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Posted by Sumair Mirza in Reflections

Warning: What is happening to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship?

I recently had a brother (Thanks Neil) forward an article to me that leaves be concerned about the state of Christian campus ministry. The article addresses the organization that many current and former Christian university students are aware of “InterVarsity Christian Fellowship” (IV) and highlights some deeply concerning issues. I invite you to review the article with the realization that the attack on the Gospel is subtle at times and explicit at others but ever present.

Please note this article is not specific to the Canadian branch of IV and I cannot comment on its potential implications for the Canadian organization. However, if you do interface with IV in Canada I would encourage you to contact them for comment. I have emailed them and asked for comment and hope to post their response – if one is provided and if given permission to post it.

Excerpt from article:

“But lately InterVarsity seems adrift.

A recent Christianity Today article chronicles the pressure a group of InterVarsity students felt to include practicing Roman Catholics on their leadership team. When the students discovered that IV’s new doctrinal statement allowed for Roman Catholics in good standing to sign on, they decided to separate from IV. The national president of IV wrote a response, but seemed defensive and never answered the question, “How many Catholics are on staff with IV?” Sadly, this was a double personal blow as one of the students on the leadership team was my son, who had looked forward for much of his life to being a part of IV on campus, but was disillusioned by the shape of doctrine in IV.

What’s happening to InterVarsity?

Has the fellowship become so thoughtless about its theology that it now rejects the solas of the Reformation? I understand that Catholics can be born again. I am happy to partner with Catholics on moral issues in the political arena such as religious liberty. But to partner with Roman Catholics in gospel outreach is a confusion of the gospel. Thoughtful Catholics agree. So, why is IV confused? I worry that it is because IV is muddled about the gospel.

What’s at stake is confusion over the Gospel.

In a recent article1 on the Urbana web page, an author contended that “Creation care counts as missions.” He called students to “move beyond evangelism,” a call heard in and around IV. I am grateful for Christians who are called to care for the environment as a reflection of our God-given responsibility to tend God’s creation. But I must disagree when anyone says that creation care is equal to preaching the Gospel, or that any believer can move beyond the gospel of grace. As Tim Keller has said, the gospel is not the ABC’s of the Christian life, but the A to Z of the Christian life. Has IV become so confused over the mandate to preach the gospel that we are now called to go into all the world and reduce our carbon footprint?”

For entire article click here.

Background information on IV:

“Since 1929, Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of Canada has been actively involved in helping young people live a transformed life in Jesus Christ. What began as a simple idea of students gathering for prayer, bible study and witnessing to their friends has grown into a vibrant ministry spanning more than 60 university and college campuses and Inter-Varsity Pioneer Camps in six provinces. The purpose is to see students and campers changed for a lifetime.” (From the Canadian Inter-Varsity site –

  1. http://urbana09.careofcreation.net/2009/11/27/green-mission/ []
  • Very interesting article.

  • John

    This is ridiculous. I am involved in InterVarsity, and this article does not represent the fellowship at all. I have attended Evangelism training through them, and know that they have a strong view on evangelism. What the speaker at Urbana was probably saying was that in addition to telling people about Jesus, we should act it out through efforts such as fighting against poverty and modern day slavery, and thus “moving beyond Evangelism”. I’m sorry if people involved in Intervarsity have done something to hurt you, but it is unfair to throw the entire organization under the bus because of isolated experiences.

  • Hi John,

    Thank you for your comments. Firstly, you suggest that I may have posted this due to a hidden motivation as “people involved in InterVarsity have done something to hurt [me]” but let me clearly state this is not the case at all. I have not been involved with InterVarsity (IV) in any way and in fact I had heard nothing but great things about the organization to date. I merely post this as a sharing from a brother, as I had prefaced at the onset of my post and hence why I provide only an excerpt of the article and then link to his full article. I do not intend to attack the organization but provide information so we can critically examine and understand what may or may not be happening around us.

    Additionally, I have also emailed InterVarsity to give them an opportunity to respond to the specific statements and hoped they would respond but have received no response to date. Perhaps they will respond at a later date (as they may be busy) and shed some light on these claims by the author of this article by addressing his specific points. I am a partner in the Gospel and would like nothing more then to have assurance that the statements by this individual, who has long served with IV, are proven false. He took great care to mention specifics and I would hope you or IV staff can also exhibit equal care to address the specific points he has made. Please note that the points articulated in the article are not limited to the environmental aspect of Evangelism but are broader reaching in their impact as it relates to biblical orthodoxy – one example being exhibited by books published by IV or supported by them and adoption of Catholic views into the organizational practices. These are concerning issues as well but I had only chosen to extract one point (environmental) to feature and gauge the reader’s interest in the rest of his article.

    As for the Urbana speaker, I would suggest you read the post in full (if you haven’t already), as I have done this and also discussed the issue with several people who attended Urbana themselves this year. The “movement” clearly presents the idea that environmental care is equal to evangelism – this is where I have a problem. If you read the article you will see this idea present or perhaps you can discuss the seminar(s) held with those who attended Urbana since the term “environmental missions” is used. Additionally, I will present various statements below that are made and most clearly even by looking at the subtitle of the article itself “Why Creation Care Counts as Missions” we can understand the mindset that explicitly presents an equal value for Gospel preaching and environmental care. To even suggest environmental concern is on the same level (without qualification) with the Great Commission is disconcerting. I strongly believe in our need to be good stewards of the environment but environmental advocacy is not the mandate given to believers to be equated to Gospel preaching. The author of the Urbana post suggests that Colossians 1:15-20 and Romans 8:18-24 present that “we need a solid biblical understanding of God’s redemptive plan that understands that God’s goal goes beyond human salvation to include all of creation”. I would suggest a quick reading of these passages in context as they clearly do not present this view:

    1) Colossians 1:15-20; Paul’s confession of faith – the second portion of this confession declares Christ’s unique position over all creation where it focuses on His ability due to His authority and stature to bring about reconciliation “by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross”. This is clearly a statement about the position of Christ over all creation and His authority which qualifies Him to have the fullness of God dwell in Him and thus be the only qualified One to reconcile us to God. Jesus didn’t die on the cross and shed blood for Co2 reduction but to save souls. Jesus came to Earth not to make us care about the environment but to make dead people live. That is why He constantly spoke of this call and gave us the Great Commission which didn’t include the environmental equation as part of the redemptive plan. The redemption portions of creation come as a result of the later days where a new Heaven and Earth would be created but not a charge for us to focus on in the present day as equal to or above preaching the Gospel.

    2) Romans 8:18-24; This passage speaks to understanding that amidst this dire of circumstances that hope can be found in the future glory of believers as exemplified even by creation itself (“creation waits in eager expectation”). As Calvin states quite plainly, “For, to omit various interpretations, I understand the passage to have this meaning — that there is no element and no part of the world which, being touched, as it were, with a sense of its present misery, does not intensely hope for a resurrection. He indeed lays down two things, — that all are creatures in distress, — and yet that they are sustained by hope. And it hence also appears how immense is the value of eternal glory, that it can excite and draw all things to desire it.”

    As you can see, these passages do not speak to God’s redemptive plan including “all of creation”. I would suggest that God’s redemptive plan be best understood in light of Luke 19:10 or Matthew 28:19-20. I would like to make clear that Christians should care for animals and the earth and all of creation because that is our stewardship role but to even make a statement that “God’s goal goes beyond human salvation” or that we should begin “moving beyond Evangelism” implies that the environmental aspect is superior to the true evangelical mission we have, or in the very least it presents it as equal – this is a dangerous concept as it clouds the Gospel.

    Once again, I want to be clear I am all for caring for the environment as we are charged to be stewards of the Earth but it is dangerous along the lines of the emergent church views of creating heaven on Earth to suggest that caring for the environment can be incorporated into God’s redemptive plan and distract from our main goal of executing the Great Commission.

    As a close, I do hope IV responds to the longer post presented by the author and if you know people at the organization perhaps they can address the specific points mentioned in the letter and I would be glad to post it. Additionally, I understand that any group can have factions or decisions made that may be in err as we are indeed sinful beings so I would not suggest all of IV may be guilty of the claims made against it but I merely present the sharing as the points do concern me (if true) and I have also emailed IV to give them a fair opportunity to reply. I thank you for replying and contributing to a clearer picture of IV.

    Thanks and God Bless,
    – Sumair

  • Roren

    Alec Hill, President of Inter-Varsity/USA has responded here:

    http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2009/octoberweb-only/143-41.0.html?start=1

  • Isaac

    Alec Hill’s response is not sufficient, as the acceptance of Catholicism is quite widespread throughout multiple Intervarsity Chapters. There is a definite confusion of the gospel.

  • I am a professor of Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. In the past I interacted with the IV Faculty Ministry and enjoyed it. I am gradually alarmed by the lack of sharpness in the Gospel declaration at IV. I agree with the above responses that the current IV statement on Justification is something that any Catholics can sign onto. Particularly alarming is that recently, the Wisconsin IV at Madison has started a small group reading Romans through the lens of NPP.
    The Reformed doctrine of justification by the imputed, alien righteousness of Christ is not something to monkey with. On it the entire gospel hinges. IV should clarify it’s position on Justification and where it stands on NPP. Saying IV publishes both Piper and Wright is evading the issue. Nor is Gospel proclamation Nightline business where both sides are presented with equal times. Is the Wisconsin-Madison NPP group merely a blip in the radar? Or are we seeing the fruit of a vague IV statement on Justification?

    Bill Chiu
    Professor of Neuroscience
    University of Wisconsin-Madison

  • Because of the concerns raised on this site and others, we have set up the site http://saveurbana.org We plan to show up at the conference and distribute literature. We love input and comments from anyone on this thread.