Replace InterVarsity’s Greg Jao in the speaker lineup for Midwinter 2017

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Dear President Walter, Rev. Novak, Rev. Burger, and the Executive Board,

In light of disturbing developments at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF)—which include establishing an exclusionary position on human sexuality and requiring that any employees who cannot “believe and behave” in accordance with the position identify themselves and face termination—we call for Covenant administration to disinvite to Midwinter 2017 Greg Jao, Vice President and Director of Campus Engagement at IVCF and therefore part of the leadership team that adopted this policy. IVCF has made it clear that dissent is disallowed, that Christian freedom is not valued. Such a policy is contrary to our Covenant Affirmations and the spirit of companionship in faith with all those who fear God and keep God’s commandments—a spirit that has defined the ECC since its founding in 1885.

We believe it would be inappropriate for the ECC to elevate this speaker and through him, an organization that attempts to police the thoughts and theological beliefs of its staff.

Given the recent revelation of IVCF’s policies, Greg Jao’s presence at Midwinter would undermine President Walter’s concern, expressed at the 2016 Annual Meeting, that the ECC has caused pain to LGBTQ individuals and their families, and needs to do better. At that time, President Walter acknowledged that many Covenanters “wrestle with honest questions and disagreements” and “there are times the Covenant Church has not been a safe place to ask questions, seek counsel and find support.”

We understand that the invitation to Greg Jao was extended before this news came to light. But his presence now—as an advocate for and defender of an exclusionary policy that does not allow for a safe place for its employees—would be a violation of community good faith. The presence of Greg Jao on the main stage of our ministers’ conference does not promote mutual respect and consideration for Covenant brothers and sisters.

We affirm President Walter’s call for “a more caring church” and “fruitful interchange.” This can only happen in an environment that welcomes serious and thoughtful inquiry and conversation without repercussion. We recognize there are speakers who take diverse positions on many issues that we might not all agree with; however, IVCF’s policy regarding its staff is both chilling and deeply un-Covenant.

We call on the organizers to stay true to our Covenant identity and replace Greg Jao in the speaker lineup for Midwinter 2017.

Mission Friends for Inclusion

[ NOTE: When signing this petition, please include your Covenant church affiliation in the “I’m signing because” field. ]

If you would like to respectfully and privately share your personal thoughts on this matter, please email the following individuals:
Gary Walter, President, Evangelical Covenant Church,
Marti Burger, Director of Covenant Events,
Mark Novak, Executive Minister, Develop Leaders,

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