02 April 2014

world vision's commitment to homosexual marriage

On Monday, March 24, 2014, the World Vision U.S. board made public its decision to no longer require their employees to restrict their sexual activity to heterosexual marriages.  On Wednesday, March 26, 2014, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed this decision.

This week has been filled with reaction, accusation, name-calling, praise-heaping, and questions about the impact of it all.  My voice is not necessarily worth any more than the next persons.  Still, I offer my own perspective on what has happened - though, not from the standpoint of orthodoxy and heresy, but of the entire debacle that has been generated by the World Vision board.  I strongly believe that what we are witnessing is of no small significance for our culture and the church.

That World Vision will allow for the hiring of same-sex marriage was announced on March 24.  That was the position of the board, and that is the commitment of the board.  Don't miss that - the World Vision U.S. board has revealed something that we cannot miss.  Those who were disturbed by this initial decision ought to be even more concerned about the rapidity of its reversal.  Having reviewed both statements, and the interviews that were conducted around each, I find it all-too-convenient that this story worked its way out so well.  In other words, there is more going on behind-the-scenes than is being played out in the public sphere.

The initial statement in favor of hiring same-sex couples spoke of the need for the church to move past our judgmental attitudes, to discount this notion of a slippery-slope, and to open up the gospel in the name of church unity.  After all, Richard Sterns (the president of World Vision U.S.) declared this to be a "very narrow policy change."  The Christianity Today article on the decision placed this issue alongside "divorce/remarriage, baptism, and female pastors" as those items which can only be dealt with in local congregations and denominations (as though they have no further impact, even though same-sex marriage does have a larger impact, though it is also relegated to congregations and denominations).  On that Monday the position of World Vision was that helping the needy was of utmost importance for the Christian faith, not all of this doctrinal baggage.

What was produced in less than 48 hours of this decision was a statement that not only retracted the hiring decision, but which seemed to aim for (and hit) just about every phrase and talking-point that would make the conservative evangelical happy.  Suddenly, it became important for the World Vision U.S. board to gain the insight of other evangelical leaders, there was a sudden appeal to "the fundamental Christian beliefs" and "the authority of Scripture," and feeding hungry children was now placed in the realm of the outworking of orthodoxy.  What is more, whereas on Monday it was important for World Vision to defer these minor positions to the local churches, by Wednesday it was vital for World Vision to work in meaningful partnership with those denominations.

I suspect that there are many who will see this and be unsettled by the whole lot of it.  But I also suspect that there are few who will be willing to make a public stand against this hypocrisy.  Christians have been led to believe that whatever mold is placed upon them by the larger culture is binding to their commitment to the faith.  Those who opposed World Vision's decision are being lectured to forgive them and still send in your support, for they have done the right thing.  (Also, the voices are condemning those who would withhold food from starving children because of an archaic commitment to an outdated ideal of marriage, as though World Vision is the only means by which Christians can help those in need.  Overreaching rhetoric indeed.)

These are not appropriate reactions to last week's behavior by the World Vision U.S. board.  Such a dynamic turn around should indicate that one-of-two-things is happening: either, 1) the World Vision board is functioning so poorly that they would so hastily make a decision like this without consideration of its larger impact (a position which they all-but claim in their recant), or 2) the greater intention here is to advance equality for same-sex marriage through their organization, and this was a first-step in that direction.  Even though their retraction all-but-admitted the first, I firmly believe that what is happening is in the latter possibility.

Call it a lead-line, or a testing-of-the-waters, or whatever you will.  Regardless of the specific term, this is the decision that was made when there was no pressure, either of time or external perspective, according to World Vision themselves, to make a decision.  This means, when they had all the time in the world to pray, discuss, reflect and investigate, they believed that accepting same-sex marriage relationships was the best course for their ministry in the name of "church unity" (I'm still rubbing my eyes over that claim).  Only when the heat was turned on and, more specifically, the dollars started to diminish that World Vision suddenly returned to the good-little-evangelicals.

Those in the same-sex-marriage camp have nothing to worry about in regards to World Vision.  I believe they have demonstrated their commitment to the issue of inclusion, and have only reversed its public decision to enlarge the theological tent.  In our culture, one of two things will inevitably happen with World Vision: either 1) they will allow this storm to pass over and reinstitute a hiring policy that includes those in homosexual relationships, and/or 2) they will have helped the larger agenda of same-sex marriage take a step forward in the desensitization of this issue, thereby allowing for the full-support of their future (slightly-less-noisy) decision of inclusivity.

Even though they haven't shown their hand, we can make a good and informed guess as to which cards they are holding.  This didn't take much to figure, since they have show that they have a tell in where their commitment lies.  After all Sterns said (in the Wednesday article), "I think every Christian organization will continue to deal with this sensitive issue ... The board will continue to talk about this issue for many board meetings to come ..."  Fear not, ye who support homosexual marriage!

Our culture is one of politics and media; it is about making a good show.  Initially, I thought that World Vision was making a good show out of their all-too-quick-and-convenient reversal.  Upon further reflection I see that it is more accurate to say that both decisions have been calculated to a goal of a more inclusive evangelicalism that can be more accepting of 'alternative lifestyles' as well as more accepting of those who would rather appeal to cheap concepts of grace and love instead of the firm demands of Scripture.  Still, some will say that they've repented and we should forgive them.  I don't see a repentance, and I don't agree with the pop-level understanding of forgiveness, which is a giant "my-bad-take-back-do-over" that has no ramifications or consequences.  That's not genuine forgiveness.

Those that disagree with my position will simply begin throwing the stones of intolerance, simple-mindedness, he's-got-no-understanding-how-complex-an-issue-this-is, and this guy is so pathetic he is willing to starve children for the sake of his narrow-minded and legalistic religion.  I need not respond to these sentiments, for they are simply dodges to keep us away from a genuine dialogue of these issues.  I have made my case and have evaluated the World Vision position(s) fairly (my taking issue with them does not make my critique unfair).  Their statements are riddled with contradictions and opposing worldviews, and that ought to be cause for concern.  I believe that evangelicals who are already disturbed with last week's events should find other ministries with whom they can partner.  And I believe that evangelicals who are not already disturbed with last week's events should become greatly disturbed by the not-too-subtle erosion that is occurring.

Time will tell what will come of all of this.  We are called to know the times and the seasons as the swirl around us, not so that we can sway as reeds in the wind, but so that we can more firmly stand in the truth that we have made central to our lives.  The kingdom of God is near, and that calls us for a certain type of lifestyle - one that, sadly, is going away all-too-quickly in the name of popularity and convenience.

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