March 26, 2014; NPR, “The Two-Way”

Two days after making the announcement, World Vision has reversed its policy regarding the suitability of employees in same-sex marriages in the face of a massive outcry from donors.

The policy change, which was announced on March 24th, would have permitted Christians in legal same-sex marriages to become or remain employees of World Vision, a Christian humanitarian aid, development, and advocacy organization with an operating budget of around $1 billion. This decision would only have an impact in the U.S. branch of World Vision International, and was not intended to represent the organization taking a stance on LBGT issues as a whole. Rather, as World Vision U.S. president Richard Stearns explained to Christianity Today, it was meant as an expression of Christian unity and a consistency of their policy regarding employee sexual expression: “abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage.”

However, those who support and donate to World Vision were appalled by the choice. Reportedly, more than 2,000 sponsorships were dropped in response to the organization’s policy change and 60 church partners called in the following day to drop their affiliation with the international charity. A Dallas theologian called the move “a betrayal of the nature of the Christian community,” and one comment on the Christianity Today website article regarding the decision read as follows:

“No matter World Vision’s excuses, they have chosen to tolerate a lie; that in actual fact removes them from the realm of true Christianity. Hence, I will have to terminate my support for World Vision and find a Christian relief mission that does stand on the unchanging truths clearly revealed in Scripture.”

As a result, World Vision has publicly washed its hands of the more progressive policy. In a letter, Stearns apologized for a policy change that was “simply not consistent … with the authority of Scripture and how we apply Scripture to our lives.” Although the letter does affirm the belief that “all people…are created by God and are to be loved and treated with dignity and respect,” the notion that the issue of same-sex marriage is one where differing churches can disagree is thoroughly walked back.

So far, those who contribute to World Vision appear to have endorsed this backpedalling, calling it doing “the right thing” and lauding them for taking this brave stance in the face of possible withdrawal of government funds. It’s a rare case of a public backlash moving an organization away from what would otherwise be an open, progressive gesture.—Jason Schneiderman