Early last week World Vision headquarters in the U.S. made news headlines when they announced an important employment policy change. They indicated that from now on they would approve hiring people who lived in a same-sex marriage relationship. They still objected to people cohabiting but as long as they were legally married then homosexuals too could now be employed by World Vision.
Predictably there was a huge backlash from evangelical Christians in the U.S. with thousands of people withdrawing their support from this, one of the largest Christian charities in the world. The head of the Assemblies of God Church encouraged his members to move support from World Vision to Pentecostal charities.
Two days later World Vision announced that they had a change of heart, reconsidered their decision and reverted to their original ruling that employees must be celibate singles or live faithfully within the Biblical covenant of marriage between man and woman. An apology was issued, which expressed regret for the pain and confusion that their decision had caused to faithful brothers and sisters in Christ.
Predictably there has now been a huge backlash from the atheists and homosexual lobby. Some are calling for the President of the board, Richard Stearns, to be replaced. Others lamented that for Christians sexual morality is apparently more important that caring for hungry children. The initial change was announced because World Vision works together with all kinds of churches. While it grew out of a specifically evangelical background other churches have come on board and supported this organisation which now has a one billion dollar (US) international annual operating budget. The problem is that some of these (non-evangelical) churches have in recent times come to embrace same-sex marriage. World Vision was therefore under pressure to accommodate people living in a homosexual “marriage” – it has staff which come from some of those churches that have embraced same-sex marriage.
The good thing is that the strength of the backlash has apparently made them do some rethinking about their understanding of Scripture. Their own statement of faith says, “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.”
Where does that now leave World Vision? Undoubtedly serious damage has been done and there will now be people at either end of the spectrum who will be wary of supporting the organisation.
I don’t want to carry the can for World Vision. I have other reservations about this organisation. One of the main ones being that this charity has become so large that it now has a huge bureaucracy of its own that needs to be supported. We get far more for our charity dollar when we work through the voluntary services of local churches and denominational networks.
Having said that, I also want to applaud their willingness to admit that they were wrong – and hopefully not merely because it hurt them financially. And as for those from the atheist and homosexual lobby groups who lament that sexual ethics comes before the needs of hungry children I would want to say to them that this arguments cuts both ways. In other words if they now withhold support because of World Vision going back
on its policy change, they too are putting sexual morality ahead of the needs of hungry kids.