News broke last month that InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA, a college ministry with chapters on 667 campuses around the country, has asked its staff of 1,300 to affirm its recently released Theological Summary of Human Sexuality. Included in this theological summary are statements against same-sex relationships (among other things such as sexual abuse, premarital sex, and pornography). While staff members were not asked to sign or verbally acknowledge their agreement, those who did not share the beliefs detailed in the position paper were asked to self-disclose this information, which would lead to their “involuntary termination.” As donors of this ministry organization, my husband and I felt it important to let InterVarsity know how deeply saddened we were to hear this news, and also to relay the reasons we are choosing to continue our financial support despite our disagreement. Here is our response to this policy.
We have been supporters of InterVarsity since one of our family members joined the staff five years ago. In this relatively short amount of time, we have learned a lot about your ministry and its important work on college campuses. We have heard amazing stories of what God is doing in the lives of students in our community and around the country through your organization. We have been honored to be connected to InterVarsity because of its commitment to proclaiming the love of Jesus Christ and raising up the next generation of Christian leaders.
So when we heard the news about staff members with differing opinions on homosexual relationships being asked to leave, it came as a shock and a deep disappointment. Much of what we would like to say has already been expressed by others in the InterVarsity community, including many alumni and InterVarsity Press authors, but these are thoughts that are worth repeating.
The most concerning aspect of this new policy is that it does not leave any room for thoughtful, spirit-led discussion and potential disagreement. It is does not acknowledge that many devoted Christians have spent many hours studying, praying, and listening, and have come down on this issue differently than you, while still being devoted Christians. This is not about whether we agree or disagree with this position. We’re not saying that one side is necessarily “right” or “wrong”; we’re saying that failing to recognize the immense grayness of this issue is troubling.
We are hurt on behalf of the students who are proud members of both the LGBT community and their InterVarsity chapter, who are being told that those two love-filled and life-giving spaces are somehow incompatible. We are hurt on behalf of the staff who are being forced to choose between their theological convictions and their livelihood, not to mention the relationships that they have spent years building on campus. The staff who stay are implicitly telling the LGBT students at their school that their romantic relationships are “a distortion of God’s loving design for humanity.” The staff who leave stand in solidarity with their LGBT students, but also lose the avenue through which they were connected to those students in the first place.
All of these thoughts have made it difficult to continue to support InterVarsity. Our instinct is to stop our monthly donation in response to this policy, because we know that while you have received a lot of letters expressing similar sentiments, money often speaks louder than words. But here is the problem we face: our money goes primarily to our family member on staff. Yes, a small portion of our money goes to organizational overhead, but our decision to stop supporting InterVarsity will have a much larger effect on our family member and his ministry than on the organization as a whole. While he has chosen to stay on staff, he is doing so while continuing to ask tough questions and challenge the idea that this is a clear cut issue. While you have pushed out those who actively disagree with you, there are still those who will expect you to continue to learn and grow as you serve college students who are constantly learning and growing as well. Those are the kinds of people InterVarsity needs at a time like this, when conscientious dissent has been rooted out and homogenous orthodoxy reigns supreme.
So we will continue to support our family member and those like him who believe there needs to be room for discussion. When our check clears each month, please note it is not in support of this position; instead, it is in support of those who continue to question and learn on behalf of those students and staff who no longer feel welcome in the InterVarsity community.
Catherine and Mitch Kramer
Catherine Kramer (’14) has a degree in English and works in publishing. Her continued existence is made possible by grace, warm hugs, and iced chai lattes.