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Illinois Pastor Nominated for Seminary President

Rev. Julius Medenblik, pastor of New Life Christian Reformed Church in New Lenox, Ill., has been nominated to be the next president of Calvin Theological Seminary (CTS), by that institution’s board. His nomination, also endorsed by the denomination’s Board of Trustees, must be approved by Synod 2010 (the annual leadership meeting of the CRC).

Medenblik, 49, has been a pastor for 15 years, after a short career in civil law in Florida. Following his graduation from CTS, Medenblik planted the New Life congregation and has been there ever since, leading a church that has grown from four members to more than 700.

Medenblik served as president of the CTS board during the time the curriculum was overhauled in 2009. “I had the opportunity to help set and affirm that direction,” he said. “I have great appreciation for the current trajectory [of the seminary] and look to continue that.”

At the same time, he said the seminary needs to continue to develop its diversity in students and faculty, and seek opportunities to speak to a wider world. “I hope that as the curriculum has been redesigned, we will have an opportunity to share with a wider pool of students and invite them into life at the seminary.”

He also noted that many of the faculty members will be retiring over the next 10 years. “That is an opportunity we have with the community,” he said. He hopes to continue developing a seminary that “both respects scholarship and also respects and honors the work of local church pastors.”

Being only 15 years out of seminary himself, Medenblik says that will help him relate to seminarians, especially to those who come to the ministry as a second career.

He has also been part of wider denominational life. In addition to serving on the seminary board, he served as chair of the board of the CRC Loan Fund. He was the church planting and development team leader for Christian Reformed Home Missions, and was a delegate to three synods. He has also lived in several different regions of the U.S. and Canada, including Michigan, Illinois, Florida, and Alberta.

Medenblik has a master of divinity degree and a doctorate in law, but not a Ph.D. in a theology related field, an issue that was addressed by representatives of the seminary’s presidential search committee, Rev. Mariano Avila and Doug Kool, when Medenblik was interviewed by the denomination’s Board of Trustees.

Avila said the committee developed a profile of what they were looking for in a president before any nominations were received. “A great part of the profile had to do with administrative, pastoral, and entrepreneurial qualities,” he said. “Those things were highlighted in the profile, [given] new emphasis.”

Kool said the lack of a theology-related Ph.D. was the “elephant in the room” that was addressed by current seminary president Rev. Cornelius Plantinga Jr. “When [Plantinga] looked at the declining enrollment, lack of development, he said it was time for an ‘ecclesiastical entrepreneur,’ and his endorsement was in that direction.”

Kool noted that the seminary faculty also endorsed the nomination of Medenblik unanimously.

“I hope to be able to bridge the academic environment and passion at the seminary with the local church. I have great opportunity to come in with fresh eyes, with my experience and background,” Medenblik said in an interview. “I see a great role for the president related to advancement and raising the seminary’s profile in the church. I can be a bridge builder and connector.”

He told the Board of Trustees, “As a lawyer, I was an advocate. Now I can be an advocate for the seminary.”

About the Author

Gayla Postma is news editor for The Banner.

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