- (Photo: World Vision)
Author Rachel Held Evans, who has been described as a liberal evangelical, says the negative reaction against World Vision and its recent announcement that it will begin employing those who are in a same-sex marriage, shows "how out-of-control the evangelical obsession with homosexuality has become."
Reacting to evangelicals who have suggested that Christians should withdraw their support from World Vision, Held Evans stated, "[I]t puts into stark, unsettling relief just how out-of-control the evangelical obsession with homosexuality has become. Organizations don't get 'farewelled' for hiring divorcees. People don't get kicked out of their churches for struggling with pride or for not wearing head coverings when they pray.
"The notion that the way to 'punish' World Vision is to withdraw support from its efforts to feed, clothe, heal, comfort, rescue, and shelter 'the least of these' is so contrary to the teachings of Jesus – particularly Matthew 25:31-46-it's hard to know where to start."
World Vision has come under heavy criticism from a number of evangelical leaders after it announced that it would allow people who are in legal same-sex marriages to be employed at the nonprofit organization. World Vision President Richard Stearns maintained that the organization is not endorsing same-sex marriage but added that the policy change was made to "treat all of our employees equally."
Stearns told Christianity Today: "Changing the employee conduct policy to allow someone in a same-sex marriage who is a professed believer in Jesus Christ to work for us makes our policy more consistent with our practice on other divisive issues. It also allows us to treat all of our employees the same way: abstinence outside of marriage, and fidelity within marriage."
"It's easy to read a lot more into this decision than is really there," he continued. "This is not an endorsement of same-sex marriage. We have decided we are not going to get into that debate. Nor is this a rejection of traditional marriage, which we affirm and support."
The announcement triggered an immediate response from Christian leaders such as evangelist Franklin Graham and Russell D. Moore, who said they were shocked and grieved.
"My dear friend, Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision and Samaritan's Purse, would be heartbroken. He was an evangelist who believed in the inspired Word of God. World Vision maintains that their decision is based on unifying the church – which I find offensive – as if supporting sin and sinful behavior can unite the church," wrote Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
"From the Old Testament to the New Testament, the Scriptures consistently teach that marriage is between a man and woman and any other marriage relationship is sin."
Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, also lamented the decision. "At stake is the Gospel of Jesus Christ," he said. "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."
Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, further suggested that Christians should grieve for children everywhere based on this development.
"Children will suffer as Evangelicals lose trust in and withdraw support from World Vision in the future. It will take time for evangelicals to start new organizations that maintain historic Christian concepts of sin, faith and repentance," Wax wrote on The Gospel Coalition's blog.
Held Evans wrote in her blog that she is "always careful not to equate opposition to gay marriage with hate."
"But," she added, "the singling out and scapegoating of gay and lesbian people that's happening here is deeply troubling to me. When Christians declare that they would rather withhold aid from people who need it than serve alongside gay and lesbian people helping to provide that aid, something's very, very wrong. It might not be hate, but it is a nefarious sort of stigmatizing, and it's wrong.
She also firmly rejected the idea that the Gospel is indeed at stake in this controversy, arguing: "The Gospel is at stake only insofar as we make one's position on same-sex marriage a part of it. The Gospel is threatened, not by gay people getting married, but by Christians saying support or opposition to gay marriage is an essential part of the Gospel when it's not."
The author later updated her post to note that "it may have been a mistake to post this when feelings were still so raw."
In a subsequent post, she noted that people are free to support organizations with policies they prefer. But she argued that she still wouldn't withdraw funds unless she really believed the support she was providing was doing more harm than good.
"Removing funds from one organization and putting them into another certainly makes a point. But it makes a point at the expense of already disadvantaged men, women, and children who were counting on that funding for basic necessities. And I have to ask: Is that really worth it?"