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.