Calvin Theological Seminary Retirees

Date Published

September 15, 2022

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Published by Calvin Seminary


Dr. John Rottman began his teaching ministry as Professor of Preaching at Calvin Seminary in 2004, after having served for many years as a church pastor.

During his time at Calvin Seminary, Dr. Rottman has been an advocate for preachers to show, not just tell. He has been a
proponent of using God-active language to emphasize that God keeps His covenantal promises to His people. The Four-Page Method was a grammar Dr. Rottman used to help students learn to see trouble in the text and trouble in the world, but also see grace in the text and grace in the world.

The emphasis on the grace of God is key to understanding Dr. Rottman’s deep involvement in and stewardship of what is now known as the Calvin Prison Initiative (CPI). Dr. Rottman was the first professor who taught an enrichment class at Handlon Correctional Facility. The class he taught was Dying and Rising in Christ. He has continued to be deeply involved in the development of CPI and has helped turn a prison known for violence into a place where the name of Christ is lifted up and lives are being transformed by grace.

Dr. Rottman’s emphasis on elements of basic discipleship like prayer and visiting the prisoner have been examples for others to follow. He has come beside students who did not think they could communicate God’s grace, and has given them guidance on how to be conduits of God’s grace.

Thank you for your teaching, Dr. Rottman, and your training of the heart. Calvin Seminary was and is blessed by you.



Dr. Mariano Avila came to Calvin Seminary via Mexico and Miami, and began his teaching ministry in 2001 as a Professor of New Testament.

During his twenty-one years of ministry at the seminary, Dr. Avila has been known for his hospitality, compassion, empathy, and the trips he led to Mexico City on the topic of shalom. His desire for all those who travel to get to know him and to understand the biblical imperative to seek justice has been evident. Looking back on his experiences at the seminary, he says that “students were always the best part of my time at CTS. I learned from them and had the privilege to be a part of their formation for the many ministries they represent.”

After many years of prayer and developing relationships in the West Michigan area, Dr. Avila started a class of forty Latino/a pastors from across the denominational and theological spectrum. The group studied the letter to the Ephesians, focusing on the theme of unity in Christ and through Christ. Through this initial class, Dr. Avila became the founding director of the Latino/a Ministry Program at Calvin Seminary. The Latino/a Ministry Program has grown to become a well-established program that is widely recognized and appreciated. “Opening doors that had previously been closed has been a blessing for the Latino/a community; Calvin Seminary is now known for welcoming Latino/a pastors and leaders,” Dr. Avila reflected when thinking about highlights from his tenure at CTS.

Dr. Avila was a shepherd pastor during the pandemic and showed deep concern for students and the churches they came from. Thank you, Dr. Avila, for being such a remarkable teacher, mentor, and a pastor to pastors.



Dr. Lyle Bierma’s career encompasses forty-two years of faithful teaching and working with students. He initially taught at Reformed Bible College (now known as Kuyper College) for nineteen years, and then accepted a position at Calvin Seminary, where he taught for the next twenty-three years. At Calvin, Dr. Bierma followed in the footsteps of President Emeritus Neal Plantinga in teaching Systematic Theology, and later succeeded Professor Emeritus Richard Muller as the P.J. Zondervan Professor of the History of Christianity Chair. Over the years, he also served as dean of faculty and director of the PhD program.

Dr. Bierma’s inspired teaching on baptism, the Heidelberg Catechism and the confessions have served generations of students. His years of teaching ministry at Calvin Seminary have been marked by kindness, collegiality, efficiency, and using his gift of administration with fairness, care and concern. When asked to share a highlight of his tenure at CTS, Dr. Bierma said: “I can’t point to just one highlight from the past twenty-three years. The whole experience of doing something I love at a place I love with people I love for the cause of Christ and his church has been one big highlight in itself.”

In addition to serving at Calvin Seminary, Dr. Bierma has served within and beyond the Christian Reformed denomination. He served on the Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations Committee (EIRC) and participated in dialogue with Roman Catholics for nearly a decade. He has been an example of a winsome Reformed witness in such dialogues and gatherings.

When reflecting on his years at CTS, Dr. Bierma shared that he will miss “the daily rhythms of seminary life: class preps, research, writing, and conversations in my office; engagement with students in the classroom; interaction with faculty, staff, and administrators throughout the building; chapel services; community events; even faculty meetings, believe it or not!”



In May, Calvin Theological Seminary hosted “Thanksgiving in May” to celebrate the end of the academic year and to honor staff who were retiring. During the event, Bob Knoor, Director of Development, shared these words about Jean Garehan, Gift Processing Coordinator, who retired after thirty years of faithful service to the Development Office and CTS.

“As I reflect on Jean and her contributions to CTS over the years, I keep coming back to a visual of Jean in her work space. Jean’s work space is arranged with a front counter that holds two bowls she keeps fully stocked with chocolates and mints.

Every day, when faculty, staff or students pass by, they pause at Jean’s front counter. They rest their elbows on the counter and reach for a mint as Jean asks them how they are doing. Jean makes time to check in on everyone. Jean is truly a connector.

For the last thirty years, these brief but important moments have happened every day over and over again. These interactions often extend to former students or former colleagues who make a point of stopping by to say hello to Jean. I’ve even noticed that donors drop off checks in person, not because they don’t trust the mail but because they want to see Jean in person.

Jean’s connections over the years have evolved into strong relationships that extend far beyond the walls of CTS. When Mitch, Jul and I are out and about in North America, our donors always ask how Jean is doing, or tell us about a recent conversation they have had with her. Jean is always there to take care of them but also share a laugh or a story about a grandchild.

All of these interactions add up to a beautiful thirty year ministry.

We are grateful for your thousands of front counter moments that taken in total have worked to draw our CTS staff, faculty, students and donors closer together. Well done, Jean!”

Thank you for your many years of service, Jean, and your heart for the ministry
and mission of Calvin Seminary!



Jim Lakin started serving as the seminary’s Facilities Manager in 2008 and has served in this capacity for fourteen years. Jim has played a critical role in the maintenance of the CTS office building facility, student housing, parsonage, and automobiles. In addition, Jim has provided leadership in ensuring the safety of students, faculty and staff, not only through safety training but also through maintaining safety codes throughout the building. During the time of the CTS building renovation, Jim’s expertise
in construction was invaluable when it came to interacting with contractors and overseeing the renovation as the CTS point person. As he retires, he leaves behind a welcoming and beautifully designed interior that is supported by a new HVAC, boiler, elevator, and a backup power generator, thanks to the generosity of many donors. Jim also worked closely with a student crew that helped clean the seminary building and set up for events, and in the summer helped clean and paint student housing. Jim saw his work with the student crew and with his colleagues as a ministry, often starting the day’s work with a brief meeting and prayers.

Beyond his official role as the Facilities Manager, Jim excelled in ministering to the community through hospitality, ranging from impromptu ice cream or popcorn treats, to pancakes and French toast, to cereal and much, much more. Many at CTS will hold fond memories of Jim’s gift of hospitality.

As he approached the end of his career at Calvin Seminary Jim, being the prolific outdoors enthusiast that he is, purchased a camper to continue his outdoor adventures of camping, fishing, hunting, and hiking.

Looking back at his time here at Seminary and looking ahead, Jim offered the following words: “It has been a privilege to have served at Calvin Seminary these fourteen plus years! I am leaving the Seminary Building in better condition than
I found it, and I have made lasting friendships and accomplished many goals to make the seminary a better learning/working environment for students, faculty and staff. I will miss the fellowship with my fellow colleagues! Dawn and I are looking forward to this new chapter in our lives as we travel the US visiting family and friends along the way. Blessings to you all!”

Jim Lakin, the CTS community thanks you for serving us all so well. We pray a blessing on you and your family as you take this next step.


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