THREE QUESTIONS I’M ASKING MYSELF AFTER WORLD VISION’S REVERSED DECISION

It’s been a busy week for World Vision. On Monday, March 24, they announced a new policy that would allow “gay Christians” in legal “same-sex marriages” to be employed with their organization. And on Wednesday, March 26, they announced that the policy had been reversed.

World Vision’s policy matters to a lot of people. I happen to be one of these people. First, the organization is one of the largest and most established Christian charitable organizations in the world. And second, it’s one through which I have sponsored a child for many years. Therefore, any policy change of this magnitude will undoubtedly impact my decision to either continue or discontinue my partnership with the organization.

Ultimately these events have forced me to ask three questions concerning World Vision. They are listed below, with some insights into each. My hope is that they provide some kind of aid in how we view the organization from here on out.

CAN I STILL TRUST WORLD VISION?

World Vision’s Statement of Faith includes, “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.” This is perhaps why the original policy change was so confounding. The word “infallible” is one of the most profound ways of affirming the Bible, and those who usually use it tend to be on the more conservative side of Christianity.

Thus, a policy change that is vehemently against the Word of God by an organization that claims it as infallible is absolutely astounding. And, in my opinion, lends reason for concern. Even after the reversal.

This morning, on my way to work, I listened to a radio program that discussed some of the behind-the-scenes events leading up to the original policy change. The hosts detailed how this was a decision that was discussed for years, and one that was prayed over constantly. In short, the leadership felt that God’s hand was in it. Richard Stearns and the Board of Directors were, according to the CT article, “overwhelmingly in favor” of the policy change.

This means that the current leadership of World Vision, in some capacity, probably does not view Scripture as “infallible,” at least in the same way a conservative Christian might, which is that it is “incapable of making mistakes or being wrong.” This is extremely important because it reveals the philosophical mindset of the organization’s leaders’ view of Scripture.

In the very least, it’s safe to say that they were willing to overlook their beliefs for the sake of cultural unity, which, one might argue, threatens the integrity of their beliefs.

God’s Word didn’t change on Tuesday, March 25. That is, the single day in between the policy change and the policy change reversal didn’t include an event in which God edited his Word. It was the same before the change, during the change, and after the change, which begs the question, “Why did World Vision renege on their original policy change?”

One can’t help but consider that it was because of pressure. According to Christianity Today, World Vision lost thousands of sponsorships after their initial announcement. Moreover, Christian bands like Casting Crowns, according to one radio broadcast, were ready to dissociate themselves from the organization if the policy change remained in tact.

These are huge hits that undoubtedly threatened the future of the organization. While it’s true that some actually enhanced their support of the organization because of the change, one cannot deny how hard it would have been on World Vision to lose platforms like a Casting Crowns concert.

Personally, I am thankful that the policy change was reversed. And I’m grateful for the brokenness expressed by Richard Stearns in doing so. But I cannot help but be concerned with what appears to be a pragmatic decision, in both of the policy changes. Pragmatism is a philosophy that stresses the practical outcome as the primary criterion of determining truth. Therefore, if World Vision acted pragmatically to reverse their decision, then it reveals a dangerous philosophical element within their leadership. If the leadership is willing to change their minds from pressure on one side, then who is to say that they won’t change it from pressure on the other side?

Our faithfulness ought to be to the Lord. And the aim of our faithfulness is discovered through his Word. World Vision claims that they view it as infallible, but it seems that they were willing to ignore that conviction in their original decision, and even perhaps in their latter conviction. Both seemed to have been made because of what people said, not because of what God said.

It is important to note that I am not suggesting that World Vision reversed their decision because of pressure. I am simply pointing out that the leadership, through this event, might have revealed some dangerous philosophical tenets that should cause us to be concerned for how they might function in the future.

For this reason alone, I would be lying if I said that my trust in World Vision hasn’t waned.

CAN I STILL ENDORSE WORLD VISION?

In short, I don’t know. This is a question that I am asking, but one that I have yet to answer. As of now, my wife and I still have a child sponsorship through World Vision. We agreed that we would forego that sponsorship after reading about the original policy change. There are plenty of organizations that offer the same opportunity without the unbiblical affirmation. Now that the policy has been reversed, I’m not sure if I should continue or discontinue my relationship with World Vision.

I do know two things, however.

First, I know that children will gratuitously suffer. As Trevin Wax writes, “Children will suffer. Needlessly.” Damage has been done, and some of it is irreparable.

Second, I know that anyone who desires to forego their relationship with World Vision is not, as one social media commentator says, “minions of Satan.” As followers of Jesus, we are accountable to God for how we handle our resources. Sponsoring a child in an unfortunate situation is a good thing. And it’s a good thing that World Vision gives us the opportunity to do that. But a policy that affirms an unbiblical lifestyle in what is considered a biblical organization says a lot about the organization’s philosophy.

I want to help children, but I also want to do so in the right way.

World Vision will have to answer to God with how they handle their business. And I will have to answer to God with how I handle mine. While I grieve that I might forego my child sponsorship with World Vision, I also know that I am liable to God with who and what I support.

My advice is to endorse child sponsorship, and to do it with an organization with which you have no qualms. That organization might be World Vision, but it also might intentionally not be World Vision. Fortunately, there are a variety of organizations out there that offer the opportunity to spiritually and physically help kids in need.

CAN I FORGIVE WORLD VISION?

Absolutely.

It is a rare thing for a professional organization, like World Vision, to essentially act so unprofessional. It reveals that even the best of us mess up. And sometimes it can be on the public stage. As Christians, we have the opportunity to respond either the right way or the wrong way. If we choose to respond the wrong way, then we are guilty of ungodly behavior, just as much as World Vision was on Monday.

I am grateful that World Vision reversed their policy change decision, even if I do have concerns as to why they did it. At the end of the day, they are a conservative Christian organization that helps people, and does so because of the love of Jesus.

Richard Stearns asked for our forgiveness. As Christians, we ought to give it. This doesn’t mean that we need to support a child through World Vision, or even continue to do so if we have been. It means that they acknowledged their mistake and asked for forgiveness, and now we have the option of giving it.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is that our resources go to organizations that advance the true and unadulterated gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the vision Jesus had for the world, and the vision that we, as followers of Jesus, ought to have as well.

Comments

  1. says

    When WV announced their first position on employment of people in same sex marriages I began the process of examining an alternative charity for my donations. My Church had already begun setting up to participate in the same basic ministry that World Vision is known for. Before the first announcement I saw no reason to abandon WV for this new ministry. After that first WV announcement I was leaning heavily toward moving my contribution from WV to our Church’s new efforts.

    I am not convinced that WV’s motives for their reversal are as genuine as their press release indicates. But perhaps they are and as Jared Wellman says above I really should give them the benefit of the doubt. Thus, I am willing to continue contributing to WV for now but I will talk to the missions team at my Church and learn more about their efforts. I may stay with WV or I very well move my contributions in the near future. At least WV’s reversal makes me feel better about the possibility of staying on with them.

  2. Adam G. in NC says

    The way my history reads, “infallible” is a word usually used by moderate-to-liberals to make conservatives think they mean “inerrant”.

    Is this correct, old timers?

    • says

      Adam

      I have to admit I am an “old Timer” with 50 years of ministry and counting. You are absolutely correct in my judgement. For those of us who go back before 1979 we experienced first hand this terminology

  3. says

    I was going to write on this topic today, so Jared saved me the trouble! Thanks!

    We do not want to be unforgiving or unreasonable (or unChristian as the accusation was last night), but neither ought we to be fools.

    The fact is, in the clear light of day the board made a decision to abandon biblical truth and to explain it in an Orwellian way. That was deeply disturbing.

    That they responded to the outcry is heartening, but the fact that such outcry was needed is troubling.

    The issue is not forgiveness, but trust. What direction is World Vision going to take in the future? Is their heart with biblical truth? I certainly hope so and will be pleased if they demonstrate “fruit in keeping with repentance.”

    But I do not believe it is unloving, unChristian, acting the “older brother” or being any of the things I was accused of being last night to continue asking the tough questions after a breach of trust such as this one.

    As someone said, “Trust but verify.”

  4. says

    And, as to hurting the children, that is true. but there are other organizations, such as Compassion, that do a similar work – some would say better. World Vision is not the only option.

    • says

      David

      Could not have said it better. No one wants the children to suffer. I take great exception to anyone who implies that a cautious look will do that to the children ,for the reason you pointed out. There are other organizations. The only way to cause more suffering to children is to stop giving. To switch organizations does not equal lack of giving. For the children food is food regardless of where it comes from.

      • says

        This is straight-on, because there will almost always be a reason of some sort to keep supporting an organization. In this case, I doubt anyone started funding WorldVision because of their views on marriage, but instead did so because WV is a Christian company helping needy children. So, do we cut off the children? Or find a different way?

        The same question will come around for everything we do from time-to-time: this organization that sends missionaries; this one that helps people in need in the community; this one that deals with crisis pregnancies. They wouldn’t be dilemmas for us if all the money was going to fund sin. Eventually, though, we will have to step in and find different methods to meet needs as various organizations compromise and abandon Biblical truth.

    • says

      Much ‘hay’ was made of the “hurting children” mantra in comments around the web. The best response I read thorough and on target.

      Miguel wrote:
      First of all, I’m willing to wager that most of the people who pulled their support are not trying to cause children to suffer. Most of them have been loyal supporters of the poor, and to throw them under the bus as if they didn’t give a d*** is disingenuous. Many would have continued to leverage their resources to help those in need through other organizations. These are giving people who care, not hypocrites bent on inflicting pain. These “Evangelicals” are objectively known to be disproportionately generous with their donations to charitable causes. They have put their money where their mouths are, and do not deserve to be thrown under the bus merely because they believe an organization bearing the name of Christ has crossed the line.

      Second of all, the hiring of homosexuals is not merely a civil rights issue. It is an ecclesial issue, a harmitological issue, and a soteriological issue as well. Here’s why: As an explicitly Christian organization, World Vision (like many other Christian organizations) hires specifically people who are Christians, exclusively. This leaves them in the situation of determining who is or is not a Christian. This is an unfortunate task for an organization to be stuck with (it is better left to Pastors and those who draw the lines of fellowship within the context of congregations and church traditions), …

      But anyways, once you have this system, where World Vision has to filter it’s potential employees for unbelievers, anybody who has gone through similar employment process knows the drill. You have to sign to a certain statement of faith that assures you’re not a Jehovah’s Wittness, Arian, or Buddhist. Then you have to agree to abide the teachings of Christianity, and live above reproach in terms of morality, especially sexual morality.

      Organizations that pursue this method will often dismiss employees who are sexually promiscuous. Such behavior is incompatible with Christian faith, and indicates a lack of sincere belief (unless it can be determined it is a sin of weakness an the repentant offender is willing to work towards recovery).

      Throughout the New Testament, issues of sexuality are treated with specific harshness in terms of church fellowship. A Christian church is not permitted to treat someone living in open sexual immorality as a bona fide disciple of Christ. You cannot claim the name of Christ and reject His teaching and that of the Apostles and church he founded. If you want to argue a new interpretation of Christ’s teaching, recognize that your spin is in fact new, comes from an ulterior motive, and will not be adopted by Christ’s church. We believe that the unrepentant sinner has no part of Christ, and it is our duty, as those who hold to Christ, to be clear about this. The hiring of homosexuals in committed relationships/marriages, in an organization which claims exclusively Christian employees, is a contradiction of this.

      …If World Vision continues wants to deliberately alienate their support base for a cause they believe in, they shouldn’t complain about the cost they agreed to pay. Starving children is not a fair price for the progressive agenda, but Christians honoring 2000 years of consistent tradition and teaching know they don’t have to choose between them. …

      Note, this entire argument is premised on the idea that IF World Vision hires exclusively Christian employees, then the hiring of married/committed gays implies that such practices are compatible with Christianity. The Church disagrees and calls this false teaching. We are not against married homosexuals having jobs, nice jobs, good paying jobs, or even doing charity work, and to paint us that way is neither honest nor fair. I’d personally rather that World Vision not require all their employees to be Christian, but I can understand how that might interfere with the spiritual aspect of their mission.

  5. William Thornton says

    The track record we have on primary and secondary boycotts is unimpressive. When was the last time you pounded the pulpit exclaiming that you were not going to Disney World or not patronizing this of that business because they gave gay partner benefits? Not lately” Ah, I understand. We’ve had our spate of temper on those and have moved on the the latest.

    I’ve never given to WV (preferring but not being very enthusiastic) to go with Samaritan’s Purse. Both are large and rate highly. There are only a handful of NGOs that are large enough to do this type of work worldwide. I suspect that all have flaws.

    Why do we get apoplectic over a tiny slice of culture war stuff while we have implemented a permanent cease fire on others? Arguably, if hiring certain people is a measure of being biblical, WV has done more damage in hiring divorced people than they would have done by hiring married same sex people. I’m agin’ it, of course, but see a lot of self-serving indignation in all this.

    That we have lost all the culture war battles is manifestly true. Maybe we should put some energy and passion elsewhere.

    • Dave Miller says

      There is a difference between a boycott and a personal decision not to use a particular organization.

      • William Thornton says

        The author here speaks of endorsing/not endorsing. The latter is a boycott. Your personal decision not to use is a personal boycott. I think the pattern was set to boycott WV. Perhaps their reversal changed it.

          • William Thornton says

            You must mean between a formal call for a boycott and a personal boycott.

            I would never pull for the Yankees, for example, but I am not calling for all to do the same. All should, but I recognize dysfunctional behavior is rampant on our culture.

  6. Greg Harvey says

    Pardon me for asking a few “dumb” questions:

    1. If you weren’t currently in any form of financial relationship with WV BEFORE this news broke–while it still remains newsworthy–isn’t it essentially a non-event as to how it personally affects us?

    My simplest answer is “probably” though I know there have been more than a few CCM/CCA concerts that promoted WV (more promoted CI) that without the reversal I’d have to be a little more careful about.

    2. If I did have a continuing financial interaction with WV BEFORE the news broke, and they hadn’t reversed the decision, would that in and of itself constitute a complete diminishment of WV as an effective charity?

    My simplest answer is: “yes to the extent that they consider their primary ministry to include both charity AND evangelism”. Potentially “no” otherwise, though I do agree that there is a tendency for fidelity to the faith to slip further once one relaxes one’s commitments.

    3. Now that they have “reversed” the decision, apologized, and asked for forgiveness, how should I interact with them?

    My simplest answer for myself is: to the extent that the financial relationship with WV represents a commitment to a real child or real children (or even to a distinct people group), The spiritual “switching cost” seems to me to be somewhat unconscionably high solely based on the mistake of WV’s leadership to cause me to punish the child/children/people group.

    Other than that, let’s be very direct, very clear, and very honest: if you aren’t reviewing the recipients of your “charitable” contributions for some set of standards on an annual basis, then you probably should. And it seems perfectly reasonable to me that ONE of those standards–especially for any group that promotes either a theological stance or a public policy stance–is that it not be directly in disagreement on your own, personal beliefs and the resulting theological commitments you have made.

    Calling that “boycott” might be an oversimplification. For example, if you discover a charity has gone from spending 90% of its money on the direct ministry and just 10% on administrative costs down to 75% on direct ministry and 25% on administrative costs–including a major increase in salary to the Big Cheese (this is A FICTIONAL, PURELY HYPOTHETICAL EXAMPLE)–then it isn’t a “boycott” to switch to a different charity. It’s just common sense.

    Or am I missing something?

    • says

      I think I might be might be missing a whole lot of something! This is not rocket science. No one wants to see WV go out of business. That is not on the table. Kids are starving we MUST feed them. Through all of our discussion there is a bottom line: each of will give through the organization that best represents our values, and maintains our trust.

    • Tarheel says

      “The only dumb questions are the ones not asked.”

      My high school teacher used to say that till I was in her class…then she changed it to “dumb questions can in fact be asked.” ;-)

  7. Lynn Gray says

    The SBC World Hunger Fund might be a good option for those who are searching for new opportunities to help the poor. My wife and I give directly through our church and they send it on to the International Mission Board. None of the funds are used for overhead and it helps our Southern Baptist missionaries to share the gospel.

    Don’t really understand why more Southern Baptists don’t give through it.

  8. andy says

    Is repentance something that can be examined on a “corporate” level?

    My thoughts concerning this topic, missions, and other things are beginning to bring my focus back to the church. Many ministries today are designed to “relieve” the church of her biblical responsibility. In this case, isn’t the church supposed to care for the orphans and widows? Why not promote among your church the opportunity to get directly involved locally with orphan/poverty care? Or lead your church to move into international missions on your own, and then find ways to care for the poor!

    I see a great need to push more and more of these efforts to the church, to the place they were intended to be cared for!

  9. dr. james willingham says

    Well, as usual, you mix a tarheel and a Missouri fellow and you get hilarity. In the latter case, it is exacerbated by being out West somewhere. Add in an Arkansawyer (never heard of an Arkansan until them folks on tv got carried away in that state. guess they were suffering from a lack of culture) who has a been a tarheel for about 42 years, and you have the makings of a real donnybrook or whatever them folks say. Anyway, just switching organizations is an option now. Later on, we will not have a choice. The folks who are bringing us the “my way or the highway” are going to press the issue until every Bible believer has no job and is in prison for crimes against gender preference, while them folks pressing the issue are going to wake up to the reality that they have been used by powers behind them. The aim is the realization of a conspiracy’s dream/delusion. You all should read Carroll Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope and see the list of their beliefs as opposed to the Christian beliefs. Pluralism is the name of the game, but the substrata is force to make the world one in sex, etc. Our children and their children, etc., for many generations will pay the price unless we have a Third Great Awakening, and the matter is not funny in the slightest though we might laugh to ease the tedium of extreme tension to which we are being subjected daily.

  10. Jeff Johnson says

    My problem with WV’s policy change on Monday was not that they were going to hire people in gay marriages. It was the rationale behind it. Richard Stearns’s initial statement compared the gay marriage debate to other disputes among Christian churches and denominations, such as the mode of baptism. This statement lent credence to those who “interpret” the Bible to permit homosexuality and, as Jared points out, undermined WV’s position on Biblical infallibility.

    I think a Christian NGO could make the decision to hire unbelievers, including homosexuals, in certain capacities. We could debate the wisdom of such an approach, but I don’t think it would necessarily have the effect of contradicting WV’s core values or statement of faith. The problem was that WV left the prohibitions on adultery and fornication while allowing gay marriage, sending the message that God’s Word was up for debate on that point.