Christianity

The Collapse of Christianity at World Vision

By now most readers will have heard about the news concerning the charity World Vision. Founded as an evangelical anti-poverty parachurch organization, the group announced new personnel policies today. President Richard Stearns announced that the ministry would allow employees to engage in sexual activity outside the covenant of marriage. To be specific, any “Christian” in a legal same-sex “marriage” will now be eligible for employment at World Vision.

Stearns claims that World Vision does not want to get mixed up in the contentious debate about gay marriage. Rather, they want to focus on the organization’s mission. So they will leave the debate about gay marriage for the churches to sort out. In the meantime, World Vision is going to move on from this issue.

The announcement from Stearns is all at once sad and self-contradictory. While claiming not to endorse same-sex marriage, World Vision has adopted a policy that looks just like the one that would be in place if they had endorsed same-sex marriage.

There is an array of confusion in Stearns’ statement, but I want to focus on one item that reveals what the real bottom line is. Stearns says that even as World Vision will be hiring people who are in same-sex “marriages”…

World Vision is committed to our Christian identity. We are absolutely resolute about every employee being followers of Jesus Christ. We are not wavering on that.

Stearns says that “every employee” must be a “follower of Jesus Christ” even as he affirms that some of his employees will be living in open immorality. What does this mean? It can only mean that he believes being a “follower of Jesus Christ” is somehow compatible with being in a same-sex marriage. Whether he realizes it or not, this is nothing less than a crossing of the theological Rubicon. And it is why his announcement has been met with censure from evangelicals across the country today.

Following Christ is not a choose-your-own-adventure story. King Jesus defines the terms of our discipleship. He is very clear that there is a narrow path that leads to life and a broad road that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). The path of sexual immorality—including same-sex immorality—goes along the broad path (Mark 7:21; Rom. 1:26-27). Thus it is impossible to be a “follower of Christ” while endorsing or participating in a same-sex marriage.

Jesus also says to “beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing.” The false teacher never comes to us with a cardboard sign around his neck saying, “I’m a false teacher.” The false teacher comes to us in the guise of Christianity. He says things like, “We’re not taking a position on gay marriage” or “We are leaving this issue to the churches” or “We are not wavering on our Christian commitment.” The false teacher’s outward presentation will be that of a Christian, but inwardly he will be a ravenous wolf.

If the false teacher looks and sounds like a Christian, then how are we to know if he is a false teacher? Jesus tells us how we know, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). In other words, what they do will often reveal far more about who they are than what they say. In the case of World Vision, they have adopted a policy that is indistinguishable from a policy that would explicitly endorse gay “marriage.” The President speaks as if gay marriage is somehow compatible with being a “follower of Jesus.” The fruits are pretty obvious in this case, despite the deceptive rhetoric to the contrary.

Stearns and his board may have tricked themselves into thinking that they haven’t taken a position, but they are not deceiving anyone else. We know what this means.

Yes, it is true that the issue is greatly debated in our time. But the presence of theological controversy does not mean the absence of biblical clarity. Thus the present controversy cannot be used as a pretext to opt-out of faithfulness to Jesus. That kind of sophistry might work with Twitter followers, but it won’t work at the judgment (Romans 2:15-16). Be warned.

It really does come down to this. Is God’s word about human sexuality true, or is it false? Is it binding and authoritative over our consciences, or is it an optional debate that we can opt out of? This is where every Christian leader—and indeed every Christian—needs to be ready. This is a watershed issue in our time. You won’t be able to dodge this question indefinitely. You will eventually have to choose a side. Jesus once said, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division” (Luke 12:51). When it comes down to it, which side of the divide will you be on?

World Vision has asked the age old question, “Hath God really said?” And they’ve concluded, “We’re not going to say.” They’ve taken a side, and they’ve chosen a path. And when they get to the end of it, they will find out who was on the wrong side of history. God have mercy.

59 Comments

  • Seneca Griggs

    Well, we have on our left side, the broad road; over on the right is the narrow path. I don’t know that it’s true but it appears in our time that fewer and fewer tread the narrow path sadly. It’s Friday, but Sunday’s a comin’.

  • Ted Weis (@TedWeis)

    World Vision insists on following Jesus’ ethic to care for the poor, but sets aside Jesus’ ethic on sexuality. You cannot say, “Jesus is Lord” and then pick-and-choose what aspect of Jesus you follow.

    • Ian Shaw

      That appears to be the thought process of many emergent followers. Holding to the Love and Forgiveness aspect of God’s character, but neglecting the Righteous and Holy character parts.

      Rob Bell hasn’t been whispering on Richard Stearns shoulder has he?

    • James Bradshaw

      Christ also quite clearly stated what the only permissible grounds for divorce was: infidelity (or abandonment by an unbelieving spouse). That’s it. No outs for abuse. Now, you can either interpret Mark and Matthew away to mean something other than what they quite clearly say, or you can be honest about them and confess that World Vision has probably *already* put aside the biblical ethic on marriage.

      Perhaps it’s time to start shunning heterosexual divorcees with the same moral indignation that is shown towards gay couples.

      What about it?

      “A tiny all-white church in the rural South has voted to ban interracial couples from joining its flock, pitting members against each other in an argument over race.”

      Should the white separatist Christians in Kentucky be permitted to join World Vision? Of course. The litmus test for “true Christianity” usually just means “no homos” … otherwise eh .. just do whatever what you want.

      • Nivek Yentrouc

        Divorce does not become a problem until you re-marry, then it becomes adultery in Gods eyes as long as your former spouse is alive. Your hair splitting falls under the old saying two wrongs don’t make a right. There is nothing in scripture to hide same sex marriage under. You can’t even come close to finding an excuse for it but you, like the other religous liberals seek to destroy and not build up. If you want to throw away scripture for your agenda you may only be reading the Bible superficially and fooling yourself.
        How can you put same sex couples in front of Muslims and others and expect to convince them that our God is the one they need to worship when we don’t obey scripture and even toss nature which is supposed to teach man about the Glory Of God, under the bus?

    • Paul Reed

      Agreed, and let’s not forget that the poor of the world need a proper understanding of sexuality and Biblical morality far more than earthly food.

  • Mark Jeong

    Before we raise our voices in protest, let us cry out to the Lord in prayer that they might either turn from their ways, or that the Lord would raise up another group that loves the poor in a way that is faithful to the Bible.

    • Sharon Hall

      Mark, Compassion International is such a group. http://www.compassion.com. It holds to biblical inerrancy and works through churches to meet the needs of the poor in communities all over the world. My husband and I long ago saw where WV was headed and, once we completed supporting a young woman through WV, transferred our sponsorship to Compassion.

  • Ian Shaw

    Hey, who wouldn’t want to believe in a personal Jesus that doesn’t require you to give up anything for him.

    This is truly sad. To say you’re not taking a stance about something, and yet making the decision to open pandora’s box at the same time. Sound like a perfect example of double-talk.

  • Nathan Cesal

    Where is YOUR fruit, Denny? How many former homosexuals are able to have a viable life because of you? Where’s your hard work helping them truly live? It seems you just recite Bible verses, “God bless you, go in peace.” Just wondering.

    • Ian Shaw

      What exactly do you mean by truly live? It’s not human work that changes people but the act of the Lord through the Holy Spirit that changes people’s hearts. Prayer works.

      Viable life? That’s pretty ambiguous without a definition….

  • buddyglass

    I was ready to defend them until I read the bit about “every employee being a follower of Jesus Christ”. If they want to hire non-believers into support roles that aren’t directly concerned with presenting the gospel, e.g. a truck driver, then I’m fine with that, regardless of whether that person is unapologetically sinning. But if they have a stated goal of hiring only employees who are “following Jesus Christ” then I can’t see hiring folks in same-sex marriages.

  • Michael Pahl

    Denny, not speaking at all to World Vision’s decision and the matter of same-sex marriage, but your exegesis of Matthew 7:13-14 needs another look. You’ve pulled that out of context – the Sermon on the Mount and Matthew’s Gospel – and made it hold up things it’s not meant to support.

    As the SotM is wrapping up it becomes clear that the focus is on Jesus’ teaching, specifically his teaching in the SotM itself. See the concluding parable – “whoever hears these words of mine and puts them into practice” (7:24). The Gospel ends with the same focus – making disciples means “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (28:20). So, the “narrow way” is “hearing and obeying” Jesus’ teaching, and most particularly his ethical teaching to that point in the SotM.

    And what is that ethical teaching? It means being characterized by the beatitudes, including being “poor in spirit” and “pure in heart” and “meek” and “hungering and thirsting for justice (dikaiosune)” and being “merciful” and “peacemakers.” It means being “salt and light” by doing “good deeds” in the world. It means cultivating an inner life free of anger and lust, characterized instead by faithfulness and trust and truthful speech. It means loving our enemies, doing good both to the just and unjust, and so being “perfect” as children of our “perfect” heavenly Father. It means doing those “good deeds” as “salt and light,” not to draw attention to ourselves but in true selflessness. It means longing for God’s kingdom to come on earth, seeking first God’s kingdom above all other kingdoms, God’s kingdom of justice. It means forgiving others as God forgives us. It means radical trust in God that shows itself in simplicity, relying on God to give us just what we need just when we need it. It means not being judgmental of others, and looking first to our own sin before we attempt to help others with theirs. In sum: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” In fact, it is immediately after this statement – the golden rule – that Jesus speaks of the “narrow way.”

    So if we truly want to follow the narrow way of Jesus, let us seek first God’s kingdom, not any human nation’s agenda. Let us love our enemies; not seeking their harm, even their death, but instead working for peace. Let us not be judgmental of others, but let us turn our scrutiny on ourselves and our own sinful attitudes and words and actions – only then can we help others with their own sin. Let us be as generous in forgiving others as God is in forgiving us. Let us long for and strive for God’s justice on earth, a justice in which God provides for the basic needs of both the just and unjust. Let us live simply: freeing ourselves of the entanglements of money and power, and trusting in God to meet our needs. Let us be salt and light not by drawing attention to ourselves and our pious words but by quietly doing good deeds in the world. To give another summary idea that might well have been in Jesus’ mind in all this: “Do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with your God.”

    This way is indeed narrow, and few find it.

    • Ian Shaw

      Loving someone and being completely complicit in a sinful behavior or condoning a sinful behavior are two different things. One is not the other.

      Speak the truth in love. Not just love only

  • Ian Shaw

    But for the record, you have to be very careful with the early part of Matthew 7. It does tell us to pull the plank out before we help our brother see their speck, but the passage in it’s entire context does not tell us NOT to judge, but rather, it tells us how NOT TO judge. Two different things.

    • Lauren Bertrand

      It has long been obvious to the non-Evangelical word that Evangelicals are profoundly uncomfortable with Matthew 7:1–probably their least favorite Bible verse. After all, it’s all the other judgers who are doing it wrong. But not us–no sir, we aren’t Pharisees because we judge righteously.

  • Nathan Cesal

    The term viable life is ambigious only if you are not gay.

    Human effort keeps people away from God, right? Do you have a responsibility to make things easier rather than more difficult?

    If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?

    The church does not meet the relational needs of gay people. Period.

    • Ian Shaw

      I would take it a step further and say that a “viable life” is impossible apart from Christ.

      Yes, our brokenness we are all born into and within us naturally creates enmity between us and God. Our responsbility is to love others and God loves us, forgive others as we have been forgiven by God, and speak the truth in love to others. Share Christ with others.

      If a brother is in need, yes, we help them. That is true. You’re taking the last statement from Denny’s piece and applying it to him as a whole as if he has never helped his brother or sister. Helping/loving someone does not, nor will it ever mean enabling someone to continue a distructive behavior. Would you give a heroin addict a syringe ready to shoot up?

      Churches help people in droves, regardless of orientation. Do most churches ask your sexual orientation or other sinful habits when people line up at the food banks/pantry’s or delivering food to homes around the holidays? None that I have ever heard of.

      Is the church supposed to meet relational needs of unrepentant sinners? No offense, but should I expect an independent fundamentalist baptist church to meet my needs of allowing me to drink/smoke, allowing my children to see movies, or go to school dances, or for women to not have to wear long skirts all the time?

      Or is the first responsibility of the church feeding the spiritual stomachs of those that come through the doors, to nourish their souls with the saving Gospel of Christ and then encouraging them to be connected to others, in small groups for study and to do life together? I’m pretty sure there’s gay people that attend my church. They don’t get treated any differently by the members. There’s always people that leave when certain subject matter gets brought up. If you hold the scriptures as inerrant/without error, don’t get mad at the preacher or others when they speak truth.

      No church should ever meet the needs of someone who is comfortable in sin. If you attend a church and never feel uncomfortable about something you haven’t repented for, somethings wrong.

      If I base a my church attendance or my selection off whether or not it meets MY needs/wants, I think that’s a good place for me to stop and take a look in the mirror as to what’s really in my heart. Because if I only go somewhere that I can feel comfortable in my sin and never challenged about what God calls it, there’s a much bigger problem inside of me than my church preference.

    • Kevin Sawyer

      “The church does not meet the relational wants of openly gay people. Period.”

      Fixed it for you. What we need and what our body would like to pursue are very often two different things.

      • Nathan Cesal

        I was not referring to sexual relationships.

        -1

        Everyone has relational needs. The church thinks those are met through family and marriage. It’s good luck, Chuck, when you don’t have those. Adult singles are underrepresented in churches. There’s little to no community for adult singles. And absolutely no commitment to them.

    • Gus Nelson

      Nathan: When you say the church does not meet the relational needs of gay people what do you mean? World Vision apparently believes this means allowing for gay marriage, despite its efforts to walk a razor’s edge here. If by “meeting needs” you mean allowing for unrepentant homosexual sexual relations, then you are correct, many churches will not meet that need, any more than they will meet the need for unrepentant fornication, or unrepentant murdering, or unrepentant (you fill in the sin). If by meeting needs you mean the church has done a lousy job of trying to understand same sex attraction and relating to those who are in that situation in order to serve them, I agree with you. But this article is about World Vision taking a theological position then, essentially, claiming it’s not. What would be your suggestions for the church to meet the relational needs of gay people, assuming you are not recommending wholesale acceptance of gay marriage and unrepentant homosexual sex?

      • James Bradshaw

        Gus, sorry, but to equate homosexuality with murder is unreasonable.

        A better comparison would be homosexuality and heterosexual remarriage (both condemned in Scripture).

        What have churches done to help divorced heterosexuals live celibate lives until the day they die as commanded by Scripture? I’ll give you a hint: it’s a trick question. Most churches have facilitated second and even third marriages for divorced heterosexuals rather than live as the Bible requires.

        • Gus Nelson

          James: First, I agree with you that the church has done a very bad job of teaching correctly about divorce and, as a result, we have many unrepentant heterosexual couples living in sin under the auspices of churches. However, I wasn’t trying to equate any sin with any other sin, but rather, trying to show that repentance is required, no matter what the sin. I wasn’t clear if Nathan was indicating churches did a bad job of relating to gays because of their position on homosexual behavior as sin, or because they’ve just done a lousy job from a relationship standpoint. Thus, my questioning him to try to figure out his point of view.

          • Paul Reed

            All sins are equal in the sense that only 1 can forever separate us from God’s love, but not all sins are equally grievous. Certain sins, like homosexuality, are considered especially heinous and unnatural by God. We must not retreat on the issue of homosexuality just because the culture is moving that way.

  • amygracemeredithh

    Would that our churches held their congregants to the same moral fiber that they hold others to. So many with adultery issues. No many with bigotry against those of different color and race. So many who are gluttons. So many who cheat and steal. So many who are self important and arrogant. So many who treat their wives and children abominably How has this issue, become THE most important issue of our day. No matter that for families such as my own, there is no shelter from the storm. There is no sanctuary. There is rarely love. It is difficult enough to tell someone in a christian church that we have a son who is gay and now legally married. It’s like having a dirty disease. “we’ll be praying for you” no you won’t, you are just glad it isn’t you. The assumption of course, is that somehow we did something wrong or we ARE wrong for continuing to love our son and his partner. You can theorize and legalize all you want, but “THE CHURCH” has slammed its doors in the face of a hurting world. A PERSONAL, REAL LIVED IN world. why is it so easy to take care of the poor, but not gays and lesbians? If Jesus reduced the commandments to only two, why cannot we also do the same and leave the work of God’s Holy Spirit in a man or woman’s heart, to Him. The way Christians speak gays and lesbians in these posts and writings has turned many many away from the healing and life found in Jesus. Lord, come quickly we are so lost.

    • Gus Nelson

      Amygracemeredith: I am sorry for the obvious pain you have experienced, apparently at the hands of people claiming to be Christians. You are right that the church has not done a good job of dealing with gays and lesbians. Your comment isn’t clear to me, but suggests that hypocrisy in dealing with other sins is causing problems in leading gays and lesbians to the church. This may be true. The difficulty that arises, though, is that people who are gluttonous, or who are cheating or stealing, to use some of your examples, often recognize their sin, even if the church doesn’t say anything. Many in the gay community deny that their behavior (not the same sex attraction itself) is sin. This presents a real challenge for the church. It can’t simply be ignored. I’d very much like to know what you think would be good ways for churches to handle this without simply caving in to cultural pressures and just ignoring the behavior.

      • Lauren Bertrand

        “The difficulty that arises, though, is that people who are gluttonous, or who are cheating or stealing, to use some of your examples, often recognize their sin, even if the church doesn’t say anything. ”

        Really? Do they? Do churches cast aside their gluttons? I have never heard of such a thing. While some gluttons acknowledge their sin, the vast majority have not—or else obesity rates in the US would be declining (they aren’t)–and the built environment has accommodated them. We didn’t need to have motorized scooters in department stores 40 years ago, nor did we need extra long seat belts in our airplanes.

        Amygracemeredith raised some excellent points that it would behoove the Evangelical church to recognize…if it cares about its own future, which is looking more akin to the Mainline churches each day.

        • Lauren Bertrand

          Gus Nelson, I apologize for misreading the second clause in your sentence from which I quoted. It sounds like we’re in agreement that churches blithely ignore their adulterers and gluttons, which, of course, means that they cherry pick the Bible verses that best align with their pre-existing prejudices and preferences…just like everyone else who calls himself or herself a Christian (as well as all those non-Christians).

          • Gus Nelson

            Lauren: I agree churches don’t do a good job of tackling sin – church discipline is sadly lacking across the spectrum. However, I’ve never heard anyone argue that Scripture doesn’t condemn adultery, gluttony, or stealing (for instance) but have read numerous arguments that homosexual behavior is not sin. As for cherry picking, I’m not sure what you are suggesting, so it might help to have specifics.

    • luli

      you are sooooooooo right! Churches and so called Christians nowadays only talk about the sin of homosexuality yet they never mention so many other sins. So many remarriages but no one talks about it because churches would be empty and then there will be no $$$. Whenever i go to a Christian page i see why there are so many atheists in the world. We are supposed to love people and irradiate God’s love. We are not God to condemn their sins as we are all sinners. We are to love and God will do the rest. God bless.

  • Chad Dirkse

    I am saddened by much of the process of expressing concern on the decision by WH. Bidding fairwell to WH on Twitter doesn’t seem to fit the concept of speaking the truth in love. It is most definitely appropriate to address concerns within the flow of discourse but it appears a little impulse control could have helped frame the conversation around the most important issues rather than stirring the pot in ways that look a lot more like arrogance than loving exhortation to consider what Biblical truth is in difficult and often divisive issues. I wonder if the the seeker is apt to look into our interactions and see an amazing God or if they are more apt to look in and wander away to find another god whose followers aren’t so snarky.

  • Curt Day

    World Vision’s decision is most unfortunate but perhaps if the Church had included with its opposition to homosexuality, tolerance for same-sex marriages in society, then this pendulum swing based decision might have been avoided.

  • Roy Fuller

    Hmmm. Denny says, “Thus it is impossible to be a “follower of Christ” while endorsing or participating in a same-sex marriage.” 1 Corinthians 6 says, “9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a] 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” As has been stated above, there are plenty of people in our churches who are living in sin as adulterers, having divorced on unbiblical grounds, Paul places such persons, “adulterers” in the same category with those who have sex with men. Does this mean it is impossible to be a follower of Christ while endorsing the adulterers in our pews? And I wonder exactly where is the verse which says that it is impossible to be follower of Christ while endorsing same-sex marriage? One may disagree with those who support same-sex marriage, one may believe them to be heretics, but Denny claims it is impossible to be a Christian with such views. While on one level I can appreciate such certitude, the hubris such a statement represents is frightening, but not surprising.

  • Jason Kates

    Well now there’s this: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/march-web-only/world-vision-reverses-decision-gay-same-sex-marriage.html

    “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.”

  • Ted G.

    Very irresponsible to so quickly call someone a False Prophet. Still stand by those words considering WV’s reversal? Grace is elusive for some.

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