Currently, the Knox College chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is being asked by Common Ground to disaffiliate from our national organization because they believe the national organization is homophobic and oppressive. We disagree both with the claims being made against our national organization and with the assumptions being made about what our local group believes.
We recognize that this is a national and cultural conversation steeped in pain. As members of the Christian community, we understand that some American Christians have been physically, emotionally and spiritually harmful to LGBTQ+ individuals. We repudiate those behaviors and apologize on behalf of the Christian community. In our community, we strive to welcome people of different races, sexualities, religions and backgrounds. We are grateful that Knox InterVarsity already includes people from all of these different backgrounds, including members of the LGBTQ+ community. People from all different backgrounds choose to be a part of our group because they see value in the community we have cultivated and want to explore the big questions about life in our space.
Some might ask why don’t we just disaffiliate from this national organization. First, InterVarsity has a decades-long tradition of supporting a faith community at Knox College. It offers Knox students unique resources for spiritual development, including access to a staff member who supports and counsels us, opportunities to attend regional/national/international conferences, and provision of books and tools which our members find helpful in their spiritual growth. Within InterVarsity, nationally and locally, we have found an organization which balances clarity around its theological beliefs while being inclusive and welcoming to all. Although InterVarsity nationals has a specific theological interpretation, it embraces the differing interpretations students have of the Bible in order to create a space for lively spiritual conversation.
Second, the beliefs of InterVarsity/USA are not politically based but derived from biblical interpretation. The organization affirms a global and historic interpretation of the Christian church around human sexuality—a position shared by Roman Catholics, Orthodox churches, most Protestant denominations, and others. These beliefs also are shared by other world religions including Orthodox Judaism, most Islamic traditions, and many Buddhist traditions. We hope Knox will remain a place where adherents of these religious and spiritual traditions will find an inclusive and welcoming community.
Third, we are concerned with the precedent that would be set on our campus if Knox InterVarsity was institutionally defunded because of its beliefs. We as Knox students pride ourselves on our openness and willingness to explore the various intersections of identity. Knox students are not a monolith. When we have the incredible diversity we have on this campus, there are naturally going to be tensions with different values and identities. How we as a student body approach these tensions speaks volumes about our ability to navigate a complex world. If Knox were to reject IVCF or any other club because of differing beliefs, we are asking Knox students to form a community via conformity rather than through a holistic integration of our various identities and beliefs.
In conversations about identities and values, it is instinctual to shift into an “us vs. them” mindset. We as members of the Christian community do not want to separate ourselves from campus. We choose to love, affirm and welcome all people into our community, following the example Christ set for us.
If anyone has further questions about this situation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope to continue this conversation in love.
Zach Barnes, Irein Thomas, and Maddie Schacht
Knox IVCF Exec