(Tim: this is sixth in a series of posts [one, two, three, four, five, six, seven] responding to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's promotion of sodomy at an Indiana University campus forum they sponsored the evening of Monday, March 28, 2011. Pic on right.)
This past Monday, April 4, 2011, Jacob Mentzel and Lucas Weeks met with Mark Abdon, InterVarsity's staff worker for their undergraduate chapter here at Indiana University, to state their concern over InterVarsity's promotion of homosexuality at an InterVarsity forum the previous week, and to ask Mr. Abdon and InterVarsity to issue a public correction. As a courtesy to InterVarsity and its staff, prior to this meeting with Mr. Abdon InterVarsity's office of the president had been called and informed this meeting was going to occur later that day.
The following account was written the same day as the meeting and edited for accuracy yesterday (4/5) and today (4/6). It's posted here as one more part of the historical record.
An Account of Our Meeting With Mark Abdon
by Jacob Mentzel and Lucas Weeks
On Monday, April 4th, we met with Mark Abdon, the undergraduate staff worker for InterVarsity at Indiana University, to discuss IV's recent forum on homosexuality. Mark had an undergraduate woman present with him who plans to go on staff with IV this coming year. It was obvious Mark knew what we wanted to talk about, so we asked him about how the decision was made to have former IV staffer, William Campbell, speak.
Mark told us the majority of the planning for the week's forums belonged to one of his undergraduate students and that the planning began in May of 2010. He made it clear IV's goal from the beginning was to live at peace with the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered Queer (LGBTQ) community in Bloomington. InterVarsity partnered with Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Equality (SAGE), a LGBTQ student advocacy group on campus, to sponsor the event. Mark did not mention the involvement of any other student groups. He noted InterVarsity campus groups were being expelled from universities around the country over the issue of homosexuality, and he was very concerned that the Bloomington chapter not face the same fate.
Because of these concerns, InterVarsity had adopted a policy that the event would be viewpoint neutral. It was decided there would be no "theological content" in the forum...Mark was aware of the plan to invite Campbell to speak during the event, and when the event was first being planned, Campbell was on staff with InterVarsity at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He said the primary objective of the forum was to "bridge" relationships with the LGBTQ community and that it would have been unacceptable for Campbell to explicitly condemn homosexuality. He was concerned such condemnation would have alienated the LGBTQ community and could have led to InterVarsity's dismissal from the campus of Indiana University.
However, in October of 2010 Campbell left InterVarsity. Mark told us Campbell's departure was linked to his position on homosexuality. When Campbell left InterVarsity, there was some question raised by InterVarsity staff about his fitness to address homophobia at IU. Mark informed us that this led to a discussion between his InterVarsity supervisors, including the area director for InterVarsity in Southern Indiana, Paul Bertsch. The regional director (above Bertsch) was involved in the decision too, along with other upper-level InterVarsity staff. Mark assured us the decision was considered carefully and he was not alone in making it.
The decision of the hierarchy was that Mr. Campbell would be allowed to speak for at least two reasons. First, his departure from InterVarsity had been very amicable—Mark stressed that repeatedly. Second, InterVarsity had already decided that the event was not to have "theological" content.
According to Mark, the fact that this policy was already in place when InterVarsity revisited Campbell's inclusion as a speaker made this decision easier. They did not want any speaker to condemn homosexuality, but they were also concerned that he not condone it. Condoning homosexuality could cause division among brothers with whom InterVarsity wanted to remain united. The only problem with the forum that Mark acknowledged was its failure to preserve this unity.
InterVarsity was trying to take a third option—one that involved neither alienating homosexuals nor Biblical Christians. Their goal, according to Mark, was to create a "foyer" where these things could be discussed on neutral grounds. The forum was to be an entry point where "dialogue" could be initiated. This goal could remain intact if Campbell—regardless of his personal views on homosexuality—kept the forum devoid of theological content.
At this point we began to explain to Mark that he was in very serious error. We pointed out that InterVarsity had planned and widely promoted a meeting that was emphatically not viewpoint neutral. The forum not only condoned, but promoted sodomy. Campbell was given the floor by InterVarsity to speak for the organization in the name of Jesus Christ. In the words of the promotional material, he was to teach students "what Jesus really thought." In other words, an open homosexual was given the floor to promote sodomy. Which he did.
We explained to Mark that we know there were people present in that meeting who are tempted by homosexual sin, and we warned him of the danger of leading Christ's little ones astray. We also talked to him about the necessity of dealing with people's sin, calling them to repentance and warning them of the coming judgment.
At this point Mark directed the subject to a discussion of the nature of evangelism. He zeroed in on this as being a key disagreement between us. As he explained it, our error was that we try to take over the work of the Holy Spirit convicting people of sin while he simply asks questions and trusts the Holy Spirit to do the convicting. Mark explained what he meant by saying we try to convict people of sin, stating that he has no more right to tell someone that homosexuality is a sin (for them personally) than to tell a brother that it is a sin for him to drink alcohol. Mark explained to us that all he could, in good conscience, ask a practicing homosexual is, "How does your sexuality affect your spirituality?" That would be sufficient and the work from then on belonged to the Holy Spirit.
Coming into the meeting, our intention was to request that InterVarsity issue a correction of the event that was as public as the event and its promotion had been. At this point in the conversation, though, we sensed that Mark still did not think there was anything wrong with the event apart from the division it had caused among Christians. We asked Mark point blank if he thought homosexuality is sin. He hedged. He explained to us how he had thought long and hard on the subject, and had read a great deal of the modern "research." He quoted statistics to us that only 22% of those homosexuals going through sexual rehabilitation programs become straight. Some become celibate. Others aren't convinced they ought to give up their homosexual practice. And yet, all these people can be "sincere followers of Jesus Christ."
Mark eventually conceded that he, personally, had come to the conclusion that it would be wrong for "him personally" to engage in homosexual practice. But he couldn't speak to how the Holy Spirit would deal with others' consciences.
We pressed him with Scripture, pointing out 1 Corinthians 6:9-10: "Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God." We quoted Jesus' warning of Luke 17 that "It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea, than that he would cause one of these little ones to stumble." We quoted Acts 20, pointing out that the students under his care that evening were being led to Hell, and he would have blood on his hands at the final judgment.
Through all this, Mark did not budge on his position that homosexuality was a personal, private matter of conscience. His Scriptural support for this position was the Apostle Paul's teaching on food sacrificed to idols.
Mark thanked us for meeting with him, and assured us he believed we were sincere in our concern for him and the students on this campus—including his own students. He asked us to have the "long blog posts condemning whole organizations" (referring to Baylyblog.com) removed. We stated that Baylyblog was doing what we had hoped he himself would do.
Our final statement to Mark was that nothing would delight us more than InterVarsity publicly repenting of their dishonoring of the name of Jesus Christ, their denial of the authority of Scripture, and their leading students into sin.
We approached our meeting with Mark in good faith, but we left convinced that InterVarsity's forum on homophobia transpired exactly as they had planned.