What a week! It started with World Vision announcing that it had changed its employment policy to allow partners in a legal, same-sex relationship to be employees. This action set off a theological firestorm both because of the organization making the decision – World Vision U.S. ranks among America's top ten charities and serves over 100 million people in at least 100 countries – and the breath-taking nature of the shift in theology and doctrine it seemed to signify.
Amazingly, in making the announcement, Richard Stearns, World Vision president, explained "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."
Stearns asserted that World Vision had "chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue" and equated the same-sex marriage issue with such issues as baptismal methods, complementarianism vs. egalitarianism, reproductive issues, and divorce and remarriage where Christians adopt "a range of views." Stearns denied that World Vision's actions undermined their commitment to biblical authority:
People can say, "Scripture is very clear on this issue," and my answer is, "well ask all the theologians and denominations that disagree with that statement." The church is divided on this issue. And we are not the local church. We are an operational organization uniting Christians around a common mission to serve the poor in the name of Christ.
Now, in less than a week, as the result of much prayer and importuning by Christian brothers and sisters World Vision has reversed its original decision. World Vision's board has discovered an essential truth: the same-sex marriage issue is a truth serum for Evangelical Christianity. Same-sex marriage CANNOT be squared with the traditional, historic, Evangelical view of biblical authority.
In their statement rescinding their policy change, Word Vision acknowledged that "we failed to be consistent with World Vision U.S.'s commitment to the traditional understanding of Biblical marriage and our own Statement of Faith, which says, 'we believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.'"
The essential truth that emerges from this sad, but instructive episode, is that the issue of same-sex marriage is utterly unlike the other issues raised by Stearns in his original statement. The Bible is crystal clear on the issue of marriage. As God declared in Genesis and Jesus reaffirmed in Matthew's Gospel, marriage is between male and female (Gen. 2:18-25; Matt. 19: 4-6). Furthermore, God condemns all same-sex behavior as sinful and immoral (Rom. 1:26-27; I Cor. 6:9).
As World Vision has learned, Evangelicals cannot declare "neutrality" on this issue, and it cannot be fudged or finessed. If you tolerate same-sex marriage and/or same-sex behavior as acceptable morality for Christians, then you have rebelled against biblical authority and departed from the orthodox faith of biblical Christianity.
As the World Vision episode illustrates so vividly, the same-sex marriage issue will act like a truth serum, dividing true Evangelicals from the faux Evangelicals who seek to travel under the Evangelical banner while denying the biblical faith of their Evangelical forefathers.
Perhaps in the final analysis the same-sex marriage and homosexual issue will purify and refine Evangelicalism (always a prerequisite for true spiritual revival) by causing those who accept the current politically correct zeitgeist to be known. As the Apostle John said long ago, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not of us." (I Jn. 2:19)