Western Theological Seminary is pleased to announce it has been selected by the family of the late Rev. Eugene Peterson (pastor, author, and translator of The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language), to establish a new “Eugene Peterson Center.”

While the mission and programs of the center will continue to be developed and solidified in the months to come, the center will exist to promote the pastoral theology of Eugene Peterson for future scholarship, the health of pastors and the Church’s renewed imagination. The center will steward the Peterson papers and archives, create generative models for pastoral formation, provide resources to encourage pastors for sustainable, joyful and courageous ministry, and promote robust Christian imagination among writers and culture makers in the wider church.

Eugene Peterson’s relationship with the seminary goes back decades, beginning in the 1980’s when he taught at a Young Life Institute on campus. The Presbyterian minister’s friendship with WTS deepened in 1998 when Rev. Dr. Timothy Brown invited him to campus as the keynote speaker for the Henry Bast Festival of Preaching. In 2008 he returned to speak at President Brown’s inauguration, and was invited again in 2014 to reprise his role at the Bast Festival.

According to his son, Rev. Eric Peterson, “WTS is the school that Eugene exclusively recommended to prospective students who were preparing to serve the church.” In 2010 Eugene said this: “It is everything I think a seminary needs to be–theologically focused, faculty accessible, personally relational and God honoring. I never fail to feel at home there with its professors and students.” After visiting campus himself, Eric agreed. “To witness the combination of first-rate scholars, coupled with a compelling vision for theological education and a student body that exhibits an earnest desire to serve the kingdom was altogether inspiring,” he shared. “The meaningful ways the seminary community is engaging with people at the margins of society resonates with our family’s values.” 

The seminary is excited to be tasked with stewarding Eugene Peterson’s pastoral legacy through the center, which will house diaries, letters, sermons, book manuscripts, Regent College teaching material and extensive documentation related to the translation of The Message within its library archive collection in the newly built Jack & Mary Dewitt Learning Center. 

WTS President Dr. Felix Theonugraha is excited to be able to provide opportunities for students, alumni, and the wider church to engage Peterson’s work. “Forming the whole person has long been an emphasis here at Western,” he explained. “There is agreement among theological schools that we must do a better job focusing on the formation of future pastors, especially as we live in a world that is filled with cultural liturgies that form us each and every day in ways that are contrary to the values of the Kingdom of God. It is tempting today to judge the effectiveness of one’s ministry or a church’s impact based on numbers–how many members, how many attendees, how many sites, how many countries– Eugene compassionately and unassumingly reminds us to turn our eyes away from the glitter of this world and to fix them upon Christ.”

Academic Dean and VP of Academic Affairs Dr. Kristen Deede Johnson, who had a personal friendship with Eugene, said, “I have spoken to countless others who, through his writings and personal friendship, were given a vision of the Christian life that by God’s grace has sustained them in that ‘long obedience in the same direction,’” quoting one of his most famous lines.

“We are honored and humbled by this opportunity to steward and extend the legacy of Eugene Peterson,” said Dr. Theonugraha.

Rev. David M. Bast, WTS ’76

By Rev. Timothy Brown ‘76

In a recent book, Kevin VanHoozer describes theologians who do their theologizing with the world looking over their shoulders. They commend, argue, urge, offer up, and call out to real people living 9-to-5 lives in the crucible of the real world. The stakes are high because the consequences are eternal. These theologians do not have the luxury of endlessly deferring arguments, because for them, the hour has come and the time is now. Like the Apostle Paul urging young Timothy to “come before winter,” there is an urgency about these theologians that you rarely see in others.

David Bast is that type of theologian. Through his countless journeys to the hard places of the world where most Western evangelists rarely go, Dave has been present:  Uganda, Armenia, Indonesia, Bhutan and so many more. Dave has preached the good news of Jesus in season and out of season and in multiple places around the world. For this we honor him as our Distinguished Alumnus of 2018.

Dave with Ugandan children.


Dave Bast, a 1973 graduate of Hope College, studied at Fuller Theological Seminary and Calvin Theological Seminary in addition to Western. After earning his M.Div. in 1976, he served as a pastor in three congregations:  Hamilton Reformed Church, Hamilton, MI; First Reformed Church in South Holland, IL; and Fifth Reformed Church in Grand Rapids. In each congregation Dave distinguished himself as a thoughtful and articulate preacher and a diligent and caring pastor.

Dave and his wife, Betty Jo, live in Grand Rapids, MI. They are the parents of four children:  Andrew (married to Katie) who is director of development at WTS, Peter (married to Sarah), Jane (married to Lars Olson), and Anne (married to Paul Davis). Dave and Betty Jo have seven grandchildren.

In 1994 Dave joined Words of Hope, where he served as president and broadcast minister for 23 years. Words of Hope is a ministry affiliated with the Reformed Church in America that helps Christians use media to build the church in many difficult-to-reach places. Words of Hope has ministry partnerships that produce programs in over 50 languages, primarily in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. In his retirement, Dave continues to co-host a weekly half-hour audio program called “Groundwork” that digs deeply into Scripture as a foundation for our lives. It is aired on 170 radio stations in the U.S. and Canada.

Dave with Jon Sherrill ‘99 and Jan Fields in Istanbul for an Iranian discipleship conference.

Another distinctive outreach dimension of Words of Hope is their teaching conferences in the Muslim world to strengthen and encourage Christian church leaders in Muslim-majority nations. Dave has logged well over a million miles traveling all over the world for the sole purpose of equipping local leaders to do their work where they live and in their own language.

I have joined Dave on several of these trips as a kind of “back up teacher” to lighten the load. They have been some of the most meaningful teaching moments of my career. I remember vividly sitting on the top floor of the Carlton Hotel in downtown Istanbul crowded around a conference table with 20 Christian converts from Iran, people who were previously Shia Muslims. They had come to Turkey for 4-5 days of biblical expositions by Dave and teaching on Christian practices by me.

Tim & Nancy Brown and Dave & Betty Jo Bast with the Mityana Diocese in Uganda, where WTS alum Stephen Kaziimba ‘03, ‘07, is the Bishop.

On one of our trips Dave did a series of expositions from Romans 5-8 that were the finest I have ever heard. I was stunned, transfixed really, as Dave went verse by verse through these remarkable chapters from the book that we love. My right hand flew across my note book growing weary from writing. In that moment I so deeply wished all my students could hear what I was hearing.

Dave with Dr. Kurt Selles, Executive Director of the CRC’s Back to God Ministries Int’l, meeting with radio listeners in Jharkhand, India.

In his classic work, The Pilgrim’s Progress, the venerable 17th Century Puritan preacher, John Bunyan, describes his ideal preacher and pastoral leader. He could have had Dave in mind when he said, “He had eyes lifted up to Heaven, the best of books in (his) hand, the law of truth was written upon (his) lips, the world was behind (his) back; (he) stood as if (he) pleaded with (all), and a crown of gold did hang over (his) head.” Dave has committed his life to embodying that portrait, and Western Theological Seminary blesses the Lord for the life and witness of the Rev. David Bast, proudly naming him our 2018 Distinguished Alumnus.

In February, I informed the Board of Trustees that after much prayer and deliberation, Nancy and I have decided that my time as president is coming to an end. This coming school year of 2018-19 will be my last year as president.

There are many things that I want to get done. This won’t be a victory lap! This will be a very intentionally focused period.

First, I want to bring to completion our new building, fully funding the project. When we asked the Board for permission to start this project, I said to them, “I promise I will stay as president until that building is up, the flags are flying, and every debt is paid.” I’m happy to say we are really close.

I want to continue to support the work of Dean Alvin Padilla and the rest of the faculty as they make enormous strides in our Hispanic Ministries Program. Every population census you can possibly read will tell you that by 2050, the largest cross-section of our population will be Hispanic. It was such a gift to us when Alvin Padilla agreed to come and be our academic dean, and I’m so grateful for that.

I now have permission to say that Eddy Alemán has been nominated to be the new General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America. Eddy is Latino, a graduate of WTS, and also a member of our Board of Trustees. What great energy and synergy we have to do the work that is coming!

I also want to both bless and help the faculty as we move toward important hires over the next year. Several faculty members have left or will be leaving, and we need new people to join our team. I am eager to keep this stunning record of great young scholars who are Reformed, evangelical and ecumenical.

I will work very hard in the next year continuing to make this a place that helps men and women flourish in ministry. All the hard-fought efforts over the years that have opened the doors to women in ministry have recently met with resistance. We’re not going to allow that. We’re going to keep working hard until we enter in to that vision of the prophet Joel: On that day I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

Last but not least, I want to ensure in the midst of our ever-expanding diversity that we have a clearly gracious, generously articulated Reformed Identity. I’m going to ask the Board of Trustees to call forth a task force to help us articulate what we mean when we say Reformed identity, so we can be expansive and welcoming but also clear about who we are and what we intend to do. This is no time to be ashamed of our Reformed identity, but to embrace it and move into the future.

I intend in the name of Jesus to give my best to all of these things, and I will, I promise you, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord our labor is not in vain. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.


Timothy L. Brown



Dr. Timothy Brown

President and Henry Bast Professor of Preaching


Here at Western Theological Seminary we make a big deal out of our daily worship. It might surprise you to learn that we are one of the few seminaries left that still worships as a community every single day. We believe worship forms us over time in mysterious ways we can scarcely understand.

I want you to come with me to the two-story colonial home where Nancy and I live, just a few blocks south of the seminary. There we are having a dinner, hosting six of our best friends over the last 25 years. Come and get to know these good people; look into their faces, listen in on their conversations, and feel the texture of relationships that have kept us together through thick and thin since before Ronald Reagan was President. Just stand quietly in the corner of the dining room and take it all in, because it strikes me as a kind of living commentary on what worshipping the living God in a Reformed way can do for you.

Sitting directly across from me is Jack Smith (I won’t use any real names in this article). Jack and I graduated from college together and went off to different graduate schools. When I graduated from seminary with the right to be a minister of Word and Sacrament, Jack graduated with an MBA and what seemed to be a license to print money. He has become fabulously wealthy, not unlike many who made fortunes in the 80s and 90s. What singles Jack out is that somewhere along the line he stopped asking the question, “How much of my fortune should I give away to good causes?” and started asking, “How much of what God has given me do I have the right to keep?” If you asked where he learned to do this, he’ll tell you that it dawned on him after hearing—Sunday in and Sunday out!—“Let us return our tithes and offerings to the Lord!”

Sitting next to Nancy is Lynn. While giving birth to her third child—right in the very act of offering life—she was stricken with a debilitating stroke. The baby survived and so did she, but her life would never be the same. She would never change that baby’s diapers or dance with her husband again. At one point in the evening while we were discussing “the good old days at Christ Memorial Church,” Lynn said to me, “You know, Tim, my favorite moment in our worship services was always right at the beginning when you would lift your arms in the air and say, ‘Grace to you and peace in the name of the Lord Jesus!’ When I hear those words my heart almost stops and I know that while I may never understand why all of this happened to me, I do know that our gracious God does know and, frankly, that’s all I need.”

Sitting opposite of each other are the Holts and the Newhouses. Dr. Holt teaches at Hope College and had an Obama/Biden bumper sticker on his car a few presidential elections ago. Mr. Newhouse is a successful realtor in Holland, and he and his wife had TWO Bush/Cheney posters in their front yard during the same election. At one point the conversation turned to politics and heated up a little bit—and I thought, “Oh no! My party is going to tank!”—but then, mysteriously, the Holts and the Newhouses shifted effortlessly from American politics and their striking differences to their heavenly citizenship and the one thing that will join them together forever.

At the end of the night, Nancy read several Psalms from Eugene Peterson’s The Message and we all held hands and prayed—prayed for our kids and grandkids, prayed for one another, and prayed for our world. We ended with the Lord’s Prayer and tears!

It may not have been so clear to me that night, but it surely is now—we had all been mysteriously shaped and formed by the way we worship Sunday in and Sunday out, and because of that we were being shaped and formed for witness and work in the world.

That’s why we make a big fuss over daily worship here!

In the heartwarming first episode of season 2, WTS President Timothy Brown is interviewed by his son, Reverend Jon Brown, about the importance of scripture memorization for our lives and ministries.

In the heartwarming first episode of season 2, WTS President Timothy Brown is interviewed by his son, Pastor Jon Brown, about the importance of scripture memorization for our lives and ministries.

The Community Kitchen is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. For the past 25 years, local volunteers, donors, and staff of Western Theological Seminary (WTS) & Community Action House (CAH) have worked side-by-side to provide the Community Kitchen, a place for local people to receive free meals in a safe and welcoming environment year-round.

The Community Kitchen is housed at the seminary and serves over 75,000 meals per year, providing about 1,000 volunteer hours. Over the past quarter century, CAH estimates that over 750,000 meals have been served, and over 130,000 hours 150923-114125of volunteer service provided.

The Kitchen was founded in the early 1990’s when severe cuts to funding for government needs-based assistance created a hunger problem for many Holland families. A seminary class called “Gospel, Culture, and Ministry,” in which the Holland Sentinel was a class text, inspired students and professors to connect with CAH staff and local city churches to help solve the problem. Today, the Community Kitchen continues to operate through those original partnerships.

According to Dr. Tom Boogaart, one of the founders of the Kitchen and professor at WTS, the Community Kitchen has turned out to be better and far more important than anyone imagined. “It created the geography for organizations to connect, serve, and form a real community,” he shared.

community-kitchen“We’re extremely grateful to be part of this community work,” said Mark Tucker, Executive Director of Community Action House, “with over 25 churches involved for 25 years, all working seamlessly together to provide for those in need.” Hundreds of volunteers from local churches make each day happen—from food prep, donation delivery, to dishwashing and greeting.

Earl Laman, one of the Kitchen’s longest serving volunteers, joined efforts at the Kitchen just after its founding in September 1991 and remains active, representing Hope Church. Many churches donate food along with their time, taking special offerings during the year to help shore up the Kitchen’s non-perishable food stores, which help provide complete nutrition when donations slow down.150923-114207

Challenges at the Kitchen include limited freezer and refrigerator space, and meeting the need of an ever-growing number of patrons. “We’re serving 150-250 meals every day – space is always tight,” said Jim Piersma, Kitchen Manager.

WTS is currently taking donations for a $15 million capital campaign to perform building renovations that will include an updated Community Kitchen. The Seminary remains committed to the Kitchen and hopes the renovations will allow it to serve more people than ever before.

“Our school and our students have been transformed over the past quarter of a century by hosting the Community Kitchen,” WTS President Timothy Brown said.  “I am extremely grateful that we get to participate in this vital mission.”

150923-120144To celebrate service and accomplishment of the past 25 years, Community Action House will feature a presentation about the Community Kitchen during its annual Appreciation Banquet, held at Windmill Island on September 29th.

“This place has been a huge blessing to me and my family over the years,” said one patron. “We are so grateful for the warm welcome from Community Action House and the Seminary.

The public, as always, is invited to enjoy a meal in community for lunch during the week and breakfast on weekends at 101 E 13th St.

To make a financial donation in support of the Community Kitchen, volunteer, or provide supplies, please contact Community Action House, 345 W 14th St., Holland, MI, (616) 392 2368.