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On the Front Lines of the Culture Wars

Campus Crusade for Christ has decided to make a major change — its name.

In early 2012, reports the Internet website The Blaze, the multi-faceted para-church group will officially drop the name it has held for 60 years, replacing it with a three-letter word — “Cru.”

“While many within the group are praising the change, some outsiders wonder if the ministry, which seeks to ‘build spiritual movements everywhere so everyone knows someone who truly follows Jesus Christ,’ is making the wrong decision by removing ‘Christ’ from its title, observes The Blaze.

Founded by Bill and Vonette Bright at UCLA back in 1951, the organization — which today brings in $490 million per year in revenue — spread rapidly. By 1960, 40 U.S. college campuses had chapters, with at least two others already operating in foreign countries. By 1996, Money magazine dubbed the group the most efficient religious ministry in America. By the year 2000, Campus Crusade for Christ International, the parent organization for the college ministry, had more than 24,000 full time staff members, and more than 500,000 trained volunteers serving in 191 countries.

The 60-year-old ministry announced its new name at a staff conference in Fort Collins, Colorado, on Tuesday, saying the old name had become problematic.

“We’ve been having issues with two words in the name — campus and crusade,” said Steve Sellers, a vice president who oversees the ministry’s U.S. operations, in an interview.

When Campus Crusade was founded by the late Bill Bright and his wife Vonette, the word “crusade” typically referred to the large, stadium events held by evangelists like Billy Graham.

“In today’s culture it carries more weight in terms of its historic meaning,” Sellers said, with people thinking “more to the days of the Crusaders and dealing with the Middle East as opposed to a positive use of the word.”

Cru isn’t the only religious organization that has moved away from “crusade.” Wheaton College, Graham’s alma mater in Illinois, changed its mascot from Crusaders to The Thunder in 2000. Graham’s son Franklin leads “festivals” instead of crusades, and his grandson Will holds “celebrations.” Recently, Crusader Lutheran Church in Rockville, Maryland., changed its name to Living Faith Lutheran Church out of concern that the old name had “militaristic” and “non-Christian” overtones.

Sellers said researchers found that 9 percent of Christians, and 20 percent of non-Christians, were turned off by the name Campus Crusade for Christ.

A total of 1,600 alternatives were considered. The name Cru — already used on many U.S. college campuses — will be used throughout the United States.

Already, international ministries affiliated with the organization use other names. The Canadian affiliate is called Power to Change and European ministries use the name Agape.

“From the beginning, Bill [Bright] was open to changing our name,” said Vonette Bright in a statement supporting the change. “He never felt it was set in stone. In fact, he actually considered changing the name 20 or 25 years ago. We want to remove any obstacle to people hearing about the most important person who ever lived — Jesus Christ.”

The Religious News Service contributed to this article.

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