The Supreme Court may have decreed same-sex marriage a constitutional right, but that hasn’t solved the issue of supporting same-sex marriage for Christian organizations. For Northwestern InterVarsity – a campus group focused on Christian ministry – this issue returned to the spotlight a few weeks ago. Its parent organization, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA, made an announcement reaffirming its beliefs on sexuality – namely, that the Bible says marriage is only between a man and a woman.
Initially, Time reported InterVarsity would begin “involuntary terminations” starting Nov. 11 of staff who came forward as supporting same-sex marriage or who otherwise disagreed with the group’s views on sexuality. Nationally, Intervarsity responded that it only dismisses staff for believing the Bible supports same-sex marriage, not for believing it is a constitutional right.
Northwestern has four InterVarsity chapters: InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Asian American InterVarsity, House on the Rock (focusing on Black students) and Greek InterVarsity. According to Area Director Kathy Shiau, who oversees InterVarsity chapters at the University, no staff members have come forward disagreeing with the national organization’s beliefs.
“The policy in itself functionally doesn’t bring any change to our staff team and doesn’t bring any change in terms of how we have done ministry,” Shiau said.
That doesn’t mean everyone in InterVarsity supports the policy, though. IVCF President Jacob Jones, a Weinberg senior, said while he doesn’t have a fully formed opinion on the theology of same-sex marriage, he didn’t think InterVarsity needed to make the announcement.
“I’m disappointed,” Jones said. “I don’t think that it makes sense to ask people to leave for believing in a tertiary theological belief that the organization might not agree with, and I also think it sends a message to both LGBTQ students and allies that InterVarsity doesn’t really want you.”
Bienen and Weinberg sophomore Johnathan Orr, a member of AAIV, however, said the national announcement strengthened his own views against same-sex marriage.
“I have trust with the organization, especially reading the beliefs and I felt really connected to it,” Orr said. “It’s definitely more so affirmed my understanding of scripture about the theology about human sexuality.”
Alumni, who often donate to their InterVarsity chapters upon graduation, have voiced opinions on InterVarsity’s announcement. A Change.org petition for alumni against the belief reaffirmation currently has 18 comments from Northwestern InterVarsity alumni.
Former AAIV Treasurer Toby Lee (Comm ‘16) said he originally planned to begin donating to Northwestern InterVarsity soon, but the announcement has him reconsidering. To Lee, InterVarsity has always been “a more open organization,” and the announcement undermines its efforts to make people comfortable regardless of their views.
“It’s not helpful to the mission of InterVarsity of wanting to create … a speaker-friendly environment,” Lee said. “What I’m afraid that this whole announcement does is that it will further the stigma of Christians being intolerant.”
Shiau, on the other hand, worries about the students already involved in InterVarsity.
“I think students are kind of caught up as collateral damage in the very public nature that this has taken on,” Shiau said. “A lot of our students have been wanting to learn more – wanting to create space to ask questions or dialogue or just to understand – and I’ve been really grateful for that.”
According to Shiau, Northwestern InterVarsity has had dialogues with students about theological views on sexuality in the past. In the wake of this announcement, she hopes to continue these in a group environment.
While the announcement is now weeks old, Jones said members of InterVarsity may still need time to consider it.
“It’s something that people are still kind of processing,” Jones said. “It’s still fairly new … so I think people are still trying to figure out how they feel about it and react to it.”
Lee may have his opinion on the national announcement figured out, but he said he’s still figuring out his thoughts on donating to InterVarsity, since he does want to support the University-level group.
“I do want to see Northwestern’s InterVarsity continue to thrive,” Lee said. “From my experience at least, they are the most loving and accepting [Christian group], and willing to engage and talk about these issues.”
Editor’s Note: Jacob Jones previously contributed to North by Northwestern.