we’re taught constantly in the other direction.”

Dr. Godfrey spoke about how revivals replaced the Reformation, with an emphasis on the question of deciding for Christ rather than finding your rest in him.

churchOrganizers were pleased with the turnout, likely a result of effective promotion. Pastor Brown shares, “We spread the word about the conference three ways: 1) Internet and social media. 2) Professional-looking fliers distributed throughout the community. 3) An advertisement on the Abounding Grace radio program that I do every Friday with Rev. Chris Gordon (pastor of the Escondido URC).”

Audio files of opening remarks and conference lectures are available online at the Christ URC website: http://www.christurc.org/conference-lectures.

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 10-11 of the November 26, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal.