A Cru-affiliated ministry focused on fostering racial diversity and understanding has announced it is shutting down indefinitely due to what it describes as a “toxic" climate created by inside and outside forces who argue that the ministry has “drifted” from its mission.
The Lenses Institute, is a subdivision of the college campus ministry Cru (formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ), has a mission of equipping "the people of God to fight for oneness by influencing the way Christian leaders see, understand, and act in [an] ethnically and culturally diverse world.”
But the organization's executive team announced on Twitter last week that the "climate within Cru" has become "cautious, unclear and in some places even toxic." The organization's decision to shut down comes as some staff within Cru voiced their opposition to what they saw as the promotion of critical race theory.
"For Lenses, the goal has always been a John 17 pursuit of Oneness, Grace and Family," a statement reads. "However, those same forces mentioned above, both inside and outside Cru, have fostered a climate of suspicion, mischaracterization and in some cases direct intimidation."
"There are elements within Cru who feel Lenses is misaligned with the Cru vision and is engaged in a drift from Cru's central mission," the statement added. "The reality is that the Lenses framework and biblical structure is within the foundation of what Jesus taught in John 17."
The executive team concluded that they are "prayerful that Cru will find the solutions it seeks and those who have been faithfully serving in the Work with Lenses will receive the healing and nurture they need in this complex and challenging environment."
The Christian Post reached out to Cru for comment on the Lenses announcement. A response was not received by press time.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Cru announced that the decision to close Lenses and the "subsequent announcement was made independently, apart from Cru leadership."
"We acknowledge and are grieved by the very real hurt and disappointment experienced by those who released the statement," the statement reads. "It’s Cru’s hope that the Lenses Institute serves both the Great Commission and our staff well as we take the gospel to all cultures and as we seek to love one another well. We believe in God’s power to bring reconciliation and remain wholly committed to the biblical obedience of supernatural unity. (John 17:22-23)."
The Lenses announcement comes on the heels of an over 170-page report from last November shared online in May. Submitted to Cru, organizers say the report speaks on behalf of dozens of Cru staff members. The effort was led by Scott Pendleton, chief of staff for Cru’s Jesus Film Project.
In a letter accompanying the report, Pendleton warned of a "division" that was "inadvertently produced around an ideology we have adopted to help create a culturally diverse environment throughout Cru and to be more strategic in reaching ethnic minorities."
One of the organizations mentioned in the report was Lenses, which the authors called a "dangerous and divisive" organization.
The report claims that "most authors and scholars recommended by Lenses are proponents" of critical race theory. CRT is an academic framework that promotes the idea that “the law and legal institutions in the United States are inherently racist insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans," according to Brittanica.
Lenses was accused of turning students' passion for proclaiming Christ into an "outrage" that is directed "toward the fight for justice."
The author's claim that the ministry supported racial justice advocates like Jemar Tisby and Ibram X. Kendi.
Tisby, who leads The Witness: A Black Christian Collective, responded to the Lenses announcement, calling it "another casualty of the culture wars."
"The fear-mongering over Critical Race Theory and resistance to racial justice, in general, apparently created a 'climate of suspicion, mischaracterization, and in some cases direct intimidation,'" Tisby wrote. "Part of the context is a statement issued by some in Cru called 'Seeking Clarity and Unity'... they say efforts of the Lenses Institute and its personnel to foster diversity 'have created distrust, discouragement, and a host of other problems.' This is an age-old objection — the people who point out racism are the source of division."