World Vision unifies marriage requirements

Timothy Kincaid

March 24th, 2014


World Vision is one of the largest charities in the world, pulling in between 1.5 and 2 billion dollars each year. They are also highly rated, with good transparency and spending about 85 cents of each dollar on program services.

Focused on fighting poverty, hunger and injustice, they provide services to about 100 million people in 100 countries basing their charity on need, not on religious belief or political ideology. Although they are one of the largest AIDS services providers in the world, they also focus strongly on community development and sustainable futures.

World Vision is decided an Evangelical Christian organization. And, as such, they have strict rules about hiring, requiring employees to be Christian and to adhere to sexual ethics which includes “abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage”.

Now World Vision has decided to, well, NOT change the terms of those requirements. They have, however, decided that gay Christians who seek employment with them must follow the same rules as heterosexuals. (Christianity Today)

“Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues,” he said. “It also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage.”

This was a decision based on the reality that Christendom is no longer unified on the place of gay people in society or the church. With many Episcopalians and Lutherans and Congregationalists now finding grace in same-sex marriages, World Vision decided that it was not its job to hold to some purity test for just who could be the hands of Christ to a sick child or impoverished family.

Stearns took pains to emphasize what World Vision is not communicating by the policy change.

“It’s easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there,” he said. “This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support.”

“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,” said Stearns. “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.

“Denominations disagree on many, many things: on divorce and remarriage, modes of baptism, women in leadership roles in the church, beliefs on evolution, etc.,” he said. “So our practice has always been to defer to the authority and autonomy of local churches and denominational bodies on matters of doctrine that go beyond the Apostles’ Creed and our statement of faith. We unite around our [Trinitarian beliefs], and we have always deferred to the local church on these other matters.”

The organization leaves a great deal of autonomy to local affiliates in hiring decisions, so this policy will not necessarily have global impact. For example, although World Vision opposed the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda, there is a recognition that the Christian community in Uganda is homophobic so there is little expectation that local managers will hire someone in a same-sex marriage.

Nevertheless, this is a hugely important shift.

Until just a few years ago, marriage was a shared position of much of Christian faith and those who supported inclusion were an anomaly. Now it appears that one’s take on recognition of same sex marriage is becoming – at least to this important organization – a issue of denominational theological variance, an interesting and respected matter of opinion but not essential to Christian faith.

[The article is incorrect on one item: the Presbyterian Church (USA) does not allow its ministers to conduct same-sex marriages. It is likely that this policy change will occur at the next convention (it narrowly lost in 2012), but at present the Presbyterian Church (USA) is not a marriage equality denomination.]

John

March 25th, 2014

Re the correction: It is true that the Presbyterian Church does not officially allow its ministers to marry same-sex couples. However, many Presbyterian clery do marry same-sex couples and in the last couple of years have not been punished for doing so. The regulation now is more honored in the breach than in the observance.

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