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World Magazine broke the news earlier this afternoon that the U.S. board of World Vision released a statement reversing their decision to allow Christian employees to engage in homosexual intercourse as long as they are in a legally recognized same-sex marriage. The letter reads as follows:

Dear Friends,

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

Sincerely in Christ,

Richard Stearns, President
Jim Beré, Chairman of the World Vision U.S. Board

Christianity Today has been reporting on developments to this story.

Darrell Bock, who had some hard but necessary words to say about World Vision earlier in the day, has now posted the following—which seems like the right way to respond to and to process this news:

The board of World Vision is to be thanked for its prayerful reconsideration of its earlier decision. Reflecting and turning back is a very biblical concept. The move shows the heart intent of the organization as we live in a complex world full of ethical tension and their ultimate desire to represent Christ well. The criticism that came was because many Christians so love what World Vision stands for and what it seeks to represent in its care for those in need. This is true of the engagement on the entire topic. It is love that motivates critique, not hate. That is what good friends do. They challenge because they seek to love well. And friends also take such critique seriously. So again, thanks for listening to those who spoke out.

Russell Moore, in a series of tweets, offered the following:

World Vision’s right decision, as articulated in their board letter, conveys a spirit of Christlikeness and humility in tone and content.

World Vision has done the right thing. Now, let’s all work for a holistic gospel presence, addressing both temporal and eternal needs.

It’s the older brother who questions motives in repentance. Don’t be like that. The father’s house rejoices, receives.

Matt Smethurst added:

Answered prayer is never an excuse to gloat. It’s an occasion to praise.

Matthew Lee Anderson posted a series of insightful tweets seeking to put this in wider perspective:

The @worldvision situation suggests we need to think a lot more about the problem of moral complicity.

I think @WorldvisionUSA and others deeply misjudged the depth of the evangelical commitment to ending poverty.

That sounds counterintuitive given the popular narrative. But hang with me. . . .

For many evangelicals, WV functions as something more than a poverty-relief/development agency. They have a symbolic status.

What IJM is to young evangelicals, @worldvisionusa is to traditional evangelicals. They bring together poverty-relief and evangelism.

And they did it in a way that conservative evangelicals could be proud of and point to as . . . well, as their own, in a sense.

Evangelicals cared really deeply about @worldvisionusa’s identity as a Christian organization—which meant both poverty-relief and doctrine.

The depth of that sense of identification and ownership, along with the depth of the commitment to those joint goods, prompted the backlash.

That evangelicals were construed as not caring about children or poverty—even by their own children—was heartbreaking . . . and false.

Conservative evangelicals helped build @worldvisionusa for years before I was born. WV is what WV is today because of their sacrifice.

In one sense, everything young evangelicals have touted about merging faith and practice . . . conservative evangelicals have done through WV.

The most shocking part of this is how badly @worldvisionusa judged their own support base and the depth of their commitment to that merger.

Has @worldvisionusa damaged its status and created mistrust with evangelicals? Sure. Will that last? No. Why not? Because . . . 

Contrary to popular perception, evangelicals are a forgiving lot. Look how we are with the politicians we support, for goodness sake.

None of this entails that conservative Christians have been perfect or trained themselves well to respond to today’s ethical challenges.

My first book critiqued evangelicals for their instruction on marriage as undermining their resources to respond well to today’s questions.

And I think that evangelicals need to think hard and carefully about what is required for institutional identity, in hiring and otherwise.

But as has often been said, truth is the first casualty in the culture war and misrepresentation the mode of an uncharitable people

The manner in which we argue among ourselves is as much a part of the witness to the world as the conclusions that we come to.

The depths to which we feel the church’s divisions, and the earnest sorrow we meet those we fear have left it—these too must mark us.

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23 thoughts on “World Vision USA Reverses Its Decision: The Letter and Some Reactions”

  1. Bruce Russell says:

    Praise God for this change of mind and heart. Now the Church must boldly and plainly teach that postmodern concepts of homosexuality are a completely fabricated sociological construct based on pseudoscience covering for perversion.

  2. Greg says:

    Can you guys post the actual Twitter feeds of the people you quote? I can’t find Matthew Lee Anderson.

    1. Paul says:

      Greg: I don’t work for TGC, but I saw your comment and decided to see if I could find Anderson’s Twitter. Here it is:

    2. Peter B says:

      Haha, yours is a funny situation, bro.
      ‘Matthew Lee Anderson + Twitter’ —> first hit on Google. But if that still doesn’t work, then its ‘@mattleeanderson’

  3. Jack Brooks says:

    The fact that the World Vision board could err on such a simple thing, and tried to wrap it up in theology, continues to be troubling. It now isn’t a matter of a policy, but whether their elementary judgments can be trusted.

    1. Miriam Tully says:

      I agree.

  4. A Different Perspective says:

    They reversed the decision due to the “love of money”, after many churches and supporters began withdrawing their financial support. I say this as a former employee of this organization who understands how they operate.

  5. Adam says:

    Can you say, “Reed shaken by the wind.” ? Comment needs to be made about why in the world would they change the original policy and why they changed it back. The answer is solely public opinion. No mention of biblical texts in either of their letters about so-called same sex marriage. Their position changes on their perception of what people think. Not on clear meanings of the text. World Vision needs a leader who leads with conviction not a poll results.

    1. Miriam Tully says:

      I think you are right as well.

  6. John says:

    I’m hoping John Piper and Franklin Graham will weigh in on the situation. They both posted dismay about the original decision and I’m waiting for trusted sources to sound the “all clear”.

    By embracing “Christian homosexual marriage” one day and retracting it the next, WV has left me wondering whether the leadership actually believes its statement of faith, or just believes the Church isn’t ready to move where they’d like to take it. Unity without fidelity to Christ and scripture is not a virtue.

  7. Abraham says:

    Dear brothers,

    I rejoice in God for you as you turned to consider the word of truth as standard conduct for all true Christians. I pray for all to come up hold the word of God for our Christian living.

  8. Daniel says:

    “Contrary to popular perception, evangelicals are a forgiving lot”
    I chuckled at this. Reminds me of the fact that the crusaders wouldn’t execute those who repented and converted! A truly loving and forgiving lot.

    This is good old school religious bullying. As shown yesterday, conservative evangelicals are the new religious power in america with the control. They won a major “cultural” battle without winning (I doubt) one heart to the love of Christ in the process.

    The lines have been drawn, and as ever, evangelicals can be the most supportive, nurturing and forgiving bunch to those who stay within those lines. Those of us outside those lines will survive. Especially if our jobs aren’t reliant on the financial generosity of the evangelical majority.

    While you pat yourself on the back for “forgiving” the “repenting” world vision, consider that there isn’t a lot of reward for loving those who love you, think like you, look like you, act like you.

  9. Craig Ervin says:

    t just shows an utter lack of wisdom and discernment in two ways. 1) lack of discernment of the teachings of Scripture , 2) utter lack of discernment concerning their financial base of support. Even if they lacked the first, what kind of leaders lack the second? Even if they agreed with a more “progressive” stance towards same-sex marriage, in what universe did they ever think it would not affect their financial picture? Both ways are deeply troubling for an organization that does so much good in the world.

  10. John T says:

    As far as I’m concerned, World Vision has lost their credibility. They thought it wouldn’t be an issue, but they hugely miscalculated. They did an about face when they realized that the money was going to dry up real fast. That’s what happens when you go PC instead of following JC!!!

  11. Jim says:

    Willingness to forgive is one thing. It is commendable and we should extend forgiveness readily and without hesitation. Gullibility is something else entirely.

    Dr. Bock says, “The board of World Vision is to be thanked for its prayerful reconsideration of its earlier decision.”

    Really? It was a mere 48 hours ago that the leadership of WV said the following in a letter to their employees as they were explaining the initial policy change…

    “By way of background, our board of directors is recognized as one of the leaders among Christian organizations in the U.S. It includes deeply spiritual and wise believers, among them several pastors, a seminary president, and a professor of theology. Since this policy change involves the sensitive issue of human sexuality, the board spent several years praying about and discussing this issue.”

    So these “deeply spiritual and wise believers”, who are responsible for the direction of World Vision, spent “years” in prayerful consideration in coming to the conclusion that it would be a good thing to hire practicing homosexuals involved in gay marriages. And then, after just an additional two days of further “prayerful consideration” they decided that all those years of “prayerful consideration” hadn’t really helped very much after all? Really?

    Benefit of the doubt is one thing, but gullibility is another. Saying what people want to hear, after you discover that you wrongly anticipated the backlash, is not repentance, and to say that the second change is the result of “prayerful consideration” is not honest.

  12. David says:

    Jim and Adam say it well. Forgive?, yes. Restore to a position of trust? No. No mention is made in the statement of the sinfulness of calling what is evil good, and giving approval to it, which the board essentially did just 48 hours eariler. Further, the members on the board who are pastors and leaders/shepherds should also step down. The basis for all the requirements of an elder/overseer are “so that they may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and rebuke those who contradict it.” What is to be concluded in this analysis? WV board members who hold the position of elder in their respective denominations/churches/seminaries have certainly missed this mark.

  13. Martin says:

    My wife and I have been supporting WV for several years, sponsoring a child and giving to some of their many programs. We were not going to stop our giving when they announced the same-sex hiring practice and we will not stop now with their reversal.

    However, in considering the theatrics of their decision, along with the barrage of criticisms hurled against them from fundamentalist groups; I realize that this whole situation may send a terrible reinforcing message to the government officials of Uganda and other African countries that have enacted laws of imprisonment and capital punishment against their LGBT communities. In many, if not all of these countries, World Vision has a presence.

    How are we, as the Body of Christ, going to speak into those situations? How are we going to affect change in what should be considered atrocities against human freedom and dignity? Simply stated, we must ask “what would Jesus do?” If we are going to preach the ethics of specific sexual behavior, we also need to preach the ethics of compassion and justice into specific situations.

    I think we all came out a bit dirty by this whole mess. And I do not put the blame totally on World Vision.

  14. Tim says:

    Clearly, World Vision has grown beyond their evangelical roots, and until they show that they are going to clean house and return to those roots, it is fair to assume their quick reversal is money-driven.

    If they shake up the make-up of the board, and begin a process to re-examine where their organization has strayed from their evangelical roots, I’ll believe it’s sincere. Otherwise, they are just sorry they shook up their base.

  15. D says:

    It is very strange that this body of decision-makers (board), who had to have known that there would be backlash (and even such backlash as would hold the power to threaten the very continuity of the organization) went ahead and made the decision and announcement anyway–then retracted it when others reminded them that they were departing from a foundational position (definition of marriage). As if they needed someone from outside to alert them to the fact that they were departing from that principle? As if they did not know that such a departure would cost them, for all intents and purposes, “everything” (organizationally)?

  16. Simon says:

    If a babysitter allowed my child to be carelessly injured under their supervision, I would hopefully forgive them.

    However, my forgiveness does not necessitate that I ever let them babysit my kids again. Sure, I might in time but there would be a lot of things to sort through first. Trust is rebuilt slowly.

    In the same way, a minister who abuses his ministerial position in a grevious manner may appologise and be forgiven but it does not necessitate that he is returned to his position. Does that mean God has no more plans for his life? Of course not but sometimes our actions have irreversible consequences.

    If people no longer trust WV with their money, I think that is hard to criticise.

    There are other issues with WV beyond this most recent one, which is hardly an off the cuff decision. How did it come this is the question supporters have good reason to ask?

  17. Bridget says:

    Why is no one bringing up the fact that World Vision does not even have in their mission statement a desire to preach the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ? Is this not an essential part of a Christian relief organization? There is much outrage over their pre-reversed (is that a word?) decision on gay marriage, but the fact that there is no gospel spreading seems to be inconsequential. We pulled our support from WV many years ago because of this very issue.

    1. Tim says:

      I agree, Bridget. After the news broke about WV allowing gay marriage employees, we took a closer look at their organization and discovered that they do not desire to spread the gospel through their relief efforts. That was enough for my wife and I to decide we should put our money elsewhere, regardless of their stance on homosexuality. Clearly, they no longer have an evangelical mission, and it’s larger than the gay issue.

  18. Patrick says:

    Yes World Vision messed up! Yes world Vision said “sorry”.

    2 problems though:

    The gravity of their sin… to call something evil – good. The sin that Romans 1 says bring about the crushing judgement of God when… He will “give them over to their lust and evil ways”. It is a final judgement. It was that sin, that WV said was OK now. Just like Pres Obama.

    The 2nd thing was the repentance was not from a heart crush by the weight of the Holy Spirit, but by the loss of funds! That is a BIG difference.

    WV can not fix this until the get rid of all the Board Members who voted for this move to reject the Scriptures as well as Director Richard Stearns. He must go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    We have stopped giving and will not give again until these things happen!!!

    Patrick Elliott
    Pastor SVFBC Huntington WV

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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