“I am excited to further and deepen the mission of Western Theological Seminary to prepare women and men, called by God, to serve the church of Jesus Christ. Pray for us and join us, as we continue to train women and men who will proclaim the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ with love and boldness, who will be ministers of reconciliation–bringing those who are far from God into union with Christ, who will pursue justice for the poor and the oppressed, and who will care well for God’s creation as faithful stewards of our Father’s world.”
-Dr. Felix Theonugraha, twelfth president of WTS
Dr. Theonugraha is an ordained minister in the Reformed Church in America who last served as Vice President for Student Life and University Services at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois.
A pastor’s son who first felt a call to ministry at age nine, Felix Theonugraha was born in Indonesia to Chinese Christian parents. The family originally had a Chinese last name, but changed it to the Indonesian “Theonugraha” (meaning “God’s Grace” and pronounced theo-new-GRA-ha). When Felix was 12, his father accepted a call to pastor a Mandarin-speaking congregation in the San Francisco Bay area, and they immigrated to the United States.
Dr. Theonugraha was first drawn to the RCA because of how his family was accepted and supported, especially during a difficult season of ministry in his father’s life. “I saw how the denomination came around him in such beautiful ways,” he recalls.
“As an egalitarian,” he says, “I’m also drawn to the RCA’s stance on women in ministry.” At Trinity, Dr. Theonugraha co-chaired a task force on gender equity and also worked on the university’s racial reconciliation
team. “I’ve lived in many places where I’ve been seen as an outsider,” he explains. “As a result, I’m mindful of the tendency for human beings, even Christian communities, to exclude. But I have also seen firsthand the way that people, especially Christian communities, can also embrace ‘the other’ with the love of God.”
Dr. Theonugraha majored in Psychology and English at the University of California, Berkeley, and then attended seminary at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School while under the care of the Central California Classis. He completed his Ph.D. at Trinity in Educational Studies and met his wife Esther there—she was also a master’s student and is now completing a Ph.D. They are the parents of a son and daughter, ages 12 and 10.
Dr. Theonugraha began working at Trinity International University as Associate Dean of Students in 2006, then became the Dean of Students, then Vice President for Spiritual Life and University Ministries, and finally Vice President for Student Life and University Services. In that role he led the enrollment team, athletics department, alumni office, and student life division.
Prior to ordination in the RCA, Dr. Theonugraha came to WTS to take classes in the summer of 2004 with then Academic Dean Leanne Van Dyk and President Timothy Brown. He also took the class “Pastor as Person” in 2006 and even got to play basketball with Dr. Dennis Voskuil.
“I learned the depth of Reformed theology with Dr. Van Dyk, the beauty of Reformed worship with President Brown, and the emphasis on pastoral formation that was and continues to be a strength of WTS today,” he shares.
Dr. Theonugraha’s personal experience, as well as his professional role as a talented administrator, make him uniquely qualified to lead WTS into the rapidly changing and diversifying world of theological education.
“WTS has an incredible history,” Dr. Theonugraha says. “My prayer is that I can extend and deepen that history so WTS continues to be a place that prepares women and men who are called by God to lead the church in mission, and do so in a way that is mindful and responsive to our time and place in God’s story—such as the increasing ethnic diversity in our country and the growth of the church in the Global South and East.”
Dr. Theonugraha will draw upon the call of Jesus to shepherd and serve the institution to continue its mission, participating in God’s ongoing redemptive work in the world.