intervarsity christian fellowship
Some of my friends have been talking about giving up the “evangelical” label, because of what it has come to be associated with, in this year’s political campaign. I’m not ready to make that move. I spent a good part of the 1960s trying hard not to be an evangelical, but without success.
When I marched for civil rights during my graduate school years, I helped to organize “ban the bomb” marches and protested the Vietnam War. I was clearly out of step with much of the evangelicalism of the day.
Cultural uncertainty was the context in 2011, when Michael was first reported to his staff worker. Uncertainty of campus access and campus culture was the context when managers gathered to forge strategy for the next three years. And uncertainty of InterVarsity staff members’ own convictions and ability to answer students’ questions regarding their sexuality was the context when the Cabinet undertook the task of clarifying InterVarsity’s theological position on human sexuality.
Tom Lin, 43, a Chicago native, Harvard grad, one-time missionary to Mongolia, was recently named the first nonwhite president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, the national ministry to 40,200 university students, based in Madison, Wis.
Most recently, he served as head of Urbana 15, the missions conference that occurs once every three years.
I love Saint Mark. I truly do. But if the apostles were in a line-up and we threw Mark in there with them, I wouldn’t be able to tell him from second Judas. Frankly I wouldn’t be able to identify half of them. At this point, some folks have likely paused to Google, “there were two Judases!?"
I, along with my colleagues Leroy Barber, Dominique D. Gilliard, Mae Cannon, Micky Jones, Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, and Dr. Brian Bantum, were struck that InterVarsity had made a bold and unique move among modern evangelical non-advocacy-based parachurch organizations. I served on staff with InterVarsity for 10 years from 1995-2005. For five of those years, I served as director of racial reconciliation in Greater Los Angeles. In my last year, I served as racial reconciliation specialist for Southern California. In all those years, most of the organization’s focus was on the reconciliation of cultures within their own communities. In some instances, InterVarsity even dared to address the structural and systemic injustices within its own organization. Occasionally, a campus chapter would respond to a racist incident that occurred on campus. But never before had InterVarsity issued a public statement in support of structural and systemic racial justice in the broader society.
Skinner told the students at Urbana ’70 that during segregation, “the evangelical, Bible-believing, fundamental, orthodox, conservative church in this country was strangely silent.” The churches, Skinner said, supported the status quo on slavery, segregation and civil rights. During the 1950s and 1960s, evangelicals, even when they opposed segregation, stayed clear of joining the civil rights movement. This week’s support for #BlackLivesMatter is different because InterVarsity is embracing a social and political movement that is active. And it is one that is controversial both nationally and within evangelicalism.
InterVarsity, the evangelical campus ministry, stands in full support of #BlackLivesMatter, issuing a call this week for the nearly 16,000 attendees at Urbana to support the movement, reports Religion News Service. Urbana is a yearly conference put on by the biblical and social justice-minded InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. At the main evening session on Dec. 28, featured speaker Michelle Higgins — director of a faith advocacy group and active member of #BlackLivesMatter in St. Louis, Mo. — challenged students to listen to the movement and to have conversations about racism, even if such conversations cause discomfort.
It was 1987. I walked across Rutgers University campus with another freshman friend. We were on our way to a meeting for Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru). In the gobs of our gab we happened upon the topic of the recent scandalous departure of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship president, Gordon McDonald. Interim President, Tom Dunkerton, guided the organization for the next year, appointing Dr. Samuel Barkat as first VP of Multiethnic Ministries. Soon after, Dr. Steve Hayner would accept the mantle of president of the troubled organization. Over the next 13 years, Hayner guided Intervarsity into a period of stability, growth, and racial healing.
Perhaps the most significant contribution of Hayner’s leadership was his close partnership with Dr. Barkat. Together they stood on the sovereign foundations of Intervarsity’s historic struggles toward racial righteousness and guided the organization through a deep examination of its multiethnic dynamics and its white dominant culture. Ultimately, their work led the parachurch collegiate ministry through a transformative examination of its own white western cultural lens and how that lens shaped their understanding of Jesus and the gospel.
Is the pope Catholic? Is the president of the Christian student club Christian?
These questions might seem equal in their wry obviousness. They’re not. In the massive California State University system, as at some other universities, new anti-discrimination rules for student groups mean it can no longer be required that the president of the Christian student fellowship is Christian, or that the head of the Muslim association is Muslim, or that the officers of any group buy into the interests and commitments of that group.
Student clubs that refuse to accept the new rules will find themselves on the sidelines when it comes to meeting space, recruitment opportunities and other valuable perks that go with being an officially recognized group.
Such is the fate that has befallen InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a national campus ministry that finds itself “derecognized” in the 450,000-student Cal State system for insisting that student leaders of its campus chapters affirm the basic tenets of evangelical belief.
Last week, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship was derecognized at California state schools, barring the group’s access to on-campus meeting rooms, school funds, and other student functions. While InterVarsity welcomes all to participate in its campus-based student groups, it was derecognized because their leadership policy, which requires students in positions of leadership to sign a statement of belief, conflicted with state-mandated nondiscrimination policies.
From the standpoint of religious liberty in this secular age, it’s hard to get around the troubling nature of this policy. Part of me squirms and rolls my eyes at the increasing irony of the intolerance of tolerance. Why can’t we — as a religious community born of a 2,000-year-old tradition — retain some beliefs that have become out-of-style in the modern academy? The principle irks me: Shouldn’t Christian groups be allowed to require that their leaders are Christian?
On the other hand, might this be another example of evangelicalism prioritizing doctrines over compassionate love of the world? I mean, can’t InterVarsity recognize why nondiscrimination policies exist, stop complaining about persecution, welcome their LGBTQ members into leadership, and get on to the real business of redeeming creation to the glory of God? Is this yet another haunting specter of fundamentalism clinging to its evangelical host?
Given that the crux of this issue revolves around what InterVarsity’s student leaders ostensibly do or do not believe, perhaps this is an opportunity for Christians to (re)consider their affinity for “belief statements.” Are they really that important?
Now, wait — before you throw your hands up and shout “liberal postmodern relativism,” let me explain.
Drawing on sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, Christian philosopher James K.A. Smith writes in Imagining the Kingdom that belief is not primarily “assent to propositions but rather a functional, enacted trust and entrustment to a context and a world.”
In other words, it is not primarily our intellectual assent to a correct doctrine that constitutes belief. To our enlightened modern minds, this may sound frightening. What we think doesn’t matter? Aren’t propositional belief statements the very bulwark which has preserved Christian orthodoxy against centuries of secular onslaught?
But consider: what does it really mean to believe in something?
A well-established international Christian student group is being denied recognition at almost two dozen California college campuses because it requires leaders to adhere to Christian beliefs, effectively closing its leadership ranks to non-Christians and gays.
California State University, which has 23 campuses, is “de-recognizing” local chapters of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an evangelical Christian group with 860 chapters in the United States. The university system says InterVarsity’s leadership policy conflicts with its state-mandated nondiscrimination policy requiring membership and leadership in all official student groups be open to all.
“For an organization to be recognized, they must sign a general nondiscrimination policy,” said Mike Uhlencamp, director of public affairs for the California State University system. “We have engaged with (InterVarsity) for the better part of a year and informed them they would have to sign a general nondiscrimination statement. They have not.”
A professor who was fired in July by the Interdenominational Theological Center says the Atlanta consortium of black seminaries discriminated against his conservative Christian views.
The Rev. Jamal-Dominique Hopkins, an African-American expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in July. He accused ITC administrators of harassment that included “disagreeing with my conservative religious ideals, intimidating me, slandering my character, giving me poor evaluations, and changing student grades from failing to passing with no merit.’’
Hopkins, 42, told Religion News Service that tensions arose after a speaker from InterVarsity Christian Fellowship addressed an informal session he organized in February. During the session, attendees were offered a book that declared homosexuality was a sin.
He said his department chair, the Rev. Margaret Aymer, questioned the distribution of the book and threatened his job.
Today is my one-year anniversary on vitamin L, and it's finally time to talk about.
I struggle with anxiety and clinical depression, and I take vitamin L -- or Lexapro to be exact -- to treat it. It's been one year since I decided enough was enough. I was tired of being tired. Tired of being sad. Tired of always feeling on edge about almost anything.
Last spring I finally sought out the help I needed all along, and took some concrete steps in overcoming depression and the cultural stigma mental health issues carry within the Asian American, American, and Christian cultures. And that is where I find convergence, because May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and it is also Mental Health Awareness Month. I couldn't have orchestrated it better myself.
Last week I had the privilege of attending the Urbana 09 Missions Conference put on every three years by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. It was powerful to be worshiping Christ with 17,000 young adults who were saying "Here am I Lord, send me."