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God's Politics

Nancy Chan: Exiled Evangelicals Return to Campus

Nine months ago, shortly before the school year began, six evangelical Protestant groups were abruptly de-recognized by Georgetown University and were informed by the Office of Campus Ministry that they would “no longer be allowed to hold any activity or presence (i.e., bible studies, retreats with Georgetown students, mid-week worship services, fellowship events, move-in assistance, SAC Fair, etc.) on campus.” They later backpedaled slightly, stating that students could continue to meet under the InterVarsity, Chi Alpha and other banners, but without official connection to the university. The reason given?

… ongoing difficulties in communication and cooperation with these outside organizations. The result has been fragmentation between student groups and the inability to gather our Protestant students on occasion for ecumenical worship and dialogue while acknowledging distinct theological differences.


According to staff and students of the affiliated ministries, the claims regarding lack of cooperation were simply untrue. In response to the flood of more than 400 letters, e-mails and petitions from concerned students, alumni, and parents in the fall, the university convened an advisory committee of Georgetown faculty, students, campus ministers, and off-campus ministry leaders to explore the matter. Finally, Georgetown announced last week that it would again recognize InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Chi Alpha Campus Ministries and other external Protestant evangelical campus ministry groups, accepting the advisory committee’s proposal to re-affiliate all of the ministries and to enhance communications and partnership between the various groups and the Office of Campus Ministry.


This resolution differs from a similar series of events earlier this year at Univeristy of Wisconsin-Superior because no lawsuit was filed against Georgetown. This sets a strong precedent for the use of dialogue instead of court action in settling such matters.

The re-affiliation of these evangelical ministries is also significant because it reaffirms the importance of making room around the table for all voices: If our academic institutions are in the business of teaching students how to think for themselves, then in the spirit of good scholarship, they should promote the free exchange of ideas and expose students to a wide range of viewpoints. As a private university, Georgetown may have the legal right to decide which students groups it will recognize, but along with other private universities, it needs to consider when exercising that right the university may undermine its own mission and values. Georgetown places a high value on interfaith dialogue, diversity, and pluralism – as seen by its support for Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim student groups. Under this framework, it is consistent and necessary to recognize the diversity of expression in the Protestant faith as well.


Reflecting on the situation at Georgetown, InterVarsity staff member Jennifer DeJong commented, “We have seen God answer prayer on many levels; while the advisory committee has been meeting to make the recommendations that would go through official channels, there have been many helpful conversations and steps taken toward reconciliation by students, staff, and chaplains. As staff, we have been encouraged by the many students who have approached these difficult conversations with integrity and grace. Please continue to pray as several of us participate on an ‘organizing committee’ this summer to work on the logistical aspects of the new plan for university affiliation.”

Nancy Chan has served as a volunteer staff member with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship at Georgetown University since the winter of 2002. She is also a 2006 graduate of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute (GPPI), and was the cofounder of the GPPI Forum on Faith and Policy, a student group promoting dialogue on issues where faith and policy intersect. Find related articles here. Or, for more information, contact Gordon Govier.

Comments read comments(14)
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kevin s.

posted May 14, 2007 at 10:21 pm

I’m glad Sojourner’s has decided to speak up about this issue.

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posted May 14, 2007 at 10:35 pm

Were or are these Evangelical groups using their presence on a Catholic campus to attempt to draw students away from Catholicism? That would be my question. I know that two of these groups are very focused on the conversion of Catholic students at the University where I have attended graduate classes.

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posted May 15, 2007 at 2:17 am

Do you think the university’s reaction has anything to do w/ the kind of Catholic thinking the Pope recently articulated during his South American trip where he lamented the significant inroads that evangelical churches have made into South American society?

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Nancy Chan

posted May 15, 2007 at 4:42 am

To respond to the comment regarding whether the evangelical groups attempted to draw students away from Catholicism – speaking on behalf of IVCF, the answer is no. IVCF is not technically a Protestant ministry. It is interdenominational. Several of our students are Catholic, including some of our key student leaders. We do not try to pit denominations against each other, but aim to celebrate the diversity of denominations. Several of our students have actually converted from Protestantism to Catholicism since joining IVCF. In general, I would say that the evangelical groups have an extremely respectful stance towards Catholicism.

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kevin s.

posted May 15, 2007 at 4:49 am

Thanks Nancy. I remember my first week at Pomona, we had a dorm meeting. The representative from Inter-Varisty (IV leaders actually volunteered to live in underclass dorms to perform outreach) annoucned that he would have a Tuesday night Bible Study in his room. Everyone mocked him afterward. “A dorm meeting isn’t a place for religion” was typical of what I heard. Good grief, all he did was announce that there was a bible study. He was the nicest guy you’d ever meet (and a Democrat too, I believe). But people hated him. Colleges are weird like that. Christians of all political stripes should fight this particular attitude.

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posted May 15, 2007 at 8:47 am

As a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a member of Campus Crusade for Christ, we have unfortunately had far too much experience in this area this year. In fact, just this morning, five days before the end of finals we recieved approval to be a registered student organization for the 06-07 school year that is now over. While I certainly would prefer to work through dialogue, I think in the situation at Superior legal action was the right choice, as at least I feel a Consitutional right to assemble was being threatened. Also, while at least my school has claimed to be interested in dialogue, their concrete actions have strongly suggested by dialogue they intend for an open forum of only ideas they support. Finally, the state Board of Regents here only took action in response to the situation at Superior, so while I would discourage the use of the courts as a primary option, I think in some situations an appeal to them is necessary for the establishment of legal precedent, to bring about change, and to protect rights.

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posted May 15, 2007 at 1:31 pm

Dodged a persecution for the time being.

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kevin s.

posted May 15, 2007 at 6:57 pm

Even more troubling are the preponderance of speech codes at major universities. The idea that my tax dollars would fund an environment in which students are not allowed to say certain things is disturbing.

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posted May 15, 2007 at 7:46 pm

I wonder if Georgetown would also recognize Pagan, Wiccan, or Evangelical Atheist groups?

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God's Politics Moderator

posted May 15, 2007 at 10:10 pm

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) This message thread has been visited by a God’s Politics Blog moderator for the purpose of removing inappropriate posts. Click here for a detailed explanation of the Beliefnet Rules of Conduct: which includes: Help us keep the conversation civil and respectful by reporting inappropriate posts to: 4

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posted May 16, 2007 at 6:45 pm

“the claims regarding lack of cooperation were simply untrue” Where there is smoke, there’s fire. I’m sure there was some blame to go around on both sides for this breakdown in communication.

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kevin s.

posted May 16, 2007 at 10:58 pm

“Where there is smoke, there’s fire. I’m sure there was some blame to go around on both sides for this breakdown in communication.” Why are you so confident? Student councils and administrations often use the unequal application of red-tape to shape student budgets, and there are plenty of instances of colleges discriminating against Christian groups.

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posted November 17, 2012 at 2:10 am

to our girl, Kelly, on the launch of her new DIY site.This week on United With Love:A Georgetown wfnarerott engagement session.A fresh vegetable and herb bridal bouquet.A rustic farm wedding in Virginia.Photo Credit:a0 Jan

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