World Vision, one of America’s largest Christian charities, is now open to hiring gays and lesbians. In yesterday’s surprise announcement, first reported by Christianity Today in an exclusive interview with World Vision U.S. president Richard Stearns, the Christian humanitarian organization explained that it will no longer prohibit its more than 1,100 American employees from homosexual activity, provided same-sex intercourse happens in the context of a legal marriage (as is sanctioned by the state of Washington where World Vision is headquartered).

According to Stearns, the move amounts to nothing more than a “very narrow policy change” which was not motivated by any outside pressure, only a desire to foster Christian unity. For Stearns and World Vision, the issue of homosexuality is something good Christians disagree on, just like they disagree on whether to dunk or sprinkle in baptism. “I think you have to be neutral on hundreds of doctrinal issues that could divide an organization like World Vision,” Stearns explained.

“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 reason the prohibition existed in the first place? “It’s kind of a historical issue,” said Stearns. “Same-sex marriage has only been a huge issue in the church in the last decade or so. There used to be much more unity among churches on this issue, and that’s changed.”

And the change has been painful to watch. “It’s been heartbreaking to watch this issue rip through the church,” he said. “It’s tearing churches apart, tearing denominations apart, tearing Christian colleges apart, and even tearing families apart. Our board felt we cannot jump into the fight on one side or another on this issue. We’ve got to focus on our mission. We are determined to find unity in our diversity.”

The about face in World Vision’s hiring policy deserves comment both because their reasons for the switch will become terribly common and because the reasons themselves are so terrifically thin. Serving in a mainline denomination I’ve heard all the assurances and euphemisms before: “We still affirm traditional marriage. We aren’t taking sides. This is only a narrow change. We are trying to find common ground. This is about unity. It’s all about staying on mission.” But of course, there is nothing neutral about the policy at all. The new policy makes no sense if World Vision thinks homosexual behavior is a sin, which is, after all, how it views fornication and adultery. There are no allowances for their employees to solemnize other transgressions of the law of God.

To be sure, like many evangelical parachurch organizations, World Vision allows for diversity in millennial views, sacramental views, soteriological views, and any numbers of doctrinal issues which distinguish denomination from denomination. Stearns would have us believe that homosexuality is just another one of these issues, no different from determining whether the water in baptism can be measured by liters or milliliters. But the analogy does not work. Unlike the differences concerning the mode of baptism, there is no long historical record of the church debating whether men can marry men. In fact, there is no record of the church debating anything of the sort until the last forty or fifty years. And more to the point, there is nothing in the Bible to suggest that getting the mode of baptism wrong puts your eternal soul in jeopardy, when there are plenty of verses to suggest that living in unrepentant sexual sin will do just that (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Jude 5-7).

We are entering the days and the decade of a great shifting and sifting of evangelicalism. The capitulation will not happen all at once. The camel of compromise will poke its nose into the tent little by little. We will hear about the unity of the church, as if Christ in John 17 were interested in a unity indifferent to the truth (John 17:17). We will hear about the reputation of the church, as if Christ promised that everyone would love us as long as we meant well (John 15:18-19). We will hear urgent pleas to stay on mission and not be distracted by controversy, as if Christ’s gospel of the kingdom had little to do with actually repenting and believing in the gospel (Mark 1:15). We will hear—in a hundred ways from a thousand voices in a million devilish disguises—the siren song that beckons the church to change or die, as if we could rescue Christianity by saving it from itself.

The issues surrounding World Vision’s new hiring policy will be debated and dissected for the next days and weeks. There is much we could comment on. We could talk about the assertion that World Vision is only an operational arm of the church and doesn’t try to make theological judgments (when their statement of Core Values already draws a number of doctrinal boundaries). We could talk about the folly in surrendering an issue every time Christian thinking is not uniform (when, in fact, every major doctrine is disputed). We could talk about the urgent pleas which are sure to come that we should not put our theological niceties above serving the poor (when there is no reason to think the pool of evangelical Christians wanting to do social justice work is so shallow that World Vision had to broaden their hiring policy). Like I said, there is plenty that can and will be said.

But the overriding issue is this: World Vision has decided that to be a practicing homosexual and a practicing Christian is no contradiction in terms. Despite the claims of neutrality, Richard Stearns and World Vision are not neutral. They believe what the Bible calls an abomination is not a big deal, not a serious issue like adultery, not a life threatening concern like malnutrition, not something that the Bible addresses clearly or warns against urgently. Before we get embroiled in a throw down about whether Jesus would love to take coffee breaks with World Vision employees, before we allow the issue to be reframed as “Jesus was nice; the Pharisees were mean; you are mean and not nice; so you are a Pharisee and not like Jesus,” before we accept that calling someone a bigot is the same as making an argument, before we write off every opponent of this policy as a Calvinist fundie inhabiting a hermetically sealed little house on a Christian prairie somewhere in flyover country, let us establish if the following is true:

Jesus Christ is coming again to judge the living and the dead (Acts 17:31; Rev. 19:11-21). Those who repent of their sins and believe in Christ (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38; 17:30) and those who overcome (Rev. 21:7) will live forever in eternal bliss with God in his holy heaven (Rev. 21:1-27) through the atoning work of Christ on the cross (Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:1-21; Cor. 5:21). Those who are not born again (John 3:5), do not believe in Christ (John 3:18), and continue to make practice of sinning (1 John 3:4-10) will face eternal punishment and the just wrath of God in hell (John 3:36; 5:29). Among those who will face the second death in the lake that burns with fire are the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, the murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars (Rev. 21:8), and among the sins included in the category of sexual immorality is unrepentant sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Jude 5-7).

I realize a paragraph like this has become highly controversial, even offensive, perhaps someday criminal. But the question for the Christian is whether the Bible teaches it. If the Bible does not teach these things, or if we no longer have the courage to believe them, let us say so openly and make the case why the whole history of the Christian church has been so wrong for so long. But if the Bible does teach the paragraph above, how can we be casual about such a serious matter or think that Jesus would be so indifferent to the celebration of the same?

The good news of the gospel is that the sin of exchanging natural relations for those that are contrary to nature, like every other sin, can be forgiven, and that homosexual offenders, like every other kind of sinner, of which I am profoundly one, can receive grace, mercy, and peace in the name of Jesus Christ and be justified, sanctified and glorified by the power of God. To treat these straightforward truths as beyond the ability of confident hermeneutical inquiry or altogether as a thing indifferent is not to unify Christians in the gospel but to sacrifice the gospel for a togetherness that will not hold and a shortsighted vision that is sure to fail.

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125 thoughts on “The Worldliness in World Vision’s New Hiring Policy”

  1. Jim W says:

    Excellent biblical treatment of the immediate issue- but might there be an underlying problem? After all, I doubt that anyone at World Vision is unaware of the clear biblical condemnation of engaging in any sexual relationship outside of the bond of marriage between a man and a woman. The question is thus why is it that the camel felt it could try to sneak into the tent?

    Is it possible that something taught or not taught in the Evangelical movement (and “Christian” churches generally) is encouraging the camel? More specifically, is it possible that we have become so unversed in Trinitarian theology that have we allowed aspects of modality to insinuate itself into the Evangelical movement, and the camel is just the vestige of modality?

    If the issue is one of theology, then the real problem is the theology camel currently in the tent, not those vestiges trying to follow.

  2. Randy Buist says:

    Kevin places a lot of emphasis on the history of the church and homosexuality. Let’s be clear if this is where he wants to go: The church thought slavery was largely a good and decent practice until the 1600’s when people began to question it. Apparently it was a good practice since it had endured 1600 years after Christ? Equal gender rights is still coming into its own, but we know how Kevin feels about this. His theological friends still believe women are to have babies and be good wives and pretty much stay out of leadership.

    So, his Brilliant Majesty is correct. The sexual orientation issue hasn’t been on the table for discussion for very long in the church. On the other hand, if we are to talk about sexual sins, the biblical text is exceedingly clear: If anyone has lusted with his own eyes, it is as if he has committed adultery.”

    I can’t wait to hear him tell us how he’s never lusted and how World Vision and it’s acceptance of other sinners is less acceptable…

  3. Dave says:

    You say that homosexuality is a sin that can be repented. So why can’t we show Christ’s love to homosexuals and help them understand that? Maybe it’s because we say they can’t participate in church or Christian organizations and they feel unloved by us

  4. Randy Buist says:

    Kevin’s failure is that he holds his prepositional truths of his theology above the biblical text.
    ~ I challenge any reader here to read Christ’s prayer for the unity of the church found in John 17 and find how we are to hold pursuit of truth above the unity of the church.

    Ironic how a ‘theologian’ such as Kevin misses such vast sections of the biblical text to hold to his propositional truths according to his own systematic theology. To what God do we bow?

  5. Mark says:

    Is being a practicing gossip and a practicing Christian incompatible? What do we do as those who profess to be Christian when we find a practicing gossip in our midst? Do we bar them from having any place whatsoever in the community, fearful that others might view us as tolerant of gossip? When they defend their gossiping ways as not sinful (as I’ve seen happen plenty of times before) do we decide then and there that they’re out, beyond the love of Christ, until they see the error of their ways? Every time a professing Christian commits a sin, if they don’t own up to it, do we tell them they absolutely cannot bear the name of Christ? I recognize that there is a time and place to excommunicate those who truly do not submit themselves to the lordship of Christ, but don’t you think we’re EXTREMELY quick to jump to that place in the case of homosexual sex, but not so much in the case of pretty much any other sin out there? The number of those who would fit the category of “unrepentant sin” in any church would probably startle us if had a definite figure. So do we tell everyone to go away unless they are completely and totally repentant of everything God calls a sin? It’s certainly messy to accept those who are still in sin into our community, but the alternative is treating them like they are diseased and unloved by God. We must expose those who practice unrepentant homosexual sex to the love of Christ that will transform them, not make it impossible for them to participate in the church. That is how we will save souls from the punishment that indeed awaits all those who do not repent.

  6. Jim says:

    Mark,

    While providing an interesting discourse, I see no biblical citations to support your argument. Matthew 18:15-17, however, clearly states that an unrepentant sinner MUST be expelled. Matthew 18 makes no distinction as to the sin, be it murder, adultery, homosexual practice or lying. If you choose to pick an choose from the Bible, that is your choice. As between your guidance and the Bible, those who believe in the Bible have no choice but to follow the clear dictates of the Bible.

  7. Randy Buist says:

    Mark,

    But here is the issue with your thinking: We allow divorced people into the church, and we allow them to remarry. We allow gluttony on a daily basis for the majority of Americans, and if you fail to the the general greed of virtually everyone living in our nation, you have obviously never been to a developing country.

    If you want the church to be entirely empty and void of people, then you are correct. Furthermore, a simple prayer of ‘forgive me for my gluttony and greed’ doesn’t dismiss the continual failure to reform our practices of gluttony and greed.

    We have all sinned, we all continue to sin, and you chose to point fingers. The biblical text doesn’t allow this either. It’s this kind of righteous thinking by Kevin and associates that keeps broken and hurting people away from the church. It’s inexcusable if you really care about people finding their way into the kingdom of God.

    In Christ,
    Randy

  8. Mark says:

    Jim,

    The fact that you quoted the Bible and I didn’t has nothing to do with who is more biblically sound.

    The process that Matthew 18:15-17 describes is a multi-step process. I totally agree that we must conform to and obey scripture as the inerrant revelation of God. But that also means we shouldn’t proof-text and misrepresent what portions of the Bible are saying, which equally offends God’s holiness. That text is not saying we immediately jump to the last step. Jesus outlines a long process for dealing with unrepentant sinners, and he seems to mean those that are firmly entrenched in the church, not anyone who walks through the church building doors (he uses the word “brother” not “random stranger”). Furthermore, one could argue that this text is talking about directly interpersonal problems, not just any old sin. It’s certainly talking at least partly about how to deal with anger against someone in the church without harboring bitterness in your heart. The problem with using this text to justify our behavior toward people in gay relationships is that we have tended to skip straight to the last step as soon as they walk through our church doors. I’m calling out our hypocrisy and mean-spiritedness of justifying that behavior with texts like the one you cited, while sweeping other more socially acceptable sins under the rug. Both instances fail to demonstrate the seriousness of sin and the mercy of God. The mercy of God is as thoroughly demonstrated in Scripture as His desire for the Church’s purity, and can even be found in the passage you quoted.

    Randy, you’re so right, if we were to apply the policy of instant excommunication to other sins, our churches would be empty. We probably all have areas where we need to grow. I know I do. However, the important thing is that we are striving to glorify God in every way possible, and correcting our error when others point it out to us. I think, despite what I said above, that there does come a point when excommunication is necessary, but like I said, it comes as a last resort, when people will not turn toward God in a particular area after having been confronted about it directly many times.

    I too have been to third-world countries and noticed the greed that Americans display. Let’s work on cultivating an ethic of generosity in this country!

  9. Andrew Kenny says:

    Randy, you make some very good comments. Certainly picking on the ‘Gays’ is easy to do. Less hard is exposing and dealing with the sins of the heart and the mind. As Thomas Oden points out in his book Classical Christianity, which uses much of the teaching of the Church Fathers, when looking at the temptations of Christ, he points out that Satan is more likely to seduce the Christian into pride, rather than a sexual sin.I believe the sin of pride is in fact the worst of sins, if there is a degree of evil. It was certainly the sin of Lucifer, and the ‘unforgivable sin’, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was essentially that of pride,that is rejecting the pure Son of God and Spirit of God in preference to that of man’s own will!But pride, often lauded by many a preacher in the evangelical fold is often seen as being respectable. Tozer spent his life exposing this type of sham in evangelical Christianity and it still seems to be here as much as it was in his day!

  10. Duck says:

    Wow, you people getting upset over this are extremely naive… You think all of World Vision’s employees are without sexual sin and that suddenly the gays will defile their collective perfection? I don’t know if World Vision prohibits their employees from viewing porn, but all of my male friends use it on a regular basis. Probably many of you here in the comments use it, and that is one sick, exploitive industry you are supporting.

    And seriously, whoever said hate the sin not the sinner needs to think that through logically. I don’t think it’s actually possible to love someone whose entire personally and sexuality has been shaped by something you find abhorrent. I know that if I were lesbian, I don’t think I’d be friends with someone who hated the fact that I was married to the love of my life, and wanted us to be apart, just because she was also a woman.

    Y’all are free to waste your time with bigotry and fear of you want. But Jesus went around feeding people and healing them from illness. He didn’t have time for this nonsense.

    Also, I see an ad on this page about a homosexuality conference. Since you people are all straight, how is this even relevant to your demographic? You’ve made up your minds, so why waste time with that? I just don’t get it…

    A conference on the beatitudes would be so much more edifying. You could just read them and be done with it. Now that’s what I call fundamentalism.

    (And yes, I get that I’m being a bit judgemental here, but I’m not a Christian. I believe it was Jesus who told y’all to judge not and give water to the thirsty. He never said anything about getting political against the gays.)

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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