Skip to main content

Synod Instructs Calvin University On Faculty Gravamen Process

Chris deWinter, Classis B.C. South-East, reporter for the committee addressing Calvin University matters.
Steven Herppich

Synod 2024 instructed Calvin University’s Board of Trustees “to define the differences in Calvin’s use of ‘confessional difficulties’ in relation to the decisions of synod concerning gravamen” and to develop “language and processes in alignment” with those in the Christian Reformed Church in order to “build trust in its relationships with CRC churches.”

Earlier, Synod 2024 affirmed that “confessional-difficulty gravamina are not meant, nor should be used as an exception to the confessions” for church officebearers.

The instruction to Calvin’s board comes in response to what the committee report calls a “breakdown of trust” between the university and some church members, especially concerning agreement on the definition of “unchastity.” Synod 2022 included homosexual sex among a list of behaviors that are “unchaste” and in violation of the seventh commandment. A request to Synod 2024 (Overture 44) asked that synod “not allow Calvin University faculty to take exceptions to the Covenant for Faculty Members,” a document similar but not identical to the CRC’s Covenant for Officebearers, that lays out confessional commitments for members of the university faculty.

Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. It is meeting June 14-20 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

In response to the overture, synod took “note of Calvin's efforts to be faithful to the Reformed confessions in the context of academic inquiry” and asked Calvin’s board to report to Synod 2025 on its progress in aligning its “language and processes” with those in the CRC.

Synod 2024 also looked at a deferred request to Synod 2023 (Overture 61) that wanted the CRC to withhold funding from the university, “until faculty and staff adhere to CRCNA covenantal standards.” Synod 2024 declined to do that, as recommended by its advisory committee.

Decisions regarding the university’s process for accepting faculty’s confessional difficulties were deferred from Synod 2023. That synod’s advisory committee report on the matter was sent as a communication to Synod 2024. It recommended that “synod allow Calvin University to continue their current course of action with respect to their faculty taking exceptions to their Covenant for Faculty, while encouraging Calvin University to diligently oversee alignment with our (the CRC’s) confessional standards.”

A number of Calvin University faculty filed confessional-difficulty gravamina following Synod 2022’s ruling that the denomination’s position that homosexual sex is sin has confessional status.

Synod 2024 also took note of several reports from related educational institutions, including Calvin University, and also Dordt University, Institute for Christian Studies, The King’s University, Trinity Christian College, Kuyper College, and Redeemer University, and commended these schools for their work.

Chris DeWinter, committee chair, commended Calvin University provost Noah Toly and interim president Greg Elzinga. He also spoke favorably of the university itself. “We are grateful for their commitment to walking ‘in step’—and that is their word—with the denomination’s confessions,” said Chris DeWinter.

In receiving the report from Calvin University, synod also noted a recent announcement from Calvin’s Board of Trustees that its former president Wiebe Boer and his wife, Joanna Boer, have dropped their lawsuit against the school. According to the joint statement from the Board and the Boers, “The parties are grateful for God’s grace and wish each other well.”

In February, Boer had resigned from his position amidst allegations of “concerning and inappropriate” conduct. In April, he and Joanna Boer filed a lawsuit against Calvin University alleging breach of contract and defamation.

Synod 2024 is meeting June 14-20 at Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich. Find daily coverage from The Banner news team at Visit for the synod schedule, webcast, recordings, photos, committee reports, and liveblog. Synod is the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church.

We Are Counting on You

The Banner is more than a magazine; it’s a ministry that impacts lives and connects us all. Your gift helps provide this important denominational gathering space for every person and family in the CRC.

Give Now