Same-sex marriage will likely end Christian school teacher’s job

A professor at Calvin University, a conservative Christian school in Grand Rapids, Michigan, faces losing his job because he performed the wedding of a same-sex couple.

Social work professor Joseph Kuilema celebrated the wedding of Nicole Sweda and Annica Steen last October, reports Religion News Service. Kuilema had previously been denied tenure due to his advocacy of LGBTQ+ causes, and his contract at the university is subject to renewal every two years. His final term expires this year, and due to the marriage, Calvin’s Professional Status Committee has recommended that he not be reappointed. He plans to appeal the decision, but realizes his time at college will likely be over.

“I was deeply disappointed with the committee’s decision,” he told Religion News Service. “I love Calvin University. I love working here. I love our mission. And I think it’s important to say that I did what I did because of that mission.

Calvin is affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church, which opposes same-sex marriage. Kuilema is a member of the church, but her congregation differs from the denomination’s position and affirms such marriages. He said he consulted with his congregation leaders before officiating the wedding, and they supported his decision to do so. He believes the denomination’s position stems from a misinterpretation of the Bible.

“I started having real questions, and for me as a Christian, the journey through those questions has always been deeper engagement and deeper study,” he said. Inside higher education. “Over time, I’ve come to understand that what I think the Bible really forbids is abusive and coercive forms of sex, including ritual sectarian sex, basically sex trafficking or religious sex in the temples, and not [prohibiting] a relationship of love, commitment and covenant between two consenting adults.

Sweda and Steen’s ceremony was a civil, not religious ceremony, so Kuilema believed his conduct fell within the definition of “private citizenship activity” in which he was free to engage, according to academic documents obtained by the student newspaper. by Calvin, Chimes. However, her decision to officiate the marriage constituted a “serious lack of judgment,” Benita Wolters-Fredlund, dean of Calvin’s School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, wrote in a note last month.

“Thus, despite Professor Kuilema’s exceptional record in the areas of commitment, teaching, scholarship and Reformed Christian service, and in contradiction to the unanimous recommendation of the tenured faculty of the Department of Sociology and social work, I am not in a position to recommend that professor. Kuilema be renamed,” Wolters-Fredlund continued.

Kuilema was informed of the committee’s decision on April 18. The next day, dozens of his fellow faculty members sent a letter to Calvin’s board of directors asking that he be reappointed. “None of us want to be part of a Calvin University that excludes the voice and mind of someone like Dr. Kuilema,” they wrote. “None of us want to be part of a university that doesn’t have room to accommodate all students, including LGBTQ followers of Jesus who respond to the call of discipleship in a way that is affirmed by their councils and CRC congregations.”

Administrators then sent an email to Calvin students, faculty, and staff outlining the university’s position on LGBTQ+ issues without directly referencing the letter. Those associated with the university have “a responsibility to respect the positions of the church,” administrators said in the email, which was viewed by Inside higher education. Although same-sex attraction is not a choice, “sex acts are a choice, and … those outside of a conventional union between a man and a woman do not reflect the intentions or desires of God for God’s people,” the email continued.

Calvin spokesman Matthew Kucinski contacted by Within higher education, would not comment on Kuilema’s specific situation but said faculty members must adhere to university policies, although they are free to disagree with them. “The CRC and the university maintain that human sexuality is a gift from God and that sexual relations are reserved exclusively for expression within the framework of marriage between a man and a woman,” he told the site. . the Lawyer asked Kucinski for additional comment and will update this story with any response.

Sweda was a research associate at Calvin’s Center for Social Research at the time of her marriage. Calvin refuses to employ anyone in a same-sex marriage, “but rather than fire her, the university has transformed the research center into an independent entity”, Inside Higher Education reports. She then resigned anyway.

“It really comes down to me being openly queer why this all happened, and I think it’s disgusting,” she told the site. Speaking to Religion News Service, she added that although she was upset about what happened to Kuilema, “I don’t think it overshadowed the happiness of our marriage. If it hadn’t been for our wedding, Calvin would have found another way to get rid of him.

Kuilema told the press service that he does not regret having celebrated the marriage and that he will make the same decision again. “My personal faith is stronger than ever,” he said. “At the same time, I am increasingly disillusioned with organized religion.”

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