Has World Vision Abandoned the Gospel?

World Vision recently announced its decision to begin hiring Christians who are in monogamous same-sex marriages.

Does this mean they have abandoned the Gospel?

Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, seems to think so. He says that this is another example of “parachurch evangelical ministries… running headlong… toward the very mainline liberalism to which they were founded as alternative” and that “at stake (in this decision) is the Gospel.

I’m uneasy with Moore’s moral grandstanding for three reasons:

1) The “Divorce” ProblemScreen shot 2013-09-11 at 12.17.40 PM

If evangelical Christians were really concerned with protecting a biblical definition of marriage, then we should have shut the doors on divorce a long time ago. After seeing evangelicals swallow their tongues on this issue (and continue to do so), it’s hard for many (especially us “younger” ones) to hear cries against same-sex marriage, in defense of biblical values, as genuine. Divorce is much more strongly condemned in the Scriptures than gay relationships are. It is also much more prevalent in the church. If Moore believes that marital-purity is essential to Gospel-faithfulness, does he avoid all organizations that hire divorced Christians?

2) The “Endorsement” Problem 

If we grant the traditional view that gay relationships are a sin, we are still left with the nuanced problem of the proper relationship between Christian communities and LGBT people. What part of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels teaches us that standing up for the gospel = strict moral hiring policies? Couldn’t an argument be made that Christians should hire those in same-sex marriages for precisely that reason – so those who are holy can act as contagions around those who are not (look at Jesus’ “contagious holiness” in the Gospels). Since when does “hiring” = “endorsing a moral position” (anymore than hiring someone who is divorced = supporting divorce)? Is this too different from the accusation that Jesus’ table fellowship with sinners made him complicit in their gluttony and drunkenness?

3) The Justice Problem

What is more important: global acts of justice or making sure “the homosexuals” can’t have certain jobs? Christian unity or fights over purity? I’m saddened over what appears to be a largely negative reaction to World Vision over this issue. I can only hope the Christian care of the poor is not hindered because of an in-house fight about which sins are worth banning employment for. Surely Matthew 25:31-46 is an important text for today. In Matthew 25, faithfulness to the Gospel is not seen as commitment to specific and nuanced religious stances on sin, but in ministry to the poor, hungry, and destitute.

I sponsor multiple children through World Vision and will continue to do so. I see no reason not to accept World Vision’s claims at face value – they are punting the theological issue to the church (and you can try to pretend it’s not an issue…. but if you open up your eyes you will see that in reality it is a big issue) and opting for unity at the present time. They have not come out in support of same-sex marriage, much less given up a commitment to the Gospel.

What do you think?
Has World Vision abandoned the Gospel?

What should the proper Christian reaction be to this policy announcement?

10 thoughts on “Has World Vision Abandoned the Gospel?

  1. Great points Mike. You just can’t have it both ways can you? 🙂
    Also, how come staff members never volunteer. How come volunteers do not get paid, but staff doing the same work the volunteers are doing get paid. I just don’t get it. And one more….how come the pastor gets a up close parking space on Sunday and regular church goers have to park off campus to save spots for visitors? 🙂

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  2. Thank you for this, I agree with your perspective, and it’s well said. I grew up in the church, but I’m really a newer Christian, I never really developed true faith and a heart for Christ until my late teens-early twenties (I’m 23) now. I sponsor 13 children with World Vision and they are not just a monthly bill that automatically hits my credit card once a month. I’m truly invested in these kids, and write them all a letter every month, giving my love and encouragement and guidance, as best as I can, send them packages and special gifts when I can afford to, and their sweet letters and photos fill my mailbox regularly, as well. I have developed a relationship with these kids, I know even intimate details about their lives even, I know about their likes and dislikes and struggles, and so forth. I would never abandon them all, over a decision made by a small group of adults thousands of miles away that I believe will have little to no effect on the programs and communities these kids are in. Frankly, that would speak in much greater volumes to these kids about Christians (quick to abandon them and showing them the love of God) than the decision made by World Vision. The Bible says far more about loving and caring for the poor than it does about hiring policies for modern day Christian organizations, and Christians do tend to “cherry pick” which sins they still want to be sins and which they can just pass off of, “Oh, well that was just or back in the day when it was culturally relevant…”

    At the same time, I do want to follow scriptures and I know the fact that most my friends not being Christians and being very liberal does have some influence over me, and maybe not always the influence I want…But mostly, I agree with what you say. We’re all sinners. There are sins and character flaws of my own that I’m aware of and yet I STILL struggle with on almost a daily basis, and there may well be some sins that maybe I’m not even aware of yet. Ultimately sin is sin, and we’re all guilty of it. If people really want a pure, perfect God-like group of people in an organization, they look to inventing some kind of robots, because you’re not going to find perfect purity in a bunch of human beings, even Christians.

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Susanna. I’m so glad to hear about your involvement with WV – especially the fact that it is more than a bill for you. What a blessing you are!

      I also agree with your tension between following the Scriptures and issues like these – I feel it as well, just would never want to sacrifice the care of these children on the altar of these disagreements!

      Blessings,
      Mike

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  3. I’m going to moderate my tone because I really don’t mean to sound offensive but right out from the gate you lose credibility with me by calling Russell Moore’s position moral grandstanding, as if a Christian leader, advocating a position that has been held by the church for over two millennia is grandstanding by pointing out what the bible says. You don’t have to agree with Mr. Moore to realize that Christians are required to use their theological and scriptural knowledge to come to moral conclusions, to call doing so moral grandstanding is troubling… I don’t know you so I’m of the opinion that you really are a committed follower of Christ and as such I’m not here to attack you but to offer up a different perspective. The bible gives moral prohibitions and moral exhortations and as Christians we must reason about them using the light that God has given us. To be honest I’d argue that your third point could be called grandstanding far more accurately than promoting a position held by the church for millennia.

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    1. Keifer,

      Thanks for your comment. My language of “moral grandstanding” was a bit sharp and I can understand how it would rub you the wrong way. My intention was not to disrespect Moore or others. I was, however, equally heated when I wrote the post.

      I would push back on your assessment of Moore’s position a bit – Moore isn’t advocation a position that has been held by the church for over two millennia. You’re equating “same-sex relationships are a sin” (which I can agree has been the traditional position) and “Christians can’t hire those in same-sex relationships.” The second is surely not a traditional view of the church for two millennium. Agreed?

      To me that is one of the trickier things about this whole situation, the line between calling sin “sin” and yet still remaining faithful to Jesus’ witness of compassion, love, and unity.

      Blessing!
      Mike

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  4. I sponsor multiple kid through Compassion International and as yet they haven’t drunk the gay kool aid,.so no problems. The goofy think about WV and the millennium mindset is somehow God has changed (evolved) his view point on sexuality. Like what was a capitol offence in the OT is now OK, right? Wrong, people mistake the “church age” we live in as the norm which its not, It is period of GRACE paid for by Jesus Christ on the cross. The OT standards will be reinstated as “gentle” Jesus is returning with a sword as the Lord of Glory and will rule with a rod of iron. When people start to act stupid about the purpose of grace (to reach the hard sinful heart) then grace is losing its purpose and will be replaced with more severe methods, as the Bible tells us.

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  5. My personal problem is the fact that an organisation is 1) inconsistent in saying that people must profess a belief in Christ to be employed but does not have to live out that profession (according to HuffPo article below) and 2) in effect is also dealing in a dishonest manner with their current donors as they present themselves as a Christian charity organisation, as opposed to a secular one. In changing their policies so drastically, as marriage to me is a foundational expression of the faith, I don’t believe point 3 is a fair criticism of donors. In Point 2, I touched upon in the beginning, they do not present themselves as a secualr institution and like many other similar organisations required their employees to live in agreement with their statement of faith. On point 1, I personally are in favour of a strong(er) stance against divorce and consider it (no fault divorce) as a fore-runner to ssm as an anti-marriage agenda which undermined marriage in society. I also believe divorce could be repented of and dealt with through a disciplinary process while a continuing same-sex union is an unrepentative state embraced by World Vision. One commenter also mentioned, “If these groups want to self-identify as (pro-ssm) that is up to them. But they should stop claiming to be Christian-based”. The initial idea was to not only ‘feed’ the poor but to be ‘holistically missional’ in their work and that they are moving away from in their policy change. I also look at it within the cultural environment it is playing out, it is not simply about having relationship with various sorts of sinners in the way that Jesus did. Would employ unrepentend sinners? Totally depends on my organisation and its vision and values. Would I blame donors if they criticise or boycott me if I drastically change my vision and values? I’ll definitely be tempted to.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/24/world-vision-gay-christians_n_5023036.html

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  6. I agree in general, but when you say “Is this too different from the accusation that Jesus’ table fellowship with sinners made him complicit in their gluttony and drunkenness?” I would say that to associate with someone is different from hiring them. And someone who is in a same sex marriage isn’t just struggling with a sin, they have embraced it as a lifestyle, essentially turning their back on God’s Word.

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