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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The Senator and the Seminary

 

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Presenters at WSC commencement

Republican senator Ben Sasse, from Nebraska, spoke at the May 28, 2016, commencement service of Westminster Seminary California. His topic was “Never Again Will Jerusalem Grieve.”

Mark MacVey, Vice-President for Enrollment Management, said about the speech, “Senator Sasse reflected on his experience in the U.S. Senate and provided observations regarding the unique cultural challenges that our country is facing at this time, drawing some parallels to the plight of Israel. He encouraged the graduates, especially those that will be pastors, to understand these challenges and the effect they have on the everyday lives of the people in our congregations. Concluding that, ultimately, these are not problems that can be solved by government, but our trust and hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ and the kingdom that is to come.”

This year’s graduating class was the largest in WSC’s history. Of the 55 graduates, 26 received the Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree, while 29 received the Master of Arts (M.A.) degree. Graduates plan to serve as pastors, teachers, missionaries, scholars, and leaders in the PCA, OPC, URCNA, KAPC, CRC, or ARBCA. Students came from 15 states and eight foreign countries: Brazil, Germany, New Zealand, Turkey, South Korea (3), Romania, Malaysia, and Scotland.

About 750 people attended this 35th Commencement, which took place at 10:00 AM at Emmanuel Faith Community Church in Escondido, CA. A graduation reception was held in the WSC chapel at 7:00 PM on May 27.

wsc-gradsThe above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 10 of the July 6, 2016, issue of Christian Renewal.

 

Hope for reformation in Germany

 

Simon SchusterReformed Christians who value the Heidelberg Catechism may have difficulty imagining Germany as a country requiring reformation. But that’s the reality. Many church buildings are now museums with tourists passing through rather than believers sitting under the preaching of the Word. But gospel light is piercing the dark religious landscape of Germany.

Reformed believers are uniting in an effort to bring Reformation2Germany (R2G). That effort is beginning where an important and highly-personal catechism was written 452 years ago, in Heidelberg. And a current student at Westminster Seminary California (WSC) plans to return to Germany in a few years to help promote the new reformation.

Simon Schuster hopes to graduate from WSC with his Master of Arts in Theological Studies in May of 2016. He has already obtained his M.Div. degree from Reformed Theological Seminary in Heidelberg (Reformatorisch-Theologisches Seminar Heidelberg) and desires to return to that city to minister and to teach.

“I do hope to be ordained, but first want to pursue a PhD,” he says. “Without doubt, I want to go back to Germany and do church planting there as my primary focus. But because the RTS [Heidelberg] is a very small seminary and in need of further teachers, I’d like to help there as well.”

The Seminary is closely associated with R2G, which formally began in 2010, when Sebastian Heck was ordained as an associate pastor of Grace PCA in Douglasville, GA, laboring out of bounds in Heidelberg, Germany. After about a year of preaching, Rev. Heck planted the Independent Evangelical Reformed Church in Heidelberg.

R2G is not a missions organization, but an effort to plant more confessional, Reformed churches and establish an indigenous German denomination that is distinctively Reformed. The Heidelberg Catechism is part of its constitution, and the work is under the supervision of the session of Grace PCA and under direct oversight of a subcommittee of Northwest Georgia Presbytery (PCA).

The R2G website states, “We believe that such a committee of Presbytery is a wonderful embodiment of how Presbyterians ought to do missions. It reflects our Presbyterian polity, provides true ecclesiastical oversight, and the necessary structure for setting up a provisional Presbytery in Germany. It also provides the infrastructure for cooperation across denominational borders, particularly as R2G seeks to partner with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC), the United Reformed Churches (URCNA) and other Presbyterian and Reformed denominations.”

Simon Schuster grew up in a Christian home, but Reformed truth eluded him until he came to understand the difference between justification and sanctification.

“I was always interested in the Bible, even as a child,” he says, “but it was especially this time when I found rest in Christ that aroused the desire to serve as pastor so that many people can have this deep joy of the Gospel.”

Simon became a member of Pastor Heck’s congregation and was licensed to exhort in 2014. While he attends WSC, he is under the oversight of Oceanside URC, which has also licensed him to exhort.

In addition to the Heidelberg church and Reformed Theological Seminary, R2G is attempting to launch a ministry to college students called Reformed University Fellowship. Because Heidelberg University is consistently ranked Germany’s number one educational institution and listed in the top 75 on global charts, more than 30,000 students from around the world enroll in its medical, legal, science, and humanities programs. R2G hopes that the college ministry would spread to other institutions and further the church-planting vision.

The R2G website (reformation2germany.org) explains that because Germans view church planting efforts with suspicion, it is important to share that the work is not bringing anything new, “but simply the old Reformation faith.”

“What could be more natural than founding a Reformed church in a city with a rich and influential Reformed past and teaching the Heidelberg Catechism in the city where it was drafted?”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 20 of the October 7, 2015, issue of Christian Renewal.

Yi Wang: Chinese architect for Italian Reformation

03Yi Wang (pronounced Ee Wan) was born in northeast China in 1989. He says, “I know it was a sensitive year, but I didn’t have a choice.”

As Yi grew up, he developed an atheistic and evolutionary worldview. But while attending college to become an architect, Yi’s mind often filled with important questions about life and the basis for making decisions. A growing confusion and frustration—combined with disillusionment—drove him to leave his country, his previous life, and his college to find answers.

“The turning point was a student union campaign in the second year of college,” he says. “I was asked to quit the competition because someone had already been internally nominated to that position. I was called a ‘white boy,’ which means that I had neither strong family background (my parents are just normal people, not officials or wealthy) nor did I bribe. So they erased my name from the candidate list. It was my early exposure to the reality of the sinfulness and corruption of humanity.”

Despite his parents’ objections, he decided to continue his education in Italy. The country held so special significance for him; he chose it based simply on the low tuition fees at his prospective school. It was the first step of a journey he now views as an exodus.

In God’s providence, Yi met a Chinese student (who was a Christian) on his flight to Rome, and the two shared an apartment in Turin for a year. Curious about his friend’s beliefs, Yi began to read the Bible. He discovered it far different from what he had expected.

“I thought the Bible would be full of fables and proverbs teaching some sort of universal moral principles. But when I read it, I found narratives and histories and historical figures repeated again and again.” Surprised by the repetition of events when he read the gospels, he asked his friend, “Is the Bible misprinted?”

For months, Yi sought answers to his many questions. He finally became able to defend the reliability of Scripture’s message, however, a proud and stubborn heart kept him from confessing Christ. “But God pushed me to confront the truth that I had been suppressing,” he says. “Eventually, he worked out faith in me.”

partyMeanwhile, Yi had met and married Huimin. He shared what he had studied about Christianity and his struggle to believe. The two came to faith together and were baptized in an Italian Baptist church before moving to Milan to continue their studies.

Yi’s study of Scripture led him to believe in a Supreme Being controlling everything. He gave up the concept of personal autonomy and recognized the reality of human and personal sin.

“Sometimes, we tend to put the blame on others, mostly the government. Everything would be better if we only had another government,” he says. “But the truth is it wouldn’t be. My country is a mess, and so is Europe, and if you allow me, so is America. The issue is not which system we rely on, but the sinful nature of humanity, which we have to face seriously. That is to say, it is not only the sins in others, but in myself. I am in the same category. I am a sinner. This is the reality that is so undeniably plain, yet so painful to confess. In this agony, I was reborn into Christ. The sovereignty of God was the first blood drop in my newly regenerated vessels, followed by others like total depravity, predestination, and election.”

Yi came to an understanding of the faith he terms “primitive Reformed,” which conflicted with teachings in his non-reformed evangelical church.

“Talking about humanity’s depravity and helplessness stirred so much hatred among self-called Christians who were still keen on exalting the sinner’s fallen will and autonomy,” he explains. “That is where I came from! They appealed to what I tried to get rid of.”

He continued to learn biblical truth from a Reformed perspective. Every time a teaching challenged him, he turned to Scripture for answers, determined to discover whether it was true or not. Sometimes he also searched the Internet to compare views on certain issues.

“I learned about the historical confessional faith,” he relates. “Reformed theology is not only about five points, but a complete doctrinal mansion that accommodates numerous treasures, such as covenant theology, redemptive history, law and gospel, Reformed ecclesiology, eschatology, view of sacraments and so on.”

After two years, Yi realized he could no longer remain in his church and decided to embark on another step of his exodus. With no expectations, he searched online for a Reformed church and was surprised to find the Chiesa Riformata Filadelfia and Rev. Ferrari.

“You can’t imagine how excited I was when I realized that the only confessional Reformed church in the entire country is in the Milan area,” Yi says. “For the following two years, every Sunday, we took an hour subway to go to that church.”

wallIn the summer of 2015, Yi took a huge step of faith on his exodus. He gave up his architectural dream and came to America to study at Westminster Seminary in California. He hopes to return to Italy to help plant Reformed churches and form a Reformed denomination, but he is also passionate about establishing Christian schools.

Because Italian is such a difficult language to learn, Yi believes training Italians to speak English and establish churches makes more sense than English-speaking missionaries attempting to learn Italian in order to plant churches. And due to Italy’s requirement that all children attend school, he desires to work toward offering parents a Christian school option.

“If we plant churches and establish Christian schools side by side (I hope more than one), that provide classical high-level education, combined with strong Reformed biblical teaching by faithful teachers, plus high-quality English language training to prepare the young men for further study and work, we could expect a truly sustainable Reformation in Italy.”

Yi explains the primary reason why he gave up a potentially lucrative career as an architect to prepare for ministry. “It is very simple,” he says. “Buildings cannot save, but the Word can.”

Pondering Paul’s comparison of himself to a skilled master builder in 1 Corinthians 3, Yi sees similarities between architecture and pastoral ministry. Both are fascinating arts that reach beyond time. “Just like the Art Deco in architecture, the outer ornament of ministry or personal spirituality can be very appealing to people,” he says. “On the other hand, wise ‘architects’ build a sustainable ministry where the people of God will be fed with gospel by the ministry of word and sacraments week after week, the members will be looked after with loving pastoral care and church discipline, and parents will teach their children faith at home. This sort of ministry may seem boring and rigid, even foolish in the world’s eyes, but it rests on Christ. And beauty will flow from the ordinary means of divine grace.”

He concludes, “The need for architects to design skyscrapers is nothing compared to the urgent need for skilled and faithful architects to work in the ministry of Christ’s spiritual church. His Holy Church is the greatest Architecture in the whole universe, of which Christ alone is the Architect.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 15 & 17 of the September 16, 2005, issue of Christian Renewal.

URC ministers conference focuses on the ordinary

 

Ordinary conferenceAbout 45 ministers met for a United Reformed Church pastors conference, held from June 1-3, 2015, at Westminster Seminary California (WSC).

With a theme of “The Ordinary Ministry,” it was appropriate for Dr. Michael Horton (Escondido URC, Escondido, CA) to speak on Monday evening about his recent book, Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World.

Other speakers included Rev. Ronald L. Scheuers (First URC, Chino, CA), who guided attendees on how to lead corporate prayer in “The Ordinary Pastor as Confessor.” He suggested a number of resources and ways to improve corporate confession of sin.

“Rev Scheuers’s gracious and wise focus on the aspect of confession in pastoral prayer was of particular blessing to me,” says Rev. John Bouwers (Immanuel URC, Jordan, ON). “And summing up from Dr. Mike Horton’s address, we were helpfully reminded we’re not called to leave a legacy, we’re called to be faithful, and there’s rich blessing in that.”

Speaking on “Fighting the Good Fight: The struggles and rewards of ordinary ministry in light of 2 Timothy 4,” Rev. Ralph A. Pontier (Emmanuel Reformed Church, Neerlandia, AB) noted how Paul used military and athletic metaphors to show life’s difficulty.

Through personal stories, Rev. Christo F. Heiberg (Zion URC, Sheffield, ON) encouraged other ministers to persevere. He then explained, “How Reading the Fathers and Calvin Has Helped me to Press on Through 25 years of Gospel Ministry in the Reformed World.”

Using ocean-rounded rocks as an opening illustration, Rev. Danny R. Hyde (Oceanside URC, Oceanside, CA) spoke on “An All-Round Ministry.” Based on 1 Thess. 2:1-12, he described Paul’s two-pronged ministry as gentle and godly.

Dr. Dennis Johnson, PCA pastor and Professor of Practical Theology at WSC, spoke twice from the book of Acts on how “Our Extraordinary God Works in Ordinary Ministry.” Based on Acts 6:1-7, he discussed “Word and Mercy Ministries,” and from Acts 8:1-25, he described how “Believers Evangelize and Apostles Testify.”

Seminary President Dr. W. Robert Godfrey (Escondido URC, Escondido, CA) spoke during a lunch hosted by WSC about how God uses a broken and weak instrument like the church to save his people.

“I found the talks to be encouraging and edifying, but I was especially blessed by the fellowship enjoyed in a relaxed setting tailored to spiritual refreshment,” says Rev. Andrew Compton (First URC, Chino, CA, and conference organizer). “The relationships forged and strengthened by the pastors’ conference better enable us to work together in synodical and classical settins when work is the biggest responsibility.”

“It was an excellent conference,” Rev. Bouwers says. “The speeches were all very helpful and edifying, and having seasoned URC pastors prominently involved was a great encouragement and blessing as they shared from their experience of struggle and blessing.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 8-9 of the September 16, 2015, issue of Christian Renewal.

Calvin Seminary appoints URC man to moral theology position

 

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The Tuininga family

On June 15, 2015, delegates at the CRCNA’s Synod unanimously ratified the appointment of Dr. Matthew Tuininga as Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary. Dr. Tuininga is a member and licensed exhorter of Covenant United Reformed Church in Pantego, NC.

“Moral theology encompasses our understanding of the practical implications of the gospel for human beings in the church and the world,” Dr. Tuininga says. “It extends to God’s will for his created order, but is especially concerned with the fulfillment of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ and the implications of that revelation for people as they live in this world. It encompasses Christian ethics as understood in the broadest sense.”

Dr. Tuininga graduated from Covenant College in 2004, worked as a legislative correspondent for a congressman in Washington, DC, for a year and at the FBI as a counter-terrorism intelligence analyst for another year. He then attended Westminster Seminary California, graduating in 2009. He began teaching politics and core courses at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, GA, in 2013, and received his Ph.D. in Religion, Ethics and Society from Emory University in 2014. His dissertation explored John Calvin in light of two kingdoms theology.

“The dissertation argues that the two kingdoms distinction is central to Calvin’s political theology,” he explains. “Understood in light of the two kingdoms distinction, Calvin’s political theology serves as a helpful corrective to triumphalistic forms of transformationalism that expect to see temporal society transformed into the kingdom of God. But Calvin’s two kingdoms doctrine was not, first and foremost, a theology of institutions. Rather, it arose out of Calvin’s understanding of the kingdom of God, which lies at the foundation of his thought, and the way in which that kingdom breaks into the present age. The doctrine seeks to explain the relationship between the present age and the age to come, given the existence of the kingdom that will one day transform all things, but that is not yet manifested in its fullness (the already and the not yet). My dissertation then traces the implications of this eschatological dynamic for Calvin’s understanding of church and state, and I conclude by grappling with potential implications for contemporary Christian engagement.”

In 2007, Dr. Tuininga was licensed to exhort by Covenant URC in Pantego, which his father, Rev. Cal Tuininga, pastors. His grandfather, Cecil Tuininga, was one of the student group at Calvin known as the “Sacred Seven” in the 1950s. Six students attending Calvin Seminary and Cecil, who still attended Calvin College, wrote a grievance against the liberal teachings of several professors. Dr. Tuininga’s brother, Rev. Eric Tuininga, served in pastoral ministry in the URC and now as an OPC missionary in Uganda.

“After my interview at Synod, a delegate told me that he saw in me the passion for truth that characterized my father and grandfather,” Dr. Tuininga says. “I am honored to take that passion back to Calvin Seminary just like my brother Eric has taken it to Uganda. There are so few schools in the continental Reformed tradition to begin with, and even fewer that have a full time position in moral theology. I am blessed to be able to teach at one of them! My grandfather died several years ago, but my father, like the rest of my family, has been very supportive. As I made clear in various interviews, I haven’t turned my back on the URC in any way. The whole church is Christ’s church and I will serve wherever God calls me to serve. I do hope that coming to Calvin from the URC gives me the ability to begin to build bridges once again between believers and churches who have much more in common than we often realize. Reformed believers need to proclaim the gospel clearly together.”

The position at CTS begins in 2016, with Dr. Tuininga teaching an online course in Christian Ethics during the spring. His family anticipates moving to Grand Rapids in the summer, and he will begin teaching full-time at the Seminary in the fall.

As he anticipates his last academic year at Oglethorpe, he’s grateful for the opportunities the secular liberal arts context has given him to discuss fundamental issues with young people.

“I’ve learned to talk about Christianity, ethics, and the gospel in ways that take seriously and challenge the concerns of a broad audience,” he says. “These sorts of discussions do not take place in the mainstream media, and rarely in the academy, as Americans increasingly take refuge in their own bubbles, talking and engaging only with people like themselves.”

He adds, “Christendom is behind us, and we live in a world that is increasingly pluralistic. Used to being in control, we have much work to do in thinking about what faithful Christian witness looks like when we are a minority not in control.”

Reflecting on his appointment, he says, “It seems like an exaggeration, but I believe my whole life was preparing me to do this. I was raised and educated in a strong, confessionally Reformed tradition, and my commitment to it is deep and thorough. But I earnestly desire to see the tradition engage the broader Christian community and the world in more constructive and gospel-oriented ways. I’m sensitive to the riches our tradition has to offer, but I’m also sensitive to its weaknesses and blind spots. This equips me well, I think, to guide seminary students who will themselves wrestle with the implications of the gospel in a wide variety of circumstances.”

Dr. Tuininga hopes to give pastoral ministry students “an energetic vision for the way in which the gospel shapes” the entire Christian life. “We need a vision for faithful Christian witness that is thoroughly Reformed and evangelical. Given the times in which we live, faithfulness will require a greater willingness to be conformed to Christ in his suffering. Standing for the faith, for love, and for justice in conformity to God’s will for his creation is going to be costly. We need to have a clear understanding of the gospel, and we need to recover a clear understanding of what is means for the church to be the church—in preaching, the sacraments, discipline, and the diaconate.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 12-13 of the August 26, 2015, issue of Christian Renewal.

Confirmation in the Lord’s timing: Mark Vander Pol ordination

Newly-ordained Rev. Mark Vander Pol administers the Lord's Supper
Newly-ordained Rev. Mark Vander Pol administers the Lord’s Supper

Mark Vander Pol was ordained to the gospel ministry during morning worship on February 2, 2014, at Christ United Reformed Church in Santee, CA.

Christ URC’s pastor, Rev. Michael Brown preached from Ephesians 4:1-6 on Christ’s gift of pastors to his church. Dr. Michael Horton, Associate Pastor, gave the charge to the minister from 2 Timothy 4:1-5 and officiated as Mr. Vander Pol took his vows. Rev. Christopher Gordon, Escondido URC, led the congregation in prayer. Christ URC practices weekly communion and newly-ordained Rev. Vander Pol administered the sacrament.

Rev. Michael Brown
Rev. Michael Brown

Asked to share his reflections on this ordination milestone, Rev. Vander Pol says, “My initial thoughts, especially as I have administered the sacraments, are ‘Am I really doing this?’”

He adds, “For the past decade I have had the internal call to be a minister of the gospel and for the last five years I had been candidating towards that end.”

A 2009 graduate of Westminster Seminary California, Mark sustained his candidate exam in June that same year. The intervening years have been packed with exhorting in a variety of locales.

“During this time I candidated at some point in the process for a number of churches across the U.S. and Canada,” he says. “I was also privileged to ‘simply’ fill a number of pulpits from coast to coast, and I was able to meet and fellowship with many brothers and sisters.”

Horton
Dr. Michael Horton

“Many people have asked if I was discouraged during this time when it seemed that church after church called other men to serve their congregations,” he adds. “I always responded that first of all, one cannot be discouraged when the Lord’s will is done. In all these situations, I believe that the right man was called and it just happened to not be me. Of course there were times when I was disappointed, but yet the Lord was faithful and he had his reasons for keeping me where I was.”

Mark worked between 25-30 hours per week for the White Horse Inn while attending seminary, and he was hired full-time following his graduation. The flexibility of that position allowed him to travel as a candidate or fill pulpits for more extended periods. He also was able to do some mountain camping and backpacking during recent years.

He spent most of 2010 working with the Bellingham URC to plant a church in the Tacoma/Gig Harbor area of Washington, that effort ending in September. In November of 2011, he was ordained and installed as an elder of Christ URC and subsequently elected as Clerk of Consistory.

Rev. Chris Gordon
Rev. Chris Gordon

“I am extremely grateful to have been able to serve Christ’s church as an elder for over two years,” he notes. “I really would have been content serving in that office had the Lord so led. Serving as an elder is a very tough job and I believe having that experience will serve me well in the future as a minister.”

In January of 2013, Mark was elected as Clerk of Classis Southwest U.S. and served as a delegate to Synod Nyack in June of 2012. Attendees will remember his expertise as Synod’s tech wizard.

From December 2012 through January 2013, he served as Stated Pulpit Supply for Hills URC in Minnesota.

“In March 2013, candidating was put on hold as my wife and I became foster parents and unable to move from San Diego County,” he explains.

As Associate Pastor, Rev. Vander Pol will fulfill the duties listed in the church order and assist Pastor Brown as necessary. His Associate Pastor position is unpaid for now. He recently resigned from White Horse Inn and is currently employed in the chemistry field.

“Throughout the rest of the year, we will determine what other duties I will be given and whether or not it would be in the best interests of our congregation to have the position be paid in some capacity,” he relates. “The Council of CURC made it very clear that their calling me was dependant on my willingness to remain the Clerk of Consistory/Council.”

Mark Vander Pol was baptized and raised in the CRC until the Escondido church joined the URC in 1997. He graduated from Trinity Christian College in 1999 with a chemistry degree and worked in that field in the Chicago area.

His father, Keith Vander Pol, served as vice-president of Westminster Seminary California and as an elder of the Escondido council until his death in 2000.

Laying on of hands
Laying on of hands

“When my father died I lost my ‘theological answer man,’ which meant that I needed to begin finding answers on my own,” Mark says. “I had always known about the Three Forms of Unity, of course, but really took them for granted. I began with earnest to dig into the Confessions and, with the help of the White Horse Inn and Modern Reformation, I really began to have a love for studying God’s Word. After a few years, the internal call to the ministry was confirmed by my friends and my pastor, who encouraged me greatly to pursue the ministry by going to Seminary.”

Because he’d grown up on the campus of Westminster Seminary California from the age of six, there was no question about his seminary destination. He and his wife, Michelle, moved to Escondido in 2005.

Rev. Vander Pol encourages believers to pray for those waiting a call to ministry or graduates who will soon be in that position: “It can be very troubling when it takes awhile for the external call to confirm the internal call. Being able to serve the church as an elder is a very worthy and important office and it is a calling from the Lord as well. A seminary graduate has training and insight that the eldership needs and that might be the Lord’s will too. It was for a season in my life.”

As he begins his work as Associate Minister, his hope and goal is “to serve the sheep of Christ URC and to be a faithful pastor-shepherd however I can. The encouragement that I have received from my congregation is very humbling and I am blessed to be able to serve them.”

“I have no idea where the Lord will lead me and my family in the years to come,” he says. But he eagerly anticipates the Lord’s leading, believing that “this is only the beginning.”

The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 9 & 10 of the March 5, 2014, issue of Christian Renewal(Photos by Dexter Lo.)