For Which World is Your Vision? (updated)
March 26, 2014 § Leave a comment
On Monday, March 24th, World Vision International made a policy change and announced it via Christianity Today: “World Vision: Why We’re Hiring Gay Christians in Same-Sex Marriages.” If you’re not familiar with World Vision, they are one of the world’s largest Christian relief organizations, dedicated to working with children, families and their communities in nearly 100 countries to address the causes of poverty and injustice.
Below is an email I sent to World Vision President Richard Stearns the following day, followed by a string of brief responses, and ending with the announcement of a reversal of their decision. The quoted portions in my email are from his policy change announcement.
Dear Mr. Stearns,
I greatly respect the work World Vision is doing, and my wife and I have been supporters for nearly a decade. I was very disappointed to learn of your recent policy change to employ openly gay employees in openly homosexual relationships. This reflects a grave dishonesty and inconsistency for a organization that claims a “mission of building the kingdom” from the same Bible that lists homosexuals among many types of sinners who “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
I realize your focus is liberating children and families from poverty and injustice, and you view this issue as divisive and a distraction from that mission. It is divisive (all issues are) and may be distracting, but why do we have this responsibility to these children and families in the first place? Christians should hold to this mission because all people are made in the image of God. We get this understanding of God-given value and worth from the same Bible, in fact the same 2 chapters, that also tells us, clearly—albeit some in your base of support are not seeing so clearly—who we all are in terms of sexuality. The confusion over Gen. 2:24, Rom. 1:26,27 and 1 Cor. 6 lies in the presuppositions of the reader, not in the Word of God.
Your announcement noted that World Vision “will continue to expect abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage for all staff.” Why? That’s a divisive theological issue for many who may not see Biblical issues on sex so clearly. I don’t think it’s possible for you to “have not endorsed same-sex marriage, but…defer to the authority of local churches on this issue.” You have obviously made a ruling and thereby your endorsement. If you claim to operate on a theological mission you have a theological responsibility, even when it’s inconvenient in light of the culture. There is no meaningful distinction between being an “operational arm” and a “theological arm” of the church. Christians, organizationally and personally, can’t confirm sinners in their (and our own) sin. Sin is the very reason the world is plagued with poverty and injustice.
World Vision is in a great position to make this shift. Most sponsors who hold an uncompromising view of scriptural authority will not find a decision to move their funding to another organization easy, because we don’t want to leave any child (we sponsor two through World Vision) without support. I am as yet undecided what we will do if this policy remains in force. My purpose of this letter is to ask you to reconsider, for one, to alleviate your supporters from having to make that decision. But more importantly, I pray that you will clarify whose kingdom you are building, and which world your vision is for, by reversing course in your policy before it becomes impossible.
Thank you for hearing my appeal. I believe it to be truth spoken in love.
Dear Mike – thank you for your note. We are listening. This has been a very difficult day for us. Rich
Richard Stearns, President
Rich, thank you for listening, and for all that you do for the cause of Christ. I hope I wasn’t too harsh. Praying for your wisdom and courage (we all need it).
Dear Mike – thank you for your input. I wanted you to know that our board met this morning and we reversed our decision. Please see attached for more information. In Christ, Rich
Today, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed its recent decision to change our employment conduct policy. The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman.
We are writing to you our trusted partners and Christian leaders who have come to us in the spirit of Matthew 18 to express your concern in love and conviction. You share our desire to come together in the Body of Christ around our mission to serve the poorest of the poor. We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness.
In our board’s effort to unite around the church’s shared mission to serve the poor in the name of Christ, we failed to be consistent with World Vision U.S.’s commitment to the traditional understanding of Biblical marriage and our own Statement of Faith, which says, “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.” And we also failed to seek enough counsel from our own Christian partners. As a result, we made a change to our conduct policy that was not consistent with our Statement of Faith and our commitment to the sanctity of marriage.
We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority. We ask that you understand that this was never the board’s intent. We are asking for your continued support. We commit to you that we will continue to listen to the wise counsel of Christian brothers and sisters, and we will reach out to key partners in the weeks ahead.
While World Vision U.S. stands firmly on the biblical view of marriage, we strongly affirm that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are created by God and are to be loved and treated with dignity and respect.
Please know that World Vision continues to serve all people in our ministry around the world. We pray that you will continue to join with us in our mission to be “an international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice, and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God.”
Sincerely in Christ,
Richard Stearns, President
Wonderful! Thank you, Rich. I’m sure there will still be consequential fall-out by some, but I will be praying with ernest that the distractions will be minimal so you can get back to what you were called to do. I do appreciate all that you do and may the Lord bless you in your ministry, brother!
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6,7)
Clearly World Vision wrestled with Monday’s decision as soon as they made it. Reversing course was indeed the right thing to do and I’m glad they did, even if the reversal was motivated by potential financial loss from evangelicals. There’s no doubt that the initial policy change, even if it only lasted for two days, cost them sponsors and supporters, some who may never return. There are always consequences to bad decisions, even after we correct our course. Yet there is the grace from the God we serve, and He provides the courage to carry on in a world that would rather we give up the fight.