World Vision returns to a biblical definition of marriage

As many readers have no doubt heard by now, World Vision has backed away from a new personnel policy that would have allowed people in same-sex “marriages” to be employed at World Vision. The statement announcing the reversal really is stunning. It admits violating the authority of scripture and the Bible’s teaching on marriage. Signed by the President Richard Stearns, the letter expresses humble confession and repentance. It even asks for forgiveness from donors and other supporters. I was heartened and encouraged by what I read in the letter. I think this kind of public repentance is courageous, and I praise the Lord for it.

Here is the text of the letter. I encourage you to read it if you haven’t already.

Dear Friends,

Today, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed its recent decision to change our national 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

38 Responses to World Vision returns to a biblical definition of marriage

  1. Seneca Griggs March 27, 2014 at 5:02 am #

    Wow. May they now have grace and courage as they draw the negative attention of “progressive christianity” and the westernized secular world (is their a difference?) for their return to Scriptural orthodoxy.

  2. rpavich March 27, 2014 at 5:18 am #

    I’m so glad to see this and what seems to be real repentance.

    How can we fault them for this?

    They are us…every day.

  3. Lauren Bertrand March 27, 2014 at 5:20 am #

    History surely does repeat itself: this sounds like a repeat of the about-face pulled by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure two years ago, when their sudden withdrawal of support for Planned Parenthood–followed by a renege on that withdrawal–cost the organization dearly. It has yet to recover.

    It will be interesting to see what happens to World Vision, especially now that it has brought to light a formerly “closeted” policy that may erode support from some of the moderates. But considering that thousands of Evangelical supporters threatened to pull support from the organization, I guess it only goes to show how many Christian sponsors think that not hiring people in same-sex marriages (despite the fact that they are legal in World Vision’s state) is more fundamental than the organization’s core mission: helping families in the world’s most impoverished and malnourished countries. Then again, if the liberals now pull out (and many probably will), it will only prove the same thing about them.

  4. Paul Reed March 27, 2014 at 8:39 am #

    “I think this kind of public repentance is courageous”

    I can’t imagine the kind of naivete that allows someone to think this person has repented. It’s the same thinking that causes people to think that he went apostate the moment he made the decision to allow gays in the first place. The fact that he would *ever* make a decision like this speaks volumes about where he is and where he has been for a long time.

    Bottom line, if you are at all encouraged by this “repentance”, simply wait a few years.

    • rpavich March 27, 2014 at 8:43 am #

      Wow…I’m speechless.

      You are more intuitive than I am. I can’t see into a person’s heart to see how genuine their repentance is.

      • Ian Shaw March 27, 2014 at 9:01 am #

        Didn’t know Godly judgement was a spritual gift…..

        We get your sarcasm and cynicism Paul, but the guy issued an apology. Take it with a grain of salt because none of us know him, but the fact of the matter is he issued an apology.

        Yeah, he might be having an internal conflict about it. That doesn’t mean he can’t be apologetic about making a decision that perhaps he wasn’t 100% sure was scriptural.

      • Paul Reed March 27, 2014 at 9:18 am #

        Sigh. Extreme gullibility often gets mistaken for Christianity. Let’s examine the facts. A supposedly Christian leader sets a flagrantly anti-Christian course in his organization, that is premeditated and thought out. There’s a great deal of push-back from the organization’s donors. He decides to reverse his course. A Christian onlooker has to ask himself what is more likely, (1) that after the fact that God suddenly supernaturally changed his heart, or (2) he is simply responding to donor pressure, and is simply going to wait out the culture war a bit longer.

        On another note, if you want to look for true repentance in a Christian leader, one thing you will see is that the leader will remove himself from leadership after falling. The next time you see a pastor who has “repented” from having an affair or some other sordid action, and yet is still pastoring, you don’t need to ask yourself if he really repented.

        • rpavich March 27, 2014 at 9:23 am #

          What is more likely?

          That I’m not God and cannot see their heart…nor anyone elses…apparently you can.

          Mazel Tov.

          I’m outta here.

        • Ian Shaw March 27, 2014 at 10:02 am #

          Paul,

          I can agree with that sentiment. The same coudl be said about politicians and government. People will abruptly change their minds on issues, when there is threats of pulling donations and support (see President Obama’s public change of opinion on SSM prior to the previous election of his second term).

          However, we expect that politicians and corporations. Not as much from faith-based non-profit organziations. But I would agree. A blunder like this, I figured he’d step out of that role.

          • Paul Reed April 1, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

            @Ian Shaw

            Good points.

        • Scott Villers March 27, 2014 at 12:08 pm #

          Moses continued on, David continued on, Billy Graham continued on, repentence is repentence. Us not coming alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage, support, and love them in their repentence is sinful. I’m not skilled in quoting verse, but I beleive that comes from James.

    • Jim Harrison March 27, 2014 at 6:31 pm #

      The comments in regard to not being able to read hearts are correct. We cannot, and we are thus obligated to forgive. But neither are we to be gullible.

      In Richard Stearns letter to World Vision employees explaining the original policy change, he said this:

      “By way of background, our board of directors is recognized as one of the leaders among Christian organizations in the U.S. It includes deeply spiritual and wise believers, among them several pastors, a seminary president, and a professor of theology. Since this policy change involves the sensitive issue of human sexuality, the board spent several years praying about and discussing this issue.”

      So these “deeply spiritual and wise believers” spent YEARS praying about and discussing this issue, before arriving at their decision to hire practicing homosexuals and to affirm the legitimacy of gay marriage.

      Now we find that their conclusions after “several years of praying and discussing the issue” are set aside after two days? I wonder why that would be? Are we really to believe that a decision made by “deeply spiritual and wise believers”, as a result of years of prayer and discussion, could be held to so lightly as to be set aside after 48 hours? What does that say about the qualifications of those in leadership at WV?

      It is true, we can’t read minds. So we must take them at their word and forgive. But though we can’t read minds, we ought to use the minds that we have. As Doug Wilson has said in regard to this matter, forgiveness is one thing, trust is quite another.

  5. Bridget Platt March 27, 2014 at 8:43 am #

    As I said in the last post, World Vision has compromised on the gospel for a long, long time. Read their mission statement. There is no gospel proclamation going on, it is all a social justice outreach program. And while that is fine and good, it is not distinctly Christian. Why is it that Christians are always trying to stop so called “Christian organizations” from showing who they really are by putting pressure on them to conform to beliefs that they just simply don’t hold? It just keeps the façade going longer.

    • rpavich March 27, 2014 at 8:46 am #

      I did read it. They proclaim that God’s word is their authority and infallible.

      So…most Christians are apostate? I say that because almost every Christian that i know doesn’t go out and preach the gospel…does that include you?

      If you do preach…how much?

      Once a month?

      Twice?

      What is the dividing line where you become apostate instead of saved based on the amount of preaching of the gospel you do?

      • Kevin W. Bridges March 27, 2014 at 11:56 am #

        Preaching is not the only way to spread the gospel, in fact not many are saved because of someone’s great preaching! It’s usually kindness and friendship that gets you the right to talk about spiritual matters.

  6. Ian Shaw March 27, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    Very powerful to see an organization issue a mea culpa publically and very humble about it. Great to hear.

    General Motors, take note.

  7. Hannah Lewis March 27, 2014 at 9:09 am #

    I put this on the last post, but so more people will see it, I’ll post it here too: I found this statement released by World Vision Canada. World Vision USA doesn’t affect all the other country’s offices (thank God). http://churches.worldvision.ca/our-christian-identity-responding-to-world-vision-us-hiring-policy-change. I went and looked at the World Vision UK twitter page and they’re not on board with the descriminatory hiring practices of the US office either. One of the World Vision UK tweets actually read “We haven’t had a policy on SSM in the UK because it doesn’t affect our work”. Truer words…

    • Ian Shaw March 27, 2014 at 10:06 am #

      The UK also allows for abortion to occur based on the gender of the baby., Also, recent events discovered that aborted babies were used as heating fuel for hospitals in the UK. So I find it odd that People at World Visionbin the UK would try to claim higher moral ground than their US sister company when they clearly have serious issues of their own to deal with across the pond.

    • Rick Wilson March 27, 2014 at 10:06 am #

      WV Canada paraphrased: “We are comfortable following the rules of a godless state rather then following God Himself. So these things are not an issue for us.”

      Wow, just wow. This is where we are headed too. Its just shocking to see people not even recognize the level of lost freedom and governmental cohesion evident in that statement from Canada.

      • Brett Cody March 27, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

        Agreed. The ‘work’ of the UK WV is affected by sin–it would be ignorant or naive to assume anything else.

  8. Bridget Platt March 27, 2014 at 9:24 am #

    rpavich, I’m off to work and wish I had more time to respond to your comment. But yes, I do try to share Christ as I walk daily and have been very involved in evangelism. Yes, World Vision says that they are motivated by their faith in Christ to do what they do,. But what they don’t do is spread the gospel. It’s therefore not a Christian relief organization in the fullest sense of the word. To care for the temporal needs of people while ignoring their eternal needs is not a true Christian relief organization. Hence, why we pulled out years ago. I’m a little weary of Christians trying to prop these organizations back up when they do something to reveal their true colors. It’s like the sheep’s clothing keeps falling off the wolf, and we, as Christians keep trying to pull it back up and keep it in place. Let them reveal who they are instead of simply compying because of overwhelming pressure.

    • rpavich March 27, 2014 at 10:06 am #

      @Bridget,
      Ok…cool.

      Now i can go to church and accuse all those who don’t preach the gospel every day of being non-Christian.

      Thanks for showing me that the dividing line for saved-unsaved is preaching the good news….

      Which of course brings up the following question: How many times do I have to share the gospel per month to remain saved?

      What’s the number? (and is it just barely under the amount that you preach per month by chance?)

      If this is the criteria…Heaven is going to be a lonely place…

      • Bridget Platt March 27, 2014 at 4:20 pm #

        rpavich, if I went to church week in and week out and never shared Jesus with a single soul, I would be wise to take Paul’s (God’s) advice and examine myself to see if I was in the faith (per 2 Cor 13:5). How can one be “motivated by their faith in Jesus Christ to serve the poor and oppressed” and then not share the good news of the one who motivates them and can alleviate their oppression on an eternal scale? “For each tree is known by its own fruit” – Luke 6:44. The whole gay acceptance thing just reveals more bad fruit as far as I’m concerned.

        It’s a shame that this judge-no-one-for-anything attitude has seeped from the culture into the church.

      • Bridget Platt March 27, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

        Btw, I’m not counting how many times one shares the gospel or not, I’m saying it’s not even in their mission statement for crying out loud. What more does one need?

    • Paul Reed March 28, 2014 at 8:38 am #

      “It’s like the sheep’s clothing keeps falling off the wolf, and we, as Christians keep trying to pull it back up and keep it in place. Let them reveal who they are instead of simply compying because of overwhelming pressure.”

      Very well spoken. And I love your analogy by the way. I’m going to have to use that.

  9. Kevin W. Bridges March 27, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    Are you happy now Denny? People need to work. Why does it matter if someone who is gay and married works for world vision? Even if world vision maintains a biblical view of marriage, why can’t they hire that person, get to know them and understand them and have authentic relationships and conversation about sexuality with them.

    • Johnny Mason March 27, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

      “Why does it matter if someone who is married to their sister works for world vision? Even if world vision maintains a biblical view of marriage, why can’t they hire that person, get to know them and understand them and have authentic relationships and conversation about sexuality with them.”

      OR

      “Why does it matter if someone who is married to multiple women works for world vision? Even if world vision maintains a biblical view of marriage, why can’t they hire that person, get to know them and understand them and have authentic relationships and conversation about sexuality with them.”

      OR

      “Why does it matter if someone who is attracted to little boys works for world vision? Even if world vision maintains a biblical view of sexuality, why can’t they hire that person, get to know them and understand them and have authentic relationships and conversation about sexuality with them.”

      Do you agree with all these statements, Kevin?

      • Ian Shaw March 27, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

        Careful Johnny, you might actually get a real philosophical response for your question. That is, if the intellectual log gets removed from their eye.

        That’s the problem. People can hold all the intellectual views they want until something happens in their backyard. That’s why you never get a truthful response from someone about how using the 14th Amendment to legalize SSM will form a legal pathway to bigamy, polyandry, et al.

        They don’t want to talk about it because if they don’t talk about it, it’s not real.

      • Chris applesmith March 27, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

        Doesn’t it work the other way too? Should a divorced or remarried person be able to work there? What about someone who had sex before marriage? If someone masturbates, is that grounds for termination? Why do we only seem to care about keeping gay people out?

        • Jim Harrison March 27, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

          If they are divorced for unbiblical reasons, and are unrepentant, flaunting their sin and disobedience, then the answer is “no”. If someone is engaged in premarital sex, and seeks to defend it as a moral act, then the answer is “no”. If you think you can make a biblical case for the sin of masturbation, and explain how you would know such a thing about someone, then perhaps we could address that one, as well.

          • Chris applesmith March 28, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

            I’m sure that people who have been divorced and remarried for unbiblical reasons work at a huge organization like WV. It’s just that no one cares. You don’t see people protesting, or forming witch hunts, or withdrawing their support because WV doesn’t have an official “divorce position”.

            It’s the same situation in our churches, our schools, and our sunday school classes. People look the other way for the common sin of remarriage because it’s our friends, family, and loved ones. Gay people are “other”, so we’d rather put all our energy into making them go away.

            • Jim Harrison March 28, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

              If that is the case, and no one cares, then they will be held accountable for that, as well. Whether it be an individual, or a ministry organization that claims to be Christian, inconsistency does not negate what is right.

              As for churches, I’m afraid you’ll need to speak for your own church. It is certainly not true of mine, or many other churches that continue to provide faithful oversight to their people, including church discipline.

              As for making gay people go away, I wonder why it is that you hate them so. If you loved them as you say, you would call them to repentance. And if you loved God’s people, His church, you would not desire her hurt by welcoming into it unrepentant and unregenerate people, but would instead desire its purity.

        • Johnny Mason March 27, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

          I think it is more about unrepentant sin. If someone is in a SSM, then they are in unrepentant sin and not only that, but they also seek the approval of this sin. So that is why it is such a big deal and that is why it is getting attention.

          If someone was actively having pre-marital sex or demanding that their masturbation be approved of, then I would hope WV would not employ them as well.

  10. Matt Martin March 27, 2014 at 12:25 pm #

    Lets be honest here…it’s about money. Too many complained and threatened to stop donating.

    Personally, I find it heartbreaking. Not with their decision or their reversal…but that gay marriage overshadowed the mission of World Vision.

    But hey, writing about the poor doesn’t sell advertising, eh Denny?

  11. Hannah Lewis March 27, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

    Another interesting update from inside World Vision’s USA office. Apparently today, lots of WV employees are wearing purple in support of their gay colleagues. <3
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/2014/03/27/lets-talk-about-what-happened-yesterday-at-world-vision/

  12. Chris Ryan March 28, 2014 at 2:55 am #

    Apparently they reversed themselves after “several thousand people” called and said they were going to drop their sponsorship of overseas kids. Yeah, that seems mighty Christian to me…and we wonder why we get called hateful.

  13. JS BOEGL March 28, 2014 at 6:58 am #

    While I applaud and urge us to support WV’s reversal, Dr. Michael Brown lists three lingering questions that the evangelical community might be well advised to ask of World Vision as we “rebuild trust” with their governing board.

    “We really need to know where you stand if we are to be able to stand with you, and we do desire to stand together with you in ministering to the poor and the oppressed.

    1) In your interview on Monday, with reference to homosexual marriage, you challenged the idea that “Scripture is very clear on this issue,” responding with, “Well, ask all the theologians and denominations that disagree with that statement.” In contrast, in your statement of repentance, you said, “World Vision U.S. stands firmly on the biblical view of marriage.”
    So, what do you actually believe? Many of us are genuinely confused. Are you now saying, “Although some churches may differ on this, we are reaffirming our strong belief that in God’s sight, marriage is the union of one man and one woman, while homosexual practice is always against the law of God, even in the context of monogamous, homosexual unions”?
    On Monday, did you feel that the biblical definition of marriage was debatable but on Wednesday decided that this was not the case? If so, what produced such a drastic change? Your clarification here would help to instill greater confidence.

    2) Since official organizational policies are of great importance, is anything stopping you from writing the biblical definition of marriage into your bylaws, committing to hold to this standard regardless of societal change and regardless of financial implications (the latter in the offhand chance that standing on Scripture will ultimately cost you financially)? And since you speak of the shifting views of some churches on this subject, will you commit in writing to honoring God’s Word even if the majority of churches associated with you apostasize from biblical standards?

    3) Will you require all of your senior leadership to affirm the biblical definition of marriage?”

    The Father’s grace to each of us as we continue to dialogue with Him and others about this important, far-reaching issue.

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