March Madness took on a new meaning this week as World Vision, a once great and solidly Christian organization, tragically caved on a central biblical principle regarding marriage, Then after 24 to 48 hours of feedback, reversed their position. I was glad for that reversal, but not resolved in my mind, not satisfied that this puts the matter to rest. Why not?
I became aware of the new policy through Christianity Today.com, World Vision: Why We’re Hiring Gay Christians in Same-Sex Marriages. As I read the article and the World Vision basis for this new policy, what I noted first was that the headline grossly understated and frankly misrepresented the decision. This was not about who could be hired to work for World Vision. That is a different and debatable issue as to whether all or certain employees must adhere to all the beliefs and values of an organization.
What happened is that while claiming to affirm a long held position that all World Vision employees must “restrict their sexual activity to marriage,” but opening the definition of marriage, based on those states and denomination that embrace same sex marriage, thus giving endorsement to same sex marriage as a legitimate option for Christians. And they claimed to do this as if still holding to biblical authority while somehow serving the interests of Christian unity.
Here is a revealing portion of their statement. “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.”
In other words, because some approve of same sex marriage, World Vision will accommodate and give their own implicit approval. Rarely have I seen a more torturous effort to embrace sin as legitimate and at the same time claim to still be under biblical authority and somehow, not having changed their position. In one word, Absurd!
Response was swift from evangelical leaders such as Franklin Graham (Samaritan’s Purse), Albert Mohler (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), John Piper (Desiring God), George Wood (Assembly of God), and countless others.
I was shocked today to hear of World Vision’s decision to hire employees in same-sex marriages. The Bible is clear that marriage is between a man and a woman …. World Vision maintains that their decision is based on unifying the church – which I find offensive – as if supporting sin and sinful behavior can unite the church.” – Franklin Graham, President and CEO, Samaritan’s Purse
“The worst aspect of the World Vision U.S. policy shift is the fact that it will mislead the world about the reality of sin and the urgent need of salvation. Willingly recognizing same-sex marriage and validating openly homosexual employees in their homosexuality is a grave and tragic act that confirms sinners in their sin – and that is an act that violates the gospel of Christ.” – Dr. Albert Mohler Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Assembly of God General Superintendent George Wood called for dropping support of World Vision.
But that was Monday and Tuesday. By late Wednesday, the new Christianity Today.com headline was World Vision Reverses Decision to Hire Christians in Same-Sex Marriages. World Vision president Richard Stearns announced the board’s reversal that “the policy change we made was a mistake” (one of the most abused words). Is that all it was, a mistake?
So is everything back to normal as if this never happened? Not quite. I do rejoice in World Vision’s reversal of their terrible decision. I’m glad they listened to the larger body of Christ. In one sense, these two days are historic, both for evil and for good.
But if I get up in the pulpit this Sunday and deny essential biblical doctrine or endorse immorality of which Scripture says those who practice such will not inherit the kingdom of God 1 Corinthians 6:10, but then retract my statements after I’m challenged, does that resolve it? I don’t think so.
And this wasn’t just one person who erred. This was an entire board, claiming months of prayer and deliberation, that led to a well thought out decision to undermine the most fundamental social institution, mandated from creation, and clearly defined in Scripture.
A bad day at the office doesn’t explain it. We’ve all had those and said things that didn’t come out right. But this wasn’t merely a mistake. This was a major abandonment of Scripture and surrender to the culture of political correctness. More is needed from the president and board. What are their real convictions about Scripture? Michael Brown expressed it well in his column, How World Vision can regain trust.
Meanwhile, what should we do? World Vision is a $1 billion per year ministry. The very lives of millions of people are affected. Dropping support for World Vision would only hurt the people they serve, not the organization itself. So, if you support World Vision, don’t drop out immediately. Give it some time, lest millions who had no fault in this mess, become victims of it.
Meanwhile, I hope Richard Stearns and the World Vision board will do some deep soul searching and Scripture searching and rediscover their biblical foundation. This will require major internal evaluation, assessing and confirming that board and staff are rooted in those foundations. Stearns reversal statement included this, “If I could have a do-over on one thing, I would have done much more consultation with Christian leaders.” It’s not too late. They should invite leaders from outside their structure to provide guidance and accountability in the recovery process.
Meanwhile, the rest of us should pray and trust that God will turn this for the good. May God in his mercy grant true and lasting repentance and restoration and renewed ministry impact for World Vision.
And may none of us forget the admonition of Galatians 6:1 – …if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.