(Photo: Twitter/Rachel Held Evans)
Author Rachel Held Evans said she is leaving the "evangelical table" following World Vision's announcement last week that it is reversing its decision to allow people in same-sex marriages to be employed. Her desire now is to start a new "table" where everyone is welcome.
"Rather than wearing out my voice in calling for an end to evangelicalism's culture wars, I think it's time to focus on finding and creating church among its many refugees – women called to ministry, our LGBTQ brother and sisters, science-lovers, doubters, dreamers, misfits, abuse survivors, those who refuse to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith or their compassion and their religion, those who have, for whatever reason, been 'farewelled,'" Held Evans wrote in a blog post on her website, which has generated much discussion.
"Instead of fighting for a seat at the evangelical table, I want to prepare tables in the wilderness, where everyone is welcome and where we can go on discussing (and debating!) the Bible, science, sexuality, gender, racial reconciliation, justice, church, and faith, but without labels, without wars."
Last week, days after announcing that it would allow people in-same sex marriages to work at its organization, international nonprofit ministry World Vision said it is reversing its decision.
"Today, the World Vision U.S. board publicly reversed its recent decision to change our national employment conduct policy," the group said in a letter to supporters. "The board acknowledged they made a mistake and chose to revert to our longstanding conduct policy requiring sexual abstinence for all single employees and faithfulness within the Biblical covenant of marriage between a man and a woman."
Evangelical leaders who criticized World Vision for its initial decision largely praised this reversal.
Russell D. Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, said on Twitter that World Vision "has done the right thing."
"Now, let's all work for a holistic Gospel presence, addressing both temporal and eternal needs," he posted.
Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, offered that World Vision's "reaffirmation of orthodox faith helps to ensure it has a robust, if not easy, future ahead."
"Maybe World Vision in the future will lose corporate support. Maybe it will lose government support. All traditional Christian groups operating in the current Zeitgeist face an impending winter of secularist hostility," said Tooley.
Assemblies of God General Superintendent George O. Wood, who initially called on members to shift their support away from World Vision, said in a statement that he appreciated the prompt decision.
"I therefore encourage Assemblies of God churches and individuals to continue supporting World Vision with prayers and finances, along with other Pentecostal and Evangelical charities that have similar humanitarian missions," said Wood.
"I especially encourage Pentecostals and Evangelicals who hastily canceled their sponsorship of children in World Vision programs to immediately reinstate that support in order to ensure continuity of care for the poor children whom Christ loves."
Held Evans, who has been described as a liberal Evangelical, expressed disappointment at the reversal, however.
"This whole situation has left me feeling frustrated, heartbroken and lost. I don't think I've ever been more angry at the Church, particularly the Evangelical culture in which I was raised and with which I for so long identified," she wrote at the time.
"I confess I had not realized the true extent of the disdain and stigmatization many Evangelicals have toward LGBT people, nor had I expected World Vision to yield to that disdain and stigmatization by reversing its decision under financial pressure. Honestly, it feels like a betrayal from every side."
In response to Held Evans' announcement that she is leaving Evangelicalism, Chelsen Vicari, the Evangelical Program director for the Institute on Religion and Democracy, wrote:
"The major flaw in her argument is that conservative evangelicals' reactions were not due to a 'disdain' for the LGBTQ people or an abandonment of the needy. It was the result of heavy-hearted commitments to God's Word."
Vicari added that conservative Evangelicals believe in social justice too.
"We too hold tight to Micah 6:8 too, which instructs Christians 'to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly.' Actually, those conservative evangelicals that Evans rails against chose to donate to World Vision when there were no media spotlight and no political activists and popular bloggers calling on them to do so. They gave to the poor when no one was looking because that is what God commands us, not what culture expects."
Assemblies of God said that it would pass on the opportunity to comment on Held Evans' blog when asked by The Christian Post on Thursday.