Time for InterVarsity Staffers to Speak Up for Vulnerable LGBTQ Students

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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11 thoughts on “Time for InterVarsity Staffers to Speak Up for Vulnerable LGBTQ Students

  1. Debi Hall says:

    Ken, what has happened to you over these past few years? You used to be a very warm and generous person when I attended your church -always finding the right balance. Now you sound so bitter and angry in your posts and all you talk about is the gay issue. It makes me so sad to see you so consumed by this. Move on please.

    • Ken Wilson says:

      What happened was getting to know LGBTQ people and seeing how harmful these policies are. I’ll ease up once the flood of new people sharing their stories with me does. I’m glad you were able to detect my anger in this post.

  2. Ann-Britt Keillor says:

    An excellent piece. If a staff member is fired after this God will lead them to a new and meaningful place. We must stay with the LGBGQ community and encourage them I am extremely saddened and disappointed by IVCF decision .

  3. Heather Heffley says:

    That was awesome. I agree whole heartedly. To really stand up for a victim of anything, you need to do so publicly, anything else is simply blowing smoke up their skirt. To make change, people need to get uncomfortable and get their hands dirty. Polite little chats don’t do that. I applaud your fervor and the fact that you yourself have modeled it. Jesus got angry about social injustice to the point that he allowed himself to be killed over it. I don’t think you can get much more angry and passionate over a cause than that. There are many groups in our society who need friends like Ken. Friends willing to take a real stand. Friends willing to step into the fire along side someone. As a victim of bullying my whole life, not many people are brave enough to do that, actually most aren’t, so when one does, wow. It’s huge and makes great change! It inspires people to become leaders. Thank you Ken!

  4. Jean Nelson says:

    Pastor, from what I’ve seen you’re milking this issue for as much profit and attention as you can. And yet you claim the moral high ground?

    • Jenelle says:

      I’m curious where the profit is in this, Jean?? It sounds to me like he’s challenging Christian leaders to live with integrity by challenging them to let their actions match their words, and to stand with the oppressed even if it has great personal cost, which I think is one of the greatest calls of Christ if I’m not mistaken. I’m not seeing any evidence of your accusation. Perhaps it’s because you simply disagree with him, and therefore, him saying anything at all MUST be for attention and profit, because that’s the only explanation you can come up with? As far as I’m concerned, living with integrity and standing with and for people who are being abused and oppressed are about as high a moral ground as one could possibly take. Perhaps more Christians could try it. This world would be a much different place, and a lot more people would experience the love and hope of Christ.

  5. Thank you for a thoughtful and challenging piece. I honestly am not sure what I would do if I were placed in a position like those working for InterVarsity right now. I’ve never had to question my job versus my moral ethics, but I’d like to believe that if I did, I would take the kind of stand you describe here. Knowing that you have had to face that issue yourself gives me even more pause when considering these words.

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