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InterVarsity denies plan for gay marriage firings but maintains theological opposition

(RNS) While same-sex marriage has been legal in the United States for more than a year, the organization holds an orthodox theological position on sexuality that views marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

InterVarsity students. Photo courtesy of InterVarsity

(RNS) InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, one of the nation’s largest campus ministries, has dismissed a news report saying it plans to fire any employee who supports gay marriage.

The evangelical organization, which has chapters on 667 college campuses across the U.S., responded to an article published Thursday (Oct. 6) in Time magazine that said it would begin a process for “involuntary terminations” for any staffer who comes forward to disagree with its positions on human sexuality. The policy would be implemented starting Nov. 11, the report said.

In Facebook and Twitter postings, the campus ministry said the “headline and article wrongly stated that InterVarsity is firing employees for supporting gay marriage.”

“That is not the case. In fact, InterVarsity doesn’t have a policy regarding employee views on civil marriage,” the statement said. InterVarsity did not return phone calls seeking clarifications of its policies. It’s possible the organization is trying to distinguish between its political position on gay marriage and its theological position.

While same-sex marriage has been legal in the United States for more than a year, the organization holds an orthodox theological position on sexuality that views marriage as a union of one man and one woman.

Its position paper on human sexuality states: “Scripture is very clear that God’s intention for sexual expression is to be between a husband and wife in marriage. Every other sexual practice is outside of God’s plan and therefore is a distortion of God’s loving design for humanity.”

Several traditionalists hailed news that the college ministry would terminate employees who publicly support gay marriage.

“God bless InterVarsity for its impressive courage and steadfastness!” wrote Rod Dreher, a commentator for The American Conservative.

Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., welcomed greater clarity on the ministry’s theological position, too:

When InterVarsity Christian Fellowship makes the pages of Time Magazine going into the weekend, you understand what we have been saying for a very long time,” Mohler said in The Briefing podcast. “There is no place to hide. Soon we’re all going to know what everyone believes on all of these issues, and Christian institutions, Christian organizations, Christian ministries, and Christian churches, indeed every single Christian will eventually have to give an answer.”

Gay marriage is hotly debated in evangelical circles, with many veteran organizations strongly opposed to any change in Christian orthodoxy on sexuality and marriage. In 2014, the U.S. branch of World Vision, an evangelical humanitarian relief organization, quickly reversed a decision to allow gay married employees after losing donor support.

But younger evangelicals are far more open to nonheterosexual expressions of sexuality. A Pew Research poll found that more than half of millennial evangelicals believe homosexuality should be accepted, and nearly half (47 percent) of those same millennials support gay marriage.

Among younger evangelicals, reaction to the report about InterVarsity deciding to eliminate supporters of gay marriage was decidedly negative.

The article said the organization would not go after employees but would wait for them to come forward if they disagree with the theological position. When employees inform their supervisor of their disagreement, a two-week period would be triggered, concluding in their last day.