I was a bit puzzled by InterVarsity’s latest blog post, “Selecting the Right Leader,” by Gordon Govier. The post insinuates that InterVarsity chapters around the country are being pressured by universities to let non-Christians lead chapters. I am not as informed about the situation as some people on InterVarsity staff, I’m sure, but my understanding is that this is what is happening at a handful of campuses… but at an equal number of campuses, the issue is InterVarsity’s objection to “practicing” gay Christian leaders. In fact, from what I’ve read, at many of these campuses these issues are really the same. The conversation goes something like this:
IV: “Susie, you are gay and think that’s ok, so you can’t be a leader anymore.”
Univ.: “That’s discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation!”
IV: “No, it’s not! It’s ok with us that Susie is gay. She just shouldn’t think that’s ok.”
Univ: “Oh. Well that’s discrimination on the basis of religion!”
IV: “So, we’re a Christian group?”
Then instead of objecting and saying something like, “Well, not all Christians agree with you” (which to me is a logical response), many universities are saying, “Well, maybe we shouldn’t let you discriminate on the basis of religion at all then.” Which then, of course gets presented as, “They want us to put Wiccan and Muslim students in charge of our Christian group!” Perhaps some universities would really push for that, but that’s not exactly where the conversation got started in the first place at many of these schools. At many of them this is starting as a conflict about sexuality.
Sidenote: I put “practicing” in quotes because InterVarsity, like many Christian organizations which come down most conservatively on the issue of homosexuality in the church doesn’t clearly define what “practicing” means. Does it mean having sex? Does that mean it’s ok to be in a relationship where you’re not having sex? I would think they’d have a problem with that, too, but where precisely is the line drawn and why? I have some thoughts on this topic from my time at Fuller, but that is a discussion for another day…
Back to the main point here: I’m not certain why this was left out of the article. InterVarsity students, parents, and financial supporters should know what is actually going on. If InterVarsity feels confident about its position on homosexuality, this shouldn’t be a problem. Quite honestly, I think it will gain them more donors than it will cost them. Problems tend to come to organizations moving in the opposite direction.
So why not be honest? I’m not certain this post was meant to be deceitful—really I rather doubt it—but it doesn’t tell the whole story. I wonder if this is because historically InterVarsity hasn’t seemed to want to push this issue and highlight it the way many evangelical organizations do. There’s something honorable about that: not wanting to make a fuss and draw too much attention to what is seen as a more peripheral issue, especially one that most evangelicals engage with rather poorly whenever attention is drawn to it. At the same time, it would be good to be upfront about their position.
I agree that student groups should be allowed to “discriminate” based on beliefs, but I question the wisdom of InterVarsity’s making their stance on homosexuality an orthodoxy test while leaving similarly controversial issues such as women in ministry open for disagreement. Is this really a line-in-the-sand sort of issue? Are the ancient ecumenical creeds not enough? Is a profession of Christian faith not enough? Is a heartfelt desire to follow Jesus not enough? Why is this the only issue on which many “interdenominational” organizations can have no diversity? Some InterVarsity alumni and friends will disagree with this move, and they should have the information they need to make decisions about their financial support.
Only a handful of other donors may feel this way, but even so, I wish this article had been more thorough. If nothing else, doesn’t journalism demand a higher standard? Doesn’t a Christian love of truth? Let’s be clear about what is going on here.