The largest evangelical campus organization, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, is now ready to terminate any staff members who support gay marriage. In the everyday work of campus ministry, this means that staff members cannot bless and support the desire of gay students who believe they are called to faithfulness in a same-gender marriage relationship. Scratch beneath the faux warmth of some phrasing in the IV position, and you will find that it is rooted in the traditional view that all same-gender sexual relationships are indisputably covered by the language of abhorrence used in a handful of biblical texts, including Romans 1. All the important cultural-historical work done to interpret the divorce texts ignored in the work of interpreting the handful of texts that have been used by the church to forbid all same-gender sexual relationships. (The IV policy allows for divorce and remarriage in the case of the ill defined and “wide-open-to-interpretation” phrase, “psychological abuse.”)
But this exclusionary LGBTQ policy is carefully stated to discourage (mostly young) IV staffers from openly expressing their disagreement with their supervisors. Because these supervisors, we now know, will be required to terminate those employees with 2 weeks notice as soon as this disagreement is stated. The IV campus ministers will not be asked their views on the policy, but if they share their views, they will be fired. The wink and the nod here is clear: “If you disagree and want to continue your ministry with IV, don’t reveal your disagreement to us. Keep it to yourself.”
As a pastor I’ve worked with many wonderful evangelical campus ministers. Most of them are anywhere from fresh out of college to 10 years into their full time Christian ministry with IV. They are full of devotion to Christ and enthusiasm for campus ministry. They have by-passed better paying jobs in fields that they were trained for, in order to do Christian ministry. This means raising funds from family and friends and church members, to fund themselves (with a percentage going to the national organization). The longer they remain in campus ministry, the more difficult their adjustment should they decide to move into the “secular” workforce.
Picture the 30-something IV staffer who has gotten married and has his or her second child on the way. It’s taken them five years to fully fund themselves and now that they have done that, they really need the full funding. Their degree in say, nursing, or business, or engineering, is a little stale. Perhaps professional licenses were never pursued because of their call to campus ministry.
And they will, if they are like the campus ministers I have known, be dedicated to their students and fellow staff members. Their hearts will be in these relationships. Their campus ministry work will not just be a job they leave behind at 5:30 during their 5 day workweek. It will be all-consuming and their social support system will revolve around their work.
Say it Anyway
To these wonderful men and women I make this appeal: for the sake of your own integrity and for the sake of your witness to your students, tell your supervisors that you disagree with the LGBTQ policy, and be fired with two weeks pay. The centerpiece of Christian discipleship–your bread and butter during your work with IV–is witness, faithful witness. That means speaking the truth that you know as you know it. It means not believing one thing and saying another, or even conducting yourself as if you believe what you do not believe. It means ignoring the wink and the nod implicit in the roll out of this new policy.
Your LGBTQ students, many of them from evangelicals families who do not fully accept them, are used to people who express their support in private, but are unwilling to pay any social cost to make it known more openly. This has been, for these students, just another expression of the social oppression that goes with the territory of being a sexual minority in a conservative religious setting.
If you do what you need to do in order to keep your job, remain silent, you will be modeling something other than Christian discipleship, the very thing you signed up for. You will have chosen the path of the divided heart and it won’t do you or your students any good.
Let your statement of disagreement–not to your friends in IV who are also keeping silent, but to your supervisor–be a witness to all your students, but especially to the vulnerable LGBTQ students in your sphere of influence. Tell them, “I was not able to support the exclusionary and discriminatory policy of my beloved InterVarsity, so I told my supervisor and lost my job.”
You will given them the most precious gift you could give them. You will have said to them with your actions: standing with you is more important to me than keeping my job. And in that, they will have received the testimony of Jesus.