Letters to the Editor

Panama poverty rate not as reported
The summer 2008 issue of Spark included a factual error about Panama City, Panama. “Eighty-six percent of citizens live in extreme poverty” may be the rate for the Indian reservation where Matthew Ferner works but not for Panama City. The (U.S.) CIA reports an unemployment rate much smaller for the country at large, which is indicative of how many citizens are poor. I lived in Panama for many years and have firsthand knowledge of conditions both in and out of Panama City.

Gustavo Espino ’52
Bradenton, Fla.

The next two letters concern Faculty Membership Requirements.

Embarrassing policies
The resignation of former Calvin professor Denise Isom, who was pressured to affiliate with the Christian Reformed Church, is worthy of further discussion. As the college of the CRC, you are obligated to utilize the principles and policies that have been established as a foundation for the tradition. Thus, it is admirable to stand by your policy that the professors of the college must attend a church in the Reformed tradition. This establishes consistency with our way of understanding Christianity. Several concerns arise, however.

First, former professor Isom is a Christian. She has professed Jesus as the only way to salvation. However, her style of worship and the people with whom she worships are apparently unacceptable to Calvin College. There seems an inconsistency has surfaced. Jesus was all-inclusive, intentionally challenging the established religious tradition of his time. All were welcome at His table, regardless of gender or race. The Baptist tradition worships this same Jesus, believing He is the “way” just as the CRC teaches. Perhaps Baptists and Reformed believers aren’t so different. The subtle differences that exist would surely be acceptable to Jesus.

Second, Calvin offers itself as a school that welcomes diversity. Is this message truly presented to prospective students? The message just sent is that you must believe what we believe and practice your faith as we practice it, or you will not be welcome here. President Byker has said that “being generally Christian has not worked in the past and I doubt that it will work in the future.” I question if this is acceptable to God. The Reformed tradition guides the mission of the college, seeking to integrate Christ into every aspect of life. What does this mean? Interpretations vary, but Professor Isom would likely agree that Christ is central to her life.  Sincerely offering her heart and life promptly and sincerely to her faithful Savior represents the essential Reformed tradition.

I am embarrassed at this point in time to be part of the history of our wonderful college. The policies leading to the decision for Professor Isom to resign do not reflect the perspective of Jesus. Please consider them closely. Importantly, the issue is larger than Isom’s resignation. It is about the exclusivity of the CRC. Is it tenable in the 21st century’s global community to believe that the CRC is the only acceptable tradition for the fulfillment of Christ’s mission? Are we, the Reformed, the only way? God is larger than the CRC: an all-inclusive, all-powerful God whose ways and thoughts are higher than ours. God is not to be placed into a box—not even a Reformed one. I pray we can all continue to be challenged to find ways to unite in Christ.

Tim Lenters ’95
Grand Rapids, Mich.

Reconsider requirements
I am compelled to respond to the article announcing the resignation of Denise Isom, apparently a well-loved and highly competent professor of education. I’ve come to the point where I am ashamed of being associated with an institution that would refuse to allow this fine and talented individual to teach at Calvin because she is not technically a member of the Christian Reformed Church.

I take it that Professor Isom is a committed Christian and a member in good standing of her home church, Messiah Baptist. Regarding the “solution” of providing her a membership at a CRC on paper only, but allowing her to continue to worship at her own church—how is this honoring your requirement that a professor be a CRC member? Is this not just following the letter of the law and not the spirit of it? How could this even seriously be considered? I find the decision of the professional status committee grievous, insular and not biblically based. Perhaps the CRC membership requirement for professorship needs to be reconsidered.

Evanne M. Hoolsema ex’84
Carpentersville, Ill.

Theater miscues
The Spark article (fall 2008) about Calvin’s 75-year-old theater program has an amusing error on page 24: There was no production of The Open Prism (sounds fun, though!). Actually, the play in question was The Open Prison, the premiere of a play by Wesley Kort about the John Calvin–Servetus incident. Ervina Boevé directed the play in the spring of 1959.

Tom Ozinga ’60
Calvin communication arts and sciences professor emeritus
Grand Rapids, Mich.

There were a few other errors in photo identifications in “Theater Program Gets Standing Ovation.” The photo of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was from 1967. The Crucible photo was from 1969. And another mislabeled photo was from the 1940s Radio Show.


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