Ally Hoffmeister, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, isn’t much different than other sorority sisters. She likes Starbucks. She enjoys science and has a passion for community service. She is also a member of Phi Beta Chi, a Christian sorority.
You may be raising your eyebrows. “A Christian sorority?” you may ask, with scenes from The House Bunny dancing through your mind. “Uh … how does that work?”
Phi Beta Chi holds many of the same events as Panhellenic sororities, from mixers and formals to member retreats and philanthropy projects. But the women in Phi Beta Chi strive to underscore everything they do with Christian values, Hoffmeister said. They have a Christian devotion at their weekly chapter meetings. Their events are alcohol-free, and members are not permitted to drink alcohol beforehand.
But at the heart of Phi Beta Chi is a commitment to sisterhood, service and spiritual growth, Hoffmeister said.
“We’re a group of Christian girls coming together,” she said. “It’s a support system, and not that everyone is perfect, but everyone has the same ideals. When someone makes a mistake, we all know our hearts are in the same place.”
So, Phi Beta Chi is certainly different from Elle Woods’ Delta Nu. But according to Phi Beta Chi’s national director, Amy Johnson, their goals are similar to almost any other sorority: lifetime friendship, improved self-image and personal growth for the members of the sorority’s 11 chapters.
“What we try to do is encourage our members to lead by example and to be good stewards of what Phi Beta Chi is about, so that if someone meets one of our sisters on campus and thinks she is a nice person, it reflects well on the sorority,” Johnson said.
But Hollywood often puts the Greek community in a negative light, leaving some moviegoers with the impression that sorority life and Christian life cannot intersect. So how do the women in Phi Beta Chi respond?
“I don’t think the ‘Christian life’ is at all mutually exclusive from any type of organization, including Greek life,” said Macy Flinchum, the president of Phi Beta Chi’s chapter at UNC – Chapel Hill. “I think that the values of Christianity can be expressed through any avenue, in any place, at any time. It’s a lifestyle that translates into anything a person puts his or her heart into.”
Kristin Grebel is president of Georgia Southern University’s chapter of Alpha Delta Chi, a Christian sorority with 15 active chapters across the U.S. The key to balancing sorority and Christian life is focusing on her sisters’ internal qualities, she said.
“We don’t say, ‘No, you can’t drink.’ It’s about being a Christian witness,” Grebel said. “You’re not only representing Alpha Delta Chi, but you’re representing Christ, and that’s something in our sorority that we’ve worked on to balance.”
Part of being a Christian witness is accepting women into Phi Beta Chi who don’t profess to believe in Christianity, Johnson said.
“We’ve had girls that were agnostic. We’ve had a few Muslim members,” she said.
The women of Phi Beta Chi, which was founded in 1978 as a Lutheran sorority, look for potential members who are willing to accept and respect the sorority’s ideals, regardless of which faith the woman claims as her own.
“We don’t want to be pigeon-holed as only accepting Christians,” Johnson said. “Potential members would come into contact with religious aspects, but you don’t have to be a Christian to join. We don’t discriminate.”
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