In an interview with Christianity Today, World Vision U.S. president Richard Stearns explained a change to the employment requirements of the Christian relief organization that will allow them to hire believers in same-sex marriages.
They claim that this issue is divisive within Christianity and they serve with Christians from denominations that currently accept gay marriage, as well as those who do not. Therefore, this is, in their words, an attempt to be accepting without endorsing. But it will not work.
Much of World Vision’s shift is troublesome from a theological perspective. Of particular concern, is their seeming dismissal of the need for a parachurch organization to make any doctrinal stand if it could interfere with “unity.”
Unity is not the goal of Christianity, it is the result of our shared submission to the lordship of Christ. We do not gain Christian unity by disregarding Christian doctrine.
You cannot and must not sacrifice biblical orthodoxy on the altar of “unity.” It is gay marriage today, it will be something else tomorrow. There will always be opposition to the clear teachings of Scripture both within and without the church.
But not only does World Vision’s position have a problem with the Word, it has a problem with words, in general.
They have every right to change their organizational hiring policy, but they do not have the right to change our shared language. In making a policy change and then denying that they are taking a position, that is exactly what they are attempting to do.
As a writer by training and trade, I have to insist that words matter. We cannot haphazardly change the meanings of words to suit our own use. I’ve written about this before with the use of the word “hate” to mean “disagree with.”
I understand why World Vision would want to assert the distinction between their actions and taking a stand in the debate over the definition of marriage. They want to work with (and draw donations from) both conservative and liberal Christian denominations.
But World Vision will discover the same truth as the Boy Scouts – you can’t make everyone happy by trying to use misleading semantics. By making a half-hearted change, but insisting that it is meaningless, they are patronizing everyone and pleasing no one. This is a word game they will not win.
Those in favor of the traditional definition of marriage understand that World Vision has now lined up in opposition to them on this issue. It is easy to see through the thin veil of “accepting” to the hard reality of “support.”
Yet at the same time, gay marriage advocates cannot be pleased with World Vision either. Will a gay person feel that much more welcomed by an organization that is saying they do not agree with gay marriage and, in fact, support traditional marriage?
In their attempts to explain how they accept gay marriage, but not accept-accept it, they have alienated everyone. They have essentially dismissed both sides of the issue as contrary to Christian unity.
World Vision cannot claim they are taking no position on same-sex marriage and then intentionally and proactively change their hiring policy as it relates to those in a same-sex marriage. That is the very definition of taking a position.
You are making a theological statement. Even if that statement is, “The definition of marriage is unimportant to us.” To state otherwise is not a plea for unity, but an excuse for lying.
Whatever World Vision wants to do, they should at least be honest with themselves and those of us who have partnered with them in the past or may in the future.
The Word matters. Words matter. As of now, World Vision seems unconcerned with the integrity of either. I hope that changes.
Update: Just to be clear, I am not advocating anyone immediately stopping their support of a child through World Vision. Matthew Lee Anderson gives some helpful perspective and advice for those currently partnering with World Vision.
It should also be noted that other Christian relief organizations do much of the same work as World Vision and have not made the same changes to their hiring policy. No one wants to cause additional hardships for children in need.