InterVarsity authors and alumni protest policy terminating employees who support gay marriage

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InterVarsity students. Photo courtesy of InterVarsity

InterVarsity students. Photo courtesy of InterVarsity

(RNS) InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA (IVCF), a large ministry operating on 667 college campuses nationwide, faced widespread backlash after it announced last week it would begin “involuntarily terminating” employees who hold a theological position supporting gay marriage. But the heat is rising today as influential authors and InterVarsity alumni are now publicly protesting the decision.

In a public letter obtained by Religion News Service, more than 50 authors in InterVarsity’s publishing house stable including Shane Claiborne, David Dark, Christena Cleveland, Ian Morgan Cron, and Chris Heuertz are calling on IVCF head Tom Lin to immediately replace the policy with one that makes space for opposing views. The letter indicates that the signers “do not all share the same theological or political views” but “are united in our concern for the dignity and care of our fellow Christians whose jobs are threatened by your policy.”

Chris Heuertz, co-founder of the Gravity Center in Omaha and author of multiple books with InterVarsity Press, sent the letter to Tom Lin via email on Tuesday afternoon. He made clear that the letter was drafted in the spirit of friendship and sadness, not anger.

“As friends of IVCF, this letter comes from a place of deep sorrow,” Heuertz said. “This is not an attack on IVCF or the important work IVCF does, rather it is an invitation for unity in diversity–something many of us have learned through the embodied credibility of IVCF.”

The full draft of the letter is posted below this article with instructions for how other InterVarsity authors can add their names.

These influential authors are not alone in their dismay over IVCF’s policy. This week, a public protest letter from “concerned ICVF alumni” was posted on Change.org and addressed to Tom Lin and IVCF’s board of trustees. Similar to the authors’ letter, this petition stated that signers “hold a range of beliefs with regard to marriage and human sexuality.” The petition, in part, states:

The new policy, which excludes many Christian siblings and silences sincere disagreement, contradicts InterVarsity’s values of authentic community, loving-kindness, intellectual rigor, and abundant grace. If not changed, we fear for the future of the organization and its ability to continue to minister to students and faculty, to the ultimate detriment of the gospel message and the legacy of an organization we dearly love.

Today, the petition has exceeded its goal of 1,000 signatures from IVCF alumni.

In addition to these efforts, a large coalition of LGBT Christians has issued a public statement opposing the position. The Gay Christian Network, which has more than 30,000 registered members and runs the world’s largest annual gathering of LGBT Christians, sent Religion News Service a draft of a public letter stating concern that “this decision sends a clear message to LGBT students that they are not wanted in InterVarsity–and many will surmise that they are not wanted in the church, either.”

The letter asserts, “While we sympathize with the need for religious organizations to be able to take theological positions, we do not believe witch hunts based on privately held personal beliefs are the right way to handle a sensitive issue where many Christians are evolving and where those most affected are a minority community with a history of feeling unwanted in the church.”

The full draft of the letter was sent to Religion News Service by Justin Lee, president of the Gay Christian Network and author of Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs-Christians Debate. It has been posted on the GCN website.

When Elizabeth Dias of Time first broke the story about InterVarsity’s policy, the organization responded by claiming that the article incorrectly reported their position. “The scope of InterVarsity’s reiteration of its position on biblical sexuality is primarily theological in nature,” a public statement said. In other words, IVCF employees will only be fired for holding to theological positions affirming gay marriage, rather than political positions affirming civil marriage for LGBT persons.

An email attempt to contact Tom Lin was not immediately returned for comment.

October 11, 2016

To Tom Lin, the InterVarity Christian Fellowship USA Cabinet and Board of Directors,

As authors who have published with InterVarsity Press (IVP), we are deeply troubled and concerned about your organization’s recent “involuntary termination” policy. Since our IVP books indirectly tether us to your organization, we feel it is necessary to make our feelings known to you and those with whom we have relationships. We understand that conversations related to marriage, sexuality, and gender are critical for Christians, but we also recognize that Christians of mutual goodwill can have those conversations and arrive at various conclusions. While we do not all share the same theological or political views, we are united in our concern for the dignity and care of our fellow Christians whose jobs are threatened by your policy.

Therefore, we urge you, for the sake our our collective integrity and the credibility of your organization to revoke the “involuntary termination” policy and replace it with one that allows your staff to conscientiously object. Allowing IVCF staff to remain in community despite not completely agreeing with a particular view of sexuality and marriage will demonstrate the inclusive and open-armed spirit of Christ. The Christian community is in desperate need of healing at this moment, and we believe you can help lead this effort.

For the sake of our friends,

Janell Anema, National Trainer with Sources of Strength, Director/Co-Director of IV’s Global Urban Trek to South Asia, and contributor to Letters to a Future Church: Words of Encouragement and Prophetic Appeals.

Kent Annan, author of Slow Kingdom Coming: Practices for Doing Justice, Loving Mercy and Walking Humble in the World and Jesus Through the Eye of the Needle: Living Fully, Loving Dangerously

Jamie Arpin-Ricci, Pastor of Little Flowers Community, co-director of YWAM Urban Ministries Winnipeg and author of The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis and Life in the Kingdom.

Leroy Barber, Director of The Voices Project, author of Embrace: God’s Radical Shalom for a Divided World and Everyday Missions: How Ordinary People Can Change the World.

Ivy Beckwith, Faith Formation Minister and Team Leader United Church of Christ in Cleveland, Ohio and co-author of Children’s Ministry in the Way of Jesus.

Kristie Berglund, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Brookings, South Dakota, former IVP academic sales manager, and author of Resurrection: Living as People of the Risen Lord.

Brent Bill, Quaker minister and co-author of Finding God in the Verbs: Crafting a Fresh Language of Prayer­ and Awaken Your Senses: Exercises for Exploring the Wonder of God.

Beth Booram, Co-founder and Director of Sustainable Faith and author of Starting Something New: Spiritual Direction for Your God-given Dream and Awaken your Senses.

Jared Patrick Boyd, Founder of The Order of Sustainable Faith, Pastor and Spiritual Director at Franklinton Abbey, and author of upcoming Imaginative Prayer: A Yearlong Guide for the Spiritual Formation of Your Child.

Shane Claiborne, co-founder of Red Letter Christians and The Simple Way and co-author of Becoming the Answer to our Prayers: Prayer for Ordinary Radicals.

Rodney Clapp, editor, Cascade Books, and author of Families at the Crossroads: Beyond Tradition and Modern Options and A Peculiar People: The Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society.

Julie Clawson, author of Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices.

Dr. Christena Cleveland, Ph.D., Associate Professor of the Practice of Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School and author of Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that Keep Us Apart.

Rev. Ian Morgan Cron, Episcopal priest and co-author of The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery.

Dr. David Dark, Ph.D., educator at the Tennessee Prison for Women and Belmont University, and author of Life’s Too Short to Pretend You’re Not Religious.

Dr. Megan DeFranza, Ph.D., contributing author to Evangelical Postcolonial Conversations: Global Awakenings in Theology and Praxis, and author of Sex Difference in Christian Theology: Male, Female, and Intersex in the Image of God (which is listed under recommended reading in InterVarsity’s position paper on Human Sexuality).

Rev. John Flett Ph.D., DTheol.Habil., Associate Professor of Missiology and Intercultural Theology at Pilgrim College/ University of Divinity, and author of Apostolicity: The Ecumenical Question in World Christian Perspective.

Dr. Dwight J. Friesen, D.Min, Associate Professor of Practical Theology at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology, and co-author of The New Parish: How Neighborhood Churches are Transforming Mission, Discipleship and Community.

Sean Gladding, author of The Story of God, The Story of Us and Ten: Words of Life for an Addicted, Compulsive, Cynical, Divided and Worn-out Culture

Dale Hanson Bourke, author of Responding to HIV/AIDS, The Skeptic’s Guide to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Immigration: Tough Questions, Direct Answers.

Rev. Peter Goodwin Heltzel, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theology and Director of the Micah Institute at New York Theological Seminary and co-author of Faith-rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World.

Christopher L. Heuertz, Founding Partner of Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism and author of Simple Spirituality: Learning to See God in a Broken World, co-author of Friendship at the Margins: Discovering Mutuality in Service and Mission, and contributor to Living Mission: The Vision and Voices of New Friars.

Phileena Heuertz, Founding Partner of Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism and author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and contributor to Living Mission: The Vision and Voices of New Friars.

Michael Hidalgo, Lead Pastor, Denver Community Church, Author of Unlost: Being Found by the One We Are Looking For and Changing Faith.

Dr. Daniel White Hodge Ph.D., Director of The Center for Youth Ministry Studies & Associate Professor of Youth Ministry at North Park University and author of The Soul of Hip Hop: Rimbs, Timbs, and a Cultural Theology.

Jon Huckins, Co-Founding Director of Global Immersion and co-author of unnamed, upcoming 2017 IVP book.

Erin Lane, Assistant Program Director for Clergy and People of Faith at the Center for Courage & Renewal and author of Lessons in Belonging from a Church-Going Commitment Phobe.

Andrew Marin, President and Founder of The Marin Foundation and author of the award winning Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community.

Dr. Jennifer M. McBride Ph.D., Associate Dean of Doctor of Ministry Programs and Assistant Professor of Theology and Ethics at McCormick Theological Seminary and contributor to Christian Political Witness.

Dr. W. Travis McMaken, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Religion and Chair of the Interdisciplinary Studies department, Lindenwood University and author of upcoming Explorer’s Guide to T. F. Torrance.

Rev. Dr. Kai Mark Nilsen, D.Min., Lead Pastor of Peace Lutheran in Columbus, Ohio and author of Renew Your Life: Discovering the Wellspring of God’s Energy.

Mark Oestreicher, Partner, The Youth Cartel and author of Hopecasting: Finding, Keeping and Sharing the Things Unseen.

Dr. Margaret Kim Peterson Ph.D., Associate Professor of Theology and Psychology at Eastern University (St. Davids, PA), co-author of Are You Waiting for “The One?” Cultivating Realistic, Positive Expectations for Christian Marriage, and member of the editorial advisory board for the IVP’s Strategic Initiatives in Evangelical Theology series.

Dr. John Phelan Jr. Ph.D., Senior Professor of Theological Studies, North Park Theological Seminary, former IVCF staff, and author of Essential Eschatology: Our Present and Future Hope.

Caryn Rivadeneira, author, Broke: What Financial Desperation Revealed About God’s Abundance.

Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, founder of Faith-rooted Organizing UnNetwork and co-author of Faith-rooted Organizing: Mobilizing the Church in Service to the World.

Hailey Scandrette, contributor to Belonging and Becoming: Creating a Thriving Family Culture and contributor to Free: Spending Your Time and Money on What Matters Most.

Lisa Scandrette, Teacher with ReImagine, co author of Belonging and Becoming: Creating a Thriving Family Culture and contributor to Free: Spending Your Time and Money on What Matters Most.

Mark Scandrette, Founding Director, ReIMAGINE, author of Practicing The Way of Jesus: Life Together in the Kingdom of Love, author of Free: Spending Your Time and Money on What Matters Most, and coauthor of Belonging and Becoming: Creating a Thriving Family Culture.

Christopher Smith, Founding Editor of The Englewood Review of Books, co-author of Slow Church: Cultivating Community in the Patient Way of Jesus and author of Reading For The Common Good: How Books Help Our Churches and Neighborhoods Flourish.

Suzanne Stabile, Co-founder and Animator of Life in the Trinity Ministry and co-author of The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery.

Jer Swigart, Co-Founding Director of Global Immersion, a peacemaking training organization and co-author of unnamed, upcoming 2017 IVP book.

Laura Sumner Truax, Senior Pastor at LaSalle Street Church and author of Undone: When Coming Apart Puts You Back Together

Dr. Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, Ph.D., Professor Emerita of Psychology at Eastern University, and author of Gender and Grace: Love, Work, and Parenting in a Changing World, and My Brother’s Keeper: What the Social Sciences Do (and Don’t) Tell Us About Masculinity.

Mark Van Steenwyk, Director of the Center for Prophetic Imagination, Co-Founder of the Mennonite Worker and author of The UnKingdom of God: Embracing the Subversive Power of Repentance.

Wendy VanderWal-Gritter Executive Director, New Direction Ministries contributor to Letters to a Future Church: Words of Encouragement and Prophetic Appeals.

Will Vaus, Pastor of Stowe Community Church in Stowe, Vermont and author of Mere Theology: A Guide to the Thought of C.S. Lewis.

Dan White Jr., Co-Planter of Axiom Church Syracuse, New York. Co-author of The Church as Movement: Starting and Sustaining Missional-Incarnational Communities.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, co-author of Becoming the Answer to our Prayers: Prayer for Ordinary Radicals and Associate Editor for IVP’s Resources for Reconciliation Series.

Adrianna Wright, former online publicist for InterVarsity Press.

Keri Wyatt Kent, author of God’s Whisper in a Mother’s Chaos: Bringing Peace Home and The Garden of the Soul: Cultivating Your Spiritual Life.

Mark Yaconelli, Executive Director of The Hearth, author of The Gift of Hard Things: Finding Grace in Unexpected Places.

*If you are an IVP author/contributor and would like your name added to this letter please indicate that by sending a message here. Also, please note that organizations and titles listed for identification purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the position of the institution.