An Evangelical Response to 'Former' Evangelical Rachel Held Evans On Gay Marriage

"It feels like a betrayal from every side," might be how blogger Rachel Held Evans' sums up last week's World Vision fiasco over same-sex marriage, but it doesn't exactly convey the mixed feelings of most evangelicals.

In her recent entry on CNN Belief Blog, "How Evangelicals Won a Culture War and Lost a Generation," Evans paints conservative evangelical men and women as uncompassionate by lamenting over "misaligned evangelical priorities" and our "leaving thousands of needy children without financial support." 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.

The chaos all started when World Vision embraced same-sex marriage within their employment policy, subsequently recognizing their "mistake" and recommitted to uphold biblical sexual morality. It was the organizations reversal that promoted Evans' blog, in which she launched several inflated accusations against her conservative brothers and sisters in Christ.

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On her notorious Twitter page, Evans declared that she is leaving evangelicalism because World Vision's reversal was "uniquely evangelical." In her attempt to flee what she assumes to be bigoted discrimination, Evans overlooks the important fact that evangelicalism is more than skinny jeans and potluck lunches.

Built in the wake of the decline of America's mainline denominations, evangelicalism grew as it committed to uphold the authority of Scripture. In his book The Young Evangelicals, author Richard Quebedeaux identifies three key characteristics of evangelicalism: (1) Evangelicals identify the full authority of Scriptures in all matters of faith and practice; (2) Evangelicals pursue a personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; and (3) Evangelicals understand the urgency of seeking the conversion of sinful men and women to Christ.

Despite admitting that the series of events motivated her to leaving evangelicalism, Evans asserts that World Vision's flip-flop "is not an issue of orthodoxy. But when we begin using child sponsorships as bargaining tools in our debates, we've lost the way of Jesus." Actually, World Vision is the perfect illustration of the un-attachable orthodox tradition of evangelicalism.

A mother of a conservative evangelical family I know told me her family has been sponsoring three young girls in Savane Plate, Haiti for a while now. They choose to give through World Vision because it was their understanding the organization's compassionate work was based on a Gospel-centered pledge to the cross and resurrection. So when this mother learned of World Visions' temporary decision to recognize same-sex unions, she was heartbroken. It was with prayer and Godly counsel - not flippant aggression - they chose to funnel their sponsorship elsewhere.

Continuing on, Evans claimed that evangelicals snatched away "aid that would otherwise reach the poor, sick, hungry and displaced people World Vision serves." She pointed fingers at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's Albert Mohler Jr. and the Assemblies of God claiming they preferred to "withhold aid from people who need it" rather than support the redefinition of marriage.

Evans failed to disclose that the Assemblies of God general superintendent, George O. Wood encouraged members to "begin gradually shifting their support…to Assemblies of God World Missions, and other Pentecostal and evangelical charities that maintain biblical standards of sexual morality." The goal was to reroute funding, not take our donation dollars and go shopping at the GAP.

Social justice is important to conservative evangelicals. We too hold tight to Micah 6:8, 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.

According to Ephesians 4:15, Christians are called to speak God's absolute truths in a spirit of love. This is not an easy task. We all struggle to avoid inflammatory insults and reactionary decisions. Still, our commission is clear. We must commit to publically teaching all that Jesus Christ commanded us in Scriptures (Matthew 28:20). This is not "uniquely evangelical," but true for every professing follower of Christ.

Chelsen Vicari serves as the Evangelical Program Director for the Institute on Religion and Democracy. She earned her Masters of Arts in Government from Regent University and frequently contributes to conservative outlets. Follow her on twitter @ChelsenVicari.

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