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Certifying Fitness for Ministry

March 2, 2021 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

“Understanding Theological Education” Colloquy Looks at the Certificate of Fitness

On Tuesday, March 2, at 12:00 noon, the Reformed Church Center will host its fifth and final colloquy in the “Understanding Theological Education in the RCA” series for the 2020-21 academic year. 

One of the central features of RCA theological education since the appointment of John Henry Livingston as professor of theology in 1784 has been a certificate: a formal letter from the professors of theology to a candidate’s classis—prior to 1800, it went to the Provisional Synod as the examining body—testifying that, in the opinion of the professors, the candidate has completed the necessary requirements to be examined for licensure and ordination. Indeed, neither theological seminary granted academic degrees until relatively recently; the certificate was the indication that the student had done the work.

Since the 1980s, that certificate has been called the “Certificate of Fitness for Ministry.” The question then becomes one of just what that means. Is fitness for ministry uniform across the various RCA classes? If Jesus is the pattern for ministry, and if we still believe in the doctrine of total depravity, can any human truly be fit for ministry? Or is the certificate merely to indicate that the student has satisfactorily completed the requirements listed in the Book of Church Order, with everything else to be determined by the licensing classis?

We will examine all of these questions as we discuss “Certifying Fitness for Ministry”. One of the people holding the office of Professor of Theology and the presidents of New Brunswick and Western Theological Seminaries will make the opening presentations before we all enter into discussion.

James Brownson is the James and Jean Cook Professor of New Testament at Western Theological Seminary, and a General Synod Professor of Theology.  He is the longest-tenured faculty person currently serving at WTS, having come in 1989.  He served as Dean from 1996 to 2004, but left when the demands of the job became too much to allow continued teaching.  He is the author of a variety of books, including a book on “Difficult Questions” which is due out from Eerdmans in several months, as well as Bible, Gender, Sexuality:  Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships, which came out in 2013.

Felix Theonugraha is President and Professor of Educational Leadership at Western Theological Seminary. He last served as Vice President for Student Life and University Services at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois. A pastor’s son who first felt a call to ministry at age nine, Felix Theonugraha was born in Indonesia to Chinese Christian parents. When Felix was 12, his father accepted a call to pastor a Mandarin-speaking congregation in the San Francisco Bay area, and the family immigrated to the United States. He majored in Psychology and English at the University of California, Berkeley, and has an M.Div. and a Ph.D. in Educational Stuides Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. 

Micah L. McCreary is President and John Henry Livingston Professor of Theology at New Brunswick Theological Seminary.  He comes to NBTS from Richmond, Virginia, where he was President and CEO of McCreary and Madison Associates, Inc., a psychological and human resources consulting firm, and Associate Professor of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Dr. McCreary holds a BS degree in engineering from the University of Michigan, an M.Div. from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology, Virginia Union University, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in counseling psychology from VCU. He has also received a number of fellowships, including the American Psychological Association Minority Fellowship, State Council of Higher Education in Virginia Fellowship, and the American Council on Education Presidential Fellowship.

We will begin our session with presentations by all three of our guests, followed by questions and discussion, planning to wrap up about 1:00 pm.

There is no charge for attending this colloquy, but participants need to register by clicking here.



March 2, 2021
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Event Category:


James Hart Brumm, Director, The Reformed Church Center