Inside Out 255: UB Campus - Christian Groups Gathering Again

09.05.12 | Martha Manikas-Foster

Update as of October 2, 2012: After the July decision by the University of Buffalo’s Student Wide Judicatory to re-instate the interdenominational Christian student group InterVarsity as an officially recognized student group, the university last week revised the student code of conduct to specifically prohibit student groups from choosing leaders based certain criteria, including religious criteria.

Blog as posted on September 5, 2012:

In a reversal of its April decision, the State University of New York at Buffalo is now allowing students to gather in recognized Christian fellowship groups on campus. Over the summer students in the UB chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship won an appeal of the Student Association’s April decision that had stripped the fellowship of its status as a recognized campus group.

For almost a year we’ve been following this story of what’s called “campus access.” If they were honest, most people I know question whether the story merits all this attention. Does the decision of this college or that university have anything to do with the really relevant issues we face every day in the “real world”?

I believe that it does.

At issue has been the right of a campus group to limit the candidates for group leadership to those who meet certain requirements. For Christian groups like InterVarsity, that has taken the form of asking student leaders to embrace and live by Christian doctrine. It’s a requirement that has set the fellowship up for accusations of discrimination on a number of campuses across the country.

I believe that this, all by itself, is important enough to keep in the spotlight. Many of the nation’s future leaders in government and business, ministry and service come out of the university context, with all of its benefits and all of its assumptions.

There’s something else to consider as well. What if what happens on the nation’s university campuses reflects issues already “in play” in the greater American culture? How can we interpret and better understand a culture that thinks that believing and following Scripture and Christian doctrine makes believers in Jesus intolerant and inflexible?  How might Christians respond to pressure from those who perceive Christian choices as actions borne of bigotry?

Today’s Inside Out guest, InterVarsity’s Greg Jao, notes that the conflict at the University of Buffalo has lessons to teach us all:

“It reminds us that Christian conviction will never be popular. And will be increasingly less popular as time goes on. So we should be both aware of that, unsurprised by that, and have an organized response to that in ways that are gracious, which are reasoned and appeal to commonly held values that we can look at at the university--including the importance of principled pluralism--and real diversity--which includes religious groups, whose beliefs, in fact, many people find objectionable.”

Join the conversation. Click the “Listen” button above to hear a conversation recorded at the end of the summer with Greg Jao, a national field director for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA.

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