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July 20th, 2011
08:58 PM ET

Campus Crusade for Christ loses the 'crusade'

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN)– The massive Christian ministry founded to minister and convert college students around the globe is changing its name.

Campus Crusade for Christ will change its name to "Cru" for its U.S. operations in early 2012, the Orlando-based ministry announced.

The new name was revealed late Tuesday to 5,000 staff members at a conference in Colorado.

Bill Bright and his wife Vonette founded the college ministry in 1951.

Bill Bright talked about his idea for the ministry with a seminary professor one day.  The professor scrawled the name Campus Crusade for Christ on a slip of paper and brought it to Bright the next day, according to Steve Sellers, the vice president of CCC.

"In the very beginning, Bill had discussed the possibility that we would need to change the name at some time," Vonette Bright said in a video posted by the organization. "I believe the time is right to change it."

Bill Bright died in 2003.

Today the group said it has 25,000 full-time and part-time staffers serving in 191 countries.  In the United States alone, staff members work on 800 college campuses, which is still the centerpiece of the organization.

Last year the global nature of the ministry was on display on the world stage when one of their staff members helped the trapped Chilean miners.

Christian Maureira, the head of CCC's Chilean ministry, provided Spanish-language MP3 versions of the Bible to the miners and helped get them T-shirts they wore when they emerged from the San Jose mine.

"Cru" has long been a nickname on the local college level, Sellers said.  The organization spent two years and went through 1,600 options to sort out a new name, he said.

"The word 'crusade' changes over time in terms of its volatility.  Of course everyone remembers back in the Middle Ages when the Crusades came about; of course no one wants to be associated with that," he said.

In the 1950s the word crusade was associated with famed evangelist Billy Graham and mission work.  Today, working on college campus in pluralist situations, the name is often divisive.

"In 2011 it has more of its historic meaning and was becoming more problematic.  So we were having more and more pushback that the name was hindering us from doing our mission, which is not something you want to be true of you," Sellers said.

The organization posted on its website the name change announcement in more detail: "Our surveys show that, in the U.S., 20% of the people willing to consider the gospel are less interested in talking with us after they hear the name."

"They need to emphasize while the name is changed the mission hasn't," said Kristin Cole, a manger of accounts for A. Larry Ross Communications, a top public relations firm in the faith-based community. "Your name it is important, but your mission is even more important."

While many Christian denominations and other ministries have a presence on college campuses, for decades Campus Crusade for Christ has been ubiquitous, with Christian outreach to students both domestically and internationally. But another reason they changed the name was the ministry had grown beyond just college campuses to 29 other areas of ministry.

One of the biggest concerns for the organization regarding the name change was dealing with donors.  The ministry relies on donations for virtually all its operating expenses.

Sellers said support has been good so far from donors on the name change.  "If they think about it, they recognize some of the inherent problems. And what they really care about is the mission that we do, not so much what our name is."

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Christianity • Faith Now

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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.