Racial Controversy at a Christian College in Michigan

Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a Bible college affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church. There are about 4,100 undergraduate students at the college. Only one percent are black.

The college has a requirement that all faculty members seeking tenure must attend a Christian Reformed Church or a church affiliated with it. Denise Isom, a black faculty member at Calvin, attends the Messiah Missionary Baptist Church in Grand Rapids, which has a predominantly black congregation. She is seeking a waiver of the rule that she attend a Christian Reformed Church, which was founded in Holland and has a predominantly white congregation.

So far the college has refused to budge despite a widespread effort by students on behalf of Isom. One student told the Grand Rapids Press that the college’s effort to appear “distinctly Christian comes off looking like distinctly white.” College officials say they are still seeking a solution before Professor Isom’s contract period ends after the 2008-09 academic year.