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Calvin College inaugurates new president amid rising LGBTQ tensions

(RNS) — Because the son of lifelong missionaries, Calvin College’s new president, whose inauguration is Wednesday (Oct. 26), continues a proud Christian Reformed Church custom of Dutch Calvinism.

Wiebe Boer, who arrived on the Grand Rapids, Michigan, campus, the final week in June, is the college’s twelfth president, succeeding Michael Le Roy, who stepped down after a 10-year time period.

A Calvin graduate himself, Boer has lived 30 of his 48 years in Nigeria, the place his dad and mom — each born within the Netherlands — served as missionaries.

He’ll lead the 146-year-old liberal arts college at a tough level. Over the previous decade, the college’s college roster and undergraduate admissions have fallen sharply. Its complete enrollment of 3,256 students is down from 4,008 in 2012. Final 12 months it eradicated 5 majors and 7 minors, together with Chinese language, Dutch and German.

As well as, evangelical schools throughout the nation have seen a widening rift on social and political points; Calvin is not any exception.

The college, which is solely owned by the Christian Reformed Church, is strolling a tightrope on sexual orientation.

This summer season the Christian Reformed Church in North America voted at its annual synod to codify its opposition to homosexual sex by elevating it to the standing of confession, or declaration of religion. That put its college, who should signal a doc saying their beliefs align with the church’s historic creeds and confessions, right into a tough spot.

Some college have since requested for a “gravamen,” which entitles them to formally declare they struggle with a confessional claim. It’s not but clear whether or not the college will approve these particular person disagreements with the church’s confession. 

Calvin occupies a extra center-left place amongst evangelical schools. Whereas it forbids premarital intercourse and defines marriage as between a person and a girl, it permits a assist group for LGBTQ college students on campus. Within the 2020-21 educational 12 months, the college allowed a bisexual scholar to be elected as student body president.

Nonetheless, earlier this 12 months it severed ties to a campus-based analysis heart after considered one of its staff married a same-sex accomplice. 

RELATED: Christian Reformed Church codifies homosexual sex as sin in its declaration of faith


Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Picture by Andy Calvert, courtesy of Calvin College

Boer stated Calvin will proceed to be hospitable to its LGBTQ college students.

“I don’t wish to be the president of an establishment that isn’t welcoming to all people,” Boer stated.

Boer who has a Ph.D. in historical past from Yale College, and most not too long ago labored as head of Shell of Nigeria’s renewable power division, doesn’t have a background in educational administration.

However he stated he was intrigued by the place after studying an e-mail to alumni.

“They had been in search of somebody who understands the Reformed custom however has a worldwide outlook and is entrepreneurial and progressive,” Boer stated. “I assumed, this sort of feels like me.”

Boer stated he needs to construct on the college’s latest initiatives — a brand new enterprise faculty with each undergraduate and graduate diploma applications, in addition to a brand new faculty of well being. He’s additionally proud to maneuver the establishment towards environmental sustainability. It simply signed a contract with an organization that may convert the campus’s daytime power use to photo voltaic.

He stated he needs to construct on the college’s variety — 17% of its college students contemplate themselves ethnic minorities and one other 12% are worldwide college students.

Boer, an enormous soccer fan, wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on the historical past of soccer in Nigeria. And his Twitter feed is crammed with tweets supporting Calvin’s varied NCAA Division III athletic applications and athletes.

“He’s a breath of contemporary air,” stated Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a professor of historical past at Calvin College and considered one of its star college members. “He has a deep appreciation of the most effective of what Calvin has been and could possibly be — its educational mission, its world presence, its Dutch Reformed custom. His perspective is, we do unimaginable issues right here, let’s go do it.”

RELATED: Fallout over LGBTQ spouses at Calvin University captures broader evangelical divide

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