Also worth reading is Matthew Lee Anderson’s thoughtful piece on how Christians who financially support World Vision USA should respond.
Many will argue that the withdrawal of support directly harms needy and hurting families, and children in particular. Matt rightly points out that the relationship between a donor and an organization should not be established on strictly monetary or utilitarian grounds.
A further point that could be made is that it was World Vision USA that made this decision, presumably knowing full full that it would alienate a substantial portion of their donor base. Mr. Stearns tells us, ”We’re not caving to some kind of pressure. . . . There is no lawsuit threatening us. There is no employee group lobbying us.” So shouldn’t someone ask him: why is World Vision USA putting the lives of needy families and children at risk by making this unnecessary business move which will undermine the donor revenue from your base of support?
Anderson suggests three things Christians should do in response:
The first thing to do is, of course, inform World Vision USA of your conclusion and the difficulty they have subsequently thrown you into. Angry, belligerent emails and phone calls are not a Christian mode of response. But level-headed, patient, and clear reasoning can be. It would be prudent to ask for World Vision to set up pathways for people who have decided they can no longer give to continue corresponding and supporting their child directly, as a sign of their willingness to help those who disagree with their new vision carry on those modes of communication that first and foremost make World Vision a Christian organization, even if it costs the organization a great deal of money and time to ensure that it can happen. Opening up such pathways would convey not World Vision’s commitment to unity of the right sort, namely that which respects and seeks to maintain lines of communication within and across real and substantive disagreements that it recognizes must be maintained.
Second, it seems to me that continuing to give in a situation where there has been a substantive relationship established with a child would be appropriate, at least for a season. Given that education and formation happens at the local level, and that the other branches of World Vision are not beholden to World Vision USA’s decision, there is nothing substantive lost by maintaining support temporarily. The boundaries of a “substantive relationship” are, of course, somewhat fuzzy. In the abstract, what sort of relationship qualifies is impossible to discern. But some sort of differences are obvious, as I noted above, and those differences introduce genuine and substantive reasons for acting that must be accounted for in this case.
But I would add a qualification to this, if support continues: I would notify World Vision USA that the continuing of support is for the purposes of the child alone, and that when the financial-support relationship comes to an end (as it does automatically at age 21, and at other ages for a variety of reasons) it will not be renewed or transferred to another child, but will be taken to another organization. There would be two ways to look at this sort of communication: either it could be seen as ‘holding World Vision hostage’ by threatening to remove financial contributions, or it could be a form of ‘informing World Vision USA of a decision so they can make alternate arrangements’. Which description belongs may depend entirely on how the communication is given: non-profits need to know how to project their finances, and giving them some advance warning that support would be withdrawn at least allows them to seek alternative means of funding in the interim.
But the effects of these sorts of organizational decisions are often slower moving than internet responses or commentary. The logic of the traditional marriage case depends upon a commitment to something like a “moral ecology,” but that means that the effects of certain decisions are not often known until several generations later. Analogically, this sort of symbolic move will have a substantive effect on the moral ethos of World Vision USA, but the fruit in its own organizational life and in its relationship to the broader World Vision organization (the structure of which is not entirely clear to me) may not grow for a while. For those who are committed to supporting particular children, that delay is a benefit, as it allows support to continue while still expressing a fundamental disagreement and communicating to World Vision USA the reasons for such a disagreement and the end-point of any future support or help. It’s a slow withdrawal, to be sure, but we are to be patient in doing good, even when doing good demands changing the recipients of our support.
Third, I would begin any new contributions with another organization and encourage those who ask to do the same. Food for the Hungry, Compassion International, and others do similarly good work to World Vision. Best of all may be your own denominational support structures, which presumably are accountable to the body where you worship.
You can read Matt’s whole piece here.