Learn About/Subscribe:
Christian Union
November 8, 2014

California's De-Recognition of InterVarsity Raises Concerns

by Catherine Elvy, Staff Writer

San-Jose-StateCampus ministries are facing a mounting series of equal-access challenges from colleges across the nation.

Among the action, California's public university system recently denied recognition to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship because it requires student leaders to observe Christian beliefs.

In September, the California State University ended recognition for InterVarsity's chapters because they mandate student leaders to adhere to Christian doctrine.

"This could be the tipping point of other university systems moving in this direction, so that's why we are concerned," said Alec Hill, president of InterVarsity, in an article for Christianity Today. "It's as if the First Amendment now protects Greeks, but not religious folks, which is Alice in Wonderland stuff."

Christian Union Founder and President Matt Bennett echoed those comments.

"It's a very sobering event for Christianity," said Bennett, Cornell '88, MBA '89.

Bennett called California's decision part of an alarming trend that reduces Christians to second-class citizens. "It's another terrible step toward the secularization of our nation," he said. As such, believers "need to be much more aggressive."

Likewise, theologian Owen Strachan described the California decision as a "watershed moment" and perhaps only the "low point of the wave." Earlier this year, Strachan's undergraduate alma mater, Bowdoin College, also derecognized InterVarsity.

"This should call local churches to a season of fresh investment. I am understating myself here. Every local church that is near a college campus should soberly consider retrofitting and enhancing its ministry to the school," Strachan wrote in a blog.

"Campus ministries will, in increasing number, be unable to do things like reserve a dining room or meeting space. But, local churches – at least at this point in American life – are not inhibited from doing all they can to reach out to students and invite them to trust Christ and join the congregation. This we should all do in greater measure in coming days."

In response to the California action, InterVarsity is revamping its style of ministry into one that does not rely on established campus structures.

"Our campus access challenges give this generation of students an opportunity to reinvent campus ministry," said Greg Jao, InterVarsity's national field director, in a press release.

Of particular concern, InterVarsity will no longer be able to participate in student organization fairs within the California college system. Instead, the ministry will attempt to reach out to students via interactive displays, social media, mobile banner stands, and other non-traditional means.

"InterVarsity is introducing creative new ways to connect with students and share the Gospel message, though doing so as an 'unrecognized' student group will prove considerably more costly," Jao wrote.

California's university system asserts InterVarsity's leadership policy conflicts with its state-mandated nondiscrimination code requiring membership and leadership in official student groups to be open to all. More than 437,000 students attend California's system on 23 campuses and eight off-campus centers.

For InterVarsity, the loss of recognition translates into a lack of free access to rooms and student activities programs and loss of standing when engaging faculty, students, and administrators.

"We still intend to minister on campus, but loss of recognition is a significant impediment," Jao told Christianity Today.

So far, the California system is the largest to ban InterVarsity, which also has been rebuffed at Vanderbilt University, Rollins College, and Tufts University, according to Charisma News.

The challenges stem from a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision affirming Hasting College of the Law's so-called all-comers policy. It requires leadership positions in student groups at the public institution to be open to all students.

InterVarsity's membership is open to all. However, leaders must support the organization's "doctrinal basis," which declares belief in "the entire trustworthiness" of the Bible, including passages concerning homosexuality, according to Charisma News.

Some campuses have reached agreements with InterVarsity.

Ohio State University rewrote its student organization registration guidelines to read, "A student organization formed to foster or affirm the sincerely held religious beliefs of its members may adopt eligibility criteria for its Student Officers that are consistent with those beliefs," according to Charisma News.

For its part, InterVarsity remains committed to the evangelical calling of its roots.

As InterVarsity approaches its 75th anniversary, the ministry witnessed a record-high participation rate in 2013-14. About 40,300 students and faculty were active in 949 chapters. As well, more than 3,500 people professed "faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord for the first time"—almost double the rate InterVarsity recorded a decade ago, according to the ministry.

On the U.S. campuses where InterVarsity remains recognized the ministry will carry on its established practices.

As for the challenges facing InterVarsity and the resulting implications to college students, a former staffer at Vanderbilt expressed concern for the ability of students to explore diverse religious beliefs.

"We want to be citizens of the university. That's why we are here in the first place. We believe that religious beliefs of all sorts deserve a seat at the table of ideas, and that religious orthodoxy ought not be excluded from campus," Tish Harrison Warren, an InterVarsity staffer at the University of Texas, wrote to The American Conservative.

"We are grateful that we've been able to be part of campus life — some of us for decades — and we want to continue to be part of the dialogue, joys, and challenges of university life."

An attorney at Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based organization that advocates for religious rights, agreed.

"Colleges should promote diversity among campus student groups and encourage students to step into leadership roles in groups that share their interests," said David Hacker.

"Unfortunately, the Cal State system is commanding conformity and singling out certain organizations – Christian organizations – for virtual exile for desiring to be led by students who share the beliefs these groups were formed to affirm."

As well, Hacker called California's move "absurd," noting it makes student organizations, essentially, pointless.

"Under the Cal State system, an atheist could lead a Christian organization, a Republican could lead a Democrat organization, a hunter could lead the animal rights organization, and so on," he said. "Not only is their policy nonsensical, but contrary to the fundamental freedom of association and free speech..."

Along those lines, Bennett said the decision from California's system points to hypocrisy.

Most notably, the public university system continues to allow fraternities and sororities to use gender in selection criteria and athletic groups to weigh abilities and achievements. As well, California's colleges examine grades, scores, and the like in determining admissions.

Ultimately, believers should look to God to provide spiritual direction and empowerment as Christians face bureaucratic hostility on campus.

"We need to call for a radical movement of prayer, fasting, and repentance," Bennett said.
A powerful spell to attract your ex. A strong spell to bring back your lover love spells lasting return love spell. Casting powerful love spells