Tribute to Jim Bratt

Among all of us who are currently members of the Perspectives editorial team and board, no one can recall an edition of the magazine or a board meeting that did not involve Jim Bratt. Since 1998 Jim has worked at most every level of the operation, including as one of the main editors across the last half-dozen years. In short Jim has been involved with Perspectives for most of the years since this journal joined forces with the former Reformed Journal in the early 1990s.

But his years of service also mean that Jim has had as great an influence as anyone in setting the direction of the magazine. Through his diligence and creativity, Jim has been a leader both in cultivating original articles and in securing outstanding pieces through his paying careful attention to papers presented at the many professional conferences and seminars he attends. Whenever Jim heard a provocative speech or presentation, he made a point to contact the speaker to ask if he or she would be willing to have the paper published in Perspectives, thus providing us with a steady trove of rich content. And, of course, when Jim was not directly working for Perspectives, he was continuing his work as professor of history at Calvin College and achieving significant accomplishments like securing a 2009 Fulbright Scholarship (in the same year when his son was likewise awarded a Fulbright!).

Those of us who have had the privilege of serving on the Board of Editors with Jim know him to be a rich source of information on the history of the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America as well as on the history of both The Reformed Journal and Perspectives. Time and again in the course of conversations at board meetings and retreats, Jim’s ability to connect the historical dots and draw connections between current-day church trends and their historical underpinnings has routinely provided all of us with insights and–true to the name of our enterprise–with also perspectives that have been useful for the planning of the magazine.

As much as anything, though, what most of us will remember from Jim’s years with the magazine is his great, good humor! At the center of most of the best laughs we’ve had over the years there was always Jim, who was himself either the source of the mirth or who was leading the way with his resonant, booming laugh. Who could forget Jim’s perfect two-step Dutch recipe for the proper cooking of vegetables? Step One: Cook vegetables until done. Step Two: Repeat. When he was not giving such expert culinary advice, Jim was able to find humor in the idiosyncrasies of politics and in some of the loopier practices that have beset the wider evangelical world in recent decades. But behind Jim’s humor there was no missing the razorsharp intellect that again and again was able to see clear down to the roots of so much of what happens in the contemporary church world.

Jim’s dozen years of service to Perspectives has helped to shepherd the magazine into the twenty-first century and now right up to the second decade of this century and to what will be a new day for the magazine as we prepare to re-vamp our look and enhance our online presence. Those of us who continue to work on Perspectives will sorely miss Jim’s presence but as we go forward, we do so with great gratitude for what Jim has brought to us and to our readers. We wish Jim God’s richest blessings as he continues to contribute to the Reformed tradition even as we look forward to benefitting from his incisive thinking here and elsewhere for many years to come. Thanks, Jim!