InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, seeking to further clarify whether pro-life groups would be allowed to participate in the Urbana triennial missions conference, asserted Wednesday that a pro-life group which met its criteria could be considered as an exhibitor.
"If a pro-life organization met the exhibitor criteria, we would be happy to talk to them about being an Urbana exhibitor," said InterVarsity vice president Greg Jao in an email shared with The Christian Post Wednesday.
Intervarsity was criticized by Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins and Rock for Life President Erik Whittington in a Christian Post op-ed for denying their exhibitor application while also featuring a Black Lives Matter speaker who demeaned pro-life activism.
Jao explained that Students For Life of America, the nation's largest youth pro-life organization, failed to meet four of seven "basic expectations for exhibitors" which ultimately prevented the group from qualifying as an exhibitor at Urbana 15.
Jao details those shortcomings as follows:
1. Students for Life cannot affirm InterVarsity's Doctrinal Basis.
2. It does not belong to an accrediting or oversight body or network.
3. It does not offer short- or long-term cross-cultural missions opportunities.
4. Exhibiting agencies must demonstrate that they advance the Gospel in word and deed.
The Christian Post confirmed that Students for Life of America is a non-religious organization with the group's Director of Communications, Kristina Hernandez.
"We are not affiliated with any particular religion nor are we a religious organization," Hernandez wrote Monday via email. "That said, many of our staff are Christians, but again, SFLA is not a religious group."
Jao explained, "While Students for Life advances Gospel values in their admirable pro-life work, their strategy prevents them from making evangelism an explicit core commitment. We expect that exhibiting agencies at our mission conference do both."
He went on to say, "We would be criticized if we allowed other non-Christian, non-evangelistic, non-accredited agencies to exhibit at Urbana. Any claims that Students for Life was not accepted as an exhibiting agency because of their pro-life goals seems disingenuous."
Urbana is the largest student missions conference of its kind in the world. Held every three years in St. Louis, Missouri, the conference draws 16,000, or more, attendees. Urbana is co-hosted by InterVarsity/USA, Inter-Varsity Canada, and Groupes Bibliques Universitaires et Collégiaux du Canada.
Founded in 1941, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA is an inter-denominational, evangelical campus ministry that establishes and promotes witnessing communities of students and faculty.