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Guest Speaker Bios - 2013/14

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September 6: Chris Klein, President of USSAAC & founder of BeCOME AAC

Contact info:
President of USSAAC
email -

Chris is a graduate of Hope College and has studied at Western Theological Seminary.  This education has allowed him to speak at churches, conferences, retreats, and schools. Chris has been published in Christianity Today, which led him towrite Lessons from the Big Toe, a book about his faith journey that provides unique insights regarding God, people, and the importance of community. It challenges the reader to see those concepts from a different perspective and to examine them in their walks of faith. 

Chris Klein is a voice to those that have none and helping hand to those with disabilities, even though he was born with cerebral palsy and uses augmentative communication to help him interact with the rest of the world. He is president of USSAAC (United States Society of Augmentative Alternative Communication) and recent founder of BeCOME AAC, Building Connections with Others through Mentoring and Education about AAC.


October 18: Chris Dorsey, Western Theological Seminary

ChrisProfessor Bernard "Chris" Dorsey first came to Western as the 2011-12 Faculty Fellow, teaching in the areas of theology and urban ministry. An ordained minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), he holds a Master of Divinity degree from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and a Graduate Certificate in African Studies from Northwestern University. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in theology at the University of Chicago where he is completing his dissertation on traditional medicine in Senegal with a focus on exploring the hermeneutics of healing.

Professor Dorsey has served in a variety of ministerial capacities including: VP of Development and Marketing a Chicago Theological Seminary; University Chaplain at Clark Atlanta University; Senior Pastor of Woodlawn United Methodist Church, Youth Pastor at Park Manor Christian Church and Lead Chaplain for a Cook County clinic servicing patients affected by HIV/AIDS. He has taught at the University of Chicago, Dominican University, McCormick Theological Seminary, and Clark Atlanta University. His teaching experiences have included Theology, History of Christianity African American Religion, Homiletics, Religion & Medicine, African Studies and Intro to World Religions, to name a few.


October 20: Jon Brown, Pillar Church

Contact info:
Pastor Jon Brown
Office Phone: 616-392-8686 ext 4
twitter: @rooster5710

Jonathon Brown is the Lead Pastor of Pillar Church in Holland, MI.  Pillar Church was the first church established in the city of Holland in 1847.  In 1882 there was a major split between the RCA and the CRC that occurred at Pillar and prompted Pillar to leave the RCA and join the CRC.  In the recent past Pillar experienced significant decline and considered closing its doors.  Today, by a wonderful work of God’s spirit, Pillar Church is a thriving, dual-affiliation congregation of both denominations.  Jon’s heart for reconciliation beats with Pillar’s heart in this way.

Jon joined the Pillar team in the summer of 2012 after nearly 10 years as the Sr. Pastor of First Reformed Church in Oak Harbor, WA.  Oak Harbor nestled beautifully among the jagged edges of Whidbey Island in Puget Sound.  Located in the “none-zone,” where more people indicate no religious affiliation on the national census than any other state in the USA next to Oregon.  First Reformed Church enjoys the opportunity to witness to Christ in that environment.  Jon found it an incredible joy with great reward preaching in that context. 

Jon is the proud father of 3 daughters, Lydia, Tabitha and Miriah.  He and his beloved wife Kristyn have been married for 11 years.  He enjoys reading, running, golfing, watching college football, and playing with his daughters.  He has been the keynote speaker at a number of events including:  The Nicaraguan Pastors Conference of the Moravian Church, The Cascades Family Bible Camp and many events at Hope College.  He is a regular writer for the Words of Hope devotionals as well. Currently he is pursuing a Doctoral degree from Western Theological Seminary in Holland.

Urging the church forward to participate in the mission of Christ in the world is where Jon finds the deepest joy and greatest sense of purpose.  


October 23: Mark Noll,  Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at Notre Dame


Mark Noll is a graduate of Wheaton College (B.A., English), the University of Iowa (M.A., English), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (M.A., Church History and Theology) and Vanderbilt University (Ph.D., History of Christianity).  Before arriving at Notre Dame in 2006 he taught at Wheaton College, and has also taught at Harvard Divinity School, the Divinity School at the University of Chicago and Regent College, Vancouver.

His research focuses on the history of Christianity in the United States and Canada from the Great Awakening to the Civil War. Noll has published 25 books with Oxford University Press, Princeton University Press, University of North Carolina University Press, Blackwell’s and HarperCollins among others; he is the co-author or editor of an additional 25 books, and is also a published poet. Recent books include Jesus Christ and the Life of the MindThe New Shape of World Christianity, God and Race in American Politics, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis and America's God, from Jonathan Edwards to Abraham LincolnHe is perhaps best known for The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, a book about anti-intellectual tendencies within the American evangelical movement.

In 1994, Noll co-signed Evangelicals and Catholics Together, an ecumenical document that expressed the need for greater cooperation between Evangelical and Catholic leaders. In 2005, Time Magazine named him as one of the twenty-five most influential evangelicals in America; in 2006 President George W. Bush awarded him the National Endowment for the Humanities medal at a White House ceremony.


November 4: Kristin Palacios, University of Notre Dame

11/4Rev. Kristin E. Palacios is a graduate of Calvin College (B.S., Physics) and Calvin Theological Seminary (M.Div., Th.M.). She is currently a Ph.D. student in Old Testament at the University of Notre Dame. She is also an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church, as is her husband, Rev. Dominic Palacios. Dominic currently serves at Harderwyk CRC on the north side of Holland. 






November 10: Clayton Smith, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary


Rev. Dr. Clayton J. Schmit is currently provost for the School of Theology at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina.  Before coming to LTSS he was Professor of Preaching at Fuller Theological Seminary where he taught Homiletics and courses in Liturgical Arts.  He is an accomplished choral music director and published composer.  Rev. Schmit has published several books including Praying the Hours in Ordinary Life (co-authored with Lauralee Farrer, 2010), Sent and Gathered: A Worship Manual for the Missional Church (2009), Too Deep for Words: A Theology of Liturgical Expression (2002), and Public Reading of Scripture (2002). 
His areas of expertise include research, writing, preaching, composing and worship.



November 20: Sandra Nikkel, Ministry Coordinator, Grand Rapids East Classis

Sandra is Hispanic-American, bilingual and bicultural. She grew up in Central America
and became a Christian in her second year of Law School. She left Law School to
pursue theological education at Reformed Bible College (Now Kuyper College). She
graduated with a Bachelor in Religious Education and a minor in New Testament
Greek. She served the church using her gifts of teaching, preaching, and mentoring
and after raising 3 children she returned to complete her Masters in Divinity at Western
Theological Seminary, in Holland, Michigan. She graduated in May of 2012. Sandra
is the pastor of the multicultural service at Eastern Avenue CRC. She also serves as
the Ministry Coordinator for the Grand Rapids East Classis. She is passionate about
preaching, equipping the church, making disciples, and prayer. She created CAPS
(Christian Accessing the Power of the Spirit) which is a 10-week prayer manual for the
purpose of expanding and deepening our dependence on the Spirit and prayer in the

January 23: Ken Elzinga, World Christian Lecture Series Speaker, "Doing Good by Doing Well: From Adam to Adam Smith."


KENNETH G. ELZINGA is the Robert C. Taylor Professor of Economics at the University of Virginia. In 1992, he was given the Thomas Jefferson Award, the highest honor the University of Virginia accords its faculty. Each fall, Dr. Elzinga’s introductory economics course attracts over one thousand students and is the largest class offered at the University of Virginia. His Antitrust Policy seminar, which is taught using the Socratic method, has a reputation as one of the most demanding courses in the College.

Dr. Elzinga’s major research interest is antitrust economics, especially pricing strategy and market definition. He has testified in several precedent-setting antitrust cases, and was the economic expert for the prevailing parties in three Supreme Court cases: Matsushita, Brooke Group, and LEegin. The author of more than one hundred academic publications, he also is known for three mystery novels, co-authored with William Breit (under the pen name Marshall Jevons) where the protagonist employs economic analysis to solve the crime. The novels have been used in classrooms across the country to illustrate introductory economic principles, and have been translated into seven languages. A former Fellow in Law and Economics at the University of Chicago and a Thomas Jefferson Visiting Scholar at Cambridge University, Dr. Elzinga is also a past president of the Southern Economic Association and a member of Mystery Writers of America. Dr. Elzinga has a B.A. and honorary doctorate from Kalamazoo College and a Ph.D. from Michigan State University.

February 12 : Thomas DeVries, General Secretary, Reformed Church in America

TomThe Rev. Dr. Thomas De Vries is the fifth general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, installed at the 2011 General Synod. Immediately prior to becoming general secretary, De Vries was lead pastor at Fair Haven Ministries (RCA) in Hudsonville, Michigan.
He has served the RCA at all three of its assembly levels—as classis coordinator for California classis, as regional synod executive in the Synod of the Far West, and as a General Synod Council member. He also served as RCA coordinator for multiplication and revitalization and has planted a church in Moreno Valley, California.
De Vries graduated from Wheaton College, attended Talbot Theological Seminary, and received his M.Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary. He received his D.Min. from Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon.
At Fair Haven, De Vries initiated a local ecumenical prayer gathering and helped develop the Waves of Mercy Foundation, a community development organization that launched Hand2Hand, a food ministry that currently works through 24 churches to provide meals for 700 children every weekend. Under his leadership, Fair Haven helped to start six new churches in West Michigan, Philadelphia, and San Antonio.

February 16 : Kristin Palacios, University of Notre Dame

11/4Rev. Kristin E. Palacios is a graduate of Calvin College (B.S., Physics) and Calvin Theological Seminary (M.Div., Th.M.). She is currently a Ph.D. student in Old Testament at the University of Notre Dame. She is also an ordained minister in the Christian Reformed Church, as is her husband, Rev. Dominic Palacios. Dominic currently serves at Harderwyk CRC on the north side of Holland. 




February 24: Denise Kingdom Grier, Maple Avenue Ministries


February 26: Mark Gignilliat, Beeson Divinity School

markMark Gignilliat has taught Hebrew, Old Testament Exegesis, and Biblical Theology at Beeson Divinity School since 2005. Before coming to Beeson, he taught at Wycliffe Hall, University of Oxford. Gignilliat published Paul and Isaiah’s Servants in 2007, Karl Barth and the Fifth Gospel: Barth’s Theological Exegesis of Isaiah in 2009 and contributed to Evangelicals and the Nicene Faith (Baker 2011). He is most recently the author of A Brief History of Old Testament Criticism (Zondervan 2012). He has published articles in journals such as Scottish Journal of Theology, Biblica, The Journal for Theological Interpretation, Zeitschrift für die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, and International Journal of Systematic Theology. Gignilliat serves as Canon Theologian at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham. He is married to Naomi and they have three sons.





March 2: Brian Aulick, Engedi Church

BrianBrian is Engedi’s lead pastor and teacher. Before he came to Engedi, Brian was the pastor of young adults at Central Wesleyan Church for five years. He received his Bachelor of Science in business from Indiana University in 1997 and his Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 2000. He and his wife, Christina, have two sons, Jared and Evan, and a daughter, Kaylyn.






March 3: Russel Botman, Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University

RusselProfessor Hayman Russel Botman is Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University (SU), one of South Africa’s leading higher-education institutions. He was appointed in 2007, and reappointed for a second term in 2012. He also serves as a Director of Higher Education South Africa, a Vice-President of the Association of African Universities, and Chairperson of the Cape Town World Design Capital 2014 Board.

He is a proponent of the idea that science should drive Africa’s development, and has been the prime mover behind SU’s HOPE Project, a science-for-society initiative through which the institution is working to eradicate poverty, promote human dignity and health, entrench democracy and human rights, strengthen peace and security, and balance a sustainable environment with a competitive industry.

Professor Botman holds a PhD in Theology from the University of the Western Cape (UWC), and in 2013 received the Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Theology and Public Life, awarded by Princeton Theological Seminary. As a theologian, he has published widely on human rights, reconciliation, human dignity, the Belhar Confession and social justice.

March 5 :Father Charlie Brown, St. Francis de Sales

Fr. Charlie Brown is the Pastor of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church in Holland. He has served there since July, 2003. Fr. Charlie loves the special connection that exists between St. Francis de Sales Parish and Hope College. The parish is enriched by the presence of so many students and faculty that make St. Francis their home. Fr. Charlie also enjoys the active and energetic faith life, outreach and worship of the large multicultural congregation at St. Francis. He feels that it is a special gift to be able to be part of a parish where diversity is not seen as an obstacle to be overcome but rather as a gift from God to be celebrated. Fr. Charlie was ordained in 1993 after completing his Master of Divinity at Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas.

March 6: Dr. Os Guinness

osThursday, March 6, 4:00pm in Winants Auditorium, Graves Hall, Dr. Os Guinness will be our Christian Speaker.  He is a writer and speaker living in Northern Virginia. He was born in China during World War II and remained there until 1951 when the communists forced most foreigners to leave. Since then he has lived mostly in England, Switzerland, and the United States. 

Educated in England, Os did undergraduate studies at the University of London, and postgraduate studies at University of Oxford where he graduated with a D.Phil in the social sciences from Oriel College. He has written or edited more than twenty books, including The American Hour (Free Press, 1993), The Call (Word 1998), Time for Truth, and Long Journey Home (Doubleday, September 2001). 

His deep concern is to bridge the chasm between academic knowledge and popular knowledge, taking things that are academically important and making them intelligible and practicable to a wider audience, especially as they concern matters of public policy.

April 4: Jonathan Brenneman, Christian Peacemaker Corps

jonJonathan Brenneman is a member of the Christian Peacemaker Teams’ Peacemaker Corps, and lives and works part of each year in Hebron, the West Bank. Jonathan is from St. Marys, Ohio, and has a degree in history and philosophy from Huntington University in Indiana.

Christian Peacemaker Teams is a broad-based ecumenical network of people from around the world who partner with nonviolent movements in conflict zones. CPT has been working in the West Bank for nineteen years.  After joining CPT in 2012, Jonathan moved to Hebron and worked with Palestinian and Israeli peacemakers in efforts to protect Masafer Yatta, an area of the South Hebron Hills in which eight Palestinian villages are threatened with eviction by the Israeli government, which is attempting to use the land as a military training ground.

Earlier this year, after returning to the United States to see his family, Jonathan was denied re-entry into Israel. During three attempts to re-enter over the next weeks, Jonathan was questioned for hours at a time, asked to trace his family lineage (Jonathan has Palestinian heritage), asked to prove his religion, strip-searched, and informed that his work with CPT (well-recognized in Israel and elsewhere) was preventing him from gaining permission to cross the border.

Jonathan is responding to these events by organizing speaking tours throughout the United States, where he discusses the struggles of nonviolent movements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the activities of the Israeli government, peacemaking efforts and what U.S. residents can do to help.

April 9: Father Damian J. Ference

FerenceRev. Damian J. Ference graduated from Borromeo Seminary/John Carroll University in 1998 and Saint Mary Seminary in 2003.  Ordained a priest for the diocese of Cleveland, he served as parochial vicar at Saint Mary Parish in Hudson, Ohio from 2003-2007 and earned a licentiate in philosophy at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC in 2009.  He writes regularly for Fr. Robert Barron’s Word on Fire blog, and his articles have appeared in America, Catholic Universe Bulletin, Commonweal, Dappled Things, Emmanuel,, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Human Development, Pastoral Life, Seminary Journal, The Plain Dealer, The Priest, U.S. Catholic and Worship.  He is also a lifetime member of the Flannery O’Connor Society.  Currently Fr. Ference is part of the formation faculty at Borromeo Seminary, where he is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy.  He is also the founder and director of {TOLLE LEGE} summer institute at Borromeo Seminary.