InterVaristy Christian Fellowship, one of the largest evangelical Christian groups in the US, with over 1000 chapters nationwide and over 1300 staff, announced that they will be terminating any employees who affirm same-sex marriage. While they are not asking their employees to sign a certain statement of belief and will not be seeking out the individual convictions of its employees, they expect employees to identify themselves, and then leave. And while LGBTQ+ identified staff can remain as long as they remain celibate and affirm IV’s 20 page Theological Summary on Human Sexuality, AND they still welcome queer students into their gatherings, they plan on dismissing staff who can’t affirm this paper.
…Wow. Where to begin with this.
First, I want to start with IV’s twitter thread from last night in response to the article in TIME:
— INTERVARSITY USA (@INTERVARSITYusa) October 7, 2016
2/8 We lament that LGBTQI people have experienced great pain, including much caused by Christians.
3/8 We also know that we ourselves each need Jesus’ grace daily. So we attempt to walk humbly in this conversation.
4/8 We do hold to an orthodox view of sexuality and Christian marriage, as you read in our Theology of Sexuality Doc at bottom of article.
5/8 We believe Christlikeness includes embracing Scripture’s teachings on human sexuality—uncomfortable and difficult as they may be…
6/8 AND Christlikeness demands we uphold the dignity of all people, because we are all made in God’s image.
7/8 Some will argue this cannot be done. We believe that we must if we want to be faithful followers of Jesus.
8/8 Within InterVarsity and elsewhere, some LGBTQI people agree with this theology, at great personal cost. We are learning together.
So, basically what I read here is, #sorrynotsorry, we’re following “biblical truth,” and we’ve got some queer people who agree with us so that is validation enough for us. But it’s okay! We’re learning!
You are not lamenting if you do not weep with those who weep. You aren’t walking humbly in this conversations when you make a policy that affects people who are barred from the conversation. You aren’t learning when you’ve already created a policy. You are playing into your own fear and need for power and security. And your policy is endangering the lives of LGBTQ+ students everywhere.
In college, I was involved with IV and GreekIV, and for a while I was very invested in their mission of getting people closer to God. And I see the value in it. IV provides a lot of fantastic community for people on college campuses across the country. It was actually a group of IV girls who were explicitly kind to me (even when as a sort-of-out gay guy in college who often stumbled into their room drunk from time to time, AND harassed them about the Bible and doctrine, etc) that allowed me the courage to actually seek out faith in God again. They didn’t ask me to change who I was, they just were kind. They baked me a cake on my birthday. They prayed for me when I was having a rough time. They were Jesus to me. And that’s now going to radically shift.
First of all, Intervarsity’s theological paper on human sexuality is nothing new.
A friend of mine who read IV’s theological paper on human sexuality told me what she found interesting was their arguments for not affirming same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ identities were anything but unique. Their points are the same old arguments for excluding LGBTQ+ people from the table, with a dash of “Oh, but we’re trying to be sensitive and nuanced about this.” They act like they’ve really researched this, that they’ve really considered all sorts of opinions and view points, but I wonder how many queer people were sitting in the room when this paper was being written. (I can’t imagine it was any, to be honest.)
What shocks me even further is that IV is an organization who has publicly blacked Black Lives Matter (an organization started by three queer women of color) and champions women in leadership. How can you do something as radical as standing with BLM but only affirm a part of their community? How can you say that you want women to be raised up if you only believe that certain women should lead? I do not understand.
More than anything, InterVarsity is endangering the lives of LGBTQ students.
And make no mistake, I mean that 100%.
College is such a delicate time for every college student, but especially for students who are just now feeling a shred of freedom to explore their queer identities. To have an organization as large as IV with the influence it does in evangelical circles claim a non-affirming stance towards LGBTQ+ people frightens me because it will cause students in that system to hide who they are, leading to mental health concerns, possible substance abuse, and self-harm. I know that in college, when I was attempting to suppress my sexuality, it physically manifested in manic and obsessive over-involvement on campus, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and suicidal ideations, among other things.
I cringe at the thought of queer students going into their spaces under false pretenses of being welcomed as they are, but then later expect to suppress a something that is so central to who they are. I hate the fact that potentially amazing church leaders are going to be sidelined because of their sexuality. I am afraid for students who think that they have to change who they are to be close to God. And with no staff people who can affirm their identities, who will fight for them?
How can IV staff effectively minister to students who are queer? How can they lead students who are unapologetically affirming of their LGBTQ+ friends? And where will staff who have given their lives to serve students under IV’s banner go after this?
The actions of InterVaristy are going to alienate LGBTQ+ students, their allies, and perpetuate a spiritual violence against queer students.
I’ve said it in a multitude of ways, but being “welcoming, but not affirming” is not a welcoming. It’s a way to shirk the responsibility of doing the hard work of standing with and for a marginalized people group. It is a way to appear nuanced and loving while not actually doing anything.
This is bad theology that leads to violence against queer people, both at the hands of others and from themselves. This is the kind of bad theology that literally kills people.
On top of all that, many Jesus loving, LGBTQ people and their supporters are going to be left disillusioned with the Church and spiritually homeless. And that’s beyond devastating. What’s worse is that any queer people who thought they might be welcomed in a Christian environment will have one less place to find community in a world where there are already limited spaces available to them.
We have to do better.
As a faith community, we have got to call out the bullshit in our ranks. This isn’t just about agreeing to disagree. We are talking about real, human lives being at stake. People are dying. And until that stops happening, I’m not willing to give any leeway to anyone or anything or any organization that could harm someone who God loves and affirms.
What makes me sad is that InterVarsity has the chance to do something really incredible with their platform and their influence. Unfortunately, this might be the beginning of the end for them. They are standing on the wrong side of history, and weep for the people who are going to come after them and have to apologize and make amends for the sins of the present leadership.
These actions will be their demise. And, honestly, unless they change in the near future, I actually hope that they get banned from universities across the nation for perpetuating discrimination and spiritual violence against queer people.