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World Vision

April 5, 2014

World Vision U.S. Changes Same-Sex Marriage Hiring Policy
Part 1

Richard Stearns, president of World Vision USA, did a complete reversal of the boards policy change 48 hours prior, after intense reaction, criticism and withdrawal of support by some. While not unanimous, the board was according to Stearns, "overwhelming in favor" of the initial policy change. 1

Monday March 24, Stearns announced that they would no longer require their 1,100 plus employees to restrict their sexual activity to marriage, that is, the Biblical standard of being between one man and one woman. Although abstinence outside of marriage remains a rule, the policy change permitted gay Christians in state sanctioned legal same-sex marriages to be employed by them.

In an exclusive interview with Christianity Today, Richard Stearns had explained the rationale behind their change for this condition of employment. In that interview he discussed what pressures were involved and whether other Christian groups with faith-based hiring policies should follow their lead.

Claiming then that the "very narrow policy change" should be viewed as "symbolic not of compromise but of [Christian] unity".  1 With hopes the policy would allow unity and avoid division currently "tearing churches apart, tearing denominations apart, tearing Christian colleges apart, and even tearing families apart." 1 By allowing same-sex relationships and marriages for employees, World Vision wanted to maintain their para-church philosophy of deferring to churches and denominations on theological issues, so that it can focus on uniting Christians around serving the poor.

"Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues," he said. "It also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage."1

Stearns claimed that the policy change did not mean what some might suggest, "This isn't an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support" 

"We're not caving to some kind of pressure. We're not on some slippery slope. There is no lawsuit threatening us. There is no employee group lobbying us," said Stearns. "This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues. We're an operational arm of the global church, we're not a theological arm of the church."

"This is simply a decision about whether or not you are eligible for employment at World Vision U.S. based on this single issue, and nothing more." 1

The problem is, one cannot separate being a Christian and being obedient to Christ and the Word, by claiming it's left to churches and denominations to decide what's right before God. Each believer is accountable before God to uphold living Christ and abiding the Word as the standard for our doctrine. Being part of an ecumenical para-church organization, although it provides an easy excuse, isn't an opt out on living Christ in every aspect of what we do and say.

One of the largest ecumenical charities under the umbrella of being called "Christian", and on of the US's top 10 charities, World Vision U.S. took in more than a billion dollars in revenue last year. It reportedly serves an estimated 100 million people in 100 countries. The promotion for giving is that one needs to sponsor poor or starving children, which invariably tears at the hearts of supporters, but that sponsorship money does not go to any of the children directly.

Richards Stearns acknowledged that other Christian organizations might look to World Vision for leadership on defending faith hiring practices, as they had in the past. He wanted observers to understand why World Vision is voluntarily changing its own policy. While World Vision has never asked about sexual orientation when interviewing job candidates, they do screen employees for their Christian faith. They ask if the applicant can affirm the Apostles' Creed or World Vision's Trinitarian statement of faith. 1

If I might point out, statements of faith are a dime a dozen. Presenting and or agreeing to a "Creed" or "statement of faith" is really nothing for those who are or are not of Christ. There are many false gospels and other Jesus' who are being promoted and followed, and we have been warned in the Scriptures of those things. Many would willing say they affirm all doctrine within those documents, and they may wholeheartedly agree, but the reality is they may not know Jesus Christ of the Scriptures. Many are culture Christians believing they are in a Christian nation, therefore they are Christian. Many conservatives believe that makes them 'Christian'. Jesus said we would know them by their fruit. Whether one believes, declares and lives Christ, and abides the Word for their doctrine and standard of life, is what actually reveals whether someone belongs to Jesus Christ, because it's part of the fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

According to Stearns, World Vision's policy for employees "holds a very high bar for all manner of conduct." Regarding sexual activity, World Vision has always required abstinence for all single employees, and fidelity for all married employees. Which means nothing if it is just words or holds a double meaning.

Realistically, the hiring policy issue was brought forward because of World Vision being ecumenical and having staff from more than 50 denominations, some of which have sanctioned same-sex marriages or unions.

Stearns claimed the new policy reflects World Vision's para-church and multi-denominational nature. Many will ask, does it reflect sound doctrine found within the Scriptures?

"It's kind of a historical issue," said Stearns. "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." "Our board felt we cannot jump into the fight on one side or another on this issue. We've got to focus on our mission. We are determined to find unity in our diversity." 1

Unfortunately that's the worlds mantra, "unity in diversity". Stearns really wants all to believe it's about making a statement about unity. He believes that it's part of Christ's commission to bridge the gap differences and come together "in our unity." He believes that Christians have not "finished Christ's mission for the church" because, according to Stearns, we've been divided and apparently distracted by too many other things. He believes Christians need to find, "unity beyond diversity in the Christian church."

We are already one in Christ, if we believe Christ and abide the Bible for our doctrine and decisions. Paul admonished:

Philippians 2:1-2 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, (2) Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

Philippians 3:14-17 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (15) Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. (16) Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. (17) Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark
them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

World Vision board member, Pastor John Crosby, sat as interim leader when churches split off from the Presbyterian Church (USA) after that denomination dropped their celibacy requirement for gay clergy in 2011. At a historical conference that laid the foundation of the new Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians, he stated, "We have tried to create such a big tent trying to make everybody happy theologically. I fear the tent has collapsed without a center."1

However the division caused by accepting gay pastors and then removal of the celibacy policy there, didn't keep Crosby from voting for the policy change. He believes that it's merely a matter of deciding what the core mission of an organization is.

Crosby stated that the same-sex marriage decision was about making sure that World Vision is focused on its mission to eliminate poverty worldwide. In agreement with Stearns statements, he believes that because World Vision stretches across countless cultural and theological divides in a hundred countries, the issue of theology and how to interpret Scripture should be left to the local church. He also believes many support World Vision because of it's claimed Christian identity. 1

Another Board member and a seminary professor, Soong-Chan Rah believes leaving the theology to others "honors the church as a whole." Reiterating Stearns statements, he noted that the policy change was not a statement going in any particular direction, but rather the intent is to "acknowledge the proper relationship between the church and the para-church." 1

He also believes that a lesson to be learned from this policy change is the "value of having conversations and commitment to prayer". Not just over same-sex marriage issues, but all controversial issues which divide the church.

That said, in 2010 World Vision U.S. fought for the right of Christian organizations to hire and fire based on faith statements and won at the U.S. Supreme Court level. It also opposed an attempt in 2012 by USAID to "strongly encourage" faith based contractors to make specific anti-discrimination policies which included sexual orientation or be at risk of losing federal funds.

In Uganda, where a new law criminalizing gays and lesbians has been opposed by World Vision Uganda, it stated: "The issue of same-sex relationships will neither prevent us from serving children, families and communities around the world, nor obstruct our collaboration with one another and with our partner organizations"

The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington reported that World Vision had reduced its U.S. workforce by 10 percent over the past 15 months as expenses have risen and government grants have decreased. As a result, in January Stearns wrote to 408,000 donors in an unprecedented appeal asking child sponsors to increase their giving due to cutbacks. 17

World Vision, incidentally, caps federal funding at 35% of it's cash revenues. However, Stearns claimed that government funding had no impact on their hiring policy decision.

"If the U.S. government ever requires us to give up our religious hiring rights in exchange for grants, we would walk away from U.S. grants. World Vision's ministry is not for sale." 1

Stearns gave assurance that the policy change would not affect World Vision's partnership with ministries that maintain current faith-based bans on same-sex behavior. For Stearns, it was strictly about whether this issue should be a condition of employment at World Vision U.S.

Richard Stearns was adamant the same-sex marriage hiring policy change would not impact World Vision's identity or work in the field. "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," he said.

Stearns also declared that the hiring policy decision was not about "compromising the authority of Scripture," as some would later respond with. Many theologians and denominations disagree the issue is about compromising Scripture, instead believing their particular Bible allows for it. Stearns, along with many others, said the church is divided on this and many issues. However, he claims because World Vision U.S. is not 'the local church', but rather an operational or para-church organization, their goal of serving the poor unites Christians, "in the name of Christ" (and any supporters  regardless of religious beliefs who wishes to donate or they enter into partnership with). Their website states they are, "a Christian relief, development and advocacy organization".



Next Section:

World Vision U.S. Reverses 2 Day Policy Change On Same-Sex Marriages


For more information about World Vision please see:

World Vision ~ A U.N. Global Vision >

            Institute for Global Engagement & Eastern College > 


World Vision Cont. ~ United With Belial>
         Global Education >
         World Vision Board Members (2001) >

Footnotes/Source Articles

1. World Vision: Why We're Hiring Gay Christians in Same-Sex Marriages , March 24, 2014 > Christianity Today, March, 2014

2. World Vision Reverses Decision To Hire Christians in Same-Sex Marriages March 26, 2014

3. World Vision, in reversal, won’t hire Christians in same-sex marriages Posted on March 26, 2014 | By Joel Connelly

4. World Vision Press Release > World Vision U.S. Board Reverses Decision >

5. Letter from World Vision Canada President, Dave Toycen, on World Vision Canada’s hiring practices _ About World Vision.htm

6, Our Christian identity Responding to World Vision US hiring policy discussion _ World Vision Canada Church Engagement

7. Christian Relief Agency World Vision to Hire Married Gay “Christians”

8. Major Evangelical Charity to Hire Married Gay Christians >

9. Christian Group That Flip-Flopped on Gay Marriage Loses Donors >

10. On World Vision and the Gospel _ Moore to the Point

11. Forum Research Inc >

12. Ipsos Global >Same-Sex Marriage (June 2013)

13.  An apology is not enough - World Vision needs to clean house   Bryan Fischer - Guest Columnist > Thursday, March 27, 2014

14. Same-sex marriage in Canada

15. Where is gay marriage legal?

16. Gay Marriage Around the World [updated Feb 5, 2014]

17. World Vision trims workforce as expenses rise, grants decline :Since 2010, it has laid off 120 U.S. employees, including 52 in Federal Way > By STEVE MAYNARD , March 20, 2014  >


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