As soon as I saw the article about the Broene Counseling Center in the Spark (winter 2009), I remembered an early morning visit I made to the Broene Center in 2003. I needed to talk with someone about a situation in my life that had caused me much pain, and I ended up meeting with Dan Vandersteen. After I shared my story with him, I was struck by his kindness, his soft-spoken words that affirmed my worth, and the questions he asked that I needed to hear. As I look back, I know that God used a variety of people to heal me, and Dan is most certainly one of those people. I am confident that God is still using him, as well as his colleagues, to bring about wholeness as they emulate Jesus, our Wonderful Counselor.
Jessica Derosier ’03
West Palm Beach, Fla.
Since Dr. Lester De Koster had a very positive impact on my life, I’d like to offer a few words acknowledging him. (The winter 2009 Spark noted his passing.)
I first met Dr. De Koster in September 1962 at the Hekman Library building on the Franklin campus as a freshman working part time in the library. Two years later, when I was a 20-year-old mother, Dr. D. offered me a full-time position in the library. As an employee, Dr. D. regularly welcomed me into his office, encouraging me to continue my education while I worked, offering me the necessary time off to attend classes. At that time, it was quite unusual for a married young mother to attend college. In fact there was a humorous statement about the purpose some girls had in attending Calvin as being “to get an MRS degree.” Dr. De Koster knew I wanted more than the MRS degree and was clearly a man ahead of his time as he helped me move forward.
To this day, I am thankful for having had Dr. De Koster cross my path. He was a man who would call me into his office just to chat, often for a half hour or more. We discussed the world, my father’s knowledge of history or Calvin events. Occasionally, he offered me old library books. On my bookshelf is the very old copy of Pilgrim’s Progress he gave me, with the names of Alice Groendyk and S. Volbeda inscribed inside the cover. It gives me a smile to view these names again while imagining who these two people were. I love books; Dr. D. loved books. But Dr. D. was more than a man who loved books. He loved people, making every person feel needed and wanted. Thank you Dr. D., and farewell until we meet again.
Carol Ann Lindsay ’66
I have fond memories of Professor De Koster and of the Franklin Street library. During the 1960 presidential election campaign, a campus organization held a mock presidential debate between the candidates. Professor Henry Strikwerda took on the role of Richard Nixon and Professor Lester De Koster took the role of Jack Kennedy. This was a well-publicized event, and banners were hung all over the campus. I can’t remember the details of the debate, but it soon became obvious that De Koster would handily win the debate and perhaps change a lot of opinions about the real candidates.
After the debate my friends and I helped with the cleanup. When we were gathering up the banners we came upon an idea. Jack Kennedy was scheduled to give a campaign speech the next day. We taped the 10-feet-wide by 4-feet-tall banners stating “Calvin College for Kennedy” on each side of my 1950 Nash. We drove downtown and got into the parade just behind the entry from Aquinas College. It wasn’t too long before an unhappy alumnus ran out of the crowd and tried to tear the banners off of my car. I still remember her tearful words—“I am an alumni of Calvin, and I don’t support Jack Kennedy”—to which Gordon Geldof calmly answered: “Lady, you are an alumnus, not an alumni.” After the parade was over my friends and I (Ed Smilde, Gordon Geldof and Tom Sybersma) were invited to the campaign headquarters where we met Jack Kennedy and were offered jobs as “poll watchers,” for which Tom Sybersma, a Canadian citizen, and I received a 10-dollar bill—probably from Joseph Kennedy’s stash.
Ralph Hoekstra ’61
Huntington Beach, Calif.
As a Calvin alumna and pastor, I was discouraged by the August memo prohibiting faculty from scholarship or advocacy that counters the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) position on homosexuality (winter 2009). I entered Calvin with a conservative theology that fully embraced the CRC position. Ironically, a religion class at Calvin invited me, for the first time, to read scholars across the theological spectrum negotiating faith and sexuality. The deep commitment to the pursuit of God’s truth in this class, which included passionate dialogue and intense scrutiny of the few biblical texts that mention homosexuality, transformed my theology of sexuality.
Months later, a friend at Calvin came out publicly as the only open lesbian on campus. The exile she experienced was painful. Others who came out after her received hate letters or conducted their relationships in the closet, because the campus was not perceived as a safe place. We initiated a campaign, inviting students to wear purple ribbons and sign a statement confessing, regardless of theological position, that Christians have fallen short in our treatment of gays and lesbians. We organized a series of events which included faculty conversation on the Bible and sexual identity—revealing a diversity of perspectives.
That was over a decade ago. I have hoped that Calvin would continue to cultivate an educational environment in which students and faculty alike are encouraged to vigorously engage scholars across the theological spectrum, exercise freedom of conscience and faithfully discern their perspective on the challenging issues of our day. To say that I am disappointed with the board of trustees’ effort to constrain the academic freedom and freedom of conscience of Calvin faculty is an understatement. While I am encouraged that Calvin “places academic freedom within the context of a covenantal community,” I believe a faithful community creates space for the tough questions, opens the door for prophetic critique and values diversity of thought. The task of covenantal community is not foundational consensus, but to nurture our connectivity as the body of Christ, especially when we disagree, all in the framework of pursuing God’s truth in our world.
Amanda Hendler-Voss ’99
I read with interest the recent Spark (winter 2009), including the articles on the “Trustee Statement” and the three submissions on “Seeking Truth.” The way in which academic freedom is applied has kept me from supporting Calvin and kept my wife and I from encouraging our children to attend.
In the article “Seeking Truth,” none of the three contributors states how Calvin defines academic freedom, although Dr. Wolterstorff comes very close to the objective in his last paragraph, with which I fully agree. He states “fidelity in His (Jesus Christ’s) service” should be Calvin’s basis of academic freedom. I believe this pursuit should not be restricted or expanded by anything or anyone that conflicts with scripture. Within that context, academic freedom needs to flourish. As each of the three contributors indicates, Kuyper’s “sphere sovereignty” between the college and the church strengthens that pursuit.
Where we part company is in application. Dr. Wolterstorff lists several examples of his use of academic freedom, one being the use of academic freedom to criticize the Christian Reformed Church (CRC)’s previously held position regarding the ordination of women. In my view the ordination of women steps away from the clear command of scripture on this subject. The late Louis Vos (professor of religion at Calvin when I was there) argued that we must interpret scripture within the context of the times it was written and the present cultural context, and with the general flow of scripture, even if the interpretation leads to an eventual conflict with certain passages of scripture.
By allowing academic freedom to go outside the bounds of written scripture (by way of considering present cultural context and the general flow of scripture—whatever that may mean to someone), Calvin, and eventually the CRC, went against Article 7 of the Belgic Confession, where we confess we will not consider “custom” or “succession of times and persons” in interpreting scripture.
Although I believe the Belgic Confession is adequately clear on this point, Article 20 of the Anglican Articles of Religion is, in my opinion, more succinct where it states that one part of scripture will not be interpreted in a way that is “repugnant to another.” The result of female ordination is to take one part of scripture and make it repugnant to another. I asked at Calvin, and I still ask today: Who gives a college behind the façade of academic freedom, or a church through the process of its governing body, the authority to challenge a part of scripture? The Belgic Confession is clear; we do not have that authority.
Can Calvin College question the church’s stand on female ordination or homosexual practice (as alluded to in the article “Trustee Statement”) under academic freedom? Absolutely! So long as the discussion is within the framework of all of scripture and not pitting one scripture against another.
The foundation of being Reformed has its consensus in scripture, Sola Scriptura. Nothing should shake us from this foundation, including academic freedom. Otherwise, we become neither Reformed nor Christian.
Arnold Dudt ’82
My wife, Betty, and I had the privilege of attending Homecoming last fall (and seeing our grandchildren and their parents—all Calvin grads). I also took advantage of the opportunity to participate in the alumni baseball game, which I particularly wanted to do because my son-in-law, Darrell Heuker ’04, also played ball for Calvin. Since Darrell was a catcher and I pitched a bit during the 1969 to 1971 seasons, I thought it would be interesting to have a father-son(-in-law) battery, which coach Jeff Pettinga allowed us to do! Only one inning but that was enough!
Alan Miller ’71
In the winter 2009 issue of Spark, the text of Nicholas Wolterstorff’s September disquisition on academic freedom at Calvin College appears below a fine photograph of Professor Wolterstorff, who is said there to have graduated from Calvin College in 1956.
Professor Wolterstorff graduated from Calvin College (with the highest of honors) in 1953.
Bernard van’t Hul ’53
Ann Arbor, Mich.