Episode 2.4: Anne Zaki on The Church in the East and the West

In episode 2.4, Anne Zaki, assistant professor of practical theology at the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo, offers strengths of the church in the West and the church in the East and suggests ways we can learn from one another.

Celebration of Women in Church Leadership

3rd Annual

Celebration of Women in Church Leadership

Saturday, March 4th, 2017

8:30 am-4:00 pm Western Theological Seminary

This full-day retreat will celebrate, encourage and equip women, creating sacred space for us to connect with each other, our stories and God’s plan for us in authentic​, healing and ​transformative ways. During our time together, we’ll ​identify and honor our ​leadership gifts through interactive plenary sessions, ​Bible study​, ​​small group sharing, ​personal reflection, and prayer. We will also explore how we grow as leaders in beloved community…. community that both empowers and challenges us to live fully into God’s call on our lives. We will leave this day with tangible next steps on how to be co-creators with God and the broader church in the ongoing work of transformation, mission, and leadership.

More information and registration here.  Or in .pdf form.

Register Now for the 2017 Writer’s Workshop

On May 16-17, Western Theological Seminary and Hope College will co-host a Writer’s Workshop featuring award-winning author Barbara Brown Taylor.

Barbara Brown Taylor is a New York Times best-selling author, professor, and Episcopal priest. Her first memoir, Leaving Church, won a 2006 Author of the Year award from the Georgia Writers Association. Her last book, Learning to Walk in the Dark, was featured in TIME magazine. She has served on the faculty of Piedmont College since 1998 as the Butman Professor of Religion & Philosophy and has been a guest lecturer at Emory, Duke, Princeton, and Yale. Taylor and her husband Ed live on a farm in the foothills of the Appalachians, sharing space with wild turkeys, red foxes, white-tailed deer and far too many chickens. –from barbarabrowntaylor.com

Workshop Schedule

Breakout Seminars

Workshop Speakers

Also Included: One-on-one meetings, Open mic, Bookstore

Advanced Writer’s Retreat (separate registration required)


Rachel Held Evans will join Barbara Brown Taylor along with many other authors.

Rachel Held EvansRachel Held Evans is a New York Times best-selling author whose books include Faith Unraveled (2010), A Year of Biblical Womanhood (2012), and Searching for Sunday (2015). Hailing from Dayton, Tennessee—home of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925— she writes about faith, doubt and life in the Bible Belt.

Rachel has been featured in The Washington PostThe GuardianChristianity Today, Slate, The Huffington Post, The CNN Belief Blog, and on NPR, The BBC, The Today Show, and The View. She keeps a busy schedule speaking at churches, conferences, and colleges and universities around the country.

A lifelong Alabama Crimson Tide fan, Rachel is married to Dan. Her preferred writing fuel is animal crackers and red wine. –bio from rachelheldevans.com

Read Rachel’s blog HERE.

Other authors holding workshops at the event.


Learning_to_Walk_in_the_DarkAltar_in_the_wo BbtanotherwayfiLeaving_Church

Our New Day at Western Theological Seminary

sq-daniels-danaBy Dana Daniels ‘16

Associate Director of Development


“For capital campaigns, we recommend appointing a campaign manager.” My ears perked up when I heard this advice during a presentation from The Focus Group, the firm selected to provide campaign counsel to WTS.

Throughout my tenure in advancement, I’ve heard repeatedly about the energy a capital campaign generates, so serving as the manager for such an adventure intrigued me. I quickly expressed my interest and have been working in this capacity for the last 18 months.

Most of the work I’ve done has been behind-the-scenes: organizing a feasibility study, assisting with the creation of campaign materials, and serving as the liaison between the seminary and our campaign advisors.

Last May, after multiple revisions to arrive at a building design best suited for the seminary, the Board of Trustees approved the Our New Day capital campaign, and I am eager to share about this ambitious and necessary project.

Western Theological Seminary’s “new day” has been steadily dawning over the last twenty years. Our enrollment is approaching 300 students—more than double what it was in 1996—and is still growing. We have attracted talented faculty members, experienced greater diversity in our student body, and responded to the changing needs of the church with innovative programs and partnerships. In other words, Western is thriving and has a bright future.

Despite this good news, we face challenges. Our present facility, built in 1955, has deferred maintenance that cannot be postponed any longer. Also, to secure a healthy financial future for WTS, our endowment must grow.

This campaign, with two distinct projects, will transform the seminary’s physical plant and increase its endowment resources. The $25 million Our New Day campaign is the largest in the seminary’s history, and we fully recognize that it will not be accomplished without participation from people who care about what we do.

The Building Project—a $15 million goal

The original impetus for considering a building project was the need for a new library. After years of dealing with water problems that damaged both the structure and its contents, we learned that the library building’s issues would make its renovation cost prohibitive. As we imagined other possibilities, a comprehensive project affecting 70% of the seminary building developed. Instead of only replacing a library, what emerged is a plan that includes two areas of new construction in addition to significant renovation to parts of the existing building.new entry

The first area of new construction is located at the front of the seminary. A new and more grand entrance will be constructed providing a well-defined “front door” to WTS. The two-story addition will house administrative offices for several departments and open directly to the reception desk making navigation of the seminary easier and more welcoming for our guests.

Extensive renovation will refresh several classrooms, upgrade the Commons with good lighting, sound systems, and (finally) air conditioning, and replace old windows with ones that have double panes and proper insulation. We will also expand and update the Commons’ kitchen which is used daily to provide meals to the hungry in our community.

interior of new libraryThe second area of new construction is located off the back of the seminary. A revitalized Semelink Hall will become a world-class learning center designed around the way people study and teach today. The learning center will be a welcoming, open space with collaborative settings that facilitate our growing student body and provide space for new ways of learning to come. This project will bring the seminary’s facilities into compliance with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), making WTS accessible to all.

We have secured $10.5 million in pledged commitments toward a cost of $15 million for the new construction and renovations. The Board of Trustees has approved beginning construction when we reach 90% ($13.5 million) in pledges. In the coming months, we hope to secure several more leadership gifts with a goal of breaking ground in the spring of 2017. After the leadership phase is complete, we will welcome wider participation in raising the necessary funds for the building project.

The Endowment Project—a $10 million goal

Although no blueprints exist to generate enthusiasm for the endowment project of the campaign, it is equally important to Western’s future. The $10 million addition to the endowment will allow us to provide more scholarships as we grow our student body, attract top-notch scholars to our faculty, and maintain our existing and new facilities.

We have already secured over $8 million toward our goal to raise $10 million for the endowment. These commitments have come through both cash pledges and planned gifts. Counting planned gifts toward the capital campaign is a unique feature of the endowment project. The campaign provides a great opportunity for donors to think intentionally about including Western Theological Seminary in their estate plans.

Of the $8 million raised for the endowment, more than $6 million represents gifts that will be realized in the future. If you are interested in discussing a planned gift to the campaign, I am eager to visit with you.

As the Our New Day campaign continues, I look forward to sharing progress reports. In the meantime, would you pray for this campaign and the ministry of Western Theological Seminary? We are grateful for the support and encouragement provided by those who care about WTS and her service to Christ’s church.


For more information about the campaign:  Contact Dana Daniels at dana@westernsem.edu or 616-392-8555, x155



The Past Speaks to the Present

bosma-marcia-sqby Marcia Bosma

Master of Divinity Student, Middler year

This past June, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics (FASPE). Every year, FASPE selects small groups of medical, business, law, journalism, and seminary students to travel to historical sites in Germany and Poland to learn about the Holocaust through the eyes of the perpetrators. Throughout the program, fellows connect lessons from the past to ethical challenges today.

Our group of twelve seminarians included future Protestant pastors, Catholic priests, and Jewish rabbis. The founders of FASPE recognize the unique dynamics involved in the seminary group, as faith is intricately woven into the understanding of ethics.ethics-discussion

The 12-day fellowship included touring historical sites and engaging in classroom lectures and discussions. We began our trip in Berlin and visited important Holocaust sites such as the Topography of Terror, House of Wannsee, Grunewald Track 17, and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

A week later, we flew to Krakow, Poland. We toured the Jewish quarter and the site of the Jewish ghetto during WWII and considered the changing religious landscape of Poland since the Holocaust.

Finally, we traveled to Oswiecim and spent two days touring Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is difficult to describe the experience of being in a place where such unfathomable evil occurred. Our group gave each other a lot of grace to feel and express different emotions both during the tours and in our seminars afterward. It was a humbling honor to walk alongside new Jewish friends as their own history came alive in that place.

Train Tracks into BirkenauA couple of specific lessons from FASPE have been formative for my ministry leadership. First, FASPE gave me the opportunity to build relationships and engage in open dialogue with people of different faiths and religious traditions. Although our core beliefs differed, we discovered how much we have in common. We questioned but respected each other, learned from one another, and discovered beauty and truth in each of our faith traditions. Having to articulate my understanding of Scripture and Reformed beliefs sharpened my own theology and helped me identify areas I’d like to explore further. Because the FASPE interfaith experience was so powerful, our group continues to engage in conversation through round-robin emails.meeting a Holocaust Survivor

FASPE also helped me recognize the importance of clergy prayerfully engaging matters of oppression and injustice. The reasons most German Christians remained silent in the face of growing anti-Semitism are complex, but also disturbingly similar to the reasons Christians do not fight injustice today. As a future pastor, I am called to encourage and equip the church to live out the gospel in everyday life. The gospel we embody should be good news indeed for the marginalized and suffering.

The entire FASPE experience was intense, challenging, and life-changing. Honestly, my faith was shaken at Auschwitz as I wrestled again with questions about human suffering and the sovereignty of God. Yet in the face of such evil, I realized I can choose despair or hope. I came home with a strengthened faith in a God who does and will bring redemption to our broken and sinful world.


Why not?: how one student spent his summer learning about Islam

adam-van-der-stoep-squareby Adam Van Der Stoep

Master of Divinity Student, senior year

“Allahhu Akbar” rang throughout the masjid’s (mosque’s) sound system as one of the Muslim men began to melodically chant the adhan, the call to worship. Those attending were about to observe the fard salat, one of the five daily and mandatory prayers, capturing a mere snapshot of the devotion, the tradition, the theology, and the identity of those who practice Islam.

And then there was me.

As the prayer commenced, I remained seated in the back of the now crowded prayer hall, with men pressed in front of and on each side of me. I couldn’t help but smile when I thought through the events that brought me to the masjid that night. The ironic part was that I had just come from a prayer meeting of my own at Christ Community Church (CCC) in Denver, Colorado. It was only three days into my summer internship, and I was smiling because God was already answering my two prayers for the summer. First, that I would be more prayerfully minded and second, that I would have a hands-on opportunity to learn more about Islam.

Be careful what you pray for, I guess!

It all started on the way back to my apartment that night when I noticed that the car in front of me had blown out one of its tires. The driver obviously noticed the rubbery explosion and the vehicle’s extreme rattling, too, so as she pulled off the road, I decided to follow suit and help change the mangled tire. The driver’s name was Fitri and she was a Muslim woman heading to the masjid in which I was now sitting. I had swapped out her tire for the spare and offered to follow her to her destination, hoping in some way to ensure her safety and peace of mind. After we pulled into the parking lot, I stepped out of my car to part ways and wish her well, but Fitri caught me off guard when she invited me to come inside and meet her friends.

So I said, “Why not?”

Well, one thing led to another, and before I knew it, the leader of the masjid, Imam Karim AbuZaid, invited me over to his house for supper.

So again I said, “Why not?”

Imam Karim and I spent the next hour or so traveling to his house and sitting at the dining room table of his home. We shared a meal together while having a wonderful conversation about Christianity and Islam, the Bible and the Qur’an, and of course, Jesus and Muhammad. After supper he invited me to come back to the masjid to watch the Muslim community observe its last prayer of the day and to listen to a recitation from the Qur’an.

So, in “typical me” fashion, I replied, “Why not?”

That whole evening cost about five hours of my time, besides getting a little bit of oil and grease on my hands. It was so worth it. From that evening came friendships with Muslims and opportunities that I would never have imagined possible if God were not in the Kingdom business of answering prayers and spreading the Good News about the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting in Jesus’ name.

The rest of my internship was wrapped around the study of apologetics and making weekly trips to another masjid to be lectured on Islam by the presiding Sheikh there, Dr. Ahmad Nabhan. He kindly and graciously helped me to grasp the Muslim world view, gently responded to my probing questions, and gladly accepted my invitation to come to my church and participate with me in an interfaith dialogue; an event to which I am ever grateful to pastor Bruce and the people of CCC for hosting. They demonstrated genuine Christian hospitality and a love for their Muslim neighbors by opening their hearts and their doors to a conversation as important as this.

This is an important conversation to be having, especially now.

Now is the time to equip our congregations with a deeper knowledge of Islam and the challenges it poses both to our culture and to our faith. Now is the time to exhort our pastors and leaders to carefully and compassionately articulate the scriptural witness and historical person of Jesus Christ. Now is the time to give an account for the hope we have in him.

Now is the time to say, “Why not?”

WTS does #GivingTuesday

Join us on 11.29.16 for Giving Tuesday!


At Western Theological Seminary, we are called to raise up leaders in the church.

It costs us $28,705 to educate ONE in-residence student for ONE year, but the student is responsible for just $13,760 (before scholarships).

That’s a $14,945 difference.

The reason we can afford to keep costs so low is because of generous supporters like YOU!

Will you partner with us this #GivingTuesday (November 29) to send ONE student to seminary by raising $14,945?

Together, let’s keep costs low for our future pastors and leaders in the church.

Mark your calendars for November 29th, and give here!




#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.

Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

For more information, visit www.givingtuesday.org

Hear from student Emily Scatterday Holehan about her call to ministry:

Hear from student Mark Mares about his call to ministry:

The Big Read and Immigration Workshop at WTS


Western has become a partner organization of The Big Read – Holland Area this year. The Big Read builds literacy by bringing a community together around one book and the shared experience of reading and discussion. Although this is Western’s first year as a partner, it is the third year of the Big Read in Holland, and over 7,000 people participated in Big Read activities in the Holland area last year. The Big Read’s primary sponsor is Hope College, with assistance from local libraries, the Holland Museum, and several other community organizations.

This year’s Big Read book,
Brother, I’m Dying, by award-winning author Edwidge Danticat, is a multi-generational story of one family’s life in Haiti and the United States. The book serves as a rich celebration of Haitian culture and history and also raises questions about how people with different backgrounds interact with each other in today’s world. One reviewer called it a “warm-hearted tragedy,” and it is rich with stories of familial bonds and love along with injustice and pain.  



Immigration Workshop at WTS

There are over a dozen Big Read activities planned for the first weeks of November in the Holland area. As part of this, Western is hosting an interactive Immigration Workshop at 7:00pm on Monday, November 14, led by the Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice and sponsored by Fellowship Reformed Church. The workshop looks at immigration and refugee resettlement in the United States and explores how Christians may engage in these processes. All are invited. 

All Big Read Events:

Nov. 1, 7:00pm – Kick-off at Knickerbocker Theatre. TED-talks on the historical and cultural context of the book.

Nov. 2, 1:00pm – Panel discussion on refugees, resettlement and integration at Herrick District Library.

Nov. 3, 5:00 pm & 7:00pm – Haitian cuisine at Cook Dining Hall w/ Olga Benoit. $15 adults, $10 students.

Nov. 4, 7:30pm – Geraud Dimanche concert of music and dancing, Jack H. Miller Center for the Musical Arts

Nov. 5, 11:00am – Story time with children’s author Anne Sibley O’Brien, Herrick District Library

Nov. 5, 2:00pm – Hands-on Art Workshop at CultureWorks (710 Chicago Dr. Ste 200, Holland)

Nov. 7, 7:00pm – La Belle Vie at the Knickerbocker Theatre followed by Q&A with directors.

Nov. 9, 7:00pm – Lecture by immigration lawyer Sarah Yore-Van Oosterhout at the Howard Miller Library in Zeeland.

Nov. 10, 7:00pm – Poverty, Inc. screening with Q&A by Haitian entrepreneur Daniel Jean Louis.

Nov. 11, 7:00pm – Book discussion at Holland Museum

Nov. 12, 10:00am – Memoir writing workshop with Rhoda Janzen at Herrick District Library.

Nov. 14, 7:00pm – Interactive Immigration Workshop at Western Theological Seminary, Mulder Chapel.

Nov. 15, 7:00pm – Keynote address by Edwidge Danticat in Dimnent Chapel, Hope College. Booksigning afterward.

Nov. 17, 7:00pm – Student exhibition at the Holland Armory

Introducing our New Academic Dean

You might not expect someone who has spent decades enjoying the distinctive landscape of New England to jump at the chance to move to West Michigan, but Alvin Padilla did just that.

“When you take into account what God is doing right here at WTS, it is undeniably the right place to be,” says Dr. Padilla. “The energy and passion to embrace what God is doing in the Church is so evident. I sense that God is about to do great things right here, and I simply want to be part of that!”

In July the seminary welcomed Dr. Alvin Padilla to campus as our new Academic Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs.

Alvin was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, an important trading town resting by the Caribbean Sea and founded in 1692 by the great-grandson of Juan Ponce de León. When he was born, doctors said he wouldn’t live long; however, their diagnosis proved untrue, leading Alvin to grow up believing God spared him for a unique purpose.

His blue-eyed mother’s ancestry traced back to Spain, and his father was the grandson of a slave brought to the New World. His dad had a strong work ethic, instilling in his ten children that “one of the worst things in the world is a man who can’t provide for his kids.” He worked hard at the docks unloading ships, getting there by 5:00 each morning, often after having a cup of coffee with young Al.

Alvin’s father was also a medium, practicing Santería, a religion from West Africa syncretized with Roman Catholic elements. Al recalls accompanying his father as he performed séances all around the area. His father hoped Al would continue the Santerían tradition, but, by God’s grace, that was not to be.

Though baptized Catholics, neither Alvin nor his family attended Mass regularly. Being curious about spiritual matters, one day around the age of 11, Alvin walked into a Catholic Mass and watched it being held in Latin. He heard a voice say, “This is where you belong.” After that he started going to church. Soon the family migrated to the United States and settled in Haverhill, MA, where Al served as an altar boy in the local church until the age of 18. His family would attend Mass just to see him serve.

Alvin’s mother passed away his senior year of high school. She did not live to see him become the first Hispanic to graduate from high school in the town of Haverhill. Against the advice of his guidance counselor (who didn’t think he should go to college), he applied to numerous colleges and eventually entered Villanova University in Pennsylvania. Knowing his father wanted him to be a lawyer, he began school as a pre-law major. Sadly, during his freshman year his father passed away also. Shortly after that, Alvin switched his major to secondary education and minored in history.

After graduating from college, he returned to his hometown of Haverhill and became a community organizer, dedicating himself to improving the quality of life for the quickly growing Latino population and the wider community. Alvin had a secret ambition to become the first U.S. senator of Hispanic origin.

One day, while praying and walking around, he passed a Pentecostal church and heard joyous, celebratory singing. He heard God say, “Come and see!” Although skeptical, he walked in and sat in the back. The people there knew him and were so stunned that they stopped singing for a moment. That day, however, placed him on the path toward Protestantism and a deeper devotion to the church and God’s people.

That Pentecostal church had energy for the kingdom of God and an emphasis on service. Alvin was soon asked to participate in the church and was developed as a leader. He became ordained in The Assemblies of God. The church empowered people and relied on God’s gifts from the Spirit, putting men and women in leadership regardless of training. His continuing work as a local leader soon highlighted the need for more education. After one year at a Spanish language Bible institute, he enrolled at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he met his wife, Cathy. (Al and Cathy have five children and two granddaughters.)

After graduating from seminary, Cathy and Alvin were called to established the Spanish Eastern School of Theology in Swan Lake, NY. The school’s singular purpose was to prepare women and men for ministry among and for Latinos in

Alvin and Cathy Padilla with their family at their son's wedding.

        Alvin and Cathy Padilla with their family at their son’s wedding.

North America. Seven years later, Alvin and Cathy transitioned to Nyack College. While at Nyack, Alvin was ordained in the PC(USA) and called as solo pastor to the Fort Washington Heights Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. During this time he began and completed his doctoral studies at Drew University.

In 1997 Dr. Padilla shifted his full attention to a new position as Executive Dean and Associate Professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He led the Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME—the Boston Campus) for 12 years. In 2010 he launched the Hispanic Ministries Program at Gordon-Conwell and became its dean, serving 400 students for the next six years and assembling an impressive faculty to teach the courses in Spanish and English. He remained connected to the church by serving two Presbyterian congregations as interim pastor during this time.

The faculty, staff and students of Western Theological Seminary are so pleased to have such an innovative and dynamic leader as our new academic dean. Dr. Alvin Padilla’s background and years of experience are sure to influence the future of this seminary in exciting and new ways.

Thanks for saying yes, Dr. Padilla!


Watch the video!

The Installation of Dr. Alvin Padilla

Academic Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs

October 25, 2016 at 7:30pm

Third Reformed Church, 111 W. 13th St., Holland

Dr. Justo González was the keynote speaker.

2016 Bast Preaching Festival

Proclamation–Celebrating God’s Word Through Preaching



frank-thomasFrank A. Thomas, PhD, currently serves as the Nettie Sweeney and Hugh Th. Miller Professor of Homiletics and Director of the Academy of Preaching and Celebration at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, Indiana. Indicative of his great love of preaching, an updated and revised version of They Like to Never Quit Praisin’ God: The Role of Celebration In Preaching, considered by many to be a homiletic classic, was released in August 2013.

For many years, Thomas has also taught preaching to Doctoral and Masters level students at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois, and at Memphis Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tennessee. He is the CEO of Hope For Life International, Inc., which formerly published The African American Pulpit. With a long history of excellence in preaching and preaching method, Thomas was inducted into the prestigious Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers of Morehouse College in April 2003. Thomas also serves as a member of the International Board of Societas Homiletica, an international society of teachers of preaching.

Thomas is the author of American Dream 2.0: A Christian Way Out of the Great Recession, released by Abingdon Press in August 2012. He also co-edited Preaching With Sacred Fire:  An Anthology of African American Sermons, 1750 to the Present with Martha Simmons, published by W. W. Norton & Company in 2010. This critically acclaimed book offers a rare view of the unheralded role of the African American preacher in American history. Thomas is also the author of several other books on subjects from matters of prayer to spiritual maturity.

Thomas served with distinction as the senior pastor for two remarkable congregations: New Faith Baptist Church of Matteson, Illinois, and Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church of Memphis, Tennessee, for eighteen years and thirteen years, respectively.

Thomas holds a PhD in Communications (Rhetoric) from the University of Memphis, a Doctor of Divinity from Christian Theological Seminary, Doctor of Mini
stry degrees from Chicago Theological Seminary and United Theological Seminary, a Master of Divinity from Chicago Theological Seminary, and a Master of Arts in African-Caribbean Studies from Northeastern Illinois University.

Thomas and his wife, the Rev. Dr. Joyce Scott Thomas, each earned their Certified Professional Coaching Certificate (CPC) from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC). While they are equipped to coach in corporate, executive, business, life, personal, or group settings, they are most passionate about enabling pastors and pastors’ spouses, as well as coaching in the area of preaching. Thomas’ most recent book, The Choice: Living Your Passion Inside Out, published by Hope For Life International Press October 2013, explains and explores the spiritual and coaching process to live your passion from the inside out. Thomas is a nationally and internationally sought after keynote speaker and lecturer. Thomas and his wife have two adult children.

Watch Videos from the Event: