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World Vision U-turn over same-sex marriage

28 March 2014

U-turn: Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision USA

U-turn: Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision USA

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 marriage".

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 discriminated against."

 

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