Does Cru Support Pronoun Truth After All?

By Tom Gilson Published on April 12, 2024

I’ve heard from dozens current Cru staff members from as far away as South Asia since my April 3 article, “Is Cru Losing Its First Love for Christ?” I honestly wish they’d all been correcting me for mistakes I made. I wish this follow-up article could be a full retraction of what I wrote then.

No such luck.

There have been criticisms, naturally. One person on Facebook called it “gossip,” another called it “malicious.” I simply invite them to reread the article to see if it really sounds that way, or even close. Some spoke of the many staff members who are following the Lord without compromise. So did I, prominently, in the article’s sidebar.

I’ve heard strong support as well, including the message from the unnamed country in South Asia. One former staff member spoke of someone close to him being trained very recently to use preferred pronouns at Cru.

One Correction

I did learn of one factual error I need to correct, though the correction needs context, because the fact isn’t entirely what it seems.

In that article I raised questions about Cru’s use of “pronoun hospitality” (using people’s preferred pronouns, regardless of their actual sex). I failed to mention the page on Cru’s public website titled “Compassionate & Faithful: Cru’s Approach to LGBT+ Questions,” which states,

We embrace the goodness of the sexual difference God created by living distinctly as male and female, which includes using pronouns that align with our biological sex.

The page appears to have been added shortly after author Rosaria Butterfield sent a stinging rebuke to Cru for compromising the truth on sexuality and gender (1:01:30 to 1:02:50 here). The policy stated there appears at first to be a good, solid affirmation. I did not acknowledge it in my earlier article, and I regret the oversight.

Mixed Picture

So there you have it. Cru supports pronoun truth after all, right? Except all is not necessarily as it seems, for the statement is incomplete. It affirms the use of pronouns that align with biological sex, but what about using pronouns that don’t align? Could they be good, too? On that matter, the statement is silent.

That question might seem annoyingly hair-splitting, except for the many current staff members who have told me that behind the scenes, Cru still supports “pronoun hospitality.” Cru’s public-facing policy may look good enough to satisfy those of us who believe in pronoun truth, but it leaves wiggle room, and behind the scenes, my sources tell me, Cru is wiggling. In many locations, at least, they’re still encouraging the use of preferred pronouns.

Transferable Training?

The pronoun issue centers around Cru’s highly secretive “Compassionate and Faithful” training materials. Staff members are prohibited from sharing those with anyone – not friends, not family, not even their pastors. If that seems strange to you, in Cru it’s even worse than that.

Cru is known worldwide as an evangelistic ministry, but many would say its real strength is its emphasis on “transferable” training. I came to Christ in college through Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru’s name at the time), and I don’t think two weeks passed before I was introduced to a series of booklets called “Transferable Concepts.”

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The booklets were written by Cru’s founder, Bill Bright, on topics like “How to Be Sure You Are a Christian,” “How to Be Filled with the Spirit,” “How to Love by Faith,” and more.

One of these Transferable Concepts, titled “How to Experience God’s Love and Forgiveness,” was profoundly freeing to me from the start. Even better, it was written so simply and clearly, I could pass along (transfer) that same message of freedom to just about anyone, almost as soon as I learned it.

Secret Training

Cru’s discipleship structure has always been based on open, clear, easily transferable messages and experiences leading to growth in Christ. I can only imagine how great it would be for Cru to use the same “Compassionate and Faithful” ministry principles with LGBT+ persons. Who wouldn’t benefit from learning how to minister well in that community?

Cru isn’t sharing its training this time. These materials are locked up tight. What’s in them? Who knows? Cru staff members do, but they’re not allowed to tell anyone.

Cru isn’t sharing its training this time. These materials are locked up tight.

One person wondered, “What if I wanted to get some guidance on it from my pastor? What if my pastor helped me see how good it was? I can’t go to him even for that.” (Not that he thought his pastor would tell him it was all that good.)

It’s out of character for Cru to hide training materials that could be useful for all. Why would they do that?

Culture Before Christ?

Cru people raised a variety of issues in messages to me. “Pronoun hospitality” isn’t the real problem, at least not in the minds of the seasoned leaders — staff members with 30, 40, even 50 years’ tenure — who have contacted me recently. For them it’s a symptom of a deeper issue.

There was one who captured the mood of all, saying,

As an organization it would appear that the highest value we hold is our reputation as “nice.” … that being seen by the world as “winsome” is [essential] for evangelism. So as an organization we start from a cultural perspective. Application of Biblical truth comes later. Our leaders appear to be reticent to uphold truth if that truth is contrary to the culture around us.

The question I raised on April 3 was whether Cru’s leadership is putting effectiveness in mission ahead of love for Christ. I asked it from the outside, as a former staff member. Apparently some are asking it from the inside, too.


Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the recently released Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.

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