InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA (IVCF), an evangelical ministry operating on 667 campuses nationwide, has faced fierce backlash since announcing it would involuntarily terminate any employees who theologically support gay marriage. The most significant outcry has come from a group of more than 50 prominent authors in InterVarsity’s publishing stable who signed a statement lamenting the policy and asking the ministry to revoke it immediately.
In the midst of the growing outcry, InterVarsity leadership has holed up and remained silent. Attempts made by Religion News Service to contact IVCF president Tom Lin and Greg Jao, director of campus engagement, have been ignored. Other religion journalists who have reported on the matter say IVCF leadership has been unresponsive to their interview requests, too.
But the publisher at InterVarsity Press (IVP), Jeff Crosby, has now cracked the silence. Though he declined to be interviewed at this time, he released a statement to Religion News Service saying that IVP authors will be exempt from the controversial gay marriage termination policy:
I have spoken with many though not all of the authors who have signed the petition you reference which was sent to Tom Lin, president of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (not IVP), and have explained there and in a letter to our full author pool that IVP authors are not subject to the theological summary of human sexuality. We recognize that we have authors in our trade and academic lines, writing about subjects other than human sexuality, whose views on that topic vary across a spectrum. I have also communicated to those who added their names to that petition that their inclusion would not impact our desire as a publishing house to work with them on future projects. On both counts, I heard gratitude for that clarity and response.
The author exemption may seem puzzling to some of InterVarsity’s supporters and alumni. If a person who affirms same-sex marriage is deemed unfit to work in IVCF’s accounting department, how are they deemed fit to teach theology or ethics through books promoted by the company? How could a person’s stance on this issue prohibit them from leading a Bible study group, but not prohibit them from writing the devotional to be used in the same setting? InterVarsity will allow a person who affirms LGBT relationships to write a book, but prohibits the same person from editing it?
Chris Heuertz, co-founder of the Gravity Center and co-author of the IVP book “Friendship at the Margins,” coordinated the authors’ petition. He says that Crosby’s statement does not change the group’s concern. The memo Crosby mentions was sent out to authors on Friday, days before the protest letter was released.
“We knew that we authors are not held to the same staff policies, and that’s not the point of our letter,” Heuertz says. “The intention of our letter was a request from friends of IVCF expressing our concern for current staff members who will unwillingly be forced to transition from their place in community based on the ‘involuntary termination’ policy.”
The dissenting authors are not alone in their objections. A Change.org petition has been signed by nearly 1,500 IVCF alumni expressing their objections to the policy, and more than 300 current IVCF students have signed a similar statement. The Gay Christian Network issued a statement condemning IVCF’s policy, and more than 70 influential progressive Christian leaders and pastors have signed a protest statement released by The Reformation Project.
The growing list of objectors hold to a range of positions on gender, sexuality, and marriage. But they are united in asking InterVarsity to make space for theological diversity within their ranks. If the ministry can extend this grace to authors, it stands to reason that they could do likewise for accountants, assistants, and executives, too.