Pastor. Father. Leader. Advocate.
Rev. Bryan Berghoef is a pastor, a father to four children, a loving husband, a leader in the community, and an advocate for those in need.
Bryan’s passion for justice, his compassion for the well-being of all of his neighbors, and his ability to inspire through word and action are what set him apart as a candidate for Congress.
He has a proven ability to listen to people across the political spectrum, find common ground, and work for the common good. This is exactly the kind of political leadership we need today. Bryan is ready to listen. Bryan is ready to lead.
Born in Grand Rapids, Bryan is a West Michigan native. He grew up in Coopersville and Sparta and has now called Holland home for almost ten years. He has fond memories of spending time in favorite spots along the Lake Michigan shoreline in Grand Haven, Norton Shores, Muskegon, and Ludington. He also attended summer camp for years on Stony Lake, near Shelby. “I learned how to swim, shoot a rifle, use a bow and arrow, start a good fire, and cook my own meals at summer camp and at Cadet gatherings.”
Growing up as a member of the Christian Reformed Church, he was taught values like grace, compassion, and caring for one’s neighbors. Attending Cadet gatherings and campouts he learned how to have a strong work ethic, how to be part of a team and how to deepen his faith. Well into voting age and beyond, Bryan identified as a conservative, Republican voter, and helped get out the vote for George H. W. Bush and Bob Dole.
While studying as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, during a time when he was an active member of the College Republicans, Bryan sensed a call to ministry, wanting to help people develop their spiritual lives. “I saw how others had poured their lives into me, and I wanted to be someone who did the same for others.”
Bryan eventually enrolled at Calvin Theological Seminary, where he met his wife Christy, also a student there. Upon completion of a Master of Divinity degree, Bryan was ordained in the Christian Reformed Church, and has pastored churches in Holland, Traverse City, and Washington DC. He has been ordained for 15 years, initially in the Christian Reformed Church, and now in the United Church of Christ.
It was during the War in Iraq when Bryan began to wonder about the fusion of nationalism and violence and how that squared with his faith, which centered on following someone who taught his followers to live in peace. “I began to sense a disconnect with what I was reading in the Gospels and what I was seeing in the newspapers, and that opened the door for me to ask questions about how other values I held were being represented in the political arena.”
“I decided I wanted to know more about what other people thought—especially people who had different backgrounds than I did.” This compassionate curiosity led Bryan to found a Pub Theology group in Traverse City—a place for adherents of various religions or no religion, and of varying political persuasions to gather around the table for open and respectful dialogue.
“It was in conversation with Catholics and Baptists, Muslims and atheists, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, that I began to realize that a lot of the views I had toward people with such identities were rooted in stereotypes and misinformation. Here were humans with many of the same values and concerns that I had. I found that sitting at the same table allowed us to discover the common humanity in each other, and—despite some real differences—discover our shared values.”
Bryan has been facilitating these conversations for ten years around the country. He wrote a book about his experience and helps curate content for hundreds of Pub Theology groups across the U.S. “It’s a simple idea really: open conversation where all perspectives are welcome. I’ve found that when people sit down and talk with each other—good things happen. And this constant engagement of ideas and perspectives has widened the lens through which I see the world.”
In 2016 Bryan founded Holland United Church of Christ, the first UCC congregation in Holland. Holland UCC has been active on justice issues and is a growing force for good in Ottawa County.
Inspired by the life of Jesus, Bryan seeks to create space for those who have been left out, to advocate for those who are disadvantaged, and to create communities of people who want to bring goodness into the world. In doing so, he became acutely aware of various systems that are broken, unjust, and in desperate need of reimagining and repair. Alongside other faith and community leaders across West Michigan, he advocates for change to many of the systems that are harmful to people—harmful particularly to those who are already struggling.
Bryan’s values and faith compel him to recognize the inherent dignity and worth of every human. He is running for Congress because he continually witnesses how many people's voices are not heard and needs not addressed. Bryan adamantly maintains that the dignity of a person should not be determined by the amount of money in their wallet. By refusing corporate PAC money, he is demonstrating that he will not be bound to corporate interests once elected. Big money influencing our politics is one of the greatest corruptors of democracy, influencing nearly every issue and contributing to our growing wealth inequality.
Throughout his campaign, Bryan will raise the thoughtfulness and intelligence of political discourse in Michigan's Second District. He is passionate about elevating truth and taking a deep dive into the complexities of the issues—complexities too often ignored in favor of shallow sound bites.