InterVarsity Christian Fellowship placed on probation

Marquette’s InterVarsity Christian Fellowship is now on probation after being accused of asking one of its former officers to step down due to his sexual orientation. However, the organization maintains that the student was asked to forgo his positions because of  his views against celibacy, which opposes the group’s beliefs.

On Aug. 5, Stephanie Quade, dean of students in the Office of Student Development, made a final, amended decision regarding what was at first a discrimination and harassment case against InterVarsity Christian Fellowship but has since been reduced solely to a discrimination case. The complaint was made by a former officer who was dismissed shortly after revealing his sexuality.

The organization contradicts this statement, saying it was not related to the student’s sexual orientation, but rather the refusal to practice celibacy — a crucial principle for the group.

Intervarsity Christian Fellowship is a Christian organization on campus that “focuses on community, Bible study and reaching out to the campus to share the love of Jesus Christ our Lord,” according to its website.

The organization would not be suspended for discrimination in the dismissing of an officer, but would be put on probation for a year for violating the procedures stated in their constitution.

The initial verdict suspended the organization and found it guilty of discrimination against the former officer. But after an appeal, the organization was put on probation which “results from a finding that the chapter violated its own policies and procedures,” said Kate Venne, director of university communication, in an e-mail.

The student, who asked to remain anonymous, was dismissed as an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship officer in August 2010 after expressing his sexual orientation and revealing in a conversation with Jen Wojtysiak, advisor for the group, that he was in a same-sex relationship.

The Marquette student was encouraged to make a complaint with the Office of Student Development after speaking with his academic advisor Amelia Zurcher and becoming involved in the LGBTQ Student & Ally Discussion Group. He filed the complaint May 19 of this year.

“The Marquette student filed a complaint against IVCF alleging discrimination and harassment by the organization on the basis of sexual orientation,” Venne said. She said Student Development was informed and began an investigation into the matter.

But IVCF claims there is a discrepancy in the allegations.

C. Terrence Anderson, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, joined the organization a semester after the incident but has formed a strong relationship with the members of the organization and said he would not be part of an organization he believed would discriminate.

“IVCF is a community of people that love each other, growing together and deepening their relationship with God,” Anderson said. “I wouldn’t be part of this organization if I believed they discriminated against a certain group.”

Quade, also the student conduct administer, determined a hearing was necessary and that the student group was informed of what “elements of the code of conduct were violated,” Quade said in an e-mail.

The student said he had a second meeting with Wojtysiak and Ryan Lospaluto, second advisor for Intervarsity, where he was questioned about his viewpoint on celibacy in July 2010.

He said going into the meeting, he felt a level of trust with the advisors. Instead, he left feeling like he walked into a trap.

“They asked me if I believed in celibacy and I said ‘no,’” the student said. “To me there is no place for celibacy in the Bible. There is no recognition of my sexuality so celibacy does not play a role in my life.”

On Aug. 16, 2010, the student received a letter from the InterVarsity Christian Leadership Team, which read in part:

“The leadership team respectfully asks you to rescind (your positions). We ask this with the understanding that: 1) You intend to break celibacy without remorse 2) You believe that the authority of Scripture is in error concerning celibacy. … We are asking you to rescind your positions because you have demonstrated an attitude that seeks to pursue a sin, and you have verbally affirmed that attitude. You are not being asked to step down because of your sexual orientation. As we have expressed earlier in the letter, we believe that this is the best decision for our chapter.”

As soon as the student received the letter, he immediately stepped down.

“They didn’t say that it was because I was gay, but they didn’t have to,” he said. “I didn’t want to be in an organization where I was not accepted.”

Anderson said the student was asked to step down solely because of his views on celibacy, and not due to his sexual orientation.

“As a community we were fine with the fact that he was gay, but when it came to the fact that he didn’t agree with a core value of IVCF, that is when we encountered an issue,” Anderson said.

Anderson said IVCF is open about the fact that there were things they could have done more directly rather than systematically following procedure in terms of interacting with the student and handling the situation, but have taken this as a learning and growth experience.

“We are staying away from playing the victim,” Anderson said. “We are re-evaluating and want people to know that we are loving of all walks of life and want to reach out to all different people on campus.”

Due to the probation, InterVarsity was asked to be more cautious about their actions and instructed not to reach out as an organization to the student, although they may do so individually.

“I would love to reach out to (the student) but I know now is not the time, but I look forward to when that time may be,” Anderson said.