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Signs of gradual movement by religious
conservatives toward acceptance of LGBTs

World Vision's 2 days of inclusion during which
they recognized employees' same-sex marriages

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We use the acronym "SSM" to represent "same-sex marriage"
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons
and transsexuals. The acronym "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

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world vision logo 2014-MAR-24: Throughout the third world: World Vision is a very large evangelical Christian world relief organization. Their Employee Conduct Manual requires all of its approximate 1,000 employees to restrict their sexual activity to "abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage." In the past, they had always refused to recognize the legitimacy of same-sex marriages, and refused to hire potential employees who were married to a same-sex spouse.

According to the The Christian Post:

"In a letter to its employees that was shared with The Christian Post on Monday [2-14-MAR-24], World Vision President Richard Stearns announced that while the organization is not endorsing same-sex marriage, it recognizes that its staff is comprised of believers from more than 50 denominations, some of which have sanctioned same-sex marriage. Thus, its board has decided to defer the issue to local churches, in its effort to 'treat all of our employees equally.'

Stearns' letter regarding World Vision's change in employee practices notes that the board spent several years praying for discernment about their decision after having witnessed the debate over same-sex marriage 'tear apart the Body of Christ,' in families, churches, Christian universities and denominations.

'The board and I wanted to prevent this divisive issue from tearing World Vision apart and potentially crippling our ability to accomplish our vital kingdom mission of loving and serving the poorest of the poor in the name of Christ,' he stated." 1

The Agency leaders were faced with a trilemma:

  • They wanted to honor the decisions of their Christian employees who were members of the LGBT community, married, and faithful to their spouses.

  • They wanted to honor the decisions of some progressive Christian denominations to recognize the legitimacy of same-sex marriages.

  • They wanted to respect the position of most conservative denominations within Christianity which have not accepted the legitimacy of same-sex marriage.

Unfortunately, they could only make one of two decisions: to either reject or accept the legitimacy of same-sex marriages among their employees. There was no middle ground. They decided to take what they regarded as the honorable path. They decided to recognize LGBT employees married to a same-sex spouse as falling within the requirements of their manual. They announced their decision on Monday, MAR-24.

President Richard Stearns said:

"We're not caving to some kind of pressure. We're not on some slippery slope. There is no lawsuit threatening us. There is no employee group lobbying us. This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues. We're an operational arm of the global church, we're not a theological arm of the church. This is simply a decision about whether or not you are eligible for employment at World Vision U.S. based on this single issue, and nothing more.

This is also not about compromising the authority of Scripture. People can say, 'Scripture is very clear on this issue,' and my answer is, 'Well ask all the theologians and denominations that disagree with that statement.' The church is divided on this issue. And we are not the local church. We are an operational organization uniting Christians around a common mission to serve the poor in the name of Christ." 2

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Reactions to World Vision's decision from other evangelicals:

World Vision became the focus of a firestorm of very intense criticism from a wide variety of evangelical leaders. It started within a matter of hours:

  • Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, of the Southern Baptist Convention said:

    "At stake is the gospel of Jesus Christ. If sexual activity outside of a biblical definition of marriage is morally neutral, then, yes, we should avoid making an issue of it. If, though, what the Bible clearly teaches and what the church has held for 2000 years is true, then refusing to call for repentance is unspeakably cruel and, in fact, devilish. Donor bases come and go. World Vision is a good thing to have, unless the world is all you can see."

  • John Piper, a retired evangelical megachurch pastor, said:

    "I pray they will repent and turn back to their more faithful roots."

  • Franklin Graham, is president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and of Samaritan’s Purse. The latter is a world relief group similar to World Vision. He said that World Vision's new policy is:

    "... ungodly. It’s obvious World Vision doesn’t believe in the Bible. I am sickened over it." 3

    He also said:

    "My dear friend, Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision and Samaritan's Purse, would be heartbroken. He was an evangelist who believed in the inspired Word of God. World Vision maintains that their decision is based on unifying the church -– which I find offensive -– as if supporting sin and sinful behavior can unite the church. From the Old Testament to the New Testament, the Scriptures consistently teach that marriage is between a man and woman and any other marriage relationship is sin." 10

  • Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council wrote that World Vision had:

    "... closed the chapter on six decades of an incredible witness, driving a deep and irreparable stake into the heart of Christian outreach." 4

  • Trevin Wax, writing for The Gospel Coalition said:

    "Children are the ones who suffer when organizations like World Vision, under the guise of neutrality, adopt policies that enshrine a false definition of marriage in the very statement that says no position will be taken. Children are the ones who suffer when President Obama (rightly) mourns the rampant fatherlessness in the African-American community, while simultaneously campaigning for marriage laws that would make fathers totally unnecessary. Children are the ones who suffer and die when 'sexual freedom' means the right of a mother to take the life of her unborn child. Sex is our god. Children are our sacrifice." 4

  • The Assemblies of God recommended that its congregations and members:

    "... gradually shift support away from the U.S. branch of World Vision to Assemblies of God World Missions, and other Pentecostal and evangelical charities that maintain biblical standards of sexual morality." 1

  • George Wood, the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, said that World Vision's new policy:

    "... cannot be construed as anything but an endorsement of same-sex marriage. Far from promoting Christian unity, the policy change enlists World Vision on the liberal Protestant side of the same-sex marriage debate as opposed to that of Pentecostal and Evangelical churches in the U.S., not to mention Pentecostal and Evangelical churches worldwide.

  • Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association, said:

    "World Vision has abandoned the warning of Paul and compromised the integrity of a ministry financially supported by Christians who regard Scripture as the final authority on the issue.

    Christians who support World Vision should stop, as should all of the artists and authors who raise money for them. There are many other organizations that sponsor children around the world who remain true to the Gospel." 5

  • Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary wrote:

    "It is ridiculous to argue that World Vision is not taking sides on the issue. 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 “will mislead the world about the reality of sin and the urgent need of salvation."

  • Peter LaBarbera, co-founder with Scott Lively of a new group "Coalition for Family Values" called the decision a "sellout" and a "stunning capitulation to a powerful 'Sin Movement'." 6

  • Janet Porter, president and founder of Faith2Action, writing for Barbwire.com said:

    "World Vision just got blurred. Yet another organization to bow to the homosexual agenda and embrace counterfeit marriage–as long as those breaking God’s law at the same time claim to follow Him.

    World Vision has been a great organization.  My husband and I sponsored a child, my mom sponsored dozens.  But you can’t claim to make Jesus 'Lord' and 'central in your (individual and corporate) life' when you call good what God calls evil. ..." 7

  • Benjamin L. Corey who writes "Formerly Fundie" blog on Patheos saw a fundamental shift within evangelical Christianity as a result of World Vision's initial decision. He said:

    "I sensed in my spirit that yesterday was a profound day in our history, and it came with sadness for me. The question I posed on twitter became: 'did we just witness the death of evangelicalism'? ..."

    "In some ways, the answer to that is yes. Yesterday, I believe, was a major turning point in the Evangelical Reformation that has been underway and that we at least experienced the death of Evangelical Christianity in America as it once was.

    Although it may not have always felt this way, Evangelical Christianity was a relatively large bubble that had room for a range of perspectives. Fundamentalist Evangelicals, Mainstream Evangelicals, and Progressive/Emergent Evangelicals were able to all be in the same space- though there was usually friction in areas of overlap, for a time it was big enough for everyone. ..."

    "What we saw the death of yesterday obviously wasn’t the theological category of 'evangelical' but the culture of 'evangelicalism' -- it was a death of the tribe as we knew it. The fundamentalist and the formerly 'main stream' evangelicals drew hard lines in the sand, merged together, and made it clear that they are not interested in big tents or leaving room for the 'other'. ..."

    "There has always been room for disagreement on the issue of same sex marriage, but the lines that were drawn yesterday went further than I had imagined. ..."

    "Be clear: this actually wasn’t a debate on same sex marriage. This was a debate on whether or not a Christian organization can hire gay Christians from denominations who have a different theological perspective on the issue.

    World Vision and those of us who lean my way said 'yes -- we want everyone working to help the poor and needy and we want to acknowledge diversity in the body.' The others responded with a 'Hell no. We’ll pull the support of the children we sponsor before we ever tolerate gay people working here'." 8

This is an amazing blog posting. We strongly recommend reading the full posting, no matter what your views on LGBT rights, same-sex marriage, and faith may be.

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2014-MAR-26: World Vision restores original policy:

On Wednesday, MAR-26, World Vision reversed their decision and returned to their earlier policy of discriminating against employees and potential employees who are in loving, committed same-sex marriages. President Richard Sterns and Jim Beré, Chairman of the World Vision U.S. Board responded with a letter:

"Dear Friends,

Today, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed its recent decision to change our national employment conduct policy. 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.

We are writing to you our trusted partners and Christian leaders who have come to us in the spirit of Matthew 18 to express your concern in love and conviction. You share our desire to come together in the Body of Christ around our mission to serve the poorest of the poor. We have listened to you and want to say thank you and to humbly ask for your forgiveness.

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.” And we also failed to seek enough counsel from our own Christian partners. As a result, we made a change to our conduct policy that was not consistent with our Statement of Faith and our commitment to the sanctity of marriage.

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. We ask that you understand that this was never the board’s intent. We are asking for your continued support. We commit to you that we will continue to listen to the wise counsel of Christian brothers and sisters, and we will reach out to key partners in the weeks ahead.

While World Vision U.S. stands firmly on the biblical view of marriage, we strongly affirm that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are created by God and are to be loved and treated with dignity and respect.

Please know that World Vision continues to serve all people in our ministry around the world. We pray that you will continue to join with us in our mission to be 'an international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in working with the poor and oppressed to promote human transformation, seek justice, and bear witness to the good news of the Kingdom of God'." 9

Presumably, treating people "with dignity and respect" does not prevent World Vision from firing employees or refusing to hire employees solely because they have developed a loving, committed relationship with a member of the same sex, and married them.

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Related section:

Attitudes towards the LGBT community & same-sex relationships among the general public seem to have reached a tipping point in the U.S. in early 2011, followed by major progress. We have essays covering month-by-month developments from early 2011 to the present time.

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Related essay:

"Signs of gradual movement by religious conservatives toward acceptance of LGBTs"

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Melissa Barnhart, "World Vision Reverses Decision on Gay Married Employees: We Made a Mistake," The Christian Post, 2014-MAR-26, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
  2. Karen Ocamb, World Vision, One of the Largest Evangelical Charities, to Hire Married Gays," Frontiers LA, 2014-MAR-25, at: http://www.frontiersla.com/
  3. Pulliam Bailey, "World Vision to recognize employees’ same-sex marriages," Religious News Service, 2014-MAR-24, at: http://www.religionnews.com/
  4. Tony Perkins, "World Division," Family Research Council, 2014-MAR-25, at: http://www.frc.org/
  5. Ben Johnson, "Boycott: Evangelicals react to World Vision decision to hire people in gay ‘marriages’," Life Site News, 2014-MAR-25, at: http://www.lifesitenews.com/
  6. Peter Montgomery, "Global LGBT Recap: World Vision Caves, World Congress of Families Vamps, God Weeps," Religion Dispatches, 2014-MAR-26, at: http://www.religiondispatches.org/
  7. Janet Porter, "Audio report: World Vision blurred," BarbWire, 2014-MAR-26, at: http://barbwire.com/
  8. Benjamin L. Corey, "The Day Evangelicalism Died," Patheos, 2014-MAR-26, at: http://www.patheos.com/
  9. Sarah Pulliam Bailey, "World Vision reverses course on same-sex marriage policy," Religion News Service, 2014-MAR-26, at: http://www.religionnews.com/
  10. Franklin Graham, "Franklin Graham Statement on World Vision Reversal," Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, 2014-MAR-28, at: http://billygraham.org/

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How you may have arrived here:

or Home > Important essays > Religious freedom/liberty > LGBT-conservative conflict > here

or Home > Religious information > Religious freedom/liberty > LGBT-conservative conflict > here

or Home > Human rights > Religious freedom/liberty > LGBT-conservative conflict > here

Home > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM menu > LGBT-conservative conflict > here

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2014-MAR-25
Latest update: 2014-APR-062
Author: B.A. Robinson
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