The American branch of relief organization World Vision is no longer banning gay individuals from employment.
World Vision is popular, especially among American evangelical Christians, for organizing and providing child sponsorship, disaster relief, education, clean water initiatives, and more to impoverished nations around the world.
[UPDATE: World Vision reverted to their original policy after two days, on Wednesday, March 26.]
Because of growing disparity between churches’ positions on human sexuality, the organization decided to relegate the matter of opening staff positions to monogamous or celibate gay or lesbian individuals to similar territory as baptism, divorce and remarriage, roles of women in church leadership, and views on evolution and birth control. They now choose not to consider sexual orientation as a condition for employment.
World Vision wants to avoid division so many churches and denominations have experienced because of issues secondary to the essential doctrines of the divinity of Christ and His salvation through faith.
In the letter, Sterns expounded:
“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.”
Who Can Work At World Vision and Who Can’t
This isn’t the first time World Vision USA made headlines regarding the faith of their potential and current employees.
World Vision successfully argued in court their exemption from federal law that bars faith-based discrimination in August 2010, claiming, “Our hiring policy is vital to the integrity of our mission to serve the poor as followers of Jesus Christ.” By that court case, they were able to maintain restrictions of employment opportunities only to professing Christians.
World Vision still requires firm belief in Jesus Christ as the essential matter in considering potential employees. From married employees they expect fidelity in marriage; from unmarried employees, they expect abstinence.
The charity organization remains adamant their core beliefs and practices haven’t changed. Stearns commented on backlash the organization expected would come after news of their policy change.
“I want to reassure you that we are not sliding down some slippery slope of compromise, nor are we diminishing the authority of Scripture in our work. We have always affirmed traditional marriage as a God-ordained institution…As World Vision employees, we are first and foremost united in our response to Jesus’ call to follow Him and to serve the poor.”
The adaptation in policy is not without critics, who have rapidly expressed their disdain for World Vision’s methods.
Among the most prominent critics, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and of the Southern Baptist Convention, Dr. Russell Moore, was quick to post on his blog:
“Say “Hath God really said?” if that’s what you want to do. But don’t claim you’re advancing the gospel or church unity by doing so.”
Is the Gospel at stake in this argument? Moore wrote that it is, and some churches and organizations are trying to ride a wave of growth if they “can just barter away Christian orthodoxy fast enough.”
Some argue that World Vision’s attempt not to take a stand was itself a stance. Opponents say a “neutral” stance, being open to hiring gay Christians, is in favor of gay marriage and the LGBT community. They seemingly cringe at the thought of gay individuals working in a Christian organization.
Questions To Be Addressed
- Is World Vision getting so many applications for employment from gay Christians that this has become a primary, urgent concern?
- Will World Vision supporters deem it more important to stop a gay person from being employed or to feed a hungry child?
- Is it the role of a charity organization to accept or reject potential employees based on doctrinal or methodological beliefs? Is it necessary they draw firm doctrinal and lifestyle regulations?
- How would a church, rather than an organization, enter this discussion? Is there a difference between how churches and parachurch organizations should handle this sort of thing?
- It seems only evangelical Christians will be against this policy change. Nearly everyone else, including people outside of Christian circles, will likely support this move of World Vision. What is the organization hoping to gain by this change?
A profound question was posed by Stearns, a question which sadly may be missed by the uproar of dissenting opinions:
“If we cannot love one another, how will we show Christ’s love to the world?”
No matter which side of the discussion you land on, it’s essential to pull back and look at the 30,000 foot view.
Reframing The Issue
The largest effect this policy change could make is not just on gay Christians hoping to work for World Vision, but on the impoverished children and individuals across the globe. If reactions on social media are an accurate indication, masses of socially traditional evangelicals will abandon the third-world children they’ve sponsored. They’ll refrain from sending World Vision another dollar to help with clean water and education in underdeveloped parts of the world.
If that occurs, many Christians in America will miss out on considering the implications of their actions.
- For children being sponsored around the world through World Vision, what will they think of Jesus and the Church when they learn they’re no longer receiving personal letters or financial, educational, and other support from Christian families who cease WV funding because of this policy change? What will this do to the name and reputation of Jesus in the eyes of those children and the watching world?
This is an opportunity for the Church to step in, not with a quick answer to win a debate, but with a response of genuine concern for both individuals who identify with the LGBT community and those who want to maintain a one-man-and-one-woman definition of marriage.
This is a chance for people who live by the call of Jesus, the call to both grace and truth, to remind each other how God interacts with people, and how we should interact with each other – whether a child in a foreign, impoverished country or a professional charity worker in America.
What The Gospel Is About
The Gospel of Jesus is bigger than a stance on homosexuality.
It is bigger than feeding the hungry.
It is about the greatness of God revealed through love that goes beyond a person’s status, orientation, beliefs, gender, past mistakes or current misunderstandings.
The Gospel of Jesus is bigger than these things, but it is still for everyone in each of these demographics, because He does not draw lines to exclude people from His love and truth. We are all subject to His scandalous grace and His perfect justice.
Do you think it was a good move for World Vision to open employment to gay Christians? Leave your comment below.