The Bible on Campus

Roy Peterson, president and CEO of American Bible Society, joined the organization in February 2014.
Roy Peterson, president and CEO of American Bible Society, joined the organization in February 2014. | (Photo: American Bible Society/File)

Throughout American Bible Society's nearly 200-year history, our organization, along with faithful financial supporters, has helped people engage God's Word in a number of unusual environments. In the 1800s, we began putting Bibles in hotel rooms. During the Civil War, we provided Bibles to soldiers on both sides of the conflict. At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, we brought Bibles to athletes from around the world. On 9/11 our team immediately had words of comfort from the Bible for people at the scene of the attack in lower Manhattan.

But now the same Bible that has offered hope and encouragement to Americans since our country's founding is under attack on college campuses.

Recently, the California State University system issued a policy that prohibits student groups from requiring its leaders to espouse the beliefs of the group they are leading. In other words, a Christian organization would not be able to require that its leaders be Christians. In August, the chancellor rejected InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's request to modify the policy. As a result, InterVarsity is facing de-recognition as a student group from the 23 California State University campuses, which serve more than 423,800 students.

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InterVarsity, like CRU and others, is one of a number of campus organizations that helps college students encounter the love of Jesus in the Bible. Their de-recognition could hinder many students from this important opportunity.

A recent study conducted by Barna Research indicates that InterVarsity is having a significant impact on Bible engagement among the college students it serves. The study found that 87 percent of students participating in InterVarsity read the Bible at least once per week compared with just 26 percent of all Millenials (those aged 18-30).

College is a time when young men and women are figuring out who they are and what they want to do with their lives. It is often a time when they are making big decisions for the first time on their own. Perhaps more than at any other time of life, college students are looking for faithful communities and answers to some of life's biggest questions. That's why it is so important that they have wise counsel and access to the ultimate guide to life: the Bible. InterVarsity provides both.

I applaud the university for trying to ensure that student groups are open to all students. But, by preventing student groups from selecting leaders who are committed to the group's values and ideals, this policy will undermine the biblical integrity of these groups and, ultimately, reduce the value they offer to students.

What happens on California State University campuses has implications for the entire nation. It is time for those who care about the future of the Bible on our college campuses to let the California State University chancellor know that organizations like InterVarsity must be allowed to set their own standards for leadership. Call or email today.

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