InterVarsity 'Reinvents' Campus Ministry after 'De-Recognized' by Cal State over Christian Leadership Policy

( [email protected] ) Sep 10, 2014 05:29 PM EDT
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship has 860 chapters in the United States

Following the news that InterVarsity Christian Fellowship will be "de-recognized" by 19 California State University campuses because it requires leaders to adhere to Christian beliefs, the organization announced that it will "reinvent" its campus ministry.

In a press release Tuesday, InterVarsity said that the change is necessary in order to keep spreading the Gospel on California campuses.

"In order to maintain a ministry presence with 23 chapters on 19 CSU campuses, 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," the statement read.

InterVarsity's decision came after the California University system said the group's leadership policy, which states that leaders must believe in the "entire trustworthiness" of the Bible, conflicts with its state-mandated nondiscrimination policy requiring membership and leadership in all official student groups be open to all.

"For an organization to be recognized, they must sign a general nondiscrimination policy," said Mike Uhlencamp, director of public affairs for the California State University system. "We have engaged with (InterVarsity) for the better part of a year and informed them they would have to sign a general nondiscrimination statement. They have not."

InterVarsity national field director Greg Jao called the challenges an opportunity for his organization to "reinvent campus ministry," and says it plans to work around "established campus structures" to continue spreading the gospel.

"Because we are no longer allowed to participate in campus organization fairs, InterVarsity will make contact with students by deploying new tools such as mobile banner stands, interactive displays, social media, and other techniques that don't rely on established campus structures," the statement continued.

"Even as we use new tools and techniques, we remind students that effective ministry is ultimately relational," he said in the press release. "It's about students inviting other students to follow Jesus."

InterVarsity was established in 1947 and currently has 860 chapters nationwide. The organization seeks to minister to campus students and faculty through small group Bible studies, large gatherings on campus, leadership training, and conferences and events. According to the organization's website, its purpose is to "establish and advance at colleges and universities witnessing communities of students and faculty who follow Jesus as Savior and Lord: growing in love for God, God's Word, God's people of every ethnicity and culture and God's purposes in the world."

California University's decision means local chapters will lose access to on-campus meeting rooms, student fairs and other official school functions, which will impact their reach. The estimated annual cost of covering those losses will be about $20,000 per chapter, Huffington Post reports.

Regardless of the financial strain the changes will place on the organization, Jao said InterVarsity will not change their leadership policy, as doing so would undermine its Christian foundation.

"We don't believe we can affirm a policy that forces us to compromise Gospel faith and Christian integrity without undermining our commitment to help students become real world changers, not just world accommodators," he said.