The World Vision Controversy: How Do We React?

You might think much of this week was about World Vision when, in fact, it wasn’t.  You might think it was about the innocent boys and girls abandoned by thousands of sponsors.  Sadly, it wasn’t even about that.

This week was all about us (the church), and how our feelings and personal discrimination continue to cloud and at times completely render meaningless the words of Christ.

Perhaps World Vision’s CEO Rich Stearns should have left well enough alone and not decided to say or do anything this week.  But as is the messy analogy goes, you can’t get toothpaste back in the tube once it’s out.

On Tuesday, World Vision decided they would hire married gays to work for them.  The reaction was as divided as you might expect.  Tragically, we expect even the church of Christ to be divided.  And so it was.  One side touting World Vision as heroes, as true Christ-followers who were showing God’s love via employment of homosexuals.

On the other side, noted evangelicals such as Franklin Graham and John Piper came out sternly against the organization.  Many others via social media stated there were other organizations to sponsor children through, and World Vision clearly wasn’t following the Bible.

Then came Wednesday.  World Vision did a complete about face.

In a reversal that came barely 24 hours later, World Vision announced they changed their minds, and were not going to hire married gays to work for them.

The flip flop of support from both divided sides would have been laughable if it were any other group of people besides the church.  The evangelicals praised the move as World Vision seeing “the error of the ways”.  Many “progressive” Christians took to Twitter to voice anger and hurt, people like author Rachel Held Evans, among others, stated on Wednesday she was embarrassed to be a Christian.  

So here we are now, mere days after a whirlwind of drama that (once again) revolved around the issue of gay marriage.  No chicken sandwiches in the crossfire this time, just little boys and girls existing in far off worlds, bellies distended with hunger.

First, can we take a minute to breathe?

Ahhhh.  There we go.

It’s unfathomable at this point to think that on Monday, World Vision was nothing but an incredible charity that was doing phenomenal work both here in the states and overseas.  Now, they too will join the cast of Christian groups/organizations/churches that are bigots, not Christ-like, and simply caved in to the pressure of conservative believers.

In the interest of full disclosure, my wife and I have sponsored a little girl from Kenya since 2004.  We send money monthly and occasionally more when the situation calls for it.  We correspond with her (though admittedly not as much as we probably should), and get pictures and notes back from her and her community.  

We were firm in our sponsorship of her despite World Vision’s one day decision to hire gays.  In my opinion, the purpose of the organization is to help those that are in most desperate need for it.  

World Vision goes beyond just providing food and clothing.  They train single moms on job skills and help them get business loans.  They develop complex irrigation systems for poor farmers to extend their growing season.  They provide safety for young girls and women that have been rescued from sex trafficking and slavery.

These things go beyond an employees sexual orientation.  These are the very heart of God to care for the orphans and widows.

Though I didn’t agree with the decision to hire married gays, it wasn’t going to stop me from continuing my support of Stacy from Kenya.  And regardless of your feelings on homosexuality, I wonder why could God not use a gay person to help save a child in need?  Did he not use a prostitute named Rahab to help the Israelites take the city of Jericho?  And her name is mentioned in Hebrews 11:31 in the “Hall of Faith”.

On Wednesday, when World Vision reversed their decision, you would have thought someone came and threw shackles on believers in the gay community.  It was as if the evangelical church had pressed bigotry into the flesh of charity, pushing out those they disagree with.

The issue I sincerely hope everyone sees here is this: what happened this week 1) pointed out some deep breaks in the Christian community, and 2) proved the idol of discrimination and/or sexuality 

We are divided.  The issue of gay marriage, save for the whole theme of homosexuality itself, is a faultline that continues to shift the fragile foundation of unity we have as a church family.

But let’s not pretend this idol hasn’t caused concerns on both sides.  The conservative evangelicals seem to have an head-scratching tendency to herald homosexuality as the most vile of sins, often looking past the more common evils in their own backyard such as divorce, pride, and greed.

On the other side, the progressive Christians can only see wrong in any church or organization that doesn’t show tolerance and acceptance to the gay lifestyle, despite those places deep conviction that being gay is sinful.  On Tuesday, these Christians were giddy over World Vision’s new hiring policy, even to the point that blogger Kristen Howerton had convinced hundreds to sponsor kids through World Vision knowing many would be abandoned by conservatives.

Then on Wednesday, progressives changed their tunes.  Suddenly, the church was against them (again).  The love of Christ was traded in for financial gain by World Vision.  The utopia of an all-inclusive Christian charity faded quicker than it even began to form.

And so the proof showed in the pudding as it always does: the ultimate issue here was never what it should have been (and always was before): the well-being of less fortunate women and children.  The issue became gay marriage, why one side ignores scripture and accepts it and why the other ignores scripture and rejects it.  Our own need to have our opinions heard (if not validated) became the star of the show.  Meanwhile, hundreds, if not thousands of children who don’t stand on either side of the issue (because they’re struggling just to live) take the ultimate blow of lack of justice and mercy.

So sit back and relax.  Breathe.  The dust from all the World Vision drama will settle, and flames of temper on both sides will cool down.  

Sponsorship will hopefully increase, and God will restore to health, freedom, and boundless love the little boys and girls and abused women and worn down men that were made in His very image.

Stacy, our sponsored girl from Kenya, is going to be 14 later on this year.  She’s spending her time in school, her chores gathering firewood, and free time kicking around a soccer ball.

And unless the core mission of World Vision changes, our money will continue to support her and her community in Kenya.  Why?  Because of this:

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

(Matt. 25:34-40)