Evangelical meeting bans Students for Life because it’s not ‘advancing God’s global mission’
January 8, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – At times, monitoring liberal accommodations within Christian communities is disheartening. Now is one of those times.
Last week, I broke the news here at LifeSiteNews that InterVarsity Christian Fellowship’s Urbana15 keynote speaker, Michelle Higgins, reduced pro-life efforts to “withholding mercy from the living” to make “a big spectacle.” I wish that was the end of the story. But sadly, there’s more troubling news surrounding InterVarsity’s Urbana15.
In an op-ed published on Monday, Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life (SFL), revealed the Urbana15 team denied her group’s exhibitor application.
SFL received an email from Urbana’s Exhibits Manager thanking the pro-life youth organization for applying, but denied their application because, "… Students for Life does not align with Urbana's exhibitor criteria. One of our key criteria for exhibitors is to have advancing God's global mission as the vision and purpose of their organization.”
Here’s what’s interesting. SFL is the nation’s largest pro-life organization dedicated to youth ministry. As Hawkins noted, SFL’s mission is “to reach young Christians with the pro-life message.” The organization trains thousands of future doctors without borders, international lawyers, and pastors and teachers, and sends them to every corner of the globe to defend the most basic human right: the right to life.
I think God would agree, this is part of his global mission.
Now, if you’re an Urbana15 Exhibitors Manager who is sadly unfamiliar with SFL, then you might not know that they are gospel-centered by quickly perusing the group’s website. No, you won’t find the fully Christianese and fluffy church lingo. This is intentional, as Hawkins explains, because SFL is trying to reach students on secular campuses who might not otherwise encounter the pro-life message.
Kristina Hernandez, SFL’s Communications Director, told the Institute on Religion and Democracy, “SFLA is disappointed in the rejection of our application. We don’t see how we fall astray of advancing the mission of the protection of life in all its stages.” Nor could I understand this conundrum.
To be fair, I reached out to the Urbana15 team for greater context. And I will say that the Urbana15 team responded quickly and obligingly. They pointed me towards their exhibitor’s criteria page.
But from the list of seven prerequisites, including being a reputable agency registered with the IRS, I found no cause to deny SFL while highlighting #BlackLivesMatter. SFL promotes diversity, provides training, builds coalitions with parachurch ministries, works with Christian college campuses, and advances key components of God’s mission: every life is precious. SFL does all those things, just not in the typical churchy way. That’s a good thing.
So why then did Urbana15 deny SFL a booth in the lobby yet devote an entire evening to #BlackLivesMatters, whose keynote never once addressed abortion’s innate racism? This, I believe, is because among faithful student ministries we have a Millennial generation moving into leadership positions who prioritize leftist political policies over traditional teaching to make themselves feel more compassionate.
There. I said it.
It’s not like we haven’t seen this story play out at evangelical youth conferences before. Catalyst, a Christian conference gathering young evangelicals for worship, hosted Senator Cory Booker, D-NJ, at the time a candidate. Organizers plopped Booker between speakers like John Piper and Priscilla Shirer. As I reported, it’s not like Booker was known for proclaiming his love of Jesus or evangelizing to his fellow politicians and constituents.
At the 2013 Justice Conference in Philadelphia, my colleague Kristin Larson reported how author Sheryl WuDunn lectured on the growing gender imbalance in birth ratios, but failed to mention sex-selective abortion as the main cause.
In 2012, the Justice Conference invited pacifist Shane Claiborne who addressed military spending as America's source of financial evil, without noting expanding entitlement programs as a major reason for our uncontrollable debt.
We can fuss and fight over whether the speaker’s message either misrepresented or miscommunicated InterVarsity and Urbana’s values. This seems futile, in my opinion. Because the sad fact remains that the invited #BlackLivesMatters speaker disparaged pro-life efforts in front of 6,000 evangelical students, alumni, and youth ministers.
“InterVarsity not only failed to talk about the least among us and how students can be active on their own campuses to further a culture of life rather than death, which Students for Life has years of experience in doing,” wrote Hernandez. “But they promoted a movement and a speaker that trashed the pro-life movement.”
The damage is done when 16,000 evangelicals hear banning abortion is a waste of time, learn defunding America’s abortion giant, Planned Parenthood, is a bad idea, and are told to defend unborn life is “withholding mercy from the living.”
“A huge opportunity was lost to make inroads onto college campuses to help stop abortion, the greatest human rights injustice of our time, and to help women facing unplanned pregnancies,” Hernandez rightly noted.