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Mid-America and the Reformed Churches of New Zealand

Glenda Faye Mathes

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” says the apostle in Romans 10:15, quoting the prophet Isaiah. Over the past 40 years, Mid-America Reformed Seminary has been in the business of making beautiful, so to speak, the feet of those who desire to labor in and for the church of Jesus Christ, found in all corners of the world, by training them to preach the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. A good number of the feet that have entered and walked about the grounds of this institution have come all the way from “Down Under,” where they have walked the beaches, hiked the hills, and strolled the streets of one of the most beautiful countries in the world—New Zealand.

Mid-America has enjoyed a steady stream of “Kiwi” students over the years. Some graduates have also moved to New Zealand for the first time, seeking to serve in the Reformed Churches of New Zealand (RCNZ). Eight alumni are currently serving as ministers in the RCNZ—Revs. Leo de Vos, Peter Kloosterman, Andre Holtslag, Erik Stolte, Albert Couperus, Aaron Warner, Joshua Flinn, and Nathaniel Rademaker—making up over a third of the ministers there. Mid-America’s student body comes predominantly from the United States and Canada, but it may surprise some that New Zealand students rank third among the countries from which MidAmerica’s students have come.

Mid-America’s longstanding ties to the RCNZ go back to Dr. Venema’s childhood when his father served the RCNZ in the pioneer days of the federation. When the newly-formed RCNZ contacted the Christian Reformed Church and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, requesting that these denominations send English-speaking ministers to help them in the 1950s, Dr. Venema’s father answered the call. He served churches of the RCNZ in Dunedin on the South Island and Bucklands Beach on the North Island. Due to the influence of ministers from both the CRC and the OPC, the RCNZ is a unique Reformed federation representing an amalgam of Reformed and Presbyterian influences. For example, the RCNZ holds to four confessional standards (the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, and the Westminster Confession of Faith) and uses the nomenclature of “session,” “presbytery,” and “synod” for its narrower and broader assemblies. When Dr. Venema attended the Synod of the RCNZ in 2017, he noted that the presence of RCNZ students at Mid-America was one of the unexpected joys of God’s providence during his time at the seminary.

This past October, we had the pleasure of welcoming back on campus Rev. Andre Holtslag (’07) and his wife Anita, joining Rev. Daniel Wilson of the RCNZ and his wife, Raewyn. The purpose of their visit was to meet with RCNZ student Jae Kim as “deputies for students to the ministry” to discuss his spiritual life and well-being, his academic progress, his relationship with his fellow students, faculty, and local congregation, and to address any needs or concerns. Such on-campus visits typically occur once during each RCNZ student’s time at Mid-America. They are part of assessing students’ suitability for ministry and making preliminary arrangements for a vicariate, a year-long internship in one of the NZ congregations after graduation. Jae is in his senior year of the Master of Divinity program. He plans to return to NZ with his wife Jinny and their son Judah upon graduation in 2023 to begin a vicariate. This visit was an encouraging and refreshing time for the Kims, who have been away from home for the last two years.

In addition to spending time with the Kims, Revs. Wilson and Holtslag sat in on classes, each brought a chapel message to the seminary community, and met with the faculty to discuss Jae’s progress and matters relating to the RCNZ and its ongoing relationship with Mid-America. Through their visit and interest in the work of Mid-America, we were reminded tangibly of our partnership with churches throughout the world, including those in New Zealand, in preparing our students to make disciples from among all nations.

Source: Mid-America Reformed Seminary