I Don’t Want To Fight #InterVarsityPurge. I Just Want To Repent For The Church

As a gay Christian, I mourn for the pain the church has caused the LGBTQIA community.
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If you are a Christian, a member of the LGBTQIA community, a combination of the two, or simply has an interest in reading a personally vulnerable post, please read on.

The organization that I used to be a part of in college, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, recently decided that it would involuntarily terminate employees who did not believe in the traditional view of human sexuality as it is expressed in the form of a covenantal marriage between a man and a woman. Those with dissenting theological beliefs, independent of positions on public policy (e.g. supporting the legalization of gay marriage) were asked to resign by November 11. Again, this is a theological matter and not a political one.

I wholeheartedly understand the difficult decision InterVarsity had to make in clarifying its position rather than leaving it ambiguous and inviting whatever potential issues, and I even affirm their right as an organization to impose qualifications on future staff workers they sign on. However, I am deeply saddened to see the manner in which they went about this and their shaky communication. Not only did they betray their staff workers by creating a job requirement that did not exist at the time of employment and a deadline to adhere to it, they also allowed a deep wound to be reopened between the Church and the very LGBTQIA community in question. With the Supreme Court ruling and the Orlando shootings still fresh, the timing of this kind of decision naturally appears reactionary, defensive, and at the very least cowardly. If this belief had been in place for 75 years, why wasn’t the policy communicated and/or implemented sooner?

Most disappointing, however, was their response to what was likely and understandably an involuntary media outbreak. In short Twitter bursts and Facebook posts, InterVarsity decided to focus more on defending its choices using provocative rhetoric rather than acknowledging the hurt that it has caused towards its staff and towards the LGBTQIA community. InterVarsity had the opportunity to demonstrate compassion towards the pain that resulted, but instead was combative and self-justifying against the media. They failed to demonstrate an understanding of the devastating homophobic and transphobic culture we live in, failed to empathize and thus contributed to that culture, and failed to lay out any course of action to help LGBTQIA students feel more welcome and more safe on campus.

I simply cannot excuse the poor tact that was used in going about this process. It grieved me so much to see the organization that played such an integral part in my spiritual growth, an organization that I’ve seen bless so many people, behave this way. I wanted to be angry, I wanted to be aggressive in my response. Instead, I desire to simply be honest. Honest about how I also have experienced hurt from InterVarsity. And so I would like to tell my own story.

I am gay and I am a Christian. I follow Jesus, who is Lord over my life and my sexuality. I have felt all the fear and the pain of rejection, all the loneliness and the depression. By God’s grace I have still felt His love, I still love Him, and I desire for others to share in that love as well. Three years ago, I applied to be a campus staff worker for InterVarsity. I indicated in the process that I had a special heart for reaching the LGBTQIA community with God’s love. I’ve always admired how much InterVarsity focuses on loving unreached communities, and I wanted to let the LGBTQIA students at NYU know that they were loved by God. I was ultimately rejected from the job, and while there were many different reasons, the most shocking one was that I “had a heart for the LGBTQIA community, but that’s not InterVarsity’s focus.” Those words have haunted me ever since. At such a progressive college as NYU, InterVarsity did not see the LGBTQIA population as a priority.

There is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing something or someone you love let you down. But what is even more heartbreaking is when you see them continue to do so unapologetically. Even those who meant well in their support for InterVarsity focused their responses on clarifying positions rather than acknowledging the weeping and the wailing of a community that has already experienced over 90 years of oppression in America at the hands of Christians. And in all of this, I mourn the fact that the people who have been hurt the most are those in the LGBTQIA community. That is what I want this post to really be about.

It is for this reason that, rather than bring InterVarsity down, I simply want to apologize on behalf of them. I realize some may think I have no grounds to speak for an organization, but as a former member and also as a Christian I feel the need to acknowledge how my fellow Christians have failed. Because I believe that “I’m sorry” goes a long way, and that when Christians take the initiative in repenting, something like a fire catches and sweeps across the world in revival. I have seen the good that InterVarsity has done and still has the potential to do. I care about them and I actually want to see them love better; and that is why I must take the opportunity I have to represent InterVarsity not as an uncaring bureaucracy, but as a still imperfect and still learning organization that is always growing. And I hope and pray that InterVarsity would consider doing the same. So here goes.

I apologize to every LGBTQIA person who, at such a raw time where you might feel terrified to go into a bar, much less a Christian organization, felt rejected or marginalized because of the response from InterVarsity to the media. You are the ones who were hurt the most in all of this, and I don’t blame you if you walked away from those news articles and blog posts feeling as if God did not love you because His people failed to show you love. And I am so, so sorry for anything anyone calling themselves a Christian has ever said to you to make you feel small.

And I want to let you know that you are absolutely, wholly loved by God. I only know because I have felt that same love. And I have been transformed by it. I don’t know what your transformation will look like, what your story will look like. But I want you to know that God loves you. And I hope that someday, however soon, you might consider meeting Jesus and getting to know Him more. I’m sure He’d love to dine with you. I know I would.

If you would like to also apologize on behalf of the Church’s treatment of the LGBTQIA population, I invite you to write your own posts on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #ApologizeForTheChurch. Let’s become part of a movement that builds bridges between our communities. And it starts with repentance.

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Rev. Dr. Nancy L. Wilson

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