For over 100 years, Reformed Christian parents have scrimped and saved for their children to study at Calvin College (now Calvin University), praying that these students’ post secondary learning would happen in an environment with Christian teachers and classmates. Many students, of course, paid their own way, including my own Uncle John VanHemert, who left Holland Marsh in Ontario to study for the ministry at this Christian Reformed (CRC) institution back in the 1960s.
But much has changed at Calvin. In October, Claire Murashima announced, via an op-ed in the Calvin Chimes student newspaper, that she is the school’s first openly gay student body president. “It’s beyond time that the LGBTQ community is represented in the highest student leadership position at Calvin,” wrote Murashima. She went on to suggest that, “Calvin’s hetero-normative and relationship-focused culture can leave us feeling excluded… Not seeing anyone who loves like us makes us feel like we don’t fully belong at Calvin.”
Miss Murashima’s words are not aligned with the university’s official policy. Calvin University has adopted a stance on homosexuality which states that while homosexual attraction is not in itself sinful, sexual relations have “their proper place in a marriage relationship between a man and a woman.” The Bible clearly calls homosexuality sin, in both the Old and New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul identifies homosexuals along with fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, revilers and extortioners as those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God. In the letter of Jude verse 7, the writer reminds us that, “Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”
It’s worth asking then, why we would call anyone a “gay Christian”? To do so is to identify them with an adjective that describes their sinful condition. All Christians are sinful, and each of us is subject to different temptations to sin but we wouldn’t call someone a “murdering Christian,” or a “thieving Christian,” or a “fornicating Christian,” would we?
In earlier generations, Calvin College took a leading role in advocating for evolution (remember Dr. Howard Van Till?) and for women in office. That infamous pedigree was referenced in the comment section for Miss Murashima’s article. One reader wrote, “Thank you Claire for your courage and leadership! It gives me hope that your example will help change the CRC official position on homosexuality. When I was at Calvin, we fought for women in leadership – which was just as heated, biblically justified, and now seems ridiculous. Hoping that Calvin and the CRC will stop being judgmental gatekeepers and instead embrace all people with open arms.”
How very sad it is that an institution like Calvin University, closely identified with a Reformed theologian and a Reformed church federation, has become a place of danger for Christian students.