Over the last few years, Christian campus ministries (CCMs) across the United States have increasingly been in hot water as hostile university administrations and student unions have attempted to force the deregistration of such groups. 2014 in particular, saw California State University (CSU), a university system composed of 23 campuses, deregister InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) across all of its campuses. Why? Because the group required their leaders to hold Christian beliefs. Whilst, the deregistration was reversed and IVCF was reinstated as a recognized student organization of CSU in 2015[1]InterVarsity provide an outline of the events and links to what had occurred here: http://intervarsity.org/page/california-state-university-system, the case demonstrated the precarious situation that CCMs are in – and it’s not something restricted to the United States.

Recently on the 17 of February, the Evangelical Union (EU), a CCM based at the University of Sydney, was issued an ultimatum that called for the removal of the requirement for members to subscribe to the group’s statement of belief.[2]This is similar to what occurred for IVCF at Cal State, Vanderbilt University and Tufts University. Some may argue that the situation was different, but the issue is effectively similar. Although, this is not news to the Evangelical Union (they had for almost five years been in negotiations with the University of Sydney Union (USU) to attempt to come up with a feasible solution which worked for both parties.[3]Andrew Bell, USU threatens to deregister Evangelical Union (March 13, 2016) – http://honisoit.com/2016/03/usu-threatens-to-deregister-evangelical-union/), the outcome is unfortunate and shows that the ‘equality’ that USU is pushing for is not ‘equality’ for all.

What I mean by that is this: Just as one would expect someone who wants to be a leader of the LGBTIQ society to be a proponent of same-sex marriage; someone who desires to be a leader of the environmentalist society to a proponent of measures supporting environmentalism; and someone who wants to be a leader of the Australian Labor Party Club to be a supporter of the ALP party – so too it should be entirely reasonable that Christians should lead Christians in a group entirely intended for Christians to fellowship with other Christians. Something that adherence to a common statement of belief ensures. After all, joining any society as a member will usually require an individual to subscribe in some way to a set of common beliefs or aims of that society. If membership provides the capacity for an individual to achieve leadership — it is inescapably logical that membership should only be open to those who adhere to the purpose of the group.

Sadly, it’s an ironic reality that we live in a society where the very organisations that are increasingly pushing for ‘equality’ and ‘nondiscrimination’ across the board, are the very same ones which are, simultaneously, ensuring that not everything is equal or free from discrimination. Rather, it those groups who adhere to a belief deemed unacceptable by the social narrative, which is guiding these organisation, which are pushed outside the public marketplace of ideas and expression. Whether, intended or not, the potential deregistration of Evangelical Union by USU is an indicator of precisely that – it would act as a significant impediment in them operating freely and act as an effectual attempt to silence the group on campus. (How? See Footnote [4]As with any student group, deregistration would be a significant impediment for the Evangelical Union. It would mean that they would no longer have free access to rooms for gatherings or meetings. It would mean that they wouldn’t be able to really participate in student activities program (think O-Week); and it would also mean they would no longer be able to have any official status at all in correspondence or events.)

I hope that with me, you will pray for the wellbeing of the Evangelical Union and their leaders. Particularly George Bishop, the student president of the EU, who has laudably gone on record to state: “Ultimately, what I care about is that the EU continues to exist and proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ on campus.[5]Bell, USU threatens to deregister Evangelical Union This is no doubt going to hit the media (both traditional and social) in the weeks ahead and there will likely be vocal articles arguing for the removal of CCMs from campuses nationwide, just as there has been for schools. However, let’s pray that God will be glorified through the public discourse that will unavoidably come.

Update (23/3): The Evangelical Union has voted overwhelmingly (71-1) to keep the offending, contentious, clause. After involvement by the University, the deregistration process has also stalled. Read more here.

References   [ + ]

1.InterVarsity provide an outline of the events and links to what had occurred here: http://intervarsity.org/page/california-state-university-system
2.This is similar to what occurred for IVCF at Cal State, Vanderbilt University and Tufts University. Some may argue that the situation was different, but the issue is effectively similar.
3.Andrew Bell, USU threatens to deregister Evangelical Union (March 13, 2016) – http://honisoit.com/2016/03/usu-threatens-to-deregister-evangelical-union/
4.As with any student group, deregistration would be a significant impediment for the Evangelical Union. It would mean that they would no longer have free access to rooms for gatherings or meetings. It would mean that they wouldn’t be able to really participate in student activities program (think O-Week); and it would also mean they would no longer be able to have any official status at all in correspondence or events.
5.Bell, USU threatens to deregister Evangelical Union