By Adelle M. Banks
c. 2011 Religion News Service
(RNS) Campus Crusade for Christ is out. "Cru" is in.
The 60-year-old evangelical ministry announced its new name at a staff conference in Fort Collins, Colo., on Tuesday (July 19), saying the old name had become problematic.
"We've been having issues with two words in the name -- campus and crusade," said Steve Sellers, a vice president who oversees the ministry's U.S. operations, in an interview.
Though the Orlando, Fla.-based organization began on campuses in 1951, it has expanded to more than two dozen ministries focused on topics such as families, athletes, the military and inner cities.
When Campus Crusade was founded by the late Bill Bright and his wife Vonette, the word "crusade" typically referred to the large, stadium events held by evangelists like Billy Graham.
"In today's culture it carries more weight in terms of its historic meaning," Sellers said, with people thinking "more to the days of the Crusaders and dealing with the Middle East as opposed to a positive use of the word."
Cru isn't the only religious organization that has moved away from "crusade." Wheaton College, Graham's alma mater in Illinois, changed its mascot from Crusaders to Thunder in 2000. Graham's son Franklin leads "festivals" instead of crusades, and his grandson Will holds "celebrations."
Most recently, Crusader Lutheran Church in Rockville, Md., changed its name to Living Faith Lutheran Church out of concern that the old name had "militaristic" and "non-Christian" overtones.
Sellers said the Crusade-to-Cru change is part of that trend.
"We don't want the words that we use to get in the way of the message that we have," he said.
In a Frequently Asked Questions feature on its website, the ministry explained why leaders also opted to take the word "Christ" out of its title.
"Cru enables us to have discussions about Christ with people who might initially be turned off by a more overtly Christian name," the response read. "We believe that our interaction and our communication with the world will be what ultimately honors and glorifies Christ."
During the extensive renaming process, Sellers said researchers found that 9 percent of Christians, and 20 percent of non-Christians, were turned off by the original name. A total of 1,600 alternatives were considered.
The name Cru -- already used on many U.S. college campuses -- will be used throughout the United States. Most of the international ministries affiliated with Cru use a name other than Campus Crusade for Christ. Its Canadian affiliate is called Power to Change and European ministries use the name Agape.
Sellers said the name of the umbrella organization, Campus Crusade for Christ International, will still be used for now. The global organization includes more than 25,000 full-time and part-time people in 191 countries.
"From the beginning, Bill (Bright) was open to changing our name. He never felt it was set in stone. In fact, he actually considered changing the name 20 or 25 years ago," said Vonette Bright said in a statement. "We want to remove any obstacle to people hearing about the most important person who ever lived -- Jesus Christ."