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Wednesday, 26 March 2014

World Vision and 'that' decision

If you haven't seen this reported (and if you're not a Christian who supports 'World Vision' there is no reason you should have) child sponsorship charity World Vision this week basically announced a change in staffing policy indicating some level of support for gay relationships and then, 2 days later it retracted it. World Vision is a charity whose aim is to reach some of the worlds poorest children and raises most of its funds through child sponsorship. As a Christian charity it has prided itself on its Christian foundation and values. 

Earlier this week WV announced in a letter to staff that it was changing its policy on employee conduct in relationships, and would allow those in same sex marriages to be employed within the organisation. (Now your first reaction may be that it would have been illegal not to, but this happened in the US and I am not entirely sure what the law states there, but that is not what I want to focus on.)

WV states the following:
By way of background, our board of directors is recognized as one of the leaders among Christian organizations in the U.S. It includes deeply spiritual and wise believers, among them several pastors, a seminary president, and a professor of theology. Since this policy change involves the sensitive issue of human sexuality, the board spent several years praying about and discussing this issue.

They have spent several years praying about and discussing this issue. That is not a hasty decision.

They also state:
...since World Vision is a multi-denominational organization that welcomes employees from more than 50 denominations, and since a number of these denominations in recent years have sanctioned same-sex marriage for Christians, the board—in keeping with our practice of deferring to church authority in the lives of our staff, and desiring to treat all of our employees equally—chose to adjust our policy. Thus, the board has modified our Employee Standards of Conduct to allow a Christian in a legal same-sex marriage to be employed at World Vision… We have chosen not to exclude someone from employment at World Vision U.S. on this issue alone.

This seems like a well balanced decision, well thought out and prayed through (regardless of what you feel about the decision). After announcing this decision the Christian internet went into overdrive, with people publicly slamming the organisation and withdrawing support for sponsored children. I read that they had lost sponsorship, in just a few days, for 2000 children. 2000 children? Obviously some people sponsor more than one child but by any estimation this means that at the very least hundreds of people have decided to take their unhappiness at this decision out on some of the worlds poorest children. Where does one even start on this? I am absolutely appalled. If you are reading this as a non Christian, then I am sorry. I apologise to you. I am sorry that people who profess to believe in the same God I do, would do this. I am sorry that yet again you have to read of Christians behaving in this way. If they really feel that strongly then by all means challenge the company, but withdrawing support from some of the poorest kids on the planet? how is that sending a Christian message? How is that showing the love of God…?

So then, it saddens me even more that today the organisation has reversed their decision, seemingly as a direct result of what seems to be emotional blackmail. Their original statement says that they have spent years praying about this. This is not a decision made lightly and yet within just two days they have gone back on it. I have said before and I will say again that I do not know where I stand on gay marriage doctrinally, so I don't want to focus on that,  but what I am sure of is that God loves everyone regardless of colour, race or sexual preference. God does not send people away or turn his back on people. I can't believe that an organisation like this would then bow to people who are effectively turning their back on a biblical principle: to support the poor. And no matter how much you read scripture, I don't believe you can make it say otherwise - God calls us to support and care for the poorest amongst us.

I want to shout at these people, 'how dare you. How dare you?' These people are blessed enough to be able to even consider sponsoring a child. They don't have to worry about having enough food for their children. They don't have to worry about whether their child might die from a treatable condition. They don't have to spare a thought for whether men might come in the night and attack their family. How can you even consider doing this? how can you explain to a child loving in abject poverty, 'oh hey, I'm sorry but I can't help you anymore, because you know those people who come and help you? well I disagree with something they said so I'm taking my money back.' I mean really? 

Christian Blogger Rachel Held Evans has posted on this and here on the reversal, and the comments section shows just how strongly people feel about this issue and I recognise their pain. All that seems to have come out of this situation is just an even bigger row about homosexuality in the church and a heap of poor kids are the ones who are going to suffer because of it. Where is the justice in that?

I love the church but it frustrates me how so often, all people see of it is the arguing, the hateful comments, the hurt and pain caused in the name of faith. It makes me so angry...

Where is the God of love in all this?

edit: 27/3/14
Some further thoughts here and also an interesting link to the Psephizo blog (although I don't agree with all he says) but does provoke some questions is here

The point has been made that withdrawing support doesn't mean withdrawing support from all poor kids, people might donate elsewhere…

Well, of course yes, that withdrawn support may be given to other charities and if someone were finding a charity to support for the first time then I would expect people to look for one with whom they supported the same values. We have done exactly this. 

However withdrawing support in this way I feel is morally wrong on 2 levels. 

1) because the way child sponsorship works is that you don't just send money, but you form a relationship with that child through letters and other communication. Withdrawing support means also withdrawing this relationship, which in some cases would have been built up over years. That affects the child directly, not just the organisation. 

2) Because most charities rely on regular donations to enable them to plan ahead and fund projects, knowing there is a certain level of income. Of course people do change their giving for other reasons but in child sponsorship it is usually seen as a long term commitment to that child. In this case two thousand have reputedly removed their sponsorship already. Even for quite a large organisation like World Vision, this is going to make a big dent. Sponsorship is $35/month, so in one month that would be a loss of $70,000, and over a year $840,000… That surely has to affect their work and I'm sure this is why they reversed the decision, thinking they could stem the flow of people dropping sponsorship quickly. 

and some more interesting thoughts here at David Fitch's blog

Further edit, this just seen on the band Casting Crowns Facebook page:

Dear Friends,
For the past ten years, Casting Crowns has been a voice for World Vision and we've seen over 70,000 children sponsored. We stand on the stage before thousands of people every night and speak on their behalf, but we had no idea their decision concerning same-sex marriage was being discussed or decided.
We've been in 21 countries and almost every state in the U.S. As Jesus-followers, we have purposed that we would never be the band that preached against behavior; but that we would be the band that pointed people to Jesus. We are all broken and we all need the love and grace that only God can give.
We've never agreed with same-sex marriage; but we've chosen rather than shouting out against life choices, that we would shout out that Jesus is better. Disagreeing with someone's lifestyle is not hate. We simply believe that God has a better way.
World Vision released a statement yesterday reversing the decision that was made earlier this week. After hearing their humble and sincere apology, we are walking through all of the information, seeking Godly council and praying for God's direction on our partnership in the future.
We will always be a voice for the poor and the powerless. Our families will continue to sponsor the World Vision children we've committed to and we encourage others to do the same.
We will always strive to invest our lives in involving families in giving and reaching out to hurting people in the name of Jesus.
Mark Hall
Casting Crowns


Steve Cornforth said...

Excellent blog - I have taken the liberty of mentioning it in my post on the same topic - http://stevecornforth.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/world-vision-discrimination-and-new.html

Red said...

Thanks and thanks for the link! am now following you :)