For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone … (Romans 1:16)
By the light of their cell phones, student leaders at one of the Chico State students spray painted t-shirts with the slogan, “IV — ask me”. The InterVarsity chapter was not permitted by the university to participate in events designed to engage new students, so these leaders devised a way to meet students.
Chico State is just one of ten chapters in the 23-campus Cal State system that has denied InterVarsity chapters recognition and access. Closer to home, students at SUNY-Buffalo have encountered similar oppostion. Campuses in New England, Tennessee, Florida, and Maine face similar challenges.
At the heart of the conflict is a cultural and legal conflict about inclusion. InterVarsity is accused (sometimes virulently) of excluding students because we believe that it’s important for a Christian mission to be led by Christians. (There is a certain logical inconsistency in being excluded from campus life and told, “You can’t be on campus because you exclude people.” But that is a topic for another day.)
Can Romans 1:16 help us with campus access?
Paul says that his gospel is God’s power… to everyone. Consider this for a moment. Paul was a first century Jew raised with the doctrine of election and trained in the Pharisaic hope of national liberation for Israel. Here he says that his good news is for everyone. This transformation of Paul’s worldview is so significant that it’s possible to argue from it (and some have) for the resurrection of Jesus.
Our gospel is to (and for) everyone. No one is excluded from the grace of this good news. No one is beyond the scope of God’s intended freedom.
We in InterVarsity love the whole campus. Our chapters are to and for the whole campus. Our proclamation does not conform to the categories of this cultural moment. Our proclamation is good news, power, and true freedom for all people in this cultural moment.
Lord have mercy on us if we ever lose sight of this truth. In the meantime, let’s pray for our sisters and brothers doing ministry on campuses that deny access. And let’s learn from their courage and creativity.