Should InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Be Kicked Off Campus at Wayne State University?

Wayne State

Wayne State University

In a recent post at The Anxious Bench, historian and George Mason University religion professor John Turner defends InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  Turner, some of you may recall, wrote an excellent scholarly treatment of another evangelical campus ministry:  Campus Crusade for Christ.  (Now known as CRU).  Here is a taste:

In a masterpiece of a ruling, the Supreme Court this week declared that government employees may not openly loathe Christianity. This is what court watchers call a limited ruling. The Court did not settle the question of whether or not beleaguered evangelical bakers must bake cakes for gay weddings. Nor did it provide much guidance on whether or not government employees may subtly and secretly loathe Christianity.

Some of those more subtle government employees work for Wayne State University, which this week renewed a two-year-old bid to decertify a chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. Admittedly, it is asking a lot for university officials to tolerate the presence of an organization that promotes social justice, racial reconciliation, and inductive Bible Study. IVCF’s problem, in the eyes of university administrators, is that it insists that student leaders sign the organization’s statement of faith.

My blood pressure rises when I read about yet another university’s attempt to do away with IVCF. My own alma mater, Middlebury College, crusaded against IVCF a number of years ago. Okay, Middlebury doesn’t exactly have a stellar reputation for free inquiry these days. But back in 1990s, I spent four years as a member and leader of IVCF (I probably had to sign something to do so), and I met my wife through IVCF, so I’m emotionally invested on this issue.

Of course, it has occurred to me that IVCF may have changed since the 1990s. Perhaps its hierarchy has become bent on making evangelicalism great again and now sends members to build the wall over spring break. Or perhaps the organization harasses Muslim or LGBT students. Nope. You can read IVCF’s statement of faith here. It’s not exactly hateful. Lots of divine love, mercy, and grace.

Read the entire post here.

 

3 thoughts on “Should InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Be Kicked Off Campus at Wayne State University?

  1. I went and read the statement of faith in question. There seem to be a lot of denominationally- or doctrinally-specific things in there that seem questionable and even harmful to many Christians, including an affirmation of a wrathful God, substitutionary atonement as a primary theological lens, mandatory belief in the “entire trustworthiness of the Bible” …. it’s like someone took the Apostle’s Creed and make it fit only for popular evangelicalism… it doesn’t seem like something an official college organization should be mandating for all interested and willing participants.

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  2. I believe formal university recognition of student run groups comes with a lot of benefits including cheap or free rooms to meet, possibility of funding, permission to use the university name, etc.. Having non-students have veto power over who the students in the group can elect (e.g., by requiring officials or members sign a statement especially one drawn up by the non-students) means the group isn’t student run. I see two options
    a. be unofficial, meet on campus as just a group of friends. Rent or have a place off-campus (e.g., local church) for bigger meetings.
    b. I suspect it is legit to ask those running whether they agree or disagree with the statement and how and allow those voting to decide whether they want to vote for the candidates. Note the greater organization always has the option of cutting ties if the local unit goes directions it doesn’t like.

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  3. “IVCF in 2016 required its employees to discountenance same-sex marriage”

    Just as a formal issue, if IVCF is that concerned to mandate uniformity with one side in the culture-wars (and it’s hard to imagine any other reason for their requiring conformity on an issue that should be reserved to conscience), they shouldn’t be surprised to find others–like WSU–doing the same. Americans are prone to demand ideological conformity on all manner of issues small and great and to threaten non-conformists with exclusion, and Christians are no exception. Indeed, they arguably invented it. If we would like to see more tolerance for conscientiously held positions that are ancillary to the more basic issues of identity and belonging, perhaps we should start practicing it ourselves?

    Live by the culture wars, die by the culture wars …

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