Like many Christians, I was deeply saddened by World Vision President Richard Stearn’s announcement Monday that World Vision would now be hiring Christians in same sex marriages. The reason given was that this move was “symbolic not of compromise, but of [Christian] unity.”
While Stearn’s explanation doesn’t sit well with me, I’m troubled by the knee-jerk reaction I’ve heard about from Christians who are immediately withdrawing support from children they have sponsored through World Vision.
So how should Christians respond to World Vision?
It’s not a cut and dry answer.
First, the Black and White of the Issue
World Vision, as a Christian organization, is wrong in their stance. If you believe the Bible is the infallible word of God, there’s no room for compromise on this issue. The Bible is very clear. Marriage is between a man and a woman. Sexual relationships between man-man or woman-woman are sin, whether committed or not.
Note: I do not believe for a second that God hates gays or that homosexuality is worse than any other sin. God loves homosexuals as much as he loves me, my children, Billy Graham, or any other human being on this earth. I have homosexual friends, and they are welcome in my home anytime. I may not agree with their actions, but I still love them, just like I hope they love me, even if they don’t always agree with me.
I expect any Christian organization to adhere to Biblical standards. Just as I would expect World Vision to turn away potential employees currently involved in long-term sin, such as a heterosexual affair or abuse of drugs or alcohol, I cannot turn a blind eye to this compromise. And it is a compromise.
As a Christian, I must always look to the Bible as the source of Truth. I may not always understand the whys behind every issue in the Bible, but I trust God enough to believe the boundaries He sets forth are for our own good. He is God. I am not. He is clear on this issue.
So what does a Christian do with World Vision’s new policy? If you’re supporting World Vision purely because they are an effective humanitarian organization that helps children, you may decide you don’t need to respond at all.
But if you are supporting World Vision because they help children and you want to support an organization that accurately represents the gospel of Jesus Christ, you have a problem.
The Muddy Waters of Our Response
This is where things become a little cloudier. If this were just about supporting an entity (World Vision) whose policies you no longer agree with, the answer would be clear. Put your money toward an organization that holds to Biblical standards.
However, in this situation, there are people…children…who are affected, even though they had nothing to do with World Vision’s decision. In light of that what do we do?
For people like me, who are not currently supporting a child through World Vision, the answer is fairly simple. Should I decide to sponsor a child in the future, I will go through a different organization (perhaps Compassion International).
But what about people who are currently sponsoring a child through World Vision? It’s quite possible you’ve developed a relationship with your child through letters. And the relationship is what matters here.
Note: When you support a child through World Vision, your money doesn’t go directly to that child. It is pooled with money from other sponsors and grants to make improvements to the community. See the World Vision Sponsorship Page (especially question #2) for more information.
My friend Amy Clark called World Vision and was told that children who are 14 years of age or older will not be eligible for additional support if their sponsors decide to stop sending money through World Vision. They are too old to be put back in the sponsorship pool. That’s sad. My daughter is sixteen. I imagine a child her age, on her own, in an impoverished country, no longer receiving support because the leaders of World Vision decided to compromise Biblical standards. It’s not right.
There’s an issue at stake, but there are also real lives at stake.
I think the Christian response needs to be clear, yet compassionate. If you’re currently supporting a child through World Vision, please don’t immediately withdraw your support because the leaders at World Vision made a poor choice.
Let World Vision know how you feel. Call them. Write them. Be kind, but clear about your concerns. Tell them that when your commitment to your sponsored child is over, you will no longer be working with them.
But don’t drop your child. What does it say to a child if you are willing to turn your back on him or her because of an issue they had nothing to do with? Is that a Christian response? If you’ve developed a relationship with this child, and “your” child sees Jesus through you, what does it say if you suddenly turn your back on him? If you break your word?
You made a commitment to a child. See it through. Please. The circumstances aren’t ideal. Make your feelings known to World Vision (again, kindly). But don’t abandon your child. Honor your commitment. It’s not your child’s fault.
One thing is completely clear. So far World Vision’s announcement has been anything but unifying.
UPDATE 3/26/14: World Vision has decided to reverse it’s new policy, stating “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 U.S.’s commitment to the traditional understanding of Biblical marriage and our own Statement of Faith, which says, ‘We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.’
For more information, read the entire letter from Richard Stearns at Christianity Today.