Christian groups on campuses across the nation are increasingly under fire for their policies on sex and homosexuality.
On Friday, the Student Association at the University at Buffalo in New York suspended their chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship until further notice. The SA is now investigating the club to find out whether or not it’s in violation of the law and university policy.
The controversy revolves around former InterVarsity Treasurer and sophomore Steven Jackson. The openly gay student recently resigned from the club because of his views on homosexuality. He is also the speaker for the SA Assembly.
The university’s student newspaper, The Spectrum, reports, “IVCF Vice President Leslie Varughese said the club's executive board members, including Jackson, mutually decided that Jackson's resignation would be best for both Jackson and the club, not because of Jackson's homosexuality, but because of his refusal to accept Biblical scripture – specifically, those Bible passages that condemn homosexuality.”
Jackson told The Spectrum, "I don't see Scripture as reliable as they do. They'll take it as God's word, and I won't, because I don't believe that's the case."
The investigation, launched Sunday, is looking into allegations that InterVarsity is breaking the law because they require leaders of the group to sign a "basis of faith" affirming Christian beliefs.
In a letter from SA lawyer Joshua Korman to SA President JoAnna Datz, he writes, “SA clubs – even religiously focused clubs – may not deny membership or participation on the basis of a student not professing a belief in a particular faith advocated by that club.”
But, Jim Lundgren, director of Collegiate Ministries for Intervarsity, told The Christian Post that membership with InterVarsity is open to all students. But if you are going to be in a leadership position, like Jackson was, you have to adhere to InterVarsity’s statement of faith.
To be a leader for the campus group, the organization requires three things. They must be in agreement with InterVarsity’s doctrinal statement, purpose statement, and living a life of Christian integrity.
InterVarsity lists four Scripture verses in Article V, Sec. 3 of their Chapter Constitution, regarding living with integrity. The verses that caused the controversy at SUNY Buffalo come from Galatians 5:19-26 regarding sexual immorality.
But these particular verses regard sex outside of marriage, not homosexuality. “We don’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation,” Lundgren said. The issue with Jackson was “he decided to pursue a sexually active homosexual relationship.” And InterVarsity doesn’t affirm a sexually active relationship outside of marriage.
The SA investigative committee will gather information this week, and on Sunday they will recommend to the Senate what action it should take regarding InterVarsity.
InterVarsity’s next step is to submit a letter to the campus administration in the next few days. Lundgren told The Christian Post that they want to point out three things to the administration.
The first is, “We don’t believe this is about discrimination, it’s about common sense and religious freedom," Lundgren said. Religious groups should be able to have leaders that share their convictions. Same as if an Islamic group wanted Islamic leaders, or a Republican group wanted their leaders to share the same political ideas.
They will also let the administration know that InterVarsity does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and that membership is open to all students.
“We see this as an opportunity to engage the university, and break some stereotypes that people have about us,” said Lundgren. “We’re not interested in name calling. We seek to build relationships and represent Christ to the people we’re talking with.”