World Vision Opens Employment To Gay Christians

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.

The announcement about the change in employment policy was made Monday, March 24, 2014 in a letter from President of World Vision USA, Rich Stearns, to employees.

[UPDATE: World Vision reverted to their original policy after two days, on Wednesday, March 26.]

image credit: worldvision.org

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.”

Critical Response

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.”

Other Christian leaders have responded as well, including Franklin Graham, John Piper, Trevin Wax at The Gospel Coalition and more.

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.

 

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Do you think it was a good move for World Vision to open employment to gay Christians? Leave your comment below.

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5 responses to “World Vision Opens Employment To Gay Christians

  1. This makes me think of Acts chapter six, when the twelve disciples decided to choose seven men to serve the widows of their community. What were the qualifications?

    “Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.”

    Is it wise to sex with someone of the same sex? Well, if we consider wisdom to be living in the way God commands, then no. Everywhere in the Scriptures where homosexuality is addressed, it is forbidden. Every time Jesus says something about marriage, He is assuming it is between a man and a woman. Now when I say “homosexuality,” I mean the act of having sexual relations with someone of the same sex. I believe this is what Paul also meant when he used the word. I do not mean someone who has that desire, and who chooses either celibacy or to marry a woman.

    For World Vision to say they believe marriage is between one man and one woman, and then to turn around and to hand the work of their ministry over to someone who is living in direct opposition to what they themselves believe to be God’s command, well, that is truly unwise. It makes me wonder if they see themselves as ministers, or merely do-gooders. There is nothing wrong with being a do-gooder,(1) but they should not advertise their organization as a para-church ministry.

    1:I’ve worked to raise money for Child Fund International, a similar charity that does not spread the Gospel

  2. “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.” I doubt the net effect will be significant. Those traditional supporters will send their money elsewhere and WV will pick up new supporters from among the “less” traditional. But back to whatever it is we’re supposed to be missing here: I find Stearns’ letter well crafted and well reasoned…almost to the point of buying it. But not quite. I can’t help but cringe at the idea that this policy most certainly endorses same sex marriage. (“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”). Deferring to the local church feels like a cop-out to me. How can you affirm traditional marriage and also accept same-sex marriage?

  3. I’m sorry but I can’t support this. Homosexuality is a sin yes but so is theft, adultery, murder, gluttony, etc. Are they going to open employment to murderers, thieves, adulterers, etc? Is the next step opening employment to “Christian” pedophiles? Seems like a slippery slope to me. Where do you draw the line. Yes, Jesus is love but He is also just and judge.

  4. Interesting post John. Here was my response to your Facebook post I was working on, but I find this to be a more approriate arena to post it in:

    Anyone who knows me well knows that I take this issue very seriously and think the church needs do a much better job loving the LGBT community. I do not typically like to post on subjects such as this because I realize how controversial it is and how folks might make snap judgments of me based on what they read regarding my perspective on this. So I ask that if you might be tempted to do that and before reading any further, please don’t do this or don’t read anything more I have to say. I would do my best to sit down at a table and listen to your differing perspective with an open mind and always approach the interaction with kindness and respect.
    With that said, there comes a time when Christians must say what they believe to be true. We cannot single out a specific sin(s) like we have done all too often, specifically when it comes to sexuality/homosexuality because all sex outside of God’s plan for sex is wrong (that includes sex before marriage, divorce, lust, porn, etc.). In addition, the Christian must choose to love everyone because we have been shown grace and we need to do the same to others regardless of their belief on the issue (that includes those within the church that may differ theologically on whether or not homosexuality is a sin; that doesn’t mean agreement, just love in spite of disagreement.). So now on to my reaction of this article; I think it was well said. I am convinced that the Bible is clear on this issue. I appreciate that the article does a good job to capture the essence of marriage and not just single out homosexuality. It makes me sad that World Vision has felt the need to take action on this at all. I believe that they are suppressing the truth of this issue (Ephesians 5:6, Romans 1:25). I think that although the conclusion may be unpopular, Christians must really analyze what the Bible says on this issue. It might lead one to believe a counter-cultural position. Let me also say this, the Bible says that we must keep our thoughts and behaviors in check with God’s standard. It does NOT say that people will not experience same sex attraction. That attraction is natural in a world that doesn’t function as God intended it to function when he created people. It also doesn’t mean that that attraction is wrong; it only means that how we respond to our attractions is what matters to God. All sexuality has been distorted by the introduction of sin in the world, heterosexuality, homosexuality, other. God requires that we look to his Word so we can realign ourselves with his intent for sexual behavior; gay or straight. God’s standard doesn’t only limit people from a homosexual orientation, but all orientations. It requires that we suppress certain desires, attractions, and actions so that we are living by His standard for our lives. This isn’t just a standard for sexuality, but many other things. Whether it is drinking alcohol, eating food, spending money, you name it, God says that we must regulate certain actions related to these natural needs, desires, and wants in order to be obedient to Him. Whenever God prohibits us or regulates our behavior, it is for our good, even when all of our culture and society claim otherwise. This is why I am surprised by World Vision’s change in position. Let us not sacrifice the truth of God so that we appeal to broader audiences.

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