Yesterday’s surprise announcement by World Vision president Richard Stearns has the internet humming—or rather howling. In an exclusive interview with Christianity Today, Stearns said that the Christian humanitarian organization will no longer bar actively gay people from employment, on condition that those individuals are in a sanctioned marriage.
Stearns insists that the move is nothing more than a narrow policy change that reflects the diversity amongst churches today. “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.” Of course, this reasoning is deplorably thin. By setting World Visions standards to accommodate those of the most radicalized denominations, the organization is counted in their number. How can their policy change be anything but an endorsement of same-sex marriage? I am deeply disappointed, no—I am grieved. This is another death.
Because of World Vision’s illustrious past, the reactions have been swift and numerous. Here are some:
“When World Vision says “We cannot jump into the fight on one side or another on this issue,” here is the side they do in fact jump onto: We forbid fornication and adultery as acceptable lifestyles among our employees (which they do), but we will not forbid the regular practice of homosexual intercourse. To presume that this position is not “jumping into the fight on one side or the other” is fanciful.”
“World Vision has decided that to be a practicing homosexual and a practicing Christian is no contradiction in terms. Despite the claims of neutrality, Richard Stearns and World Vision are not neutral. They believe what the Bible calls an abomination is not a big deal, not a serious issue like adultery, not a life threatening concern like malnutrition, not something that the Bible addresses clearly or warns against urgently.”
“There’s an entire corps of people out there who make their living off of evangelicals but who are wanting to “evolve” on the sexuality issue without alienating their base. I don’t mind people switching sides and standing up for things that they believe in. But just be honest about what you want to do. Don’t say “Hath God said?” and then tell us you’re doing it to advance the gospel and the unity of the church.”
“No matter what you think about this decision, I hope you feel a sense of grief… for the children. This is a story of deep and lasting significance, because there are children’s lives at stake in how we respond. Children will suffer as evangelicals lose trust in and withdraw support from World Vision in the future. It will take time for evangelicals to start new organizations that maintain historic Christian concepts of sin, faith, and repentance. In the meantime, children will suffer. Needlessly.”
This issue is effectively sifting the chaff from the wheat within evangelicalism, and while each capitulation hurts, the church will be stronger for it. Those willing to bear their cross and follow Jesus will never walk alone. I do not fear the future, but I do grieve for today. I lament the loss of a venerable institution and I mourn over lost opportunity. Mostly, I’m sad for the children.