Calvin College seeks to be a community where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons are treated with respect, justice, grace and understanding in the Spirit of Christ. We recognize the complexity of current issues around homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and gender identity. The college desires to engage these conversations with courage, humility, prayerfulness, and convicted civility.
1. What is Calvin’s position on homosexuality and same-sex marriage?
As the college of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC), Calvin holds to the position of the CRC on human sexuality, articulated in 1973 and 2002. That is to say, we believe that homosexual orientation is not a sin, and we strive to love our gay, lesbian, and bisexual students as ourselves, as God expects of us. We also affirm that physical sexual intimacy has its proper place in the context of heterosexual marriage.
Some key aspects of the CRC’s and Calvin’s understanding of homosexuality are:
- God loves all people unreservedly and unconditionally.
- The fall affects all people and corrupts all human relationships.
- To the best of our knowledge, sexual behavior is chosen; sexual orientation is not.
- Being attracted to persons of the same sex is not culpable or sinful.
- Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people - like all people - are created in God's image and, as valued members of the human family, should be treated with respect, grace, understanding, and love.
- Chastity is the biblical pattern for ordering the sexual dimension of our lives, and honors sexual relations as having their proper place in a marriage relationship between a man and a woman.
- All Christians, regardless of sexual orientation, can live lives that exemplify the fruits of the Spirit, turning away from temptation and embodying love, kindness, gentleness, and mercy.
- When we sin by misusing our sexuality, we can receive abundant forgiveness and grace through our Savior Jesus Christ.
For a fuller discussion of these points and how they relate to college life, see the booklet Homosexuality and the Calvin College Community: Guidelines for Best Practices and Materials for Contextual Study, available from Julia Smith, Project Coordinator for Student Life email@example.com.
2. How does the college provide a safe and respectful community for LGBT students?
Calvin students are expected to treat one another with respect and care. Insults, slurs, and other forms of derogatory speech have no place in a Christian community. Through staff training, peer education, and example we seek to educate students about the harm caused by disrespectful or flippant speech around this topic (for example, by the use of the word ‘gay’ as a put-down and by perpetuating stereotypes about how LGBT persons dress or act). If students experience or observe any mistreatment based on sexual orientation or gender identity, they are expected to report it to their Resident Director or to one of the following staff:
- Becki Levad, Assistant Dean for Residence Life firstname.lastname@example.org
- Daniel Vandersteen, SAGA Facilitator, Broene Counselor email@example.com
- Julia Smith, Sexuality Series Director firstname.lastname@example.org
As God’s people we all need to be active participants in an authentic community of faith. Therefore, Calvin encourages students who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender to tell trusted friends and mentors about their sexual orientation and gender identity, as they feel comfortable doing so. We recognize that students are best supported if they are able to share their questions, struggles, and self-understanding with trusted others. Wrestling with such difficult matters in isolation and hiding an important dimension of one’s identity from close friends and advisors may intensify stress and exacerbate anxiety. Yet we also honor and respect students’ requests not to share their orientation or identity more widely than they wish to.
On a practical level, living arrangements may need to be discussed. Residence Life staff are committed to finding appropriate solutions to housing needs for our LGBT students.
Gender-neutral restrooms are currently available in most campus buildings.
The student conduct code applies to all students regardless of sexual orientation. Proscribed conduct listed in the conduct code includes: conduct which threatens or endangers the health or safety of any person; profane or obscene expressions; and sexual misconduct including, but not limited to, sexual relations outside marriage, involvement with pornography, internet cybersex or other internet sexual misconduct.
3. Is there a group for LGBT students?
SAGA (Sexuality and Gender Awareness) is a peer education group sponsored by the Broene Counseling Center. SAGA is open to LGBT identifying students, allies, and others who simply want to know more about gender identity and sexuality topics. SAGA seeks to educate the campus about the unique issues faced by LGBT students. It also provides a supportive community through discussion and social activities. The Sexuality Series, Residence Life, Campus Ministries, and other departments often work in partnership with SAGA to host events that educate students and create a safer and more hospitable campus.
The Broene Counseling Center runs a voluntary Discussion Group for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning students, overseen by an experienced counselor. It is a place for LGBT students to explore their questions in a non-judgmental environment and to receive support.
Campus Ministries facilitates confidential discussion and support groups on sexuality issues for both heterosexual and LGBT students. Pastor Mary Hulst (College Chaplain) and Associate Chaplain Aaron Winkle host a group for LGBT students who are seeking pastoral support.
Members of these groups are not pressured to adopt a particular position; rather, as the CRC has advised, we are “creating a fellowship of mutual honesty, caring and support” (2002 Synodical Report). We are deeply devoted to dialogue, educational growth, and understanding between community members in the Spirit of Christ.
4. How is the topic of homosexuality handled in the classroom?
As a Reformed Christian liberal arts college, we seek to prepare our students for effective engagement with God’s world—a world he created good, that has been damaged and corrupted by human sin. Calvin students are challenged to examine their assumptions in many areas and to re-examine them in the light of God’s cosmic story of creation, fall, redemption, and reconciliation. A Reformed worldview proclaims that Christ is Lord over all and encourages students to investigate and discern everything, holding onto the good and rejecting what is false. We evaluate different points of view in light of scripture, and we seek to help students develop their capacity for critical thinking.
Human sexuality and sexual orientation are addressed in various courses in several academic departments. Students are always encouraged to ask questions and participate fully in class. Where extended discussion of any disputed matter is called for, faculty are committed to approach the topic from a biblical perspective, taking all relevant viewpoints into account. Being at the crossroads of ideas is vital if we are to offer our students an education that is Christian, Reformed, and constructively engaged with the complexities of the world we live in. Such an environment enables students to be agents of renewal in the church, the academy, and in society, in keeping with Calvin’s mission.
For a detailed description of academic freedom at Calvin College, see Confessional Commitment and Academic Freedom at Calvin College and Strengthening Procedures around Confessional Commitment and Academic Freedom.