World Vision’s decision is applauded by some and appalling to others. Preferences aside, whatever this announcement is, it is certainly not neutral. Any commentary otherwise is naive mythology at best and calculated deception at worst. I’d like to suggest that before the fundies pull funding or the libs empty their wallets, let’s first consider how we should think about this.
This announcement should outrage both the Christians who affirm homosexuality and the Christians who denounce it.
All of us approach truth with our fists tightly clinched to our haggered bag of things we want to be true, desperately hope are true and notions we’re hell bent on pretending are true regardless of what evidence and authority say otherwise. This reality is as true for middle-aged white men, with bad suits and obvious comb-overs as it is for tattooed, hipster Christians, who are heavier on cynicism than orthodoxy.
Because we’re human, we likely read the announcement with a heart that was primed to affirm our preferences first. For those of us who have cast our lot with Christ, we don’t stop there. Instead of going with our gut. Instead of going with consensus. Instead of any other standard–we defer to the words of Jesus. This commonly means that a paradox plays out in our hearts and minds as we submit our opinions, with glad reluctance, in exchange for truth. This humbling affair is not lost on the serious reader of the Gospels.
In short, following him means turning away from all other flashing beacons of enlightenment. Covered in the dust of our rabbi, we press on in his wake. We stand under his Word as we consider all things convenient and controversial. We follow him even when and especially when doing so means denying ourselves. If we are Christians who want homosexuality to be wrong–we submit that preference to him. We choose his way over our own. If we are Christians who want homosexuality to be right–we submit that preference to him. We choose his way over our own. As Christians, we affirm that his way is revealed in his Word, the Bible.
So what does this have to do with World Vision?
By their own admission, this new stance is driven by the current events within American Christianity. It isn’t that World Vision’s understanding of Scripture has changed, but that the moral landscape within churches and denominations is changing.
“Same-sex marriage has only been a huge issue in the church in the last decade or so. There used to be much more unity among churches on this issue, and that’s changed.”-Richard Stearns, President of World Vision
“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.” -Richard Stearns, President of World Vision
Clearly they want to maintain their Christian identity (following Jesus) and maintain the broadest unity possible. What are Jesus followers supposed to do when maintaining unity with others requires pretending that Jesus’ words are not clear on a controversial matter? If World Vision’s leadership legitimately believes that scripture is not clear, this is an issue of hermeneutics. If they believe it is clear but pretend it’s not, this becomes an issue of integrity and authority. It would seem that World Vision’s decision falls in the latter category.
Regardless of your preferences, if you are Christian who wants to trust and follow Jesus above all else, why would you entrust an organization with your dollars who will abandon Jesus for another authority when facing adversity and difficult decisions?
I disagree with and am disappointed by World Vision. Not because they risked standing for convictions, but because they risked conviction by daring not to stand.