Calvin tells black professor to find a Reformed church

Issue sparks student protest
Professor Denise Isom loves her work at Michigan’s Calvin College and her Grand Rapids church, Messiah Missionary Baptist. The problem: Isom must choose one or the other.

The Calvin board refused in October to exempt Isom from a rule that requires professors to attend a congregation with ties to the Christian Reformed Church.

The issue sparked a student “prayer protest” and discussion about how the church-membership policies may hurt diversity on campus. It also has drawn disdain from Isom’s pastor, Clifton Rhodes Jr.

“I’m not sure I understand the position of the school,” Rhodes said. “She’s not involved in some cult. We are a community of believers and we, in my eyes, are quite compatible.”

Isom, an assistant professor of education since 2003, is black and her research focuses on race and education. She told the board that she finally found what she was looking for at the predominantly black Messiah Missionary Baptist Church.


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