Distinguished Alumni: Wilbert (Bill) Van Dyk

Date Published

July 10, 2024

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Published by Calvin Seminary


Wilbert (Bill) Van Dyk has tirelessly served the Christian Reformed Church as a pastor and administrator for over 40 years, serving at three churches and Calvin Theological Seminary.

Born in April 1930 in New Jersey, Bill attended Christian schools for his entire educational career. At the age of 16, on the way home from a youth convention in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Bill felt God’s call to go into pastoral ministry. The words of Isaiah 6:8 echoed in Bill’s mind: “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” His response? “Here am I. Send me!” Throughout his ministry, this call was something Bill would return to regularly, reminding himself that God would grant him strength and courage to obey His call.

After this early call to ministry and graduating from high school, Bill began his studies at Calvin College in 1948, graduating in 1952. He continued his education at Calvin Theological Seminary, graduating in 1955 and again in 1976. Shortly before graduating from seminary, Bill married the love of his life, Elaine, in 1953, with whom he would have five children, including Leanne Van Dyk, president of Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. One of his grandchildren, Rebecca Jordan Heys, is the minister of worship and pastoral care at Calvin CRC in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Reflecting on his time at Calvin Theological Seminary, Bill notes that despite the transitional period the seminary was walking through, his years at Calvin Theological Seminary were deeply formative, mainly due to the learning he engaged in with his peers. However, like many pastors, Bill’s theological and practical training wouldn’t be fully implemented until he began his ministry. Bill was ordained to ministry in the Christian Reformed Church in September 1955. Over the next forty years, Bill would serve at churches in Illinois, Florida, and Michigan before returning to Calvin Seminary to serve as Academic Dean.

Each church Bill served marked a new phase of learning and personal growth. While at Fourth Roseland CRC in Chicago, Illinois (1955–1959), Bill benefited from an established, thriving congregation that graciously aided him in developing his preaching and administrative talents, implementing the tools he’d received while in seminary. Bill’s tenure at Lake Worth CRC in Lake Worth, Florida (1959–1964) marked a season of learning how to live out 1 Corinthians 12 in the life of the church, helping a transitioning, innovative congregation work and think in a united way. His 22 years of ministry at Plymouth Heights CRC (1964–1986) marked a continued nurturing of his gifts in preaching and administration, both within the church and outside, serving on the board of trustees at Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary. During his tenure at Plymouth Heights CRC, the then-president of Calvin Seminary—Jim DeJong—approached Bill about a possible position as academic dean of the seminary. Until then, many people held the academic dean role part-time, but the seminary knew they needed someone in that role full-time. From 1986 to 1995, Bill further employed his administrative skills as academic dean of Calvin Seminary, providing structure, organization, and systems to the academic operations of the seminary. Bill retired in 1995, having served God’s people for 40 years across four pastoral and administrative positions.

Throughout his ministry, Bill actively served on a variety of denominational boards. He was a board member of World Mission and World Renew (previously known as the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, or CRWRC) and board president of the Calvin Theological Seminary board of trustees. He also served as a delegate to Synod several times, chairing study committees on topics such as marriage and divorce.

For Bill, retirement didn’t signify the end of ministry. Instead, it opened doors for parttime teaching positions at Calvin Seminary, Reformed Theological College in Australia, and numerous contexts across East Africa and Mexico. Bill instructed students in homiletics, pastoral care, and preaching in these teaching contexts. Both before and after retirement, Bill actively contributed to scholarly and denominational conversation, publishing Belonging: An Introduction to the Faith and Life of the Christian Reformed Church in 1982 and then Reading in the Books of the Apocrypha in 2014, along with several monographs on topics such as infant baptism and stewardship.

Reflecting on his years in ministry and service to the church, Bill notes the role of the Holy Spirit in leading the church and each congregation. In a world where immediate answers, conflict, and disagreement are predominant, the Holy Spirit’s presence demands that congregations wait, pray, hope, listen, and explore different issues together. Instead of leaving a church at the first sign of conflict, there is great value in seeking God’s will together. Bill’s life is marked by this same instruction—listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit’s guidance and call in life and ministry and trusting Him to give strength, courage, and grace to obey in abundant and difficult seasons, all to the glory of God.


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