A newly enforced nondiscrimination policy issued by the California State University system that requires InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to allow non-Christians to be chapter leaders has forced the nationwide organization to develop a new style of campus ministry, IVCF officials said Tuesday.
"InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is now developing a new style of campus ministry on CSU campuses where we have been banned from participating in campus life as a recognized student organization," IVCF stated. "In order to maintain a ministry presence with 23 chapters on 19 CSU campuses, InterVarsity is introducing creative new ways to connect with students and share the gospel message — though doing so as an 'unrecognized' student group will prove considerably more costly."
IVCF officials added that because it is no longer allowed to participate in campus organization fairs, InterVarsity will make contact with students by deploying new tools such as mobile banner stands, interactive displays, social media, and other techniques that don't rely on established campus structures.
"Our campus access challenges give this generation of students an opportunity to reinvent campus ministry," said Greg Jao, InterVarsity's National Field Director. "Even as we use new tools and techniques, we remind students that effective ministry is ultimately relational. It's about students inviting other students to follow Jesus."
"While InterVarsity invites and welcomes all students as participants, we believe a Christian group should have the right to expect and even require their leaders to be Christian — just as any student group, club or Greek organization should be able to require their leaders to be like-minded," IVCF said.
The implementation of the new policy began in 2012, when shortly before retiring, the chancellor of the CSU system issued the regulation that required recognized student groups to accept all students as potential leaders. The policy is "essentially asking InterVarsity chapters to change the core of their identity, and to change the way they operate in order to be an officially recognized student group."
"While we applaud inclusivity, we believe that faith-based communities like ours can only be led by people who clearly affirm historic Christian doctrine," InterVarsity stated. "The policy affects 23 chapters within the California State University system. The policy exempts sororities and fraternities from gender discrimination; we believe there should be a similar provision for creedal communities."
In August 2013, the new chancellor, Timothy White, "graciously granted religious groups a one-year exemption for the 2013-14 school year." However, the CSU chancellor's office says that no further exemption can be made, according to IVCF. The policy means all 23 InterVarsity chapters on CSU campuses now operate without the benefits of official recognition."
In its statement released Tuesday, IVCF said that on most of the 616 college campuses across the U.S. where InterVarsity has 949 chapters, its student ministry work will continue as it has for more than seven decades.
"Overall our annual reports from staff indicate that InterVarsity is sharing the gospel message with more students and faculty than at any other time in our 73-year history," IVCF continued. "During the 2013-2014 school year, 40,299 core students and faculty were actively involved with InterVarsity across the country, our highest participation rate ever. People professing faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord for the first time numbered 3,517, almost double the same number from 10 years ago."
Approximately 50 percent of students active in InterVarsity chapters are members of ethnic minority groups, in California the number is closer to 70 percent, officials said.
"Students from every conceivable background still come to college seeking answers to life's larger questions in order to find meaning and significance. And InterVarsity is committed to sharing with them the message of the gospel, a message that has been revolutionizing lives for 2,000 years," IVCF stated.
WATCH INTERVARSITY NATIONAL FIELD DIRECTOR GREG JAO'S REACTION TO CSU NON-DISCRIMINATION POLICY ENFORCEMENT BELOW