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InterVarsity Did the Right Thing

by George Mekhail

This past week, Elizabeth Dias of TIME wrote about what she describes as a “Theological Purge” in the Evangelical College ministry InterVarsity. Beginning November 11th, InterVarsity says it will begin a process of “involuntary terminations” for any of their 1,300+ staff who disagree with their position on human sexuality.

A chorus of Evangelical leaders have condemned this move, including a group of us who signed this letter, organized by The Reformation Project. While I continue to join my peers and personally call on InterVarsity to reverse course and change this dangerous policy, I simultaneously appreciate their attempt at creating a transparent policy. Based on their convictions and the reality of their position, it seems they are doing the right thing by offering clarity as to how they will handle disagreement.

The truth is out of the 190,000 evangelical congregations in the United States, the overwhelming majority would quietly agree with InterVarsity’s conclusions. In fact, most churches can’t begin to outline as clear of a case for their positions as InterVarsity does in its 20 page document entitled “A Theological Summary of Human Sexuality.” 

I find this prevailing silence to be much more dangerous than InterVarsity’s proactive communication. Pastors and organizations who would just as quickly fire individuals based on this criteria should follow InterVarsity’s lead. They should outline the truth of what will happen to an openly gay employee. They should be clear on who can and can’t work at their organization. They should proactively communicate whether or not their ministers will perform a same-sex wedding. These questions are important, but are too often exclusively addressed in the comfortable confines of a church board or senior leadership meeting.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” is still the predominate policy among evangelical churches and organizations. This leaves ambiguity in the minds of closeted LGBTQ persons and allies who are employed by leaders that quietly agree with InterVarsity’s findings. This is not a mere hypothesis, I know many of these individuals by name and I’ve heard their stories. They have reached out to me and my peers in confidence for fear of losing their jobs.

I’m part of an organization called “Together In This” which was birthed out of a church community in Seattle that I help lead (EastLake Community Church). Just like InterVarsity, our story was featured in a TIME article by Dias. Just like InterVarsity, EastLake had something to say about theology and sexuality.

While our two paths are indeed polar opposites, it seems we share a desire for full disclosure on where we stand. Again, I can’t overstate my disagreement and the heartbreak I believe InterVarsity is causing with their move. But, I’m afraid I’ve become too aware of the reality that already permeates throughout evangelicalism. A system of exclusion that I once actively perpetuated. A system that cost us millions of dollars and thousands of members when we dared stand up to it.

I believe we must continue a respectful dialogue and not fear disagreement. But in order for a dialogue to exist, we must first come to a place where there is an acknowledgement of disagreement.

I am open and affirming. I unequivocally support and affirm all persons regardless of their sexual orientation or identity. Most Evangelical Christians disagree with me. Many won’t admit it. This is the heart of the problem that allows exclusion to persist.

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