Calvin faculty are no longer required to be members of the Christian Reformed Church and to send their children to Christian day schools. Faculty senate voted to approve the change on April 21, and the board of trustees approved this unanimously on May 8.
Faculty are now able to attend “a Calvin University-supporting Protestant congregation” in addition to a CRC congregation or a church in ecclesiastical fellowship with the CRC. This church must be a Protestant congregation that affirms the three creeds of unity (Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, and Apostles’ Creed), as well as accept that the faculty member attending there affirms the Reformed confessions (the Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Canons of Dort).
The new policy states that faculty will be expected to articulate an understanding and affirmation of “essential Reformed Christian theological ideas” as part of their tenure and five-year tenure review. Calvin will enter into “strategic partnerships” with the churches that faculty attend, both non-CRC and CRC.
Mirroring the stance of the CRC, Calvin is no longer mandating that faculty send their children to Christian day schools, but is still encouraging them to do so. The report to faculty senate stated that professors applying for tenure will be expected “to articulate a Reformed Christian view of education and to describe how they actively support Christian education.”
Calvin will still provide financial support to faculty who send their children to Christian schools. “We really want to frame Christian education as something we really believe in. It’s invitational. We want you to believe in it too,” Calvin University President Michael Le Roy said.
Talks about changing the policy have been happening on and off for decades, but Le Roy and the cabinet took concepts of the new requirements to the board last October and detailed policy to the board in February. Prior to this switch, faculty were expected to demonstrate membership in a CRC congregation or in a congregation in ecclesiastical fellowship with the CRC (listed here) within a year of teaching at the university.
Le Roy emphasized that the faculty will still be expected to affirm the ecumenical creeds and Reformed confessions. “There’s a lot of consensus [among staff and faculty] that this set of doctrinal parameters or guidelines is something that we all affirm, and nobody wants to mess with that,” Le Roy said.
The CRC will still be responsible for deciding theological issues for Calvin. “I think we’re better when we’re part of a church that has ecclesiastical authority over the university. It gives us rootedness. It provides an external check on doctrinal matters,” Le Roy said.
Le Roy said it’s difficult to predict whether many faculty will leave their current church or have their children transfer from their current school but thinks that it will help Calvin in recruiting new faculty.
This change reflects a broader shift in demographics, not just in the student body but also the faculty, as more come to Calvin unfamiliar with the CRC.
The Day 10 report of 2019 showed that roughly 28.7% of Calvin’s student body are members of the CRC. 39% of this year’s freshman class graduated from a Christian school, whereas 44% of the senior class graduated from a Christian school. Le Roy says this decline is reflective of the decline in baptisms 18 years ago, not the relationship between Calvin and the denomination.
Le Roy said, “The vision is biblically and theologically rooted; it’s not sociologically rooted.”
The CRC still collects ministry shares for Calvin, which amounts to about 2.5% of Calvin’s total budget, according to Le Roy. The university president says that the school remains grateful for the denominational shares. Calvin provides about $17 million in aid to CRC students.