World Vision and the Redefinition of Christianity

Yesterday news struck that World Vision, one of the top ten charitable organizations in the world would no longer prohibit the hiring of Christians in open homosexual relationships.

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.

Abstinence outside of marriage remains a rule. But a policy change announced Monday [March 24] will now permit gay Christians in legal same-sex marriages to be employed at one of America’s largest Christian charities.

World Vision argues that the decision about whether or not homosexuality is a sin is a theological question and as a parachurch organization they leave open theological questions to be solved by local churches. This news did not go unnoticed.

Russell Moore responded:

At stake is the gospel of Jesus Christ. If sexual activity outside of a biblical definition of marriage is morally neutral, then, yes, we should avoid making an issue of it. If, though, what the Bible clearly teaches and what the church has held for 2000 years is true, then refusing to call for repentance is unspeakably cruel and, in fact, devilish.

John Piper posted:

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.

Trevin Wax posting at Gospel Coaltion said:

Sex is our god. Children are our sacrifice.


Albert Mohler challenged [perhaps my favorite of all the responses]:

Richard Stearns has every right to try to make his case, but these arguments are pathetically inadequate. Far more than that, his arguments reveal basic issues that every Christian ministry, organization, church, and denomination will have to face — and soon.

The distinction between an “operational arm” of the church and a “theological arm” is a fatal misreading of reality. World Vision claims a Christian identity, claims to serve the kingdom of Christ, and claims a theological rationale for its much-needed ministries to the poor and distressed. It cannot surrender theological responsibility when convenient and then claim a Christian identity and a theological mandate for ministry.

I think there is much that is tragic about this situation. What stands out to me most keenly is that our culture’s interest and preoccupation with sexual identity is causing a subtle redefinition of Christianity.  I agree with Word Vision that human sexuality is not at the core of Christianity, it ought not be a part of their intentionally inclusive statement of faith.  But the question of righteous Christian living in regards to sexual practice has become so decisive that I think many churches and organizations will be tempted to place their understanding of Biblical sexuality at the top of their doctrinal standards.

10 thoughts on “World Vision and the Redefinition of Christianity

  1. Is World Vision’s agnostic position on homosexual relations within legal marriage any different in principle than an agnostic position on any other theological issue debated among Christians that is not part of the core of Christianity?

  2. To say, “The question of whether homosexuality is a sin is for local churches to solve,” is like federal politicians saying the abortion issue is for the states to solve, or like Abraham Lincoln saying the southern states should be allowed to solve their slavery problem on their own—Lincoln didn’t say that. He wasn’t a coward.

  3. Jared, perhaps but they are still making a judgement about premarital sex and the passages they use to make those judgments are the same passages that condemn homosexuality.

    Read Mohler’s article for more on why this approach is problematic.

  4. World Vision’s position here seems to be a highly problematic one. If they had a history of simply not employing some sort of ethos compatibility criterion in their hiring practices, this would not really be a matter of new concern. However, by employing ethos compatibility criteria but excepting the issue of homosexuality, they have effectively chosen – even if they wish to pretend that it’s a form of neutrality – to communicate a new ethos, one that deviates at this culturally contested point from the uniform biblical and historic tradition of the Christian faith. John Piper is right (and shame on World Vision for giving me cause to type that).

    It is difficult to carve out space for an officially agnostic stance when it comes to significant ethical issues like this – moreso than with other theological divergences in modern Christianity. The only even somewhat legitimate difference that readily springs to mind is the issue of pacifism versus advocates of, say, just war theory.

    As it stands, World Vision’s new stance is not genuine neutrality; it is capitulation, and it will very likely have negative ramifications for their organization’s ability to see eye-to-eye with a plausibly quite significant demographic of donors – with, I fear, tragic results. Hopefully, for those whose consciences do not sit well with the notion of further partnership with World Vision, they will be able to readily find alternative organizations that can achieve similar goals.

    On a completely different note: At the bottom of each post here, it lists those suggested ‘related’ posts, and then gives the category after the title; and one of the ones I see right now reads as “Turns out, the Bible says that Protestants should unite with Mormons in ‘adultery'”. Had to do a double take!

  5. I think a more tenable “neutral stance” would have been to continue to partner with open and affirming churches which is something other organizations are not always willing to do.

  6. One important point in the opening of Mohler’s piece that ought to catch attention, that this may be a “signal major turning point” in the moral revolution. In this ‘war’ most of our ill-equipped and un-trained Christian ‘troops’ are content to stay behind the front lines and send their ‘generals’ to fight. Of course, real wars are just the opposite. We have lost much moral ground with our silence. To change this course, It will take everyday Christian ‘troops’ who are willing to be salt and light to their neighbors. We need to begin by untangling all the confused talk about “love”

  7. Pingback: How Evangelical Christians Showed They Care Neither About Children Nor Marriage | Irresistible (Dis)Grace

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