Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Today on the Christian History Almanac, we remember the founding of the Intervarsity Fellowship and Press.

It is the 14th of November, 2023. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I’m Dan van Voorhis.


Today, we remember an institution today celebrating its 82nd birthday- one of the incredibly important Christian institutions in Post War America, especially on college campuses- Intervarsity, also known for its publishing arm, Intervarsity Press.

The organization received its impetus from a Christian group at Cambridge University that sought to root itself in the tradition of Christian activism on increasingly secular campuses like that of the Wesleys in the previous century and at the University of Halle in Germany. It was aided by the parallel growth of the YMCA and interdenominational groups reaching out to college students. As we mentioned in the mailbag this past weekend, colleges in the West began as outgrowths of the church but would become secular in the modern era. Intervarsity was an approach to blending the best of the modern university with a commitment to Christian fellowship. As an early pioneer of the movement in America, Charles Troutman wrote: “There is no place like the university for the sharpening and expansion of Christian faith.”

It was D.L. Moody. While in England, he decided to bring the college model back to his Mt. Hermon Conference center, but the direct lineage to Intervarsity came from Cambridge to Canada and then to the campus of the University of Michigan in 1938 (more on the University of Michigan at the end of the show). Stacey Woods would be its first leader with the backing of Herbert Taylor, a Chicago businessman famous for his financial support for the likes of Youth For Christ, Billy Graham, and later Fuller Seminary.

By the early 50s, there were more than 500 chapters on college campuses nationwide. In 1950 and 1951, 58 campus missions were held, with the likes of Graham and John Stott giving lectures. In 1951, they opened their first camp: the Campus By The Sea on Catalina Island (where I used to take students and where my youngest goes for summer camp).

His magazine would be its first publication until Intervarsity Press was founded in 1947. IVP would become known for its quality, breadth, and scholarship. Early popular books include Paul Little’s “How to Give Away Your Faith,” and in the 1960s, they secured the publication rights for the works of Francis Schaeffer. In the 80s, they published their LifeGuide Bible studies. In the '90s, the award-winning Dictionary of Christianity in America and, recently, the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture was started by Thomas Oden. Historian Mark Noll noted the role this particular press has played in building bridges between Christian groups with its commitment to a wide array of voices. J.I. Packer noted that some publishers tell you what to believe, some tell you what you already believe but that IVP helps you believe.

The group has been on the evangelical vanguard for racial inclusion. Back in the 1940s, the board of Intervarsity passed a resolution forbidding any racial segregation at Intervarsity meetings (this is the 1940s!). In 1970, they published a collection of works highlighting racial reconciliation and have published, since their first book Discovering the Gospel of Mark by Jane Hollingsworth, given women a voice in the industry.

In 1946, they held their first Student Missions conference in Toronto. This triennial conference would move to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where it took the name “Urbana” (today, the conference is held at different locations).

Like many Christian institutions in this century, it has been plagued by the divide over policies pertaining to human sexuality. In 2016, Intervarsity came under fire for its newly stated policy requiring all employees and campus leaders to affirm a statement that some claimed caused “inconsistent treatment of LGBTQ students”. The organization was also in the news in 2018 as the Supreme Court upheld the group's right to hold meetings on the campus of the University of Iowa.

A giant in the history of college Christian fellowships- it has been consistently praised by MinistryWatch and Charity Navigator as one of the most transparent and accountable American charities. Today, we remember this post-war giant on its anniversary of incorporation- on this day in 1941- a happy birthday to the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.


The last word for today is from the daily lectionary- a benediction from 1st Thessalonians:

11 Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus direct our way to you. 12 And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we abound in love for you. 13 And may he so strengthen your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.


This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 14th of November 2023, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by a man whose Purdue Boilermakers were recently defeated by the University of Michigan but expects that win to be vacated when Michigan is exposed for the cheaters they are… He is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man who loves all people as made in the Image of God but just finds it harder with cheaters like Jim Harbaugh- I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be OK.

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