Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

G.M. Bilkes: Theological Instructor

Written by Rev. P. VanderMeyden
The Theological Education Committee is thankful to have experienced the first year in our relationship with Gerald M. Bilkes as full-time theological instructor of our ministerial students.

For some 20 years our denominational committee has been looking for some way to contribute more substantially to the education of our students. The closest thing we achieved was when, in the 1970Õs, Rev. C. Pronk and the late Rev. J. Tamminga gave supplementary instruction to students who were studying in Grand Rapids. However, since then our students have not had such regular instruction from our own ministers. We have been thankful for the work which could be done by the Committee at their Spring and Fall meetings with the students and for the tutoring done by the local pastors of the congregations where the students attended. However, we have continued to work toward a more regular and substantial input into the teaching of the students.

At Synod 1998 we were able to take a major first step toward the establishment of our own Theological Education Program. A Manual for the Theological Training Program was approved and Mr. G. M. Bilkes was appointed as a full time theological instructor of Old and New Testament. After favourable contacts with the Committee of the Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregations it was also approved by their Classis meeting, not only to have our students attend at the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary (PRTS), but also to have to have Mr. G. Bilkes teach at the Seminary as guest lecturer.

The decision was made to hire Mr. Bilkes by the denomination. The Theological Education Committee of the FRCNA, via the Grand Rapids congregation, has employed him as of November 1, 1998. The Committee has been very pleased with the development of this new venture and is proposing that Synod 1999 grant Mr. Bilkes tenure.

We are thankful for the faithful support which has been manifested by the churches for this project. In view of the ongoing monetary commitment entailed in this first stage of developing our own theological training program, this need is again commended to the prayers and love of the membership of the Free Reformed Churches. We are very grateful to the Lord for His provisions in this first year.

A separate denominational fund has been established for the purpose of supporting the employment of our theological instructor. Mr. J.D. Tamminga, serves as the treasurer of this ÒSeminary Fund.Ó The Canadian congregations are asked to remit the funds to the treasurer, (1324 Rosseau Place, Burlington,ON, L7P-3N2), while the U.S. churches, to minimize the exchange loss, are encouraged to send the collections marked ÒSeminary FundÓ directly to the Free Reformed Church (950 Ball Ave. NE, MI, 49503), Grand Rapids.

After a few months of preparation, Mr. Bilkes began lecturing at the Seminary in February of 1999. The focus of his instruction will be in the department of Biblical Studies: that is, Old and New Testament studies. This Spring semester Mr. Bilkes taught NT Isagogics (Introduction), Biblical Theology and Hermeneutics (principles of interpretation). This first semester has progressed well and the students have greatly appreciated the lectures of Mr. Bilkes. He will also teach a course in Archeology in the early part of the summer. In the coming Fall, with two new students arriving at the Seminary, Mr. Bilkes will probably be teaching a slightly heavier load of courses.

Every Monday at noon we have been getting together, Mr. Bilkes, myself and the students, for lunch, theological Òtable talk,Ó and prayer. These are very helpful times of fellowship. As we anticipate starting a new school year at the end of August, we would ask the churches: please remember our students and their professors in your personal and family prayers.

As a footnote we may add that Mr. Bilkes hopes to be married, the Lord willing, this July 3rd to Miss Michelle Timmer, a teacher at Plymouth Christian (Elementary) School. We extend to them our congratulations and best wishes for the richest blessings of the Lord as they look forward to this joyful occasion.

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