Intervarsity or "IV" as its members affectionately call it, is a loosely connected federation of collegiate undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff, and chapters within national organizations found in many different countries of the world. The central focus of this global movement is for persons to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, placing IV squarely within evangelicalism. All members of IV affirm a written doctrinal statement that includes the Christian doctrines of the Trinity, divine inspiration and authority of the Bible, dignity of all people, sinfulness of humankind, deity of Jesus Christ and his resurrection, salvation through personal commitment of one's life to Christ, transforming power of the Holy Spirit, unity of all believers in Christ, need to reach others with the gospel and disciple new converts, the personal return of Jesus Christ, and a literal heaven and hell.
The origins of IV go back to university campuses in Great Britain in the 1600s where groups of Christian students met regularly for Bible study, prayer, mutual encouragement, and to be a witness to others of their personal faith. By the late 1800s, many of these campus groups were part of the Student Christian Movement (SCM) that organized activities both within and across campuses. As British theologians and churches in the late 19th century became more liberal in their views concerning traditional Christian doctrines, SCM chapters at many universities became increasingly disenchanted with this move toward liberalism and began to separate from the organization.
Two groups of these disaffected students at Oxford and Cambridge Universities decided to jointly meet at High Leigh, England during the annual "Inter- Varsity" rugby match between the two universities in 1919; the word "Inter" means "between" and "varsity" is the English term for students in college. The following year they invited student groups from other universities. By the tenth High Leigh conference in 1928, there were 14 participating university groups. Together they formed the "Inter-Varsity Fellowship of Evangelical Students" with the express purpose to "stimulate personal faith and further evangelistic work amongst students by upholding the fundamental truths of Christianity." This year also signaled the first missionary work of the group, as money was raised to support the journey of Howard Guinness, a recently graduated medical doctor and vice chairman of the British organization to help solidify emerging student groups among Canadian universities. After a year of decisive work in Canada that left behind a fledgling "Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship of Canada," Guinness headed off to Australia for a year of similar work. Upon his return to Canada in 1930, he also established groups of students among Canadian high schools (the "Inter-School Christian Fellowship"), as well as supporting the formation of professional groups for working teachers and nurses.
The movement spread to the United States at the University of Michigan, when Stacey Woods, the Canadian IV director, helped students form a chapter in 1938. An InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA was organized in May of 1941 with Woods as its first secretary general. InterVarsity Press (IVP) was also formed shortly before the United States entered World War II, and imported books from Britain's InterVarsity Press for U.S. chapters and students. IVP produced its first homegrown Bible study guide on the Gospel of Mark in 1943, and by 1947 had a formal publishing program underway using Fleming H. Revell Company as its distributor.
Leaders of these movements across ten countries (Australia, Canada, China, France, Great Britain, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, and the United States) met at Oxford, England in 1946 to seek stronger cooperation after the close of World War II. The following year, the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) was formed at Harvard University to serve as an umbrella organization to "work and pray for a witness to Christ in every university in the world." Meetings of IFES have been held every 3 years since 1947, with 118 national groups formally registered at their 2003 meeting in the Netherlands.
All of these diverse student organizations are united in their commitment to colleges and universities as centers for Christian witness, discipleship in the Christian faith, Christian leadership development, and the integration of faith and rigorous academic pursuits and achievements. Many campus IV faculty advisors are tenured full professors who are nationally or internationally recognized in their respective fields. Throughout IV chapters worldwide, a strong focus is placed on student leaders with professional IV staff serving as mentors, and with many formal and informal educational and training opportunities being provided throughout the year. IV in the United States in particular, has also used some of its resources to support IFES work in various nations of the world, including the provision of over 65 current full-time staff. It is important to note that not all national organizations use the name "InterVarsity," including the British IV, which changed its name in 1974 to the College Christian Fellowship for Evangelical Unions, and more recently to the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF). Many national organizations also work among high school students and their teachers.
Today, this global movement involves hundreds of thousands of students. In the United States alone in 2002-2003, there were over 1,000 full-time IV staff with 32,000 students and 2,000 faculty involved, organized into 810 undergraduate chapters on 565 campuses, as well as 141 additional chapters primarily geared toward graduate students and/or faculty. Over 4,000 students in IV-USA chapters participated in short- or long-term missions projects during the year, and more than 19,000 people attended one of four IV training centers in Colorado, Michigan, California, and New Hampshire. A student mission conference (which has been held since 1946) took place at the University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign campus during the winter break in 2003 and attracted more than 19,000 students to explore short-term and vocational mission opportunities with over 350 mission agencies and groups.
IVP publishes about 95 new books per year and carries over 800 titles in print, including many reference books that have won prestigious book awards for religious or academic textbooks/encyclopedias. Over 2 million books and booklets are sold per year, and copies of IVP titles have been translated into more than 60 languages including Chinese,Korean, Portuguese, Persian, Croatian, and Estonian. Annual revenues for IV-USA in 2003 totaled over $61 million, including $11 million from the sale of books.