Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Two days ago, World Vision made news by announcing that they were making a change to their hiring practice in order to allow employment of those who identify themselves as Christian and are in legal same-sex marriages. Previously, the conduct requirement, as I understand it, had simply been abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage. In addition, all employees of Word Vision were (and are) required to affirm either their Statement of Faith or the Apostle's Creed as a condition of employment.

In a letter to employees about the change, the board said:

"We are, as our mission statement so clearly expresses,“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.” And it is this mission that unites us—Baptist, Pentecostal, Seventh day Adventist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Orthodox, nondenominational, etc.--more than 50 different expressions of the Christian faith represented within WVUS alone. In fact, for 60 years the Christian mission of World Vision has been a platform uniting followers of Christ around the world. 

As World Vision employees, we are first and foremost united in our response to Jesus’ call to follow Him and to serve the poor. This unity gives us space to acknowledge a range of views on issues among the Christian churches we attend and the denominations we represent. Those issues include methods of baptism, divorce and remarriage, views on evolution, the role of women in church leadership, and whether birth control is acceptable. At World Vision we hold a strong view of the authority of Scripture in the life of the church and in the lives of each of us as followers of Christ, but we intentionally choose not to require specific beliefs or practice in any of these debated issues as conditions of employment at World Vision U.S. In other words, we don’t have a list of issues on which we mandate agreement as a litmus test for hiring. Instead, we leave these areas under the authority of the various church bodies to which each of us belongs and to the freedom of all of our employees to discern for themselves, fully understanding that there is a range of views within and among our churches."

Indeed, some of the churches affiliated with Word Vision (United Church of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church USA) *have* affirmed gay and lesbian marriage, and so to me, this stance seemed consistent with the past statements by World Vision that they are not a theological arm, but an operational arm.

This is not news, right? That World Vision is a partnership between many different denominations within the Christian church, which are comprised of many (sometimes drastically different) beliefs and practices? This has been the case for years, and I believe is partially why other relief organizations that are specific to particular denominations exist. As a Lutheran, I can't expect Word Vision's policies and practices to align completely with LCMS Lutheran doctrine and teachings...because it isn't a Lutheran organization. Neither can Catholics, or Evangelicals, or any other denomination present expect that World Vision will completely and accurately capture their belief system. Rather, the underlying goal of broad faith-based organizations like World Vision, I think, is to encourage and facilitate unity within all denominations of the church.

Back to the story.

After that announcement, Twitter, blogs, Facebook, and all forms of social media were almost immediately flooded with announcements from Christians that they had pulled their support for their sponsored children through World Vision in response to the announcement. Here's just a few excerpts:

We will invest our money in other fundamental bible charities. 

God will no longer bless this ministry as long as you continue to compromise with sin and continue to demonize Israel! I implore the leadership to repent!

They are doing the works of Satan now! We can not be apart of this! 

It is with a truly heavy heart that I called and cancelled my sponsorship of three children today. 

I do pray that donations (as mine will) dry up and that God will raise up another organization that has a biblical spine.

You are a disgrace ..... When everything starts to fall apart on you I pray that you will come back to God on your knees ....

This organization accepts gay marriage among their employees. I have therefore cancelled my sponsorship. 

In the meantime, many supporters of the policy shift (including many non-believers, if Facebook is any indication) picked up child sponsorships in order to make up for those that were dropped suddenly.  

And then today, World Vision announced that they had reversed their decision to allow practicing Christians in participating denominations who were engaged in same sex marriages to be employed by the organization. 

This whole situation has left me with a vast range of feelings and emotions. Right now, the strongest is an uncontrollable urge to scream at people that if they were so concerned with the charities that they were supporting aligning with their personal beliefs exactly, THEY SHOULD HAVE RESEARCHED THE ORGANIZATION MORE THOROUGHLY BEFORE MAKING A LONG-TERM SPONSORSHIP COMMITMENT. You are not, by any means, required to support World Vision. But I cannot, for the life of me, understand the sudden outrage about this announcement--World Vision's non-stance when it comes to theological issues is not news. Do your due diligence before making a long-term commitment to an organization for sponsorship, people. If you don't like that World Vision partners with congregations that affirm gay and lesbian marriage...then don't support them, from the beginning. Don't get caught up in stories at rock concerts that pull at your heart strings, pledge your financial support, establish a relationship with a child, and then hold your financial support hostage in an attempt to bend the organization's towards your own specific beliefs, leaving that child inexplicably without the relationship that was promised.

{Was that too harsh? I feel like I may be writing out of frustration here, so I apologize if my words are not as carefully chosen and unifying as I usually attempt to be here}.

It also leaves me with a lot of questions. 

Once a sponsorship commitment has been made, what, if any, are appropriate reasons to retract that commitment? 

Can the photo of one child from a third world country on our fridge simply be replaced with another in the same way that I can change pants? If I decide I don't like what one organization is doing, is it okay for me to just drop that organization and pick another child elsewhere? Is my commitment to the organization, or the child? Or both?

If we're saying that homosexuals cannot be Christians, aren't we also saying that denominations who have affirmed homosexual marriage aren't *really* Christian denominations? 

So then, if we're saying that the Church of Christ, for example, isn't *really* a Christian church, what about heterosexual couples that were married by Church of Christ pastors? Is it *really* a covenant marriage then? 

What of man-woman marriages outside of the church? Say, someone married by the Justice of the Peace. Are those okay even though they didn't take place within a church and may not have had any Biblical basis at all? 

Or, as a few friends and I were discussing just the other day in regards to abortion, if we take the stance that homosexuality is sin, does that mean that everything that is against homosexuality is automatically good? Or that anything that doesn't explicitly condemn homosexuality is automatically bad?

Sigh. I don't have answers, friends. Only frustration and a bit of weariness.


  1. Those poor kids. One "problem" might be that the sponsors don't see the child so it's almost anonymous. Even though they have established a relationship, it's not in person and they don't have to answer for not sending money. Bu they feel justified because it's now "against their religion". I say the commitment is to the child.

  2. I'm way late to comment on this, but I have been thinking about it since you first posted. Before I comment I just want to clarify: I believe the Bible is clear that homosexuality is a sin, just like greed, hatred, murder, adultery, and idolatry are sins. It is no more nor less than any of these sins; they all equally grieve God.

    That said, it is my understanding that World Vision has a very strict employ policy against sexual sins, such as adultery and pornography. They do not allow their employees to engage in such practices (I suppose that means termination for those who do). Allowing those who are actively practicing homosexuality to work within their company takes a non-verbal stance that homosexuality isn't a sexual sin. I honestly see that as the biggest issue in this debate; they claim they did not want their decision to be seen as taking a stance, but looking at the practices of their organization, it seems to be.

    I would never say a homosexual couldn't be a Christian. I believe (some? many?) are truly Christians who struggle with sin, just as I struggle with not placing things before God and anger, which are also sins, just ones that more easily hidden and much more "acceptable."

    I would hope people would value their sponsorship of a child above this debate. I do not sponsor a child through World Vision, but if I did, I don't think this decision would have impacted my sponsorship. Now, if they began teaching that homosexuality isn't a sin to the sponsored children, that would give me cause to reconsider my sponsorship.

    Have you seen the Coffee with Jesus cartoon that goes like this: Man: "Jesus, I like to 'hate the sin, love the sinner.'" Jesus: "What about love the sinner, hate your own sin?" I think so many times when this topic comes up we loose sight of the fact that Christ has called up to love others and to become more like himself, which means placing the focus on our failings and struggles, not those of others.


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