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Christian group accused of threatening to fire its staff for supporting same-sex marriage

'Time' magazine reports InterVarsity is starting a process for 'involuntary terminations,' but the organization denies it.


Jaya Saxena


Posted on Oct 7, 2016   Updated on May 25, 2021, 8:29 pm CDT

An article in Time claiming that InterVarsity, a Christian evangelical organization with chapters at over 600 college campuses, will fire staff if they support same-sex marriage, has caused outrage among the evangelical and Christian communities—as well as pretty much anyone who supports marriage equality. But according to InterVarsity, it isn’t true.

In Time, Elizabeth Dias writes, “InterVarsity Christian Fellowship USA says it will start a process for ‘involuntary terminations’ for any staffer who comes forward to disagree with its positions on human sexuality, which hold that any sexual activity outside of a husband and wife is immoral.” The new policy would supposedly be in effect starting Nov. 11.

She reported that a letter sent to staffers in July read: “We expect that all staff will ‘believe and behave in a manner consonant with our “Theological Summary of Human Sexuality” paper,’ as described by the Code of Conduct. (To ‘believe and behave’ means we [1] agree with the substance and conclusions of the ‘Theological Summary of Human Sexuality,’ [2] will not engage in sexual immorality as defined in the paper, and [3] will not promote positions inconsistent with the ‘Theological Summary of Human Sexuality.’)”

Dias also quotes InterVarsity Vice President Greg Jao as saying, “I think our thing is, if you are in disagreement, then we are going to ask you, with integrity, to identify that and leave.”

Many were shocked by the decision, especially now that same-sex marriage is legal throughout the country, and increasingly accepted by both straight and LGBT Christians. They also expressed concern that InterVarsity will only fire people who support same-sex marriage, and not other parts of the Theological Summary of Human Sexuality, like divorce or premarital sex.

However, in a series of tweets, InterVarsity defended itself and says Dias got it wrong.

Their full Twitter statement is as follows, though it does not appear to refute the existence of the letter sent to staff, or Jao’s comments to Dias:

We have no policy on employee views on civil marriage. We lament that LGBTQI people have experienced great pain, including much caused by Christians. We know that we ourselves each need Jesus’ grace daily. So we attempt to walk humbly in this conversation. We do hold to an orthodox view of sexuality and Christian marriage, as you read in our Theology of Sexuality Doc at bottom of article. We believe Christlikeness includes embracing Scripture’s teachings on human sexuality—uncomfortable and difficult as they may be…AND Christlikeness demands we uphold the dignity of all people, because we are all made in God’s image. Some will argue this cannot be done. We believe that we must if we want to be faithful followers of Jesus. Within InterVarsity and elsewhere, some LGBTQI people agree with this theology, at great personal cost. We are learning together.

This brings up the confusing fact that “marriage” means both the civil union and the religious one, and InterVarsity’s statement seems to say that while the former is OK for same-sex couples, the latter is not. In Time, Jao told Dias that these views are nothing new, just that InterVarsity clarified them in response to requests from students. Dias writes, “LGBTQ individuals can remain on staff if they remain celibate and affirm the position paper.”

In their Theology of Sexuality document, InterVarsity states that while they offer “genuine love” to those with same-sex attraction, “Scripture is very clear that God’s intention for sexual expression is to be between a husband and wife in marriage. Every other sexual practice is outside of God’s plan and therefore is a distortion of God’s loving design for humanity.”

When reached for comment, InterVarsity directed the Daily Dot to a recent statement on its website regarding the story: “No InterVarsity employee will be fired for their views on gay marriage.” 

In the statement, Jao also walked back the views he said to Dias—or perhaps reworded them so they sound better. “We recognize employees who disagree, or whose beliefs have changed over time, will leave employment because we have reiterated our beliefs.” 

Either way, the expectation seems to be that if you agree with same-sex marriage, you don’t belong in InterVarsity.

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*First Published: Oct 7, 2016, 3:04 pm CDT