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 A Calvin professor officiated a same-sex marriage ceremony. It doubtless price him his job.

(RNS) — When a former pupil requested Calvin College professor Joe Kuilema to officiate her marriage ceremony final fall, he mentioned sure instantly — regardless of a college coverage that views same-sex marriage as sinful.

That call will doubtless price him his job.

Kuilema learned this week that Calvin’s Skilled Standing Committee determined to not renew his two-year appointment to the Calvin school as a consequence of his ongoing battle with Calvin’s leaders over the difficulty of LGBT inclusion.

“I do know this isn’t the end result you had been hoping for, Joe,” Calvin Provost Noah Toly wrote in a letter dated April 18. The letter and several other supporting paperwork were printed on-line by the Chimes, Calvin’s pupil newspaper. The college confirmed the letter and paperwork are genuine.  

Kuilema, who plans to attraction the choice, mentioned he was not stunned by the information.

“I used to be deeply dissatisfied by the committee’s choice,” he mentioned. “I like Calvin College. I like working right here. I like our mission. And I feel it’s necessary to say that I did what I did, due to that mission.”

The social work professor, who was a church elder on the time he officiated the marriage, has lengthy been identified for his assist of LGBT college students at Calvin, which is positioned in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He mentioned that despite the fact that the marriage was a civil ceremony, he consulted with the pastors at his church forward of time.

That church, like Calvin, is a part of the Christian Reformed Church, a denomination that opposes same-sex marriage and teaches that intercourse ought to be restricted to inside a wedding between a person and a lady. Not like different church buildings within the CRC, although, Kuilema mentioned his congregation affirms same-sex marriage.

“I believed I had the non-public educational and ecclesial freedom to do what I did,” he mentioned.  

In a March memo, Dean Benita Wolters-Fredlund referred to as Kuilema’s choice to officiate the marriage a “severe lapse in judgement,” on condition that Calvin adheres to the CRC’s teachings forbidding same-sex marriage.

“Thus, regardless of Prof. Kuilema’s stellar document within the areas of Christian Reformed dedication, instructing, scholarship and repair, and in contradiction with the unanimous suggestion of the tenured school within the Sociology and Social Work Division, I’m unable to advocate that Prof. Kuilema be reappointed,” Wolters-Fredlund wrote.

The memo additionally detailed that Kuilema, who started instructing at Calvin in 2008, was denied tenure in 2018 as a consequence of “considerations round his tone and technique with regard to controversial theological matters and LGBT+ advocacy.”

In 2011, Calvin’s board issued a press release, limiting the position school might play in discussing LGBT points.

“Advocacy by school and employees, each out and in of the classroom, for gay observe and same-sex marriage is unacceptable,” the assertion learn, according to The Banner, a CRC publication.

Wolters-Fredlund had beforehand beneficial Kuilema’s appointment be renewed for 2 years and mentioned within the memo that he had labored in good religion to “enhance his tone and technique round LGBTQ+ advocacy.”

That evaluation modified after Calvin leaders discovered that Kuilema had officiated the marriage of Nicole Sweda and Annica Steen in October 2021. On the time, Sweda labored for Calvin’s Heart for Social Analysis. She can also be a former pupil of Kuilema. The marriage put each Kuilema and Sweda at odds with faculty coverage and led the Heart for Social Analysis to spin off from Calvin, inflicting controversy on campus.

Kuilema intends to attraction the choice. If that attraction fails, his time at Calvin will finish when his present contract expires in August.


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Greater than 100 school have signed a letter of protest in assist of Kuilema, declaring that the professor was in good standing along with his residence congregation, which authorized of his actions. They argued faculty leaders had been usurping the position that belongs to church buildings and pastors.

“By judging Dr. Kuilema as disqualified for reappointment, the Provost and PSC are successfully exercising self-discipline of a college member when Dr. Kuilema’s personal congregation not solely didn’t train self-discipline however affirmed his participation within the marriage ceremony ceremony,” the letter states.

Sweda mentioned she was dissatisfied however not stunned Calvin would transfer to chop ties with Kuilema. She mentioned once they first talked concerning the professor officiating the ceremony, he knew there might be fallout.

“I don’t suppose it has eclipsed the happiness of our marriage ceremony,” she mentioned. “If it hadn’t been for our marriage, Calvin would have discovered one other technique to do away with him.”

The dispute over Kuilema comes at a tough time for Calvin. The varsity has lengthy tried to be welcoming to LGBTQ college students whereas nonetheless adhering to the CRC’s views on sexuality. Now Calvin leaders, like leaders at different Christian colleges, discover that increasingly more college students — in addition to school and employees — are much less prepared to simply accept something in need of full LGBTQ affirmation.

On the identical time, the CRC, which owns the varsity, is poised to harden its stance on sexuality. At this 12 months’s denominational annual synod, the Christian Reformed Church is predicted to approve a report from its Committee to Articulate a Basis-laying Biblical Theology of Human Sexuality, which affirms the denomination’s conventional beliefs.

Kuilema mentioned that previously the CRC instructing on sexuality was thought of “pastoral steerage” — which meant there was room to disagree. The brand new report raises that instructing to a matter of confession, he mentioned, which means there could be no room for dissent. 

The professor mentioned he’s unsure what he’ll do if his attraction fails. A lifelong CRC member and Calvin graduate, he mentioned the considered leaving the varsity was heartbreaking. Nonetheless, he believes officiating the marriage was the precise factor to do and would do it over once more, if given the selection.

“My private religion is stronger than ever,” he mentioned. “On the identical time I’m more and more disillusioned with organized faith.”


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