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Calvin Board Stands by Homosexuality Statement


After its October meeting, the Calvin College board of trustees said it regrets the confusion and distress caused by its recent statement about homosexuality, but it did not withdraw the statement as the faculty had requested.

The board’s statement, written in May and issued in August, said that “advocacy by faculty and staff, both in and out of the classroom, for homosexual practice and same-sex marriage is unacceptable.”

That touched off a significant controversy, as faculty felt college policy had been unilaterally changed without normal processes and that academic freedom was being threatened (see Banner, October 2009).

In late September, the faculty senate voted 36-4 to ask the board to withdraw the May memo and return to its 2008 position: that faculty, administration, and board trustees need to talk about how best to address homosexuality in teaching, writing, and speaking (see Banner, November 2009).

The response from the board to that request read, in part, “Although we did not intend the [2009] statement to change existing policy, we understand why many felt it did.” But the statement was not withdrawn.

The board also reaffirmed that its position reflects the Christian Reformed Church’s position on homosexuality—that homosexual orientation is not a sin, but homosexual practice is.

It also called for the formation of a new “Special Committee of Board Members” to revisit the 2009 statement, to investigate how to better articulate the college’s position.

That didn’t seem to clear up the confusion. “People were trying to find out the status of the 2009 memo,” said Karin Maag, who serves as vice chair of the Calvin faculty senate. “[College] president [Gaylen] Byker seemed to indicate that the May 2009 memo is still in effect.”

Still, faculty seemed encouraged by the board’s willingness to discuss the issue.

“I think it’s healthy to take things more slowly, in the sense that a snap decision was made in May, so let’s not make another snap decision,” Maag said.

The board’s committee will also study whether synod (the church’s annual leadership meeting) should decide if the CRC’s position on homosexuality is a doctrinal issue.

Calvin College, a liberal arts school located in Grand Rapids, Mich., is owned by the Christian Reformed Church.

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