Earlier this week, Synod, the governing body of the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRCNA), took a number of actions related to recommendations of the Human Sexuality Report and other matters of church order. As the university of the CRCNA, which was founded by the church in 1876, Calvin University is now in the process of further understanding the implications of these decisions for our community. To help our broader Calvin community understand where we are in this process, we are sharing from a letter that Calvin leadership sent to faculty and staff Wednesday night. A similar letter was sent to students as well.
Dear Faculty and Staff,
Over the last several days the Calvin community has been watching the synodical deliberations related to the Human Sexuality Report and other matters of church order within the Christian Reformed Church in North America. Synod has undertaken a number of actions related to the recommendations of the Human Sexuality Study Committee’s report. Of significant note is the following motion that was approved by Synod:
“That Synod affirm that “unchastity” in Heidelberg Catechism Q. and A. 108 encompasses adultery, premarital sex, extra-marital sex, polyamory, pornography, and homosexual sex, all of which violate the Seventh Commandment. In so doing, Synod declares this affirmation “an interpretation of [a] confession” (Acts of Synod 1975, p. 603). Therefore, this interpretation has confessional status.”
The reporter and chair of the Synodical Committee on Human Sexuality expressed that this change represented “the beginning of a conversation” between congregants, church office bearers, pastors, institutions, and agencies of the church.
As part of the overall report and in keeping with “the beginning of a conversation,” Synod also approved the following:
“that Synod warmly encourage the institutions and agencies of the Christian Reformed Church to develop resources to support effective, life-affirming pastoral care in the areas of sexuality, marriage and gender.”
We want to reassure faculty and staff and encourage patience as the university begins a process that will determine the implications of this decision, including implications for trustees and faculty who have signed the covenant for faculty members. Our decision-making will not be hasty or abrupt but consultative, collaborative, and deliberate. Past synodical decisions with implications for the university (e.g., faith and science, confessional commitment and academic freedom, human origins, abortion) have unfolded over several years. As stated in our email communication of May 25, a broadly representative task force, commissioned by the board of trustees, will help the university to “think with the church” as it reflects on the implications of its covenantal ecclesiastical partnership for our work ahead. This work will begin this summer after Dr. Boer’s arrival.
Calvin leadership and the board of trustees has long been aware that there would be disappointment no matter what Synod decided on a range of topics this year, including the handling of the Human Sexuality Report. Over the past year, the faculty and staff of the university have done good work with the Colossian Forum to build our capacity to navigate this season of our life together. It is our hope and plan that this work will continue. We acknowledge that pain exists and is real for all of us who participate in this conversation. Seminary President Jul Medenblik has reminded us that this moment calls for “humility and not hubris . . . and a need to remain in our personal and professional relationships.”
We understand that there are many positions and convictions on issues related to human sexuality, both within the church and within our campus community. As a university, we value freedom of expression and debate in a spirit of grace and truth. Our Christian faith teaches us that ideas that differ from our own are not to be feared. In this present moment, we remain steadfast in Calvin University’s commitment to be a place of belonging where the love of Christ is central to the ways we live, work, study, and commune together. As 1 John 4:19 reminds us, “We love because God first loved us.” We seek to be a community where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons are treated with respect, justice, grace, and understanding.
Michael Le Roy Bruce Los Wiebe Boer
President Board Chair President-Elect