Critics are accusing the 60-year-old ministry of giving in to political correctness in a ploy to attract more supporters and donors, but the people behind the name change say that politics had nothing to do with the decision.
"We didn't start off and say, 'Let's take Christ out of the name,'" said Steve Sellers, vice president of the U.S. Campus Crusade for Christ. "That's kind of where the firestorm has come. People are making it look like we're bowing to political correctness, but that was absolutely never even a discussion point."
The ministry has more than 25,000 team members worldwide and has a presence on five continents and in 191 countries. The new name will go into effect in early 2012.
Sellers said there were two principal problems with the current name. He said the first was that crusade has developed an increasingly negative connotation that seems warlike and gives and impression of forcing Christianity on people.
"We believe Jesus is the most attractive person in history, so we don't need to force him on people," Sellers said. The second reason was that the inclusion of the word "campus" limited the ministry's broad reach. While their campus programs are their most well-known and largest branch, they also work with business leaders, church leaders and foreign countries in evangelism.
As far as the removal of the word "Christ," the ministry's website said, "Cru enables us to have discussions about Christ with people who might initially be turned off by a more overtly Christian name. We believe that our interaction and our communication with the world will be what ultimately honors and glorifies Christ."
Sellers said the ministry's office has received angry phone calls regarding the change, but that most people understand why the name was changed once they engage in conversation. Others have taken to social media to express their criticism.
On Twitter, people have tweeted messages such as, "Just saw that campus crusade for Christ is taken Christ out of there [sic] name to be cooler. Talk about being ashamed of Christ," and, "Really? Campus Crusade for Christ takes Christ out of it's name? Shocked."
Those experienced in public relations for faith-based organizations have weighed in on the debate.
"I think if it's not broken, don't fix it," said Anne Apodaca, the executive director of Community FaithLinks who has assisted faith-based organizations with branding.
"Once you start branding your name, it's hard to change. I would say they've probably done the wrong thing," Apodaca said.
Others believe Cru will be just fine as long as it emphasizes its mission above all else.
"The most important part to changing your name is that people understand that your mission is staying the same," said Kristin Cole, a manager of account services at A. Larry Ross Communications, one of the most prominent PR firms in the country for faith-based organizations.
"I think that Christ will come out in your actions, whether it's in your name or not," Cole said.
The ministry said that Cru was chosen out of 1,600 possible names. Sellers said other contenders were Communitas, the Latin word for people coming together for a common good, and Power to Change, which is the name of the Canadian ministry.
Sellers said that more than half of the campus ministries were already using the nickname Cru and the decision to change the name officially was unanimous across all of the ministry's leadership.
"Some people tried to spin it in a political correctness way, but nothing could be further from the truth," Sellers said. "I was surprised by the way it got twisted. Anybody that knows us and what we've been about for 60 years knows that our intent was not to back away from that."