A dozen emails, numerous phone calls, conversation around the dinner table for three days, a dozen blogs read, and hours of my focus this week have been spent on the topic of World Vision. World Vision, one of the leading Evangelical Christianity compassionate ministries, has been in the news quite a bit this week. Not just Christianity Today, not just Facebook sharing, but ABC News, CNN, and a host of other news organizations have been reporting on World Vision. Why?
On Monday Richard Stearns the president of World Vision released a statement that World Vision would allow the hiring of employees who are in legal same sex marriages. World Vision, which is a ministry not a church, stated the following.
But since World Vision is a multi-denominational organization that welcomes employees from more than 50 denominations, and since a number of these denominations in recent years have sanctioned same-sex marriage for Christians, the board—in keeping with our practice of deferring to church authority in the lives of our staff, and desiring to treat all of our employees equally—chose to adjust our policy. Thus, the board has modified our Employee Standards of Conduct to allow a Christian in a legal same-sex marriage to be employed at World Vision.
I want to be clear that we have not endorsed same-sex marriage, but we have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue. We have chosen not to exclude someone from employment at World Vision U.S. on this issue alone. Let me explain the thinking behind our board’s decision.
So a ministry that works with a wide range of denominations and Christians essentially said that they would hire people from across the breadth of those partnerships. They were trying to make a policy change that offered the hope of unity with all their partners. The requirements for Christian faith, adherence to the Apostle’s Creed, and belief in the fullness of Christ and his work were still required for employment. But they were willing to hire Christians who affirm these beliefs and are legally married to same sex partners. I say were because the backlash against this decision by World Vision’s partners and supporters was massive. Yesterday they reversed course on this policy change and will continue with the status quo.
So now that we have recapped a bit of the controversy many questions remain. Was World Vision right the first time or the second time? Who should we be angry with in this situation? Should this change our view of World Vision? What does this tell us about the landscape of our country and the church? Well if you want to read some good commentary on the changing landscape or our country head over to my fellow pastor Josh Broward’s blog and read his commentary. For the rest, I will offer some thoughts.
This whole thing has left me deeply pained. We just don’t have any idea what effect our treatment of issues regarding the Gay – Lesbian – Transgender community has on our witness. In response to World Vision’s policy change numerous churches threatened to pull support from World Vision. Child sponsorships were cancelled in the thousands. I started getting emails and phone calls about whether or not we needed to rethink our churches partnership with World Vision.
Do we even stop to think what this communicates to the rest of the world?
Why do I partner with World Vision? I am running the Chicago Marathon as part of Team World Vision to get some of the poorest people in the world clean water for life. I am running to help save lives. Why would I consider going back on that commitment and partnership because of this decision. Did people really decide they were going to stop trying to save the lives of some of the poorest people in the world because World Vision opened itself up to hiring Jesus loving, God redeemed, Christians who happen to be in same sex marriages?
What the hell is wrong with us?
I mean that literally. When we let an issue like this communicate to the world that we care more about same sex marriage in the work place than sponsoring impoverished children it is the work of hell. It is the worst possible witness to the world about the love and grace of God.
Did World Vision make a mistake? Well they obviously made a political mistake. Christians who affirm same sex marriage would probably still work with World Vision regardless of this policy. Some may have some struggles with it, but I doubt they were campaigning against World Vision and their work because of it. On the other hand, those of us who are less affirming of same sex marriage were very quick to denounce World Vision and threaten to remove our support when they changed this policy. World Vision thought too much of it’s partners. They believed too strongly that the grace of God would temper the Church’s reactions and that people would respond with kindness and grace. They underestimated our ability to react in ways unbecoming of Christ.
So, for the love of the children they serve, because they really felt moved by God, or just to save face and money, World Vision reversed it’s policy. I am sad for World Vision because of this and I am sad for the church. For my part, I am still proudly running the Chicago Marathon as part of Team World Vision. My belief in their work and my excitement to help change lives through them hasn’t changed one bit. If any of those who have pledged to support me regret their decision I will happily right them a check myself to reimburse them. (By the way, if you want to give someone clean water for life you can support me here)
More than anything what I want the world to know is that regardless of your sexual orientation, regardless of your skin color, regardless of your past, regardless of your gender, your age, or your income level, God our Father is calling you home to be part of his family. This is the good news of Jesus. There is a home, an eternal home filled with glory, where all can know freedom and wholeness. There is hope for today and hope for tomorrow in the love of Christ. I apologize for myself and all my brothers and sisters for all the ways we let our family arguments hide that good news and distract us from its truth.