The Friday Five: A Timeline Of The World Vision Tragedy

The Friday Five: A Timeline Of The World Vision Tragedy - T E Hanna | Of Dust & Kings
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Usually, I set Fridays apart to highlight five of the best articles from lesser known bloggers that I have had the privilege of reading in a piece I call “Friday’s Fab Five.” Given the events of this past week, however, I decided to devote this week’s “Friday Five” (I’ll leave out the “fab” given the nature of this week’s events) to gathering and highlighting the development of the decision made by World Vision on Monday and the resounding shockwave that reverberated throughout Evangelicalism.

I have to say, up front, that this saddens me. To me, this was not simply an issue of people standing up for how they define marriage. These were Christian Evangelicals who gathered together in one voice and publicly demonstrated that it was more important for an organization to refuse to hire gay men and women than it was to care for the poorest of the poor, even children. If reports from Tony Jones are any indication, the evangelical backlash almost ended World Vision’s existence as an entity, and today thousands of children are waking up around the world to discover that the people who had committed to feeding them have pulled their sponsorship. It is a sad day in Christendom, no matter where you stand on the issue.

And here is how it happened.

March 24, 2014

Christianity Today broke the story that World Vision had made a policy change: given the denominational diversity they represent and the division within Christianity over the issue of same sex marriage, they have decided to revoke their policy that those in a same sex marriage are not eligible to be hired.

March 25, 2014

The initial backlash began quickly, with writers across the web painting this decision in very stark terms. Albert Mohler was somewhat delicate about it, referring to it simply as a “flawed moral vision,” but John Piper went so far as to declare that World Vision was now trivializing perdition and the cross. From that point forward, the terms began to grow increasingly stigmatizing. Russell Moore would announce that this places the very gospel at stake, and by the time New Testament professor Darrell Bock chimed it, World Vision’s decision was described as a “betrayal of Christianity” itself.

The reaction led to countless sponsors pulling their sponsorship of children, and the eruption of a counter-backlash from the other side. Rachel Held Evans pointed to the hypocrisy of the situation, with evangelicals that reacted to World Vision’s policy, pulled their funding of the children, and then wept “for the children that are hurt by this.” She would then go on to specifically address the problem of simply moving sponsorship to another organization. David Hayward put the same hypocrisy on visual display in a rather scathing cartoon that simply posed a question: “Dad, if you won’t pay gays at World Vision to feed starving children, why will you pay gays at the grocery store to feed yourself?”

The line was clearly drawn in the sand. Christianity is once again publicly divided, and the mass exodus from World Vision has begun.

March 26, 2014

Responding to public outcry and the sudden and overwhelming defunding of their organization, World Vision reverses their policy change. Fueled by information from a contact inside the agency, Tony Jones reveals the trauma and grief that had been taking place within World Vision since the backlash first began. Apparently, the reaction went beyond the overwhelming number of evangelicals who chose to abandon their child sponsorship; World Vision was looking at the very real possibility that the funding which allows them to remain a viable entity would cease. In other words, the reaction was so powerful that it almost ended one of the largest charity organizations in the United States.

March 27, 2014

And then, the reactions to the reversed policy started appearing. Karen Spears-Zacharias drew connections between the evangelical response and the late Fred Phelps, declaring that “those who bullied World Vision into retracting their position might as well marched alongside Westboro Baptist at military funerals with placards claiming Starve a Child, Save a Gay.” Jamie The Very Worst Missionary posed the very powerful question, “What does it say about our Faith when our response to a corporate policy change is to kick a needy child in the teeth?”

And it is this question that I think we need to ask ourselves as a Christian culture. Scripture speaks about homosexuality a whopping four times, yet demands that we care for the poor over 400 times. That should tell us something about emphasis, and that should expose our misplaced priorities.

I am not suggesting that we abandon what we hold as ethics, or that we celebrate something that we disagree with. However, I reminding the people of God that the enemy works through distraction, by leading us to fixate on things which rob us of our ability to be effective for the Kingdom of God.

And this past week, it was a very successful tactic.

How do you feel about this? Tell us about it in the comments. Like this article? Share it using the buttons below.

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T E Hanna is the author of Raising Ephesus: Christian Hope for a Post-Christian Age and has published articles across the web on issues of faith and culture.

  • Mark Luker

    I think WV has lost track of its goals….is it a church or an organization dedicated to feeding hungry children? If the latter, than why would hiring a gay person alter it’s goals? Did they make the initial policy change because they thought they would get more support that way…thus the reversal of their policy change?

    • T E Hanna

      As I understand it Mark Luker, World Vision considers itself a Christian organization that seeks to live out the Gospel mandate to the poor. They look to align with the greater body of Christianity rather than a specific denomination, however. As such, they defer to the local churches in areas of doctrinal difference. They require the core affirmations of the Christian faith as a prerequisite for employment, which include the Nicene creed and Trinitarian orthodoxy. Yet, where there is disagreement between Christian denominations on the way that Christianity is lived out, they defer to the local bodies to make those decisions.

      For a long time, the affirmation of marriage as defined solely as one man and one woman was a part of their hiring ethic. As the denominations within Christianity have become more divided on this issue, they chose to remove that requirement as an act of unity with the greater Christian body. In other words, if you were a Christian yet part of a denomination that affirms same sex marriage, they were no longer going to hold that as a disqualification for employment – especially given the division on this within Christianity in general.

      The reversal of their policy change was not the result of a failure to gain more support. It was the result of over 5000 Christians who chose the cancel their sponsorship of specific children, alongside pressure from funding organizations to pull the funding that allows WV to exist. So, over the course of a day and a half, over 5000 children suddenly discovered that the person that had commit to caring for them changed their mind.

      Their reversal was because they could no longer care for these children UNLESS they reversed the policy.

  • Luke

    Paul makes it clear that the body of Christ is to judge those who are within the body, and those that are not in the body, God will judge, 1 Co 5:11-12. We are suppose to obey all laws and if a person makes their living providing a public service and it is against the law to discriminate against anyone, then they should obey the law and serve all people. 1Co 5:9-10 makes a very practical distinction about who we should avoid and not avoid in this world.

  • Rev Smith

    I would say that the enemy has used the false dichotomy that a topic only spoken about 4 times versus 400 times makes it less important and more open to be ignored by those that want to deny it is sin at all.

    • T E Hanna

      I think the point of the distinction I was making was somehow missed.

      I am not suggesting that simply because something was mentioned only four times it should be ignored. What I am pointing to is our priorities. Throughout scripture, God calls us to certain behaviors that are reflective of what it is to be a child of God. If He mentions something here and there we need to pay attention to it. If He repeats something OVER AND OVER again, we should realize that it is pretty important.

      When God constantly hammers a point home so often that you can’t find even one of the 62 books in scripture that doesn’t command it several times over, we need to pay attention to that. When we choose to ignore that because we fixate on what OTHER people are doing that opposes a few comments made in Scripture, I think it is fair to say that we have lost sight of our priorities.

  • Jennifer Tibbetts

    Just a thought here, but how do we know that people who pulled their funding from World Vision did not redirect it to other ways of helping poor children? World Vision is not the only organization that cares for the poor. I wasn’t one of those people, but if I had been, my values would not have changed. I just would have put the same money I put into caring for the poor into a different organization that I felt I could support because their values aligned with mine.

    • Brandi

      I heard some of them did, Jennifer. But this doesn’t change the fact that they pulled their support of a specific child. I believe the way World Vision works, you support a specific child…. you have promised your money to help one individual young human life, one who is counting on you. Those who yanked their donations broke a promise to a child.

    • T E Hanna

      As I understand it Jennifer, this is exactly what happened. People pulled their sponsorships through World Vision and chose to allocate them elsewhere.

      This is totally understandable if we are simply dealing with funding an organization, but these were specific sponsorships promised to specific children, most of which not only provided food and necessities but also corresponded with by mail. Simply “switching funding” only works if we reduce those children to a mathematical equation that we balance out by adding to one side what we have subtracted from the other.

      But these aren’t just numbers. These are real, flesh and blood children who woke up this week to discover that the person who promised to help care for them decided that it was more important to oppose an organization that chose to employ a certain group of people than it was to maintain that commitment.

  • Alabi AimPurpose IfeOluwa

    Nicely written piece Sir and thanks for the links. I do appreciate your perspective about emphasis on charity over the debatable matter of sexual orientation. But I find it hypocritical for WV to claim to be “neutral” and yet open its doors to people committed to same sex marriages. I however agree that we should never sacrifice charity on the altar of debates. There is a bigger success Satan has had- the church has exchanged God’s big idea of reintroducing to the earth His Kingdom by engaging the world’s culture for a lower plan of coexistence with the world’s culture- we say we want to be liberal!

    • T E Hanna

      I think their neutrality was to recognize that the denominations are divided on this issue, and rather than affirm one side or the other, they’re just going to go ahead and employ those who affirm orthodox Christianity regardless of where their particular denomination stands on this issue.

  • Lance

    It is interesting you mention that the enemy uses distraction, because I feel the WV got distracted from what they are about by inserting themselves into something that could have been avoided all together. I believe with all my heart that we are to look at others through the eyes of grace, but that does not mean being bullied into condoning certain behaviors. If WV claims to keep Biblical standards, then do so. I don’t think the Bible is up for debate or it is “evolving” as some like to say.
    On the other hand, it is funny how we as “Christians” are quick to pull the rug out from under someone when we don’t agree. The enemy was very cunning in getting people to say “screw the children”, WV is evil, while the enemy just sits back and laughs.
    Maybe we should be more like what Paul tell us do..”having a heavenly mindset.” How about instead having the mob mentality (you can hear it now; crucify WV) we take it to God and ask Him what we should doing with HIS money and wait and be obedient. Oh the “O” word. Darn it all. Love you all!

  • Ted Rice

    I would have to side with Ian Columba on this: .
    While I have never been involved with World Vision, I am aware of their work. I do think people should have completed their commitment to their child no matter what, rather than suddenly withdrawn their support, both because Jesus wants us to do what we promised and because it is unfair to do otherwise.
    However, World Vision seems to have been willing to compromise what is right on this issue in order to avoid confronting the Gay movement and to keep the funds rolling in. This is what the Boy Scouts (though not a Christian organization) did. In both cases, it rebounded on them to their great harm.
    The Bible says in Isa 5:20: Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! God determines right and wrong – He doesn’t take a vote on it or a poll to determine popular opinion. If there is a “division within Christianity over the issue of same sex marriage” it is because people are putting popular cultural values ahead of God’s Word, making man into God and setting aside the true God.

    • T E Hanna

      I think the debate is more complex than that, Ted. These denominations are not debating over whether scripture should be considered authoritative (well, most aren’t), they are debating over how we understand these four passages. As I understand it, this is why WV decided to pull back from taking an official stance. They did not choose to affirm homosexuality, they chose not to reject those whose denomination affirms it.

      As a side note, comparing this to the Boy Scouts isn’t exactly equal, and I would unabashedly affirm what the Boy Scouts did. The Boy Scouts never affirmed homosexual activity as ok. They said that boys that identify themselves as having same sex attraction can still participate in scouting, and they continue to affirm abstinence.

      I don’t know of anybody that says that people who are attracted to the same gender but refuse to act on it are participating in sinful behavior.

  • Chet

    Not mentioned in the timeline was that the decision of the WV board was not unanimous. When speaking of Satan working, I do not limit his actions to what came after the decision. The reality is that if our culture in the USA continues on the pathway that it appears to be going, churches and organizations which have been organized around Biblical precepts will be faced with all kinds of difficult decisions. Some of those decisions will include continuing with or enacting policies which are counter-cultural. But if led by the Holy Spirit those churches or organizations will have the courage of their convictions regardless of the cultural reaction . In this case, does their very fast reversal indicate a lack of Spirit led discernment before or after the decision? It would appear that one or the other is likely. As for an answer, I will leave it to the prayerful consideration of the WV Board.

  • Kenneth Dawson

    I’m so glad you brought this issue up and to be honest I’m not sure on how to react to the whole deal..but now that you have brought this up I can assure you that I will consult my Heavenly Father and seek his advice..thanks.

  • Steve Harper

    You have given a good overview, and I think you have put your “sadness” at the right place. Our inability to love our way through the homosexual issue is now creating colateral damage–in this case, children whose care will be affected. “When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?”

    • T E Hanna

      And that’s just it, Dr. Harper. I fear that we have so fixated on this one issue that we have forgotten how to love people despite disagreeing with them.

  • Brandi

    Great article! It really is a tragedy that Satan is succeeding in pulling us away from truly helping people.

    In regards to where the money goes: More research would need to be done to see how much World Vision actually gives to the needy.

  • Joe bonacci

    Bro, you nailed it. Thanks for saying what a lot do people will not. It’s about the children is it not? Distraction and Divide and Conquer are the tools of the enemy. Sad to say, they are both working.

    • Desslok

      About the children? Of course. But it’s also about basic human rights too. Sadly people are making a fuss over both, when they really should be no-brainers.

  • Ben Nelson

    Interesting overview of the situation. I must say that i have heard similar info that Carol sites, and have not committed to World vision, but as to those who do, their commitment has been to the child, and so to pull giving without ensuring help to that child first does seem like an unthinking approach.

    Still, I wonder if much of the giving done from the US is to salve our collective conscience rather than to make a difference in lives.

    Thanks much for this interesting view of things. Love the perspective you bring to a sticky subject.

    • Carol Graham

      Thank you Ben and Brandi for the input. I always assumed these reports were exaggerated but also know firsthand (coming from a family of foreign missionaries and ministers) that ‘where there is smoke, there is usually fire’. We have so many hurting families and children in our local communities and the need is great everywhere. I still believe this is where our donations belong and we get the confirmation immediately of where the money is being spent.

  • carol graham

    When it comes to World Vision, no matter what the issue, I have a difficult time not getting emotional. WV, yet again, holds 4th place in charities that misappropriate funds to line the pockets of their executives. I can’t help but wonder if this is for publicity purposes.

    • T E Hanna

      That’s interesting Carol. Who is that according to?

      • Carol Graham

        These reports have been published for years by a variety of sources. Consequently, there are certain organizations I absolutely refuse to support in any way, Unicef, Red Cross and United Way being the top 3. Just as I firmly believe in supporting our local shops in our small town, I also believe in supporting our local charities and helping those who are in need right in front of me.

        • Ross

          I wonder if this really matters at all. No doubt a lot of the people World Vision helps are not Christians. Multitudes of Christian businesses around the world employ non Christian people. The people indicated just might find the Saviour. Non Christians are welcome to come to our Church gatherings. I wonder whether it was even necessary for World Vision to make an announcement etc It seems to me they are just a Christian charitable business. Is this ‘religion’ raising its head.