The second semester of instruction in our Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary is well underway. After the holiday break, professors and students alike are “hitting the books” once more.
The second semester was preceded by the annual interim course. By rotation it fell to the undersigned to teach the interim. The subject of the interim course was “Contemporary Roman Catholic Theology.” Together professor and class examined the distinctive doctrines and practices of the Roman Catholic Church in the light of history and Holy Scripture. We concluded that, beyond doubt, Rome has not changed. Rome holds today the same false doctrines and practices, as well as the same idolatrous worship, as at the time of the Reformation. They are mistaken who suppose that she has changed and that these changes are a justification for dialogue with Rome. The judgment of the Heidelberg Catechism in Q.A. 80 remains true, that Rome’s worship “is nothing else than a denial of the one sacrifice and sufferings of Jesus Christ, and an accursed idolatry.” Q.A. 80 must not be removed from the Heidelberg Catechism, as some maintain, but its witness must be upheld. The class ran from 9:00 a.m. until about noon for eight consecutive school days. The presence and contributions of a goodly number of visitors greatly enhanced the value of the class. Digital recordings of the classes were made and uploaded to the Seminary’s website. If you are interested, you can access them there.
Speaking of the Seminary’s website, our librarian, Mr. Charles Terpstra, will be working with Mr. Derek Van Overloop in order to revamp and improve the site. If you have not yet visited the site or examined the materials available on the site, we encourage you to do so. The web address is:www.prca.org/Seminary/seminary.html. If you have any suggestions for improvement, I’m sure that Mr. Terpstra and Mr. Van Overloop would appreciate hearing from you.
With the beginning of the second semester, the seminary welcomed back as a full-time student Mr. Vernon Ibe. The first semester Mr. Ibe spent completing the internship program that he began in July of last year in our Grace PRC, under the supervision of Rev. Ronald Van Overloop. The internship continues to be of great value in the preparation of young men for the work of the ministry. During the internship, Mr. Ibe made and preached several new sermons, taught two catechism classes, led two Bible study classes, sat in council, consistory, and deacons’ meetings, went on pastoral calls, attended classis meetings, and participated in several other aspects of the calling of a minister of the Word. Mr. Ibe is now concluding his course of study at our seminary. The consistory of the Berean PRC of Manilla is requesting Synod 2012 to examine Mr. Ibe. The faculty and the Theological School Committee are in the process of working out an examination schedule for Mr. Ibe that will be presented to the synod. After the examination, Mr. Ibe, his wife, Melody, and their young son, Martyn, will be returning to the Philippines. They will be missed in the seminary, but it is our confidence that the Lord will use our brother as an ordained native Filipino, along with our missionaries, for the furtherance of the gospel in the Philippines. We believe that the years of training that the brother has undergone in our seminary will pay rich spiritual dividends for many years to come.
At present, besides Mr. Ibe, the student body of our seminary consists of three “diploma pre-licentiate” students. A diploma pre-licentiate student is a student who intends to enter the ministry in the Protestant Reformed Churches and who will eventually in his seminary career be licensed to speak a word of edification in the Protestant Reformed Churches. The three diploma pre-licentiate students are Mr. Erik Guichelaar, Mr. Joshua Engelsma, and Mr. Ryan Barnhill.
Mr. Erik Guichelaar is finishing his third year of study. Beginning July 1, 2012, Mr. Guichelaar will begin an internship under the supervision of Rev. Steven Key and the consistory of the Loveland Protestant Reformed Church in Loveland, Colorado. He and his wife, Cherith, will spend six months in Loveland, and after fulfilling the requirements of the internship, they will return to complete his last semester of study at the seminary. The Lord willing, Mr. Guichelaar will undergo his oral examination before Synod 2013, with a view to being declared a candidate for the ministry of the Word in our churches.
Mr. Joshua Engelsma is completing his second year of study in the seminary. Mr. Engelsma, his wife, Courtney, and their two small children are members of our Hope PRC of Walker, MI. After Mr. Engelsma completed the Catechetics course in the first semester, the faculty assigned one catechism class for him to teach. He is presently teaching the Old Testament for Seniors in our Byron Center PRC. The opportunity to teach catechism is always an enjoyable experience for the seminary students—a taste of another aspect of the work of the ministry.
Mr. Ryan Barnhill is completing his first year of study in the seminary. He too completed the Catechetics course and is teaching a catechism class this semester. Mr. Barnhill teaches the Old Testament for Juniors class in our Hudsonville PRC. And although the seminary encourages the students that when they become ministers, they must be jealous to teach as many of the catechism classes as they are able—all of them, if possible—we are grateful for the opportunity afforded our students to get practical experience in the work of the gospel ministry. By the time Mr. Barnhill begins his second year of study at the seminary, his marital status will have changed. He and his fiancÃ©e, Miss Miranda Buiter, plan to marry on July 27, 2012. We pray the Lord’s blessing on their marriage.
This semester the faculty have opened up a number of their classes to auditors (sitters). By way of bulletin announcements, we invited the members of the Grand Rapids area churches to attend designated classes. We are pleased that a number of people have taken up our offer, and hope that more will do so in the future.
Besides teaching in the seminary, the faculty also continues to preach regularly in the churches in the Grand Rapids area, and occasionally beyond. Prof. Dykstra and his wife, Carol, spent the weeks between semesters preaching in Covenant Evangelical Reformed Church in Singapore. Besides preaching twice on four Sundays, Prof. Dykstra gave four speeches, taught several classes on the Canons, and participated in various other meetings. Prof. Gritters spent part of the time between semesters in Redlands, CA and preached several times to help out Redlands’ new minister, Rev. Brian Huizinga.
Two of our students are presently licensed to speak a word of edification in the churches: Mr. Erik Guichelaar and Mr. Vernon Ibe. They, too, have had plenty of opportunity to preach, leading services nearly every Sunday.
The faculty is gratified by the number of men who are presently in college pursuing a pre-seminary course. Seven of these men living in the Grand Rapids area take Greek Grammar with Prof. Gritters four mornings each week. And we hear of others also, outside the Grand Rapids area, who have made public their intentions to study for the ministry. This bodes well for the future and ought to be reason for gratitude to God in the churches. He is hearing our prayers! He is raising up capable and spiritually-minded young men! But our need is great. We encourage parents and grandparents, pastors and elders, Christian school teachers and concerned church members to put the call to the ministry of the gospel before young men who give evidence of possessing the gifts for the ministry. Urge them seriously to consider whether this might be the Lord’s will for their life’s calling. And we encourage any young man who might be considering the ministry to talk to his pastor or one of the professors. We are always willing to meet with a young man who has questions about the ministry, or who is struggling with the call to the ministry.
In closing, we once again covet the prayers of God’s people. We know that petitions on behalf of the seminary are regularly a part of the congregational prayers of our ministers. We are thankful for that. We are also confident that the seminary is remembered in family devotions, Christian school devotions, prayers at church gatherings, and in the personal prayers of God’s people. Pray that God may preserve our seminary. Pray that the professors remain faithful to God’s Word and our Reformed standards in all their instruction. Pray that the Lord will raise up young men and put the call to the ministry in the hearts of young men. Pray that young men continue to graduate from the seminary who are prepared intellectually and spiritually for the gospel ministry. Pray for men who say with the apostle, “For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (I Cor. 9:16).
For the faculty,
Prof. Ronald Cammenga, Rector