Update 3/26/14: World Vision has released a statement reversing their recent decision concerning so-called same-sex marriage.
Christianity Today reports that “World Vision’s American branch will no longer require its more than 1,100 employees to restrict their sexual activity to marriage between one man and one woman.” World Vision president, Richard Stearns, clarified, “The new policy will not exclude someone from employment if they are in a legal same-sex marriage.”
World Vision is in the top ten charities in America and took in over a billion dollars last year and serves over a 100 million people in 100 countries.
This “very narrow policy change,” Stearns explained, “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. . . . This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. . . . We’re not caving to some kind of pressure. We’re not on some slippery slope. . . . This is not us compromising. It is us deferring to the authority of churches and denominations on theological issues.”
The rationale for the change is that so-called same-sex marriage is in the same category with differences over baptism, divorce, evolution, and others. “Denominations disagree,” Stearns said, “on many, many things: on divorce and remarriage, modes of baptism, women in leadership roles in the church, beliefs on evolution, etc. . . . So our practice has always been to defer to the authority and autonomy of local churches.”
This issue, Stearns said, “is tearing churches apart, tearing denominations apart, tearing Christian colleges apart, and even tearing families apart. Our board felt we cannot jump into the fight on one side or another on this issue.” Christianity Today seemed to agree that they are not taking a position by asking, “Will supporters, particularly theologically conservative ones, let World Vision adopt a neutral stance on same-sex marriage?” (emphasis added).
Trivializing Perdition and the Cross
This is a tragic development for the cause of Christ, because it trivializes perdition — and therefore, the cross — and because it sets a trajectory for the demise of true compassion for the poor.
When J.I. Packer walked out of the 2002 synod of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster, he was protesting its decision to “bless same-sex unions.” His rationale is relevant for the developments at World Vision.
First, his words about unity expose the crass alignment of homosexual intercourse and baptism as comparable markers for biblical faithfulness. Packer wrote, “It is most misleading, indeed crass, to call this disagreement simply a difference about interpretation, of the kind for which Anglican comprehensiveness has always sought to make room.”
When World Vision says, “We cannot jump into the fight on one side or another on this issue,” here is the side they do, in fact, jump onto: We forbid fornication and adultery as acceptable lifestyles among our employees (which they do), but we will not forbid the regular practice of homosexual intercourse. To presume that this position is not “jumping into the fight on one side or the other” is fanciful.
But worse than fancy, removing homosexual intercourse from its biblical alignment with fornication and adultery (and greed and theft and drunkenness) trivializes its correlation with perdition.
This was at the heart of why J.I. Packer walked. Referring to all these sins, Packer said, “They are ways of sin that, if not repented of and forsaken, will keep people out of God’s kingdom of salvation.”
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9–10)
In other words, to treat regular homosexual intercourse as less dangerous than fornication, adultery, greed, theft, and drunkenness is to treat perdition as if it were a small thing, or not really coming. The same text that imperils active fornicators and adulterers and thieves and coveters, also imperils those who practice homosexuality.
Make no mistake, this so-called “neutral” position of World Vision is a position to regard practicing homosexuals (under the guise of an imaginary “marriage”) as following an acceptable Christian lifestyle, on the analogy of choosing infant baptism over believers’ baptism.
Over against this, the apostle Paul says they will not enter the kingdom of heaven. It is that serious. If it were not, God would not have given his Son to be crucified for our rescue. Therefore, World Vision has trivialized perdition and the cross.
Toward the Demise of True Compassion for the Poor
Of course, World Vision does not intend to shipwreck their legacy of compassion for the poor. But that is what they are doing. I say this for two reasons.
First, World Vision has taken a step away from the cry of biblical love, which says, we care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering. Without care about eternal suffering, care about temporal suffering is a mirage. It looks like love, but the greatest gift is being withheld.
When World Vision embraces as an acceptable alternative behavior what God says will lead to eternal suffering (1 Corinthians 6:9–10), it sets a trajectory of lovelessness.
Second, World Vision has aligned itself with liberal Christians who choose not to renounce homosexual practice. Culturally, historically, and biblically this is a huge step toward the powerlessness and growing irrelevance of the mainline liberal establishment. You cannot undermine biblical authority, and trivialize perdition and its blood-bought remedy, and expect to maintain a vibrant spiritual base. It isn’t going to happen.
This means that, without repentance and change, World Vision will go the way of worldliness and weakness. A great superstructure will remain for a season, but the Christian soul will disappear. And who will suffer most? The poor.
Therefore, for the sake of Christ and his call to true compassion, World Vision’s decision is tragic. I pray they will repent and turn back to their more faithful roots.