Senate voted 17 to 7 to not defund the Knox chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) in their meeting last Thursday.
The vote was on a initiative brought to Senate by Common Ground earlier in the term. Common Ground believes that the college should not be supporting IVCF’s national organization because of statements and actions Common Ground describes as homophobic.
IVCF nationals has released statements defining their view of proper sexual activity as between a man and woman in marriage.
In 2016, employees were given time to reflect on IVCF’s “A Theological Summary of Human Sexualtiy” which outlines the organization’s views on issues including divorce, lust and same-sex relationships. Those who disagreed with the statement were asked to resign and the organization listed them as having been “involuntary terminations.”
IVCF continues to require new employees and interns to agree to with their position.
Additionally, IVCF nationals asks the exec members of its local chapters to sign the agreement. Knox’s exec does not follow this practice, but does require agreeing to a doctrinal statement including elements like belief in the Christian trinity.
“The doctrinal basis of beliefs is not like the theology of sexuality, it’s like do you believe in Jesus Christ, like the fundamental principles of Christianity,” junior Irein Thomas, an IVCF exec member, said in an interview with TKS.
Senate heard arguments from both groups on March 21 and then both groups answered questions from senators. Last week, Senate had another 10 minutes for senators to ask questions from Common Ground and IVCF before holding their own discussion. Both groups stayed at the meeting to answer any questions senators still had during Senate’s discussion.
Common Ground explained that they would have used the bias incident report if there had been any specific actions from the Knox chapter. Instead, they view support for the national organization as the problem, seeing the statement and the subsequent involuntary terminations as homophobic.
“It was clear to Common Ground that IVCF as a national organization held homophobic, discriminatory and harmful views, and those views turned into action,” junior Teslin Penoyer said in Common Ground’s collective statement to Senate.
Knox’s chapter of IVCF is non-dues paying but does pay to attend conferences. They receive scholarships from the national organization to help pay for members to attend the conferences, but their exec could not provide specific numbers for how much they give to nationals and how much they receive.
IVCF additionally noted that they had looked into other organizations they could affiliate with but that those organizations did not have as many resources such as a dedicated IVCF staff member for each chapter, retreats, conferences and Bible study guides as IVCF did. They also pointed to IVCF’s involvement in movements like Black Lives Matter as part of why they wanted to remain affiliated with IVCF.
The groups also disagreed on if IVCF national’s belief was a religious issue. Common Ground’s exec focused on IVCF as an organization, not the religion it identifies with.
“We are not attacking Christianity, not at all,” junior Ashley Kerley said in Common Ground’s statement. “We are standing up to hate, and Christianity is not about hate. To imply that by standing up to homophobia we’re attacking Christianity is offensive to Christianity.”
IVCF’s statement addressed the question as well, saying it was a religious question because the national statement was based in Christian scripture and that the view on sexuality was shared by multiple religious traditions, both Christian and non-Christian.
Senate’s discussion brought up the possibility of not allowing money from Senate to go to IVCF nationals. Common Ground’s exec worries that continuing to use the name would still be supporting the national organization.
When voting was introduced, senior senator Rachel Watson questioned why a secret ballot was being used and asked for an open vote. President and senior Sam Cohen said he decided on the secret ballot due to worries about community responses to how senators voted and so that senator would not be afraid to vote how they really felt.
While the ballots were counted by Senate secretary and junior Eliza Dehlin and advisor Anne Ehrlich, senior Nick Ryan introduced a motion to schedule discussion at the next meeting on alternatives if the initiative did not pass. Senate voted 17 to 7 against the initiative.
Senate will discuss these alternatives at their next meeting on Thursday, April 4 at 7 p.m. in the Alumni Room in Old Main.
Rachel Watson is the social media manager for TKS.