Guest / Limited Access /

Calvin College's board has denied the request of an African American professor to worship at a Baptist church. If Denise Isom continues to attend her primarily African American congregation, Messiah Missionary Baptist, she will be taken off tenure track and given a one-year term to end after the 2008-2009 school year.

Faculty members at Calvin are required to be members of a Christian Reformed Church (CRC) or a church in "ecclesiastical fellowship" with the denomination. Isom, an assistant professor of education, was aware of the rule when she joined Calvin in 2003, but believed she could apply for an exception. Calvin, which has a student body that is 94 percent white, has previously granted exceptions, usually to faculty members whose spouses are ordained in another denomination.

Isom spent several years visiting some of the more than 100 CRC congregations in the Grand Rapids area. While several CRC churches are beginning to reach out to the African American community, none are "there" yet, Isom wrote in her request. "I need a place of worship that is already consistent with my culture and able to grapple with issues of race in ways which make it a respite, a re-charging and growing place for me, as opposed to another location where I must 'work' and where I am 'other.'"

Calvin's board decided that upholding the school's denominational requirement was necessary for Calvin to remain a Reformed institution. "Nearly all Christian colleges and universities that distanced themselves from their founding denominations and theological traditions eventually also drifted away from being Christian in any meaningful way," Bastian Knoppers, chair of the Calvin College board of trustees, wrote in a statement.

Shirley Hoogstra, vice president ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedHow Christians Can Flourish in a Same-Sex-Marriage World
Subscriber Access Only How Christians Can Flourish in a Same-Sex-Marriage World
By many accounts, orthodox Christians have lost the culture wars. How they can live well—not vanish—in a time of retreat.
TrendingWhy Are There Only 53 Christians Among America’s 2,184 Syrian Refugees?
Why Are There Only 53 Christians Among America’s 2,184 Syrian Refugees?
Amid claims of discrimination, World Relief points to other explanations.
Editor's PickBedeviled by My Wife's Dementia
Bedeviled by My Wife's Dementia
My expertise in philosophy did not give me the answers I needed.
Christianity Today
Values Clash
hide thisJanuary January

In the Magazine

January 2008

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.