ON MONDAY, the President of World Vision Inc. surprised
supporters in the US by announcing that the charity had lifted its
bar on hiring Christians in same-sex marriages. But after two days
of heavy criticism from Evangelical leaders, including calls for
donors to withdraw funding, he reversed the decision, seeking
forgiveness for a "mistake".
Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision in the US
(above), announced the original decision in Christianity
Today, on Monday. Gay employees would be subject to the same rules
as heterosexual ones: "abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity
within marriage". This was part of the organisation's "long-held
philosophy . . . to defer to Churches and denominations on
theological issues, so that it can focus on uniting Christians
around serving the poor". It was "not an endorsement of same-sex
Mr Stearns said of the debate on same-sex marriage: "It has been
heartbreaking to watch this issue rip through the Church. It's
tearing Churches apart, tearing denominations apart, tearing
Christian colleges apart, and even tearing families apart. Our
board felt we cannot jump into the fight on one side or another on
this issue. We've got to focus on our mission. We are determined to
find unity in our diversity."
The news delighted supporters of same-sex marriage, but was
swiftly condemned by Evangelical leaders. Franklin Graham, the
chief executive of Samaritan's Purse, said that World Vision's plea
for unity was "offensive - as if supporting sin and sinful behavior
can unite the Church".
Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological
Seminary, said that the decision would "mislead the world about the
reality of sin and the urgent need of salvation. Willingly
recognizing same-sex marriage, and validating openly homosexual
employees in their homosexuality, is a grave and tragic act that
confirms sinners in their sin - and that is an act that violates
the gospel of Christ."
On Wednesday morning, Mr Stearns was sticking to the new policy,
even though he said that "a number" of child sponsors had cancelled
their sponsorship in the previous 48 hours. He went on: "That
grieves us, because the children we serve will suffer because of
that. But our choice is not about money or income. It's a sincere
desire for us to do the right thing. To be consistent with our core
values, and to respond to the legitimate feedback and counsel we
have received from supporters and friends of World Vision."
But later on Wednesday, he announced a U-turn.
"The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert
to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for
all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant
of marriage between a man and a woman," he wrote. "In our board's
effort to unite around the Church's shared mission to serve the
poor in the name of Christ, we failed to be consistent with World
Vision US's commitment to the traditional understanding of biblical
marriage and our own Statement of Faith . . .
"We also failed to seek enough counsel from our own Christian
partners. . . We are brokenhearted over the pain and confusion we
have caused many of our friends, who saw this decision as a
reversal of our strong commitment to Biblical authority."
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for World Vision UK said: "The
organisation doesn't have a formal policy on same-sex
relationships, because it's an issue that has neither prevented us
from serving children and families around the world, nor obstructed
our collaboration with one another or partner organisations. We
make sure that no em-ployee or job-applicant is unlawfully