Two days ago, World Vision announced that they would hire legally married gay and lesbian individuals. In other words, the organization decided to treat marriage equality as a doctrinal dispute left up to individual Christians and individual Churches rather than as a salvation issue that divided Christian from non-Christian. I reported on this decision earlier today.
Following evangelical outcry, and in response to thousands of evangelical Christians ending their child sponsorships through World Vision, the organization has now reversed course, releasing the following statement:
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
Evangelicals are facing a critical moment of decision. They have to either give on this issue, or they face being marginalized as akin to racists. They have lost the culture war battle over marriage equality and LGBTQ rights, and as time goes on that loss will be solidified. If they cannot find a way to reconcile their religious beliefs with marriage equality and LGBTQ rights, they are in for some serious problems going forward.
I’d like to think that World Vision realized that and made the step they did to ensure that they would end up on the right side as the issue plays out. But if they indeed did recognize that, it seems they made their move too early. Evangelical leaders condemned the decision and thousands of evangelicals dropped their sponsorships.
World Vision learned first hand that evangelicals are nowhere near ready to give on this issue in the least. Evangelicals cannot accept marriage equality or LGBTQ rights as a mere doctrinal disagreement, as something Christians of all stripes can reach across while standing in unity on core gospel issues. For evangelicals in the year 2014, belief in “traditional” marriage is a salvation issue, an issue that defines whether a person is truly a Christian or lost and deluded.
I am not so much disappointed in World Vision—though I am that—as I am saddened that we have not moved forward as far as I had hoped. Evangelicals have got to drop this issue. If they don’t, they will hang themselves with it.