The events of this week have left me nearly speechless. I’m just now trying to figure out what to possibly say. I have a couple of main thoughts. First, I’m hurt by how Christians have been acting. Granted, the behavior is nothing new. But it has been brought poignantly into focus this past week. The actions which Christians have taken seems wrong to me in a way that deeply disturbs me. The second thought I have in mind is respect for those whom I disagree. In my hurt and anger I want to respond by criticizing and condemning. Yet I know there are many respectable people who disagree with me. There are some who are sincerely trying to follow Christ who will land on the other side of this. So I want to be careful in any critique I make.
In case you missed the events to which I’m referring, allow me to briefly review. On Monday, March 24th, World Vision U.S. announced it was updating it’s employment conduct policy such as not to bar from employment Christians who are in legal homosexual marriages. This change was made recognizing that some of their staff are from Christian denominations which sanction homosexual marriage. World Vision U.S. President Richard Stearns stated that, “We’re an operational arm of the global church, we’re not a theological arm of the church.” In other words, their focus is on humanitarian aid, not on making statements of doctrine on controversial matters. Read more from World Vision U.S.’s president and board on the original decision here.
Two days later, on Wednesday, March 26th, World Vision U.S. reversed their decision. World Vision U.S. reportedly lost thousands of children’s sponsorships, representing potentially well over a million dollars annually (though a small fraction of their billion dollar annual budget). They subsequently issued a statement retracting their original decision, stating that they had been in error.
There are a number of things which disturb me about this entire situation. First of all, I disagree with Christians who believe this is such an important issue that they need to make a big ruckus about it. But beyond that, I am deeply disturbed that people believe the prudent Christian course of action is to withhold aid from needy children in order to protest a minor policy change. With World Vision’s sponsorship model, donors aren’t just supporting the organization, they supporting individual kids. Are we really to use these children as pawns in our political games?
World Vision U.S.’s original decision was well thought out, reasonable, and consistent with the rest of their policies. The impression I have is that many of those who disagreed never even learned about World Vision’s reasons for making their decision. They simply picked up on the word homosexuality and started throwing stones. How many reasonable responses were made to World Vision’s reasons for making their initial decision?
World Vision U.S. was specifically attempting to sidestep the issue of homosexuality. Ironically, this put them right in the center of it. This really bothers me. There are those on both sides who believe if you not fully on their side, then you are an enemy to be attacked most vigorously. I think is it very problematic to not allow people the option of saying “I don’t know”.
Another big disagreement I have is with the idea that one group or organization gets to define what Christianity is. This seems especially true of conservative evangelicals, and fundamentalists. It seems to me that they want to deny that many topics are debated among a wide array of Christians. They seem to have the view that “true” Christians share their beliefs, and that everyone else is misguided. But this fails to respect the intelligence and sincerity of other believers.
I likewise don’t believe that a group or organization can choose what the debatable matters of Christianity are (or even if there are any). The fact other the matter is, a large number of Christians disagree about such topics as homosexuality, women in leadership, predestination, creation, etc. This fact alone means that they are disputable, debatable matters. One group can’t claim they aren’t just because they’ve made up their own minds about it.
I’m very displeased that World Vision U.S. reneged on their decision and so quickly. I’m afraid this sends a message of rewarding bad behavior. I’m afraid this just encourages Christians to go to great lengths to punish other Christians with whom they disagree. I’m also bothered by World Vision’s statement of detraction. I doubt their original decision was made hastily. Have they now really changed their minds and become convinced they were in error so quickly? Or are they simply attempting to placate a certain segment of their donors?
It seems that those who are more radical have made their voices heard. I desired that there would be a way for the more reasonable, moderate voices to be heard as well. To that end, I have started a petition. The petition is not an endorsement of homosexuality nor is it about homosexuality. My petition seeks to make the following statements:
- World Vision U.S.’s original decision was the correct one in not taking a divisive position on controversial theological issues. Unity is more important than complete agreement on a myriad of debated issues.
- The decision regarding homosexual marriage was consistent with the rest of World Vision U.S.’s hiring policies. Homosexual marriage shouldn’t specifically be singled out in a manner not consistent with the rest of their policies.
- Pulling sponsorship of needy children over World Vision U.S.’s policy change is a questionable action. Assisting people is more important than protesting against those with whom you disagree.
If you agree, please sign and share the petition. World Vision’s leaders deserve to know that they weren’t mistaken in their original decision.