Dr. Steven Timmermans, college president, licensed psychologist, doctor of philosophy, and professor of education, is the nominee to be the next executive director of the Christian Reformed Church.
In a wide-ranging interview with the denomination’s Board of Trustees, Timmermans, 56, said he sees a lot of change ahead for the CRC. “I see us considerably different in terms of organizational structure, organized in new ways to address ministry that appears to be the most apparent in today’s society,” he said. “But we are Reformed Christians. We’ve embraced this theology that we are change agents.”
Timmermans has been a member of the Board of Trustees for the past two years, so he is aware of the work of the Strategic Planning and Adaptive Change Team, the Task Force to Review Structure and Culture, and staff realignment within the denominational offices under a three-year period of interim leadership by Rev. Joel Boot and Rev. Peter Borgdorff.
“What I’ve noticed,” he said, “is that in this unexpected and longer-than-hoped for search [for a new leader], a lot of good things have been done, thinking about how we do church together. The Lord has used the interim period to further that change.”
Timmermans readily admitted he has a lot of learning to do, particularly in the area of binationality. “I truly need to understand more from a Canadian perspective what the different agendas are that we find all in one denomination,” he said. He expressed appreciation for how Canada has dealt with plurality in a way the U.S. has just begun to think about.
Timmermans is currently president of Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Ill., a position he has held since 2003. Prior to that, he was at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., where he was a professor of education, a dean for instruction, and executive associate to the president.
Timmermans is not an ordained minister. However, Synod 2013 ruled that an exception could be made to nominate a non-clergy candidate. According to the six-member search committee, he fits within the exception category allowed by synod because of his extensive experience in denominational and congregational activities.
He said he knows that some people will think having an educator instead of a pastor as the executive director is not the way it is supposed to be. However, he said, the denomination has a whole host of members, the great majority of whom are pew sitters. “There is something good about this too,” he said, “about all the gifts we gather together for the good of the church.”
Timmermans and his wife, Barb, have been married for 36 years. They have seven children ages 15 to 30. Three of their children are adopted from Ethiopia, and one of their biological children has Down syndrome. “There are differences that are cultural and those are real, and they have to respected and addressed but cloaked in unity,” he said. “What I’ve learned is how to take a step back and try to understand, how not to jump to conclusions.”
Asked what his greatest fears are for this job, he said, “I’m more fearful of all the things that are reverberating around the denomination, how to step in to those things trusting and respecting people I do not yet know.”
Timmermans and his family are members of Loop Christian Reformed Church in Chicago, where Timmermans has been a worship planner, youth leader, and catechism teacher. He is also a member of the Chicago area Disability Concerns committee.
Timmermans will be interviewed by Synod 2014, the annual leadership meeting of the Christian Reformed Church, before his appointment is approved.
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