(Photo: Assemblies of God)
The Assemblies of God issued a statement Tuesday encouraging its churches and individual members to gradually shift support away from the U.S. branch of World Vision towards Assemblies of God World Missions, and other Pentecostal and Evangelical charities "that maintain biblical standards of sexual morality."
Denouncing World Vision's decision to allow people who are in a legal same-sex marriages to be employed at the nonprofit organization, George Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, said in a statement shared with The Christian Post on Tuesday that, "On behalf of the General Council of the Assemblies of God, I am writing to express disappointment with the recent policy change of the U.S. branch of World Vision permitting its employees to enter legally valid same-sex marriages."
Wood added that while making this transition in financial support, he "encourages Assemblies of God churches and individuals to remember and continue to put into practice James 1:27 (NIV): 'Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.'"
In a letter to its employees, World Vision President Richard Stearns announced that while the organization is not endorsing same-sex marriage, it recognizes that its staff is comprised of Christians from more than 50 denominations, some of which have sanctioned same-sex marriage. Thus, its board has decided to defer the issue to local churches, in its effort to "treat all of our employees equally."
Stearns' letter regarding World Vision's change in employee practices notes that the board spent several years praying for discernment about their decision after having witnessed the debate over same-sex marriage "tear apart the Body of Christ," in families, churches, Christian universities and denominations.
"Over the past decade perhaps the single 'stormiest' issue within the church has been the debate over same-sex marriage - the question of whether churches should sanction the decision of two Christian individuals with a same-sex orientation to make a lifelong commitment of fidelity to each other in a legal marriage. We have watched as this conflict has torn apart whole denominations, individual congregations, Christian colleges, and even individual Christian families. The net effect of this conflict has been devastating - tearing apart the Body of Christ. It is heartbreaking to watch," Stearns wrote.
He continued, "The board and I wanted to prevent this divisive issue from tearing World Vision apart and potentially crippling our ability to accomplish our vital kingdom mission of loving and serving the poorest of the poor in the name of Christ."
Wood, however, believes that World Vision's recognition of same-sex marriage is not a "narrow policy change," but can best be described as a "fundamental shift away from a normative biblical understanding of marriage as the lifelong union of a man and a woman."
"Far from promoting Christian unity, the policy change enlists World Vision on the liberal Protestant side of the same-sex marriage debate as opposed to that of Pentecostal and Evangelical churches in the U.S., not to mention Pentecostal and Evangelical churches worldwide," said Wood, who represents a fellowship of more than 3 million members.
"… [T]he policy change cannot be construed as anything but an endorsement of same-sex marriage. World Vision requires its employees to practice sexual abstinence outside of marriage. If it now permits its employees to enter legally valid same-sex marriages, then it has explicitly taken a position opposite of Scripture," Wood added.
World Vision noted that employees who are single are expected to abstain from sex, and those who are married, whether in traditional or same-sex marriages, are expected to maintain their fidelity.
Similarly, the board will continue to require that employees "agree to the doctrinal issues enshrined in the Apostles' Creed and/or World Vision's own Statement of Faith."
The Christian Post requested comment from World Vision President Richard Stearns on this policy change, but has received none at time of publication of this article.