I hope you have the patience for a final post on the World Vision controversy. I’ll try to be brief. As you know, World Vision announced yesterday that they were reversing their decision to hire gays and lesbians in legal marriages. Richard Stearns and the board apologized for their mistake, the division they caused, and asked their supporters for renewed trust and forgiveness.
So what can we learn from this mess? Three brief reflections.
First, we should give credit where credit is due. It’s incredibly hard for any of us to admit our mistakes, let alone for a billion dollar organization to publicly admit theirs. While I still have plenty of questions I would ask if I were a World Vision insider (which I’m not), I think it is the better part of charity in this instance to take the humble, heartfelt statement from Stearns and World Vision at face value. They put themselves in an incredibly difficult situation. In reversing their decision they’ve angered a whole different group of people. We should commend them for listening to wise counselors, reconsidering who they are, realizing their mistake, and making it right.
Furthermore, it should not be assumed this was a decision driven by money. Stearns never mentioned money in the original decision and never mentioned money in this reversal. There are liberal Christians with deep pockets too. For all we know, the loss of support from evangelicals could have been made up from foundations and corporations. World Vision made an unpopular decision in announcing the new policy on Monday, and then, seeing their gigantic misstep, they made an unpopular decision in going back to the old policy on Wednesday. Good for them.
Second, this episode shows the need for church leaders, organizational presidents, and institutional board members who are theologically robust. Especially in today’s cultural climate, the evangelical world needs leaders who are biblically rooted and doctrinally discerning. I can think of a number of evangelical institutions in recent years which started to run aground because they went away, not so much from a specific doctrine, but from a doctrinal-informed and doctrinally-driven leadership altogether. A true living and breathing theology cannot be peripheral to our decision making. Biblical thinking and Christian conviction must define our mission not be subordinate to it.
Third, we should be prepared for these issues to surface again. Try as we might–or even if we hide away and wait for the unicorn of consensus to gallop across the evangelical landscape–the pain and confusion and controversy surrounding homosexuality is not going away. Sadly, we can expect key leaders, church, institutions, and organizations, to blow with the cultural winds on this issue. Realignment and reassessment are sure to come. Our call, therefore, is to be faithful, be biblical, be bold, be wise, be winsome, be loving, and beat the rhythms of worship and prayer until we find ourselves happy and holy in Jesus.