Distinguished scholar, other opportunities add to the institution’s vibrancy, offerings

Holland, Mich. — Western Theological Seminary (WTS) continues its commitment to providing future pastors and Christian leaders formative education and learning experiences with the addition of a preeminent New Testament scholar to its faculty, Dr. Wesley Hill. In a season of growth, with a commitment to reflecting the changing times and needs, the Seminary has also experienced record enrollment and recently launched a new center for Christian imagination, bringing aboard another respected leader to serve as its director. 

Dr. Hill is a noted New Testament scholar. His book, “Paul and the Trinity: Persons, Relations, and the Pauline Letters” (2015) earned the commendations and praise of academic leaders such as N.T. Wright, Daniel Treier (Wheaton) and Douglas A. Campbell (Duke). Dr. Hill is a frequently invited guest speaker and has spoken at various Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) events, including the 2018 International Forum and the 2017 Presidents Conference in Washington D.C. Dr. Hill will be the new associate professor of New Testament at WTS.

“We are delighted to welcome Dr. Wesley Hill to the Western Theological Seminary community as an associate professor of New Testament,” said Dr. Kristen Deede Johnson, Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs. “Dr. Hill comes to us with years of teaching experience, an exceptional record of publications, and a nationally-respected voice. But more importantly, Wes embodies a deep love of God and Scripture as well as profound commitments to the local church, the formation of students, and generous engagement across theological and biblical differences–commitments that are also central to Western. We believe his presence in our community will bear much Kingdom fruit and we are eager to support him in his callings as teacher, scholar, writer, and priest.” 

Hill is currently associate professor of biblical studies at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania and an Episcopal priest serving at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Pittsburgh. Dr. Hill holds his doctorate in New Testament from Durham University in the UK and has authored several books, including the two most recent: “The Lord’s Prayer: A Guide to Praying to Our Father” and “Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality.” He writes regularly for Christianity Today, The Living Church, and other publications, including SpiritualFriendship.org which he co-founded.

“The hardship and trials of the past year reminded us that the world needs the church now more than ever. Western Theological Seminary is committed to forming faithful graduates who will be empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Seminary President Dr. Felix Theonugraha. “Dr. Hill’s scholarship, perspective, presence and teaching will be a tremendous blessing to our learning community. He will help us form and equip the next generation of Christian leaders through times of challenge and change.” 

New Center, Director for Christian Imagination 

Dr. Winn Collier, Director of the Eugene Peterson Center for Christian Imagination

President Theonugraha also noted that the Seminary recently launched the Eugene Peterson Center for Christian Imagination, led by its first director Dr. Winn Collier, who is also serving as associate professor of pastoral theology and Christian imagination. This newly formed center will house Eugene Peterson’s papers and documents. The center will also foster public conversations and intimate circles where we will pursue friendship while contemplating questions that shaped Peterson’s fruitful work over a lifetime, questions like: “Why is an animated, Spirit-infused imagination essential if we are to persevere in living our faith amid the grit and beauty of ordinary life?” 

Dr. Collier, a pastor for 25 years, was the founding pastor of All Souls in Charlottesville, Virginia, and author of five books, including “A Burning in My Bones: The Authorized Biography of Eugene H. Peterson,” which will be released on March 23. He holds his doctorate in religion and literature from the University of Virginia.

WTS Prepares Students for Ministry Challenges in the Real World; Record Enrollment Reinforces Need

Group photo in front of WTS from the 2019 Summer Institute on Theology and Disability

The Seminary is also home to the Center for Disability and Ministry, led by Dr. Ben Conner, which exists to support ministry leaders of all abilities in nurturing and receiving the gifts and contributions of persons with disabilities through formational opportunities including theological education, consultation, forums, and publications.

Under the leadership of Dr. Alvin Padilla, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Director of Advanced Degrees, the Seminary has a thriving Hispanic Ministry Program (HMP). Dedicated to supporting leadership in the Hispanic church context, HMP serves students and pastors throughout the United States by offering certificate programs and Doctor of Ministry cohorts in Spanish. A Spanish language MA is also under development. 

The WTS faculty recently approved a new M.Div curriculum of 87 credit hours, strengthening the Seminary’s focus on formation and Biblical understanding and interpretation, along with the diverse and global reality of Christianity. 

With a stellar faculty and a range of academic degrees, including a thriving Doctor of Ministry program, the Seminary celebrated record enrollment this Spring with 382 total students. 

By God’s grace, Western Theological Seminary forms women and men for faithful Christian ministry and participation in the Triune God’s ongoing redemptive work in the world.

“Let me tell you about yesterday.” 

Seth Kaper-Dale has been co-pastor with his wife, Stephanie Kaper-Dale, at Reformed Church of Highland Park (RCHP) for the last 19 years. When they first arrived, the church was a gathering of fewer than 50 people. It was not impacting the neighborhood and membership was in decline. Now, RCHP provides food for hungry families, employment for refugees, operates a farm and a farmer’s market, provides and manages affordable housing units, and advocates for their vulnerable neighbors. They are involved in refugee resettlement, working for racial justice, and caring for the environment. 

RCHP has so much going on that it is difficult to boil it down to one story, but Pastor Seth says he can share about yesterday. It was not a neat, tidy day. It was a day that illustrates what it looks like to be fully invested in a hurting world. 

First, the church received a call asking if they could house a man who was unexpectedly being released on bond in Georgia, over 700 miles away. They said yes. They have invested in affordable housing. They know how to do case management. Their commitment to their neighborhood made it possible to say yes.

Later in the day, there was another phone call. The call was about Emerson, a man whose family RCHP has been supporting through housing. Emerson has not been able to support his wife and three children this past year due to being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for months and months. Counter to everyone’s hopes and prayers that he would be released, the call confirmed that Emerson was being deported to Guatemala. 

19 years ago, RCHP would not have received either of these kinds of calls. Today, because the church chose to lean in, it is a daily witness to the pain of a broken world and an active participant in God’s plan to make all things new. Both of yesterday’s phone calls are a result of RCHP’s faithfulness. Both phone calls are an invitation to keep leaning in.    

If your congregation is ready to engage in local mission and wants to learn from what churches like Reformed Church of Highland Park are doing, consider applying for the Churches in Mission Cohort hosted by Western Theological Seminary. Find more out more at www.westernsem.edu/churches-in-mission 

Ten years ago, Grace Fellowship Church (GFC) in Johnson City, TN started a partnership with a local elementary school. Members of the church became lunch buddies and home room helpers. They started a kick-ball league and an Arts Program. 

Rod Barnett, one of the volunteers of the Arts Program, shares his experience with the school:

One of the great volunteer opportunities that has drawn my wife and me to GFC is the partnership with Mountain View Elementary School in Johnson City. Mountain View is a ‘Title I’ school, with many of the students coming from a challenging home environment. I decided to join the Arts club at Mountain View this year. The Arts Club is a partnership between Mountain View and GFC, where we get to participate with Mountain View children, their parents, and school officials in various Arts programs. 

This year we had the opportunity to organize and put on the play called ‘Stone Soup.’ As part of the program, we worked for about six weeks every Thursday at 5:00, helping the kids learn their lines, make the sets, and get ready for the presentation. It was eye-opening and so much fun to watch the students rehearse and say their lines, interact with each other (and their parents!) positively, and grow through the process. I really enjoyed the experience! Bottom line – we had so much fun, grew a lot ourselves, made new friends, and enjoyed a dinner and fellowship with our participants and parents after each rehearsal.

If your congregation is ready to engage in local mission and wants to learn from what churches like Grace Fellowship Church are doing, consider applying for the Churches in Mission Cohort hosted by Western Theological Seminary. Find more out more at www.westernsem.edu/churches-in-mission 

Paramount, CA

What is a church when the building is closed? Emmanuel Reformed Church in Paramount, CA has multiple buildings and properties open 6 to 7 days a week. They use their buildings to provide spaces for worship, after school care, Celebrate Recovery, sports teams, food distribution, an art center, and to support families managing their finances. The buildings have been a significant part of their ministry but, due to the pandemic, they’ve had to close. 

Victor Luse, his wife, and young children had never gone inside an Emmanuel Paramount building, but last year they met the church on the street. In late November the family saw a group of people outside lighting a Christmas tree. They were singing in English and in Spanish, the Luse Family’s first language. The family stopped and watched. They met the pastor, Ken Korver, and made their first connection to this group of people striving to love God and their neighbors.   

Pastor Ken shared that people have been watching the outdoor services from their porches, alleyways, and even the car wash. A woman he’s never met posted on social media that listening to the choir music ringing through the neighborhood lifts her spirits. 

The buildings are not Emmanuel Paramount. What is a church when the building is closed? It is the people in the street who the Luse family and the rest of the neighborhood are now encountering right where they live.

If your congregation is ready to reimagine local mission, consider applying for the Churches in Mission Cohort hosted by Western Theological Seminary. Find more out more at westernsem.edu/churches-in-mission.


Compton, CA  

“If your church burned down today, would the neighborhood care?” This is the question Pastor Rafer Owens wrestled with shortly after Faith Inspirational Church was planted in 1995. He had lived his whole life in Compton, CA and Pastor Owens loved his neighborhood. At the time, his family name was most prominently linked to a gang created in the 1970s by his brother. Rafer hoped to change the legacy.

While his brother went to prison for murder, Pastor Owens became a Deputy Sheriff and, a decade later, a pastor as well. In 2006 his understanding of ministry shifted when Emmanuel Reformed Church, located nearby in Paramount, began service projects in Compton with a bold vision for the neighborhood. In his role as sheriff, Pastor Owens had the responsibility of showing up to Emmanuel Church’s first gathering in Compton. He didn’t anticipate the passion they shared for his neighborhood and the partnership between their congregations that would emerge.

Today, Pastor Owens and his church are working toward healing and redemption. After being released from prison, Rafer’s brother had a career as a bus driver and serves as an usher at Faith Inspirational Church. 

When Pastor Owens reflects on whether the neighborhood would care if his church burned down, he says, “If the neighborhood doesn’t care that means you’re not present in the neighborhood.” 

Now, they know every single person by name who lives on the six blocks that surround their church building. They regularly knock on doors and ask what people need. “Jesus met the need.” Pastor Owens reminds people, “Ninety percent of the time, Jesus was in the street. And then ten percent of the time he was in the synagogue. I tell people all the time, ‘We’re not Churchans. We’re Christians.’ We do what Christ did, that means ninety percent of the time we need to be outside.”

If your congregation is ready to reimagine local mission, consider applying for the Churches in Mission Cohort hosted by Western Theological Seminary. Find more out more today.

(Johnson City, TN)

Two years after losing her husband, single mom Amy* heard about a local church offering free oil changes. She and her husband were in debt before he died, and now, the stack of unpaid bills continued to grow. The trailer where she lived needed repairs. She couldn’t afford an oil change, so she went to the church, First Christian in east Tennessee.

 This is where she met Pastor Kathy Smith, the Community Outreach Director. Since then, widows and young moms like Amy have been energized by the now annual outreach event. Pastor Smith says the best part is the connections and conversations that take place between the women while their cars are given oil changes and looked over. They share a meal together and they share their stories.  

 When Pastor Smith considers the work that First Christian Church is called to do, she immediately thinks of Amy, showing up to that first oil change. Now, Amy is active in the congregation and frequently looking for ways to serve others. Through the relationships First Christian Church has built in local partnerships like these, the congregation continues to grow and be formed by the voices and presence of those they first set out to serve.   

If your congregation is ready to reimagine local mission, consider applying for the Churches in Mission Cohort hosted by Western Theological Seminary. Find more out more today.

*name changed to protect privacy

As you observe Advent this year, we invite you to join Words of Hope and Western Theological Seminary with daily devotionals on Advent and the spiritual act of waiting. Click here for daily devotionals during Advent, or search for “Words of Hope” wherever you get your podcasts!


Waiting is an uncomfortable experience. At best, it can be painfully boring, and at worst it can be full of uncertainty and fear. It’s hard to wait for what we most desire. The longing and waiting of Advent became even more pronounced this year as we long and wait for vaccines and effective treatments for COVID-19. While we are uncertain of the pandemic’s full impact, we remain certain of our hope in Jesus Christ.

In our featured series, we invite you to think about waiting in a new way. The season of Advent is a season when we wait, not just for Christmas, but for Christ himself, and as we wait for Christ, we are invited into fruitful participation in God’s work in the world.


The “Gift of Waiting” is written by a group of faculty and staff from Western Theological Seminary:

Felix Theonugraha: President
Jeff Munroe: Retired Executive Vice President
Kristen Deede Johnson: Dean and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Professor of Theology and Christian Formation
Andy Bast: Director of Development
Jill English: Director of Admissions
Chuck DeGroat: Professor of Pastoral Care and Christian Spirituality
Gretchen Torres: Administrative Assistant for Master of Theology and Hispanic Ministry Programs, International Students Assistant, Receptionist
J. Todd Billings: Gordon H. Girod Research Professor of Reformed Theology
Katlyn DeVries: Writing Assistant and Girod Assistant
Sue Rozeboom: Associate Professor of Liturgical Theology

The Words of Hope Podcast is written and produced by two time WTS graduate, Adam Navis (M.Div ’06, D.Min. ’16)

It has been a wonderful start to my first semester at Western! I have enjoyed the engaging coursework, rich discussion with faculty and fellow students, and connection in the life of the WTS community, particularly through weekly chapel. I can perceive a deepening of my faith as I read, write, reflect, and grow week in and week out. I am grateful for this vibrant, grace-filled community and the opportunity to join its witness to God’s presence in the world.

Jennifer Pavelka

Cincinnati, OH


Being a student in the GCPM program of this prestigious seminary has been a blessing. It’s expanding my theological knowledge and impacting my life and ministry. The ability to receive classes online and the opportunity to interact with professors and other students is wonderful. I’m looking forward to growing in God’s purpose for my life. I’m so thankful to be part of Western Theological Seminary.

Eliu Martinez

Portage, IN


As I was finishing up my degree in theology at Dordt University, I began to consider seminary. Western’s emphasis on formation of the whole person, developing pastor-theologians, the personable staff and faculty, and the beautiful campus in the heart of Holland drew me here. Between class lectures, assigned readings, and interactions with classmates, these first two months have been an engaging learning environment. I am grateful to be here and look forward to the learning and growth still to come!

Anna Christians

Sioux Center, IA


My wife Francis and I are so pleased to be here at Western. We planned this 5 years ago and finally made it. We have been blessed since we arrived with the people we have met, the studies and learning, and our teaching church. We are looking forward to growing in relationship with people and continuing our journey on God’s path.

Peter Wilkinson

Temecula, CA



For more Fall news, read our Commons Newsletter here!


The Samuel Williams Scholarship for Scholars of Color.

This full-tuition scholarship goes to a student of color who will enroll full time in the in-residence Master of Divinity program. The student must have a commitment to advance justice and reconciliation and be committed to ministry. The scholarship is named after Samuel Williams, one of the first two African-American graduates of WTS (1951) and the recipient of the distinguished alumnus award in 2000. Over a 39 year ministry spanning the Jim Crow South, urban poverty in California, rural Illinois, and the Dutch community of Holland, MI, Sam was a faithful, caring, courageous witness to the power of Christ to transform lives.





The Elsie Wen-Hua Shih Law Award for Excellence in Female Leadership.

This full-tuition scholarship goes to a female student who will enroll full time in the in-residence Master of Divinity program. The student must be dedicated to advancing the leadership of women in all areas of church and mission and be committed to ministry. The scholarship is named after Elsie Wen-Hua Shih Law, the first female student to graduate from Western Theological Seminary (1963). She was a gifted Christian teacher, academic dean, pastor’s spouse, dedicated RN, charge nurse, and the founding Director of Nursing Services for the award-winning Kin On, the nation’s first multilingual Chinese-American nursing home catering to the unique cultural and dietary needs of Asian elders.





The Boerigter Grant covers both tuition and living expenses for one year and is available for an in-residence M.Div. student. The recipient must feel called to be a pastor in the Reformed tradition. A student of color will receive priority. The grant is named after George Boerigter, a 1966 graduate of the seminary who spent several years as a pastor bringing his business savvy to ministry, and then went into business, bringing his ministerial skills to his work in the marketplace, most notably at his company, SoundOff Signal. George and his wife, Sibilla, are committed to the concept of lifelong ministry, whatever context in which they find themselves.




Apply by January 15, 2021 for full scholarship consideration

Contact our Admissions Team at admissions@westernsem.edu with any questions.