Thoughts After World Vision’s Initial Policy Change

Greg Strand – March 27, 2014 Leave a comment

As you have now read, World Vision has changed their short-lived policy of allowing couples in same-sex “marriage” to be employees of their ministry. They affirm the biblical teaching of marriage to be between a man and a woman. Furthermore, they continue to affirm the biblical truth that sex outside of biblically permitted marriage is not allowed for employees. This is a great decision. We rejoice with this recommitment to the authority of the Word of God.

I thought it might be helpful to see some of the comments that were shared during the day on this blog after the initial change to broaden the moral requirement was announced, a policy that went contrary to the biblical truth.

Since there was good interaction and since many do not read the interaction in the comments, I thought it would be helpful to include them below. I have not asked permission from those who commented, but since they have commented publicly on the blog, I am simply bringing it to the forefront in the actual blog because it is instructive, and I believe it will also be helpful to others.

Let me say this again – though World Vision’s policy has been changed, I share this with the hope that it will be instructive about how to think through and respond to these sorts of things that will (when, not if) happen in the future. I will follow this post with “Thoughts After World Vision’s Reversal of Decision”

Comment

Moore’s comment, “We’re entering an era where we will see who the evangelicals really are, and by that I mean those who believe in the gospel itself, in all of its truth and all of its grace. And many will shrink back. There are no riots if the gospel you’re preaching doesn’t threaten the silversmiths of the Temple of Artemis. And there are no clucking tongues if the gospel you’re preaching isn’t offered to tax collectors and temple prostitutes.” is absolutely powerful…because it is true.

The church in Congo is struggling with “Do we turn our heads to this and continue to receive wages based on a U.S. standard and water and schools and health care?”, or “Do we choose to give it up because of what we believe?” It’s been a bridge on the horizon they haven’t wanted to cross.

Response

Thank you for your comment, Jim. It is true that the church in Congo will need to wrestle through this, not, I trust, questioning the truth of the gospel, but how to proceed faithfully as they move away from the ministry of World Vision. And just as the church in the Congo will struggle with this, so will many Evangelicals, including my family personally, who are supporting a child through World Vision.

This is another example of a ministry who has, tragically, moved in the direction of the social gospel at the expense of the true gospel. Unity trumps truth. As Evangelicals, we must remain tethered to the text and grounded in the gospel. This means that the gospel is foundational to doctrine and practice. The truth of the gospel is the ground of unity. Apart from it, it is not true gospel and it is not real unity. Furthermore, we must be wise and discerning that we do not allow the pendulum swing to move us to the gospel divorced from its entailments, as the Fundamentalists did a century ago.

Comment

Stearns forced bad options on many supporters. I guess I hope folks with fulfill their commitment to the child they are sponsoring, while letting World Vision know when that is fulfilled, they are gone.

Is this a good time to tell of another option for supporting children?

GlobalFingerprints

GlobalFingerprints is the child sponsorship ministry of ReachGlobal. We partner with national churches around the world to send children to school and help care for their physical, spiritual and emotional needs.

Change a child’s life for $35/month in Congo, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Liberia or Zambia.

Response

Thank you for your reply, Kerry. Stearns and the board of World Vision have made a poor policy decision based on cultural expediency, not biblical truth. It will force many to rethink and reconsider supporting children through World Vision. Sadly, it is the children who suffer most directly. I appreciate the link to the ReachGlobal ministry of GlobalFingerprints.

Matthew Lee Anderson has also written of some options for how to respond to this change.

Comment

Well, there’s always Compassion International and Global Fingerprints …

Response

Thank you for your response, Dave. As you see below, GlobalFingerprints was suggested.

One asked a question on FB about this as well. He made the point that this decision will affect children, and we need to take that into consideration. Here was my response.

Because many Christians will no longer support children through World Vision does not mean they will not be supporting children. There are many other organizations that will continue to support children and they will do so solidly grounded in the gospel of Jesus Christ. One very good alternative for those in the EFCA is RachBlobal’s Global Fingerprints.

Here is a response from Matthew Lee Anderson providing some suggestions of how to respond to this World Vision’s policy change in light of remembering the children (cf. above since I included the link in an earlier comment).

The first thing to do is, of course, inform World Vision USA of your conclusion and the difficulty they have subsequently thrown you into. Angry, belligerent emails and phone calls are not a Christian mode of response. But level-headed, patient, and clear reasoning can be. It would be prudent to ask for World Vision to set up pathways for people who have decided they can no longer give to continue corresponding and supporting their child directly, as a sign of their willingness to help those who disagree with their new vision carry on those modes of communication that first and foremost make World Vision a Christian organization, even if it costs the organization a great deal of money and time to ensure that it can happen. Opening up such pathways would convey not World Vision’s commitment to unity of the right sort, namely that which respects and seeks to maintain lines of communication within and across real and substantive disagreements that it recognizes must be maintained.

Second, it seems to me that continuing to give in a situation where there has been a substantive relationship established with a child would be appropriate, at least for a season. Given that education and formation happens at the local level, and that the other branches of World Vision are not beholden to World Vision USA’s decision, there is nothing substantive lost by maintaining support temporarily. The boundaries of a “substantive relationship” are, of course, somewhat fuzzy. In the abstract, what sort of relationship qualifies is impossible to discern. But some sort of differences are obvious, as I noted above, and those differences introduce genuine and substantive reasons for acting that must be accounted for in this case.

But I would add a qualification to this, if support continues: I would notify World Vision USA that the continuing of support is for the purposes of the child alone, and that when the financial-support relationship comes to an end (as it does automatically at age 21, and at other ages for a variety of reasons) it will not be renewed or transferred to another child, but will be taken to another organization. There would be two ways to look at this sort of communication: either it could be seen as ‘holding World Vision hostage’ by threatening to remove financial contributions, or it could be a form of ‘informing World Vision USA of a decision so they can make alternate arrangements’. Which description belongs may depend entirely on how the communication is given: non-profits need to know how to project their finances, and giving them some advance warning that support would be withdrawn at least allows them to seek alternative means of funding in the interim.

But the effects of these sorts of organizational decisions are often slower moving than internet responses or commentary. The logic of the traditional marriage case depends upon a commitment to something like a “moral ecology,” but that means that the effects of certain decisions are not often known until several generations later. Analogically, this sort of symbolic move will have a substantive effect on the moral ethos of World Vision USA, but the fruit in its own organizational life and in its relationship to the broader World Vision organization (the structure of which is not entirely clear to me) may not grow for a while. For those who are committed to supporting particular children, that delay is a benefit, as it allows support to continue while still expressing a fundamental disagreement and communicating to World Vision USA the reasons for such a disagreement and the end-point of any future support or help. It’s a slow withdrawal, to be sure, but we are to be patient in doing good, even when doing good demands changing the recipients of our support.

Third, I would begin any new contributions with another organization and encourage those who ask to do the same. Food for the Hungry, Compassion International, and others do similarly good work to World Vision. Best of all may be your own denominational support structures, which presumably are accountable to the body where you worship.

Though the ministries mentioned by Anderson do not work the same way as World Vision, I include this post as a possibility of options, simply acknowledging them as options. Though Anderson’s response is certainly not definitive, referring to him is simply an example of how one is thinking this through with possible alternatives to a ministry of mercy to children apart from World Vision.

Comment

Greg, thanks for your comments on World Vision. I am assuming the next time you do the class this at church this decision will come up.

Response

Thank you for your comments to the post. I will address this matter on Sunday. I have two concerns on this matter as people process this decision.

First, I have a concern with the younger Evangelicals who are attracted to the social implications of the gospel, issues like compassion and justice, but do so assuming the biblical gospel. It is important to understand these issues and how they relate to one another. I refer to this as the doctrinal centrality of the gospel, i.e. the biblical gospel, and the functional centrality of the gospel, i.e. its entailments in life and ministry.

Second, I also have concerns for other Evangelicals who will feel the weight and concern of the older slide into the social gospel, those churches that moved into theological liberalism, so that they will end up only focusing on the biblical gospel without acknowledging and exhorting one to ponder seriously the entailments of the gospel.

Greg Strand

Posts

Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

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